Việt Nam is noisy.
I said that many times while living in Huê. When I mentioned it to a Vietnamese colleague who had studied in America, he cocked his head and said something about honking horns and karaoke bars. Of course, he is correct as far as it goes, but America is quieter than merely the fact people seldom blow their car horn.
In Huê, riding a bicycle is a social event. It is the norm to see school kids pedaling down the street chatting away. Not in America. Not only is everyone riding in an automobile, but the windows are rolled up to keep in the air conditioning. When on your môto or bicycle in Việt Nam, one hears all the other motorbikes, horns, and street noise that one does not hear in a sound-deadened automobile.
Việt Nam’s noise also comes from the fact that all buildings are “live.” Floors are hard tile, walls are plaster over brick (not the paper and gypsum drywall used in America), and there are few if any drapes. Any spoken word echoes and reverberates. In America, rooms have heavy carpet, walls that absorb sound, and lots of sound-deadening drapes.
I never thought of the United States as “quiet” before – not until I lived in another culture. Moving between cultures has opened my mind. I now see my own culture in ways I never noticed before. The whole idea of “quiet” dawned on me as we drove into the neighborhood where we live. You see, we live in a “retirement park.” You have to be over 55 to buy a house here.
And the retirement park is quiet. I mean quiet! Old people like things quiet.
I am moving into the American subculture of retirement.
And I am as clueless about this new culture as I was about the Vietnamese culture.
I shall try to use my newly acquired observational skills to look at this new world of American retirement just as I tried to do when living in Huê.
I should have ample opportunity to do so. We live in a retirement park, and therefore are surrounded by older retired people. After living in Việt Nam, I realize the very idea of older Vietnamese living apart from their children is anathema, but theirs isn’t a society based on individualism. In America, the mantra of older folks is “I don’t want to be a burden to my kids.” The Vietnamese could not be more opposite. Children’s filial duty is to care for their parents.
My elderly mother will be moving to live in this same park. Living in Việt Nam, I learned that it is my duty as the oldest son to care for my mother. So be it. Expect to see posts on interacting with one’s mother as she progresses past the age of ninety.
Finally, I blame my friend Mr. Cu for reigniting a passion for photography that I ironically acquired in Việt Nam a long time ago. (I still have the Canon FT I bought in 1970.) My digital Konica-Minolta A2 served me well most of the time, but the harsh environment of Việt Nam did in the viewfinder. I will have it repaired, but the new Canon 30D is on the way, and I intend to use it – a lot.
Blogs develop their own personalities. We’ll all see where this one goes. Retirement. Photography. Travel. We’ll see. We'll see.
Personal side note: the return to our US home has not been easy. I’ve had a bit of a medical problem. It’s a bit delicate, so lets just say it is very painful to sit down. I had surgery the other day to relieve the problem, but the recovery is proving slow. I guess this means I’m not only a pain in the ass, but have a pain there too.