There are a number of reasons why Occupy Wall Street infuriates me, and my fury has become especially acute now that I’m in Vietnam. The first biggest problem I have with it is that I can’t articulately write about why I’m against it, because I STILL have no idea what it’s about.
The second is the focus on the 1% of Americans who make more than $750,000 a year vs. the 99% of Americans who do not. Guess what? Even if you’re not super wealthy, or wealthy, or even not well-off at all, you’re still doing pretty fucking well in comparison to the rest of the world.
The disparity between the wealthy and the rest of the population isn’t really what’s the matter with the United States. What’s the matter is that we’ve gotten so accustomed to living well that we’ve forgotten how lucky we are to be Americans, with our ample freedoms, our general safety, our clean water, and our access to food and shelter. We no longer want to do the hard work. We expect things to be handed to us. We don’t realize how vitally our privileges and our rights need to be protected, no matter how imperfectly, before they’re gone—taken from us by overwhelming debt, unnecessary wars, and a lack of a decent education.
We need to fight for what we DO have, rather than what we don’t have.
And that’s where the neocons come in…I’m joking. I think.
Anyway, that could be in part what Occupy Wall Street is asking for, but what it seems to be that they care most about is pretty un-impactful shit like private corporate bonuses, and the fact that they can’t drive their cars as much as they’re accustomed to, or that they’ll never be rich. Man, when I didn’t have a salaried job, I worked 7-days a week babysitting, running errands, and hostessing at a restaurant to afford my rent. I didn’t get a dog because it was too great of an expense. Am I really supposed to feel bad that this woman can’t afford to feed her pure-bred boxer?
If she were in Vietnam, and were really starving, she would eat that thing. And she could probably make a profit selling the extra meat!
I know that there are productive things to be protesting in the United States. I know that there are changes that need to be made. I know that there are disparities, that life is unfair, that our government is corrupt and ineffectual.
But being in Vietnam, I feel so goddamn lucky, and I’m afraid that my generation is taking that luck for granted, turning it into a poison that will bring all of the most dire predictions about our future to fruition.
Which brings me to the third part of my Vespa Tour.
A Vespa Tour of Saigon: The Land Across the River
By the Saigon River in Ho Chi Minh city live some of the district’s poorest residents—fisherman who bring their wares up from the Mekong Delta. Longshoremen who service the vessels that sail in from abroad. The poor who were displaced from the wealthier districts on the other side when the government built a new highway, and destroyed all of their shelters. Kind of like what Giuliani did with the homeless people in Tomkins Square Park, only in Vietnam, they were transplanted to a trash and chemical wasteland rather than the countryside in Pennsylvania.
Rather than writing on my blog yesterday afternoon, I went to the Q Spa for a manicure and pedicure. My financial situation is approaching from “I’m going to ignore it” to “it’s getting pretty dire,” but I had been alone all day, while everyone I knew in the United States slept, and Caleb worked. I was starting to feel completely wackadoo. I needed something to do that made me feel good.
Earlier in the day, I had been brainstorming ideas that didn’t involve drinking sauvignon blanc alone in the hotel lobby, or going to the pharmacy across the street for some Diazepam (awww shit, that’s the factory name), and I came up with a really good one. So I Skyped Caleb.
(See why Caleb’s the one for me?)
I’m going to write a few posts on my Vespa tour through Saigon, because to be totally honest, I don’t have the stamina to do it all at once. If you ever visit the city, I would highly recommend taking a similar one—they’re definitely pricey in comparison to picking up a motorbike on the street (each private tour is $50 per person for a day), but you have much more control over what you see—plus the added benefit of feeling like Stefania Sandrelli, or someone equally timeless and chic.
We used Vietnam Vespa Adventures, but I’m sure there are other options if you do a little research when you get to Saigon.
In any case, here’s the first part of my adventure.
Part I: The Flower Market Marks The Beginning
Caleb and I had big plans to go to Angkor Wat this past weekend, but then we fell asleep at 8pm on Friday night, lulled into a stupor by cheap massages, and on Saturday, we got wrapped up wandering around the city in the heat, stopping to drink soda water and sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, and waiting out the heavy monsoon rains from underneath tarps covering riverside cafes. The array of ponchos—colorful, single-headed, double-headed, all encompassing—on the motorbikes that paraded, undeterred by the storms, were enough to keep us occupied into the evening.
On Sunday, we woke up at 6am, as has become our habit due to jet lag. We flipped through a borrowed Lonely Planet, and determined that there was basically nothing touristy left to do in Saigon because the city isn’t really for sightseeing, it’s for living. It is straining under the weight of almost 20 million people.
There was some talk of going to the Mekong Delta, to essentialize the natives, and take pictures of their lily pads and rice paddies, but Toon already has big plans to take me there on Tuesday. I figured because I’m not working out while I’m over here because there are far too many disgusting European men with their testicles hanging out of their bike shorts in the hotel gym, I might as well spend another four hours on the back of Toon’s motorbike clenching my ass and toning my thigh muscles until I’m internally bleeding so that I don’t fall off the thing. I’m going to Phu Quoc this weekend, so I need my body to be “beach ready.”
I’m safely settled in the Park Hyatt Saigon, which is about as bourgeoise a hotel as you can get in a third world country. Let’s just say that inside of the hotel—which has a pool with a waterfall, a speakeasy bar, a Spa, and rainfall showerhead in the bathroom complex—it’s like Las Vegas, and outside, it’s like Bladerunner meets the aftermath of the Vietnam War. I’m only staying here because Caleb’s work is paying for it, otherwise I’d clearly be medicating myself through long nights in a two-star hotel.
I have to admit, as well-traveled as I imagine myself to be, I was pretty scared to leave the safe confines of the complex yesterday morning. It’s something that I always feel the first day that I explore a city, and its especially acute when I’m faced with wandering around alone in a country about which I’ve done no research.
As a woman, you have to be especially careful about what you wear, you have to be careful about who you talk to, and you have to be careful making eye contact with the men who catcall you from atop their motorbikes in the street. There’s a extra layer of caution that accompanies every move, and the last thing I want to do is draw more attention to myself. With my albino skin and reddish hair and splotches of freckles and ingenué eyes, I am like a walking “take advantage of me” sign.