9,406 MILES: DAY 2 IN HO CHI MINH CITY

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

We fit all three of our interviews scheduled in Ho Chi Minh City into today. The first one was a literal on-the-street interview: we met with a woman, single, early 30s, marketer, on plastic stools on the sidewalk outside a street café. I had normal Vietnamese iced milk coffee, which was less strong than in Hanoi. She didn’t want to be video-recorded (sadly). Trang interviewed her in Vietnamese. Something that surprised me was how she talked about the pressure for weddings, not necessarily marriage. She said that when people ask her about this topic, they ask her if she’s had a wedding yet, and since she hasn’t, when she’s going to have one. She said she wishes she could find a guy who would be willing to throw a fake wedding and then part ways and live independently without an actual marriage, just so she could have an answer for these people.

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We ran to lunch, where we had barely anytime to eat before our next interview. Trang and I scarfed down fried rice served on banana leaves. It was a cute, quiet restaurant. Then we ran to our second interview at a coffee shop, with a woman, divorced, a magazine editor in her 40s. It was at another coffee shop, where I had iced peach tea with chia seeds – delicious.

She was extremely open about her ex-husband, who was physically abusive and even came very close to hitting her on their wedding day. She said she knew then that the marriage was not what she hoped it would be, but she continued with it anyway in fear of shame. Trang interviewed her in Vietnamese, but she knew some English and spoke with me. We talked some about journalism. At first she didn’t want to be video-recorded, but then she said that I was so pretty that she was convinced to let us record her. This made my day! At the end, she hugged me four or five times when it was time to leave and told me that she felt like we had a connection. It made me smile and I realized that this was the first time I had been hugged since I left the Dulles airport. I very rarely see people hug here, though men do walk down the street with their arms on each other’s shoulders while women link arms.

The last interview was with a businesswoman, single, in her 30s, at another coffee shop. I interviewed her in English, but she also didn’t want to be video-recorded. She talked a lot about the differences between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, how many people her age and younger grow up in the former and move to the latter where there is less nepotism and more open-mindedness. I could tell the differences just with our interviews today because even though we didn’t know these women at all (Trang was connected to them through a mutual friend), all three of them were extremely open with us and talked in depth for an hour to an hour and a half each. For a quick trip to such a huge and diverse city, I feel like I’m learning a lot about its nuances.

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