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May 14th, 2009 - 05:05 PM
I snapped this on an trip out of Ha Noi, Viet Nam to Ha Long bay. If you’re ever in Ha Noi, I HIGHLY recommend seeing Ha Long Bay. It’s very surreal and full of large white limestone islands jutting out of turquoise water… but I digress…. Along the way you’ll most likely stop at the Perfume River and canoe to some majestic temples, market, etc.
It was raining lightly when I went, but the mist along the river made enduring the soak quite tolerable.
All of the “group” consisted of couples except me and this Korean fellow. So, naturallly we had to pair up and share a room on the island. He was really cool when he wasn’t drilling me about why the U.S. had involved itself in the Viet Nam war… why the idea of China becoming the next World superpower… etc. He seemed pretty angry in general and with good reason. But, as I told him, “I have no idea why the U.S. felt they needed to become involved in Viet Nam… And, I personally don’t have a problem with someone else taking the reigns of superpower from the U.S. for awhile…”
He just persisted as if he didn’t hear me. It seems he had a lot of pent up hostility toward the U.S. and most likely the fact he’d been holed up in Burma (I refuse to call it Myanmar) teaching Korean on the Korean government’s dime. I’m guessing he experienced a great deal of America’s ” meddling” while there.. And, his parents were in North Korea.
I was just trying to have a good time, experience the culture, and tried to change the subject by telling him about this amazing little cafe in Ha Noi with tasty “egg coffee”.. But, he wasn’t tryin’ to hear that see….
Again, I tried to lighten the conversation up after explaining I wasn’t responsible for the last several decades worth of U.S. atrocities… After we learned we’d be bunking together, I asked where he was from. He asked “where do I look like I’m from…” A challenge!
I’d been hangin’ with Vietnamese folks for nearly 3 weeks, and his features just didn’t match… He didn’t look Thai, Cambodian, Phillipino, or Laotian… And, because there were soooo many Japanese tourists in Souteast Asia.. I took a stab and asked if he were Japanese…. WRONG ANSWER! He took a great deal of offense with my fumbling guess and proudly stated he was Korean. He added, “we just all look the same to you don’t we?”….
I thought about his question and in a knee-jerk response and I denied it and said I knew he was Korean, but was just yankin’ his chain… Although, I realized that, yeah.. most Asian people do look similar to me. Me! A person basically in love with all cultures and diversity. A person who’d made a life long goal of experiencing every bit of culture I could until my time was up. I’d inadvertantly lumped hundreds of rich culture into one vague racial label.
That was almost two years ago and I’ve since made it a priority to learn as much about every Asian culture I could. When I’m in the sauna at the gym, there are dozens of languages heard. I eavesdrop on conversations I don’t understand, but pay attention to language intonation, facial features, manerisms, etc. When I’ve got a pretty good idea, I ask where they’re from… I can now proudly say that I’m now right at least 80% of the time! I’m doing the same with Middle Eastern folks too. My geography is off, so I miss more frequently with them… but I’m workin’ on it.
“Perfume River” ~ Near Ha Noi, Vietnam © Skip Hunt