Friday, 29 October 2010

The Future of Saigon

After all the excitement of the last few days, not to mention the frantic packing and preparation before I left Perth, I was ready for a rest day today.
So I just hung around the hotel catching up on some things like processing some photos and sorting out some of the logistics for other parts of my trip.  It was today that I actually created this blog (and then created back-entries for the last few days).
I didn't leave my hotel until after dark and decided to have a wander around the city and explore a bit before eating.
During my wandering I stumbled across a park that was full of young people and families playing games and dancing.  It looked interesting so I went over and grabbed a few photos and video of the games they were playing and some of the dance routines (think "Australia's Got Talent" dancing, not traditional dancing).
I was soon approached by a couple of people who were curious to say hello to the foreigner, and then a young guy came up to me and asked most politely if I would mind coming over and sitting down to have a short discussion with him.  I had nowhere to be, so I said ok.  A few minutes later a small crowd of about 8-10 people had gathered and it had turned into some kind of impromtu Q&A about Australia.
It seems most of the people there were students in their late teens or early twenties, and were not only curious about Australia but very keen to practice their English.  There were about 5 that stayed around and we ended up chatting for about 2 hours before I really had to go eat before all the restaurants closed.
These students were intelligent, articulate, polite, friendly, funny, and very astute.  They were asking me difficult questions about complex issues in Australia, such as the exploring the subtleties of aboriginal issues, and immigration laws and how they relate to international relations.  Although I did most of the talking it seems, I really feel that through observation I learned far more about them than they did about me.
Before meeting these students I had already sensed a real air of optimism in Saigon, but here I was meeting the up-and-coming future of Vietnam, and I have to say their future is looking extremely bright!  You couldn't hope for a better group of ambassadors.
All I could think about afterwards was that back in Australia, a similar group of people of that age would be spending the same Thursday evening skanking around Carousel or getting chased by security guards for graffitiing somewhere, or doing something equally anti-social.  You would *never* think to approach a mob of 20-somethings in Australia that are hanging around a park at night if you were alone.

PS: Yen, if you read this then please send me an email so I can send you the photos of you and your friends.


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