Below episode is taken from the book I am writing about Eric's experiences living and working in Saigon 2017-2018. Eric is a young western European in his mid-30s; he holds an advanced education in business and engineering together with a myriad of professional diplomas. His professional career and higher education studies include nations such as Germany, UK, Ireland, Sweden, USA and Vietnam, and, he has completed professional assignments at some of the most prominent enterprises world-wide. Get to know him and Saigon and what Eric thinks about his stay in Saigon; his view of the world, as well as, what he believes should matter most to all citizens.
Eric decides to go out for a typical afternoon walk on Saturday 24 of March after his morning run at Saigon river. While walking on Le Than Ton street, he gets reminded about the beauties of this place and he decides to take photos of Saigon; this is an area located just outside his house in famous district 1. Eric usually walks in down-town, on "Ben Nghe square" as he often calls it; a grandiose field combining old and new buildings, located close at Saigon river. On this day, Eric wears light blue shorts, a dark blue polo t-shirt and brown sandals from Aldo, Vincom. On Ben Nghe square, Eric often views young people with hopes, and dreams but also poor people seeking a better future. This is a place where the rich, the middle class, the working class and the bottom society get together silently and peacefully. Besides Ben Nghe square is the Times square building which reaches the sky just like Sunwah tower and the magnificent Bitexco tower, surrounded by famous hotel Rex. The municipality is extremely beautiful in its French design and Eric admires his walks on Le Than Ton passing the municipality and its pride of a free and growing Saigon.
While walking on Ben Nghe square, Eric is approached by a young pre-college teenager who wants to talk and learn English with a foreigner; a typical scene in today's south east Asia. Eric is having his afternoon walk after a delicious rice and chicken dinner at Desalitas BBQ on Le Than Ton street and he feels happy and relaxed under the burning sun; a never ending star shining over a bustling and warm Saigon. The young man explains that he is approaching westerners to learn English but also to get rid of his shyness, and he wants to learn how to better handle rejections. This sounds like a future seller thinks Eric; someone who takes rejection after rejection, abuse after abuse, until getting a yes. Eric politely speaks with him while walking and they exchange a few words about who Eric is and why Eric left a career in Europe for Vietnam.
Eric's work as lecturer, teacher, adviser and hobby writer that give him the extraordinary opportunity to meet hundreds of young and ambitious individuals with Asian origins. Eric enjoys sharing his knowledge, insights and experiences with these talents, without asking for anything in return. Because asking for things in return after having helped someone, is not something Eric wants to do; he believes in the motto of "give and you shall get". Kharma is like a boomerang hitting back on everyone depending on our deeds; ensure you contribute with a better society, mumbles Eric. Through his many interactions with locals in Saigon, it is apparent that young people in this part of the world mostly dream about: money, to visit other developed nations, to get a good job, and sometimes, build a business.
Eric seldom hears anyone speaking about democracy, equality, freedom of speech, or, human rights, but that is just how it is - we gotta accept what it is to live here thinks Eric. I believe we all have a calling in this world says Eric when talking with a friend who suddenly turned-up at the Caravelle hotel. What is yours, says Eric? Just doing the 9-5 race, and putting kids to school? That's an important part, but not a calling. Are you a freedom fighter? Human rights or animal activist? A leader at an international school? Do you run a charity or do you start a business leading to job creation? Are you developing an app that improves peoples' lives? Whatever it may be, find your calling, and seek true fulfillment, and you will get happiness, and a rewarding life as a bonus, says Eric to his friend Jones Nguyen.
Thank's God I left the past and opened a door to a new life shouts Eric with a gentle smile; so rejuvenating, and brave but yet so risky. Eric admires his business projects, which is reflected in his latest university quality polls showing above average client satisfaction. You gotta find your niche in life Jones, says Eric with a determined voice; somewhere in this world, no matter where it is. This is more important today than ever before, because, corporations are screaming for people with passion and a hunger to produce above average results. You gotta love what you do to make it happen, says Eric. Enterprises outsource, downsize, automate, and, produce and sell products where most profits can be realised; the jobs are moving around the world, and you are often just a chess piece shuffled around to fit a particular strategy, mumbles Eric, and Jones agrees without hesitation, nodding his head. You are so brave and smart says Jones, I wish I could be like you Eric. You know so many things, because you have lived and learned the hard lesson in life. Well says Eric, it is easier to connect the dots looking backwards, than looking forward, as Steve Jobs once said. You just gotta read the signs in your life, the opportunities you get, and stop procrastinating or blaming others for a particular bad event in your life or in your career. Everything happens for a reason says Eric, and the reason may be to kick your ass and get you going in a different direction, for a better and happier life.
Eric is at famous Caravelle Hotel; a frequently visited coffee and drink place because there is not much else to enjoy in this area according to his own standards. There is the Caravelle Hotel, Runam coffee, Majestic roof top bar, a few good restaurants and the "Ben Nghe" square, says Eric. He is sitting at the window, and the sight from the window is terrific, facing the opera and the Parisian designed Hotel Continental. Tourists, street sellers, locals, a few students, professionals, Uber and Grab guys and some young, very feminine and good looking ladies pass by, outside the window. This area of the town is full of French imperialistic design, architecture and beautifully decorated buildings which reminds Eric about the French empire in Saigon. Saigon was once a rich place according to some of his Vietnamese friends, much richer than Singapore, decades ago. Things changed quickly after the war and the reality is very different today says Eric while speaking about his experiences and thoughts with Jones Nguyen. This part of Saigon reminds me more about Paris says Eric; the luxury Dong Khoi Street, Notre Dame Church, the old post office, the Opera, Park Hayatt Hotel and Majestic Hotel.
Sitting in front of the window at Caravelle Hotel and viewing the sunset is so romantic and relaxing says Eric. The sun is suddenly hiding behind a building which is home to the exclusive union square, opposite to Hotel Continental. Eric sees a blue sky with cotton white and thin clouds saying thanks and good buy for today, and hello to a new day tomorrow. Saigon is where Bangkok was decades ago in terms of development. Things here in Saigon are moving slowly, if moving at all says Eric. A lot of decision makers and "blue blood" pockets have to be filled with black cash, which often delays infrastructure and society initiatives, and ordinary people are the victim in a never ending, and greedy aspiration of political power and social oppression. Welcome to a different world with totally different rules of the game says Jones Nguyen. But some countries in west are also corrupt with politicians and "fat cats" putting their own interests before the common good of the people; this is not a south east Asian phenomena, but a world-wide disease, says Eric to Jones. The results are just different.
Jones Nguyen asks Eric about Europe, Asia and the USA; what's the difference? Eric replies in a calm and thoughtful voice; Europe is our granny, she is experienced, wise, but tired and slow going, she lacks the energy and can't create enough qualified jobs for millions of ambitious graduates. Our granny has the experience and skills to make the right things right, and she knows how to do it properly, with style and quality says Eric. Fashion is something Granny admires but she also has hard times to keep Europe's states united. Granny is probably 3000 years old, which is the civilization of Europe; a civilization that once started in ancient Hellas (Greece) and was spread around the world to enlighten a very primitive way of living. Granny admires democracy and she believes in human rights, equality, and the rule of law. Don't you think so Jones? Well, maybe, I don't have that much knowledge and insights as you have Eric, but I believe you. Many things you say turn out to be true, says Jones with a convincing smile.
And how about East Asia asks Jones? You left Europe for east Asia so there gotta be something special here, Eric? Eric smiles like a kid who gets gifts on a birthday. First of all, I am European and proud of some European values, and beliefs, such as: freedom of speech, democracy, and human rights. South east Asia is our energetic and fast growing teenager says Eric, as Jones listens intensively, and leaning forward, opposite to Eric at the Caravelle hotel. Teenager south east Asia does often not know how to make the right things right, and the idea of acquiring value, and provide client service and quality is on a different planet in this part of the world says Eric. Teenager south east Asia seeks investments and support for ambitious future plans, but he also manages to keep a high GDP growth for a very long time, in comparison with Europe and the USA; often 6 times higher, says Eric. Teenager south east Asia is a tiger in steady growth, not an old granny in stagnation or decline. That's a big difference between Europe and south east Asia.
Jones asks Eric about USA; you often talk about USA, why don't you move there? Eric replies with an astonished facial expression; who said my journey is ending in south east Asia? Like the ancient Greeks, I see the earth as my home says Eric, not a particular flag or country boarder; phenomenon which are created by humans. What is created by mother earth will last for a long time, but what is created by humans have a tendency to change at times says Eric. If I can continue to add value in east Asia, and reach my targets, I ain't gonna rush to move elsewhere says Eric. Jones nod his head politely and Eric continues; USA is a 300 years old strong marathon sprinter; a mid aged man, who is superior in mixing talents of all backgrounds; a supreme nation that voted for a black president from a simple background; something the aristocrats and the establishment in Europe would never allowed to happen. That's why USA is the supreme nation in this unequal world, concerning the right to pursue happiness, political stability, natural resources and democracy; a nation with superior knowledge, research, and technology advancement. So what countries do you believe in at a time of a very shaky world order and weakening economy says Jones? New Zealand, east coast China, definitely Germany, USA/Canada, Australia and Scotland, but I am not sure about England, says Eric. These ideas consider life quality index, integration, openness to foreigners (white/ Caucasians) and the ability to create interesting, qualified, well paid jobs, says Eric with a firm voice.
I am so sorry to hear you are leaving Saigon says Jones, we really need your skills and engagement to help enterprises and young talents to a better future. Hmm, Eric thinks for a moment before answering; well, I am leaving Saigon to continue my career in east Asia; I got a more lucrative and stable opportunity in the role of director at an international American organisation with head office in Hong Kong. My project of people development, education, charity, hobby writing, advisory and business planning continues and my mission in life doesn't change: to contribute with a better world through education, people development and corporate development, besides, local children charity initiatives. Consulting, teaching, training and lecturing go hand in hand mumbles Eric; you meet new clients with different perspectives and needs, and you need to inspire them to take actions that lead them to where they want to be in the future. I just find that work extremely exciting. Oh, Eric, Please don't forget me. Oh, don't be silly Jones, with today's technology, we will stay in touch, and I won't forget those who meant a lot to me last years, says Eric with a convincing and friendly smile.
Jones is curious to know more about Eric's stay in Vietnam, and asks him; how was your stay in Vietnam last 360 days? Well says Eric, I believe I have inspired young talents to learn and grow for a better future. I believe I have made underprivileged children happier through charity initiatives together with my Vietnamese allies. I will miss Saigon of course, and the gorgeous coastline of Vietnam: Danang, Hoi An, Nha Trang; its charm, beauty, craziness, and sometimes mystic madness. I will miss the people I got to know who valued my contributions and who helped me in tough moments. Many locals I met in Vietnam are friendly, helpful, talkative, and with a relaxed attitude, especially in Saigon and midland Vietnam. But I can also understand my Vietnamese friends who live in Europe and USA, and why they hesitate to return to Vietnam. Remember that a nice surface comes with its challenges and Vietnam like many other nations is no exemption says Eric. I have to go now Jones, see you at the end of next week. OK, Eric, thanks for the coffee and let's catch up soon.
Copyright (C) 2018. Anthony Marc, Papadimitriou & Partners. All rights reserved.