Sitting in a café overlooking a park filled with tall trees planted by the French during colonial times. Traffic bustles by. At first glance, it could be any cosmopolitan city: one feels as though this little corner could be New York or Paris, or even Buenos Aires. It's not until a motorbike slowly passes, the loudspeaker taped to its handlebars a warped voice belting out offers of ice cream or some other treat, when you come back to earth and realize you're in Saigon.
While walking through the park on my way to work these past few days I've noticed fallen tree limbs everywhere. The workers are trimming off the bottom limbs in order for the tree to remain slender and grow even taller. If you tilt your head back and look up, you can see one of the workers, a hundred or so feet off the ground, climbing around with great dexterity from branch to branch with a chainsaw in hand. I wonder how they choose which worker gets to go up the tree or if they take turns. The idea of this makes my own recurring vertigo swim around and I'm forced to turn my head back towards the ground.
The tourist wearing a flaming orange bikini under a white see-through cover up taking a duck-faced selfie. The xe om (motorbike for hire) driver calling out "Madame, xe om Madame?". The shops blaring music way too loudly in an attempt to attract customers. The old woman in conical hat and pajamas waving lottery tickets for sale at passing cars. The motorbike driver who crashes into the back of a bus because he was too busy texting to notice where he was going. The young woman holding a giant umbrella over her head to shield her from the sun's rays lest God forbid she get any color on her skin. The thousands of people wearing surgical masks all day every day because they fear pollution. This is life in Saigon. Sometimes I long for some quiet, maybe a getaway to the beach, but in the meantime this will do.