We are back "home" in Ho Chi Minh City after our month in the USA. We went there for the wedding of our older daughter. I have been putting off posting anything about this wonderful event, while running through a debate in my mind as to whether this blog has become (and should be) more journalistic and much less personal. My original intent was to mix the two, but the past year has been predominately journalistic. But even professional journalist bloggers like Tim Johnson, Beijing Bureau Chief for the McClatchy Newspapers, occasionally gets family personal in his excellent and prolific blog China Rises.
So here's a wedding photograph of Kristine's wedding to David Nakamura, Washington Post journalist.
The setting is a mountain lake in western Montana just southwest of Glacier National Park. Montana is my home state where I was raised and achieved my B.Arch at Montana State University. After that, though, it was off to see the world, and learn how to live in big cities.
Kristine has never lived in Montana. She chose this location to bridge between her friends, colleagues, and David's family in Washington, DC, where she and David live, and her friends and relatives in California. She also wanted to encourage her relatives and friends to take some time off for a vacation in Montana.
This brings me to some thoughts as to why I would return to Saigon. Why not just retire in Montana and enjoy this wonderful setting? Or at least stay in San Francisco, one of the acknowledged prime cities of the world. My plan is to someday retire and try to spend four months of the year in Montana (July, August, November, and December), four months in San Francisco (May, June, September, and October), and then January through April in Viet Nam, which is the best time to be in HCMC, and the worst time to be in either Montana or San Francisco.
I am intrigued by people's reasons for choosing a location to live. I suspect most people stay where they were born (like most of my neighbors in Saigon) or go where friends and relatives beckon them with good jobs and support (Mexican immigrants in America). Upon reaching retirement, many Americans have many options for relocating away from their former workplace. How do they choose where to live? I admire Virtual Doug for his version of retirement, and he is especially inspiring when speaking of his devotion to caring for his mother.
So what is it that attracts me back to Ho Chi Minh City? Beyond the heat that I love, the friendliness of my neighbors, and the healthy food, I especially like the intensity of life and environment here. And this is from a person who most enjoys his leisurely breakfast and coffee in the morning, a nap at lunchtime, another coffee hour at the cafe in the late afternoon, and beer on the roof terrace in the evening with dinner.
I get energy from being around lots of people (even though I can't talk with them), and HCMC is the perfect balance of high density population in a relatively safe environment. The neighborhood is generally low-rise with an average of three levels. But the lanes are narrow, and the doors and windows are open, so there is constant contact with people. That also means that the neighborhood is very safe.
The intensity here is sensual -- many colors and angles and variety of visual experiences; many sounds including wonderful Vietnamese music (but yes, there is a downside sometimes); and fragrant smells from cooking that provides wonderful tastes. Does this intensity of life arise out of the density or out of the local culture? This is a question I hope to study over the next few months.