Single & stuck between two cultures, I’m foraging my own path

21 07 2011

My cousins and I were in a taxi on the way downtown for some shopping when my cousin’s phone rang. With a perplexed look, she turned around and told me it was for me. How did anyone know I was with my cousin? And why would they have her number to know to reach me there? I hesitantly picked up the phone thinking it was yet another family member that found out I was here in Vietnam. “Here comes another guilt trip,” I thought to myself.

Turns out, it was one of the couples from my tourist group last week. Coincidentally, he too is from San Jose. So, after some initial small talk, he tells me he wants me to stay another week here in TPHCM so that we could hang out again. I thought to myself, “damn, everyone wants to hang out with me…” I felt myself figuratively puffing my chest out and fanning my peacock feathers. Well, I’m hoping it was figuratively. Anyways, I thank him for the offer but I let him know that work really is waiting for me when I get back (including a wedding that I’m coordinating music for). He tells me that that is too bad, because he wanted to introduce me to someone in his extended family that was young, single, and really cute (his words, not mine). My initial reaction was again one of, “heck yeah… all the ladies love Luu J….” But then I remembered that in Vietnamese culture, families routinely hook up single guys with single girls all the time. For a second there I was curious about who she was, but then I snapped out of it and reminded myself that I have already been down this path.

You see, as Asian as I look, my experiences and travels through Vietnam have reinforced two facts: 1) It’s ridiculously hot here, and 2) my interests, hobbies, personality, ideals, values, and morals, are undeniably American. In a way, it’s a bit disappointing because it really narrows down my ability to be compatible with a whole ‘nother country of opportunity. But at the same time, it’s also a reminder that I am proud to call myself American (for all its infamy here in Asia) and I am glad to have such a wide perspective. Through my travels and interactions with Vietnamese girls –and I’m not talking about the Vietnamese folks born in the States like me. I’m talking about born-and-raised-bona-fide-squat-outside-playing-cards-in-the-alley-Vietnamese… I’ve realized that we are just too different, and one of us would eventually be hugely disappointed. That fact would be magnified by the inability to communicate well, something that I value very much, and something that the Vietnamese culture has not yet mastered. Oh, and then there’s the language thing too. Who knows, maybe this entire rant will be disproved one summer’s day when I fall madly in love with a Vietnamese woman. But until then, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I really feel like a dude stuck between two cultures. Too American to appeal to those down-to-earth Vietnamese girls that want the typical Vietnamese family and lifestyle. too Vietnamese to appeal to the American women who not only look at me and see an Asian person, but also see all the other Asian stereotypes that come along with being short and having black hair. The only thing I can do is be myself. Because outside of that, I don’t know what else I can do.

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