Jeremy Chua in Vietnam
Our first project grant went to Jeremy Chua, who applied funds towards a trip to Vietnam. In addition to completing a marketing internship with Grey Global in Ho Chi Minh City, Jeremy explored teaching English through dramatization, as well as wrote a travelogue that grew out of what started as a series of poems through the eyes of a dog. A few excerpts are posted below.
Agape: Yet, nothing should keep me away from my Pho and an ice-cold glass of Ca Phe Sua DaHow does one negotiate the endless stream of motorcycles when crossing the hectic streets of Ho Chi Minh City? Such is the dilemma that separates me from lunch on a quotidian basis: a coffeeshop right across, an insidious streak of black fumes and invisible dirt, and an all-too-human shell ready to crack upon sudden impact. Against the inherent fear instilled by the convention evil of roads shoved down our throats by mothers and mothers of mothers, I have come to a conclusion that crossing the streets of Saigon is a protracted exercise in applied faith – - an almost irrational faith in the goodness of Vietnamese motorcyclists. And the Vietnamese motorists live up to such an aspiration, it is in their nature to unconditionally love their pedestrians. They have no singular intention to bloody the tired tarmacadam with your innards, as long as you have no similar intention of being dragged around the narrow Saigon streets from District 1 to District 3 on a sanguinary joyride. Without saying, one must understand profoundly the symbiotic relations of traffic ecology here. In other words, you must help the motorists help you cross the road: the natural politics of urban existence in Ho Chi Minh City. By some quixotic amalgamation of audacity and composure, the quaint shophouses right across the streets are yours and everything that is in them. Therefore, you must be at peace when you step away from the pavement. It’s like training to become a Zen master here. Hurl your fears away – as you launch into the dark sweltering roads gargling in the afternoon madness. Be as mad as the roads when you step out, but always have a quiet in a corner of the heart. And wade through the road like you wade through the ocean, allow the motorcyclists swim around you. Let go of everything, and keep moving forward with a quiescent mind. Close your eyes if you must, and keep crossing. But swerve, and you will awake to a helmet slamming into your chest, the fireworks of blood on the face. But swerve, and they will swerve with you, into you.
An Ode to the Saigon RainOn Thursday, the rain was relentless. When the heavens broke apart, water came upon the dirty pavements, pits-and-pats slamming against old window panes and exposed balconies. I sat at my desk smiling at myself, appreciating the energetic conclusion to the sticky and slow afternoon in Saigon. The motorcycles were humming outside the office as usual, but there were now interregnums of silence dominated by gasps and groans of angry rain. It was a signal for my exit. One could never enjoy the urban rain within the confines of an empty and opaque box. I decided to leave Grey slightly earlier for Shri, where I was to have dinner with a friend. As I stepped out of the lobby, the roads had sunk into a forest of water and quiet.
The streetlamps went out first. The buildings lost their electricity next. “A blackout again,” I muttered. “Bloody hell.” The riot of daytime Saigon was fading slowly tonight, a literal plunge into the evening. Procuring a taxi in such conditions would prove an arduous exercise in teeth-gritting patience. I waited in the dark, my shoes filling up with water quickly.