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Give In To Your Experiences

By Jane Wiseman

is a country that almost embodies what it means to have vernacular and transnational culture. Not only does it have a quiet small village atmosphere to most of the country, but it was involved with a trans-continental war. While in Nha Trang Vietnam I had an amazing experience with some Vietnamese children. I was walking along the beautiful beach in Nha Trang, and two friends and I ended up playing a pick-up game of sand-soccer, betting the postcards the children were selling. It was an awesome game and the kids were really good. I thought it was interesting that we all knew how to play soccer, showing me that there is such a thing as a transnational sport. It was also odd to find that all of them spoke moderate to very good English and were wearing t-shirts with either American comic book characters or English words. And yet, we were standing on the beach in Vietnam. In Christina Schwenkel’s “Recombinant History:Transnational Practice of Memory and Knowledge Production in Contemporary Vietnam”, she criticizes tourists who come to Vietnam and romanticize encounters with “natives”. And yet, I can’t help but walk away from my experience and feel as if I somehow experienced something that might happen in a movie about a tourist visiting Vietnam. Despite Schwenkel’s advice, sometimes “romanticized encounters” just happen.
                    I had another wonderful experience during a visit to a nursery. The kids ranged in age from 2-5 and they were all extremely friendly. They sang songs to us and were really playful. I know all kids enjoy playing but I thought it was odd that they were so receptive to foreigners. It was also surprising that one of the thoroughly Vietnamese  songs ended with an English line “I Love Everyone!” These kids were 5 years olds and couldn’t speak English, but were able to say one line in a different language. I wondered if this small vernacular nursery taught the kids a song that they could sing to transnational visitors.      

The last day in Saigon, while on a motorbike tour of the city and surrounding areas, I was able to capture a true vernacular and transnational image with my camera. We had left the city and were going through a small village on an island on the other side of the Mekong River. We were just cruising along a small dirt road and could see the ship on the other side of the river. I snapped a picture of a Vietnamese woman dressed in the traditional garb and straw conical hat going by on her bike, with our ship in the background. I thought it was a great representation of the juxtaposition of vernacular and transnational. In the foreground is a woman wearing traditional Vietnamese clothing traveling along on a self-propelled bike in her small village.In the background is a transnational cruise ship that transports students form all over the world.

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