I was curious and excited about the Vietnamese novel written about Hanoi. But what makes it special is that it was written by a western guy.
I found it very funny and excited to read about how he reacted when he first came to Hanoi. When he saw the railway cafe near Le Duan station, about its strangeness. The familiar little things that I have experienced in my homeland Vietnam, in the eyes of foreigners, it is very strange. Like street food stalls on the sidewalks, the way people wear masks when they go out, and part-time jobs only earn less than 1 dollar an hour.
But what makes me more interesting is that Nicolas changed his awareness to find joy and meaning in life. He decided to sell air purifier products. Reading a book on environment and climate change, from the author’s honest perspective make me feel very respectful.
Currently, many young people in Hanoi are interested in and start a business about the environment care products, but the process of changing consumer perceptions is arduous.
The book made me laugh a lot about the way he wrote that when he came to Vietnam and realized it was much different from his imagination. But the book also touched me by the way the author saw the simple rustic beauty of Vietnamese people. He pointed out that the most ordinary working people bring the greatest happiness.
And through that I feel more in love with my country, even though it may be very poor and backward; though it may balk at the merits of economic development and environmental destruction.
I laughed when Nicolas was asked by a new girlfriend to marry her after 2 weeks of dating. I thought deeply when the author wrote about Vietnamese women who were often pressured and more pressured to get married in their 20s. Or see the true virtual lifestyle, like taking pictures and showing off in social networks of some young people. Or about people who are using brand name goods, ride luxurious cars but lack the sense of living environmentally friendly and poor spiritual life.
And the love between two different cultures, a western man and a Vietnamese girl, makes me see many similarities in my story. And I realize that letting go and less controlling in love will make the relationship better. And I realize that love comes from simple sincere concerns, not money, or apperance or nationality.
If at any time, please go to Church Street, to Hanoi, and find yourself a little quiet in the middle of a crowded street! Will you try to learn Vietnamese and enjoy “Phố Nhà Thờ”?
Photo by Marko Nicolic