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Products and People in Vietnam

By Julia Hursh

        The Ben Thanh Markets were my first destination in Vietnam. There were not as many visual signs of western influence in this area (other then the numerous KFC restaurants) until I entered the markets. I walked through the Ben Thanh markets and saw DVD stands everywhere. These stands were selling all the newest American movies. The were being sold for only $1 and were still in theaters when we left on SAS. It was interesting because all of the Vietnamese are pulling you in to get you to buy things from your own country!

When I ventured into the Cholon markets, I was shocked to see the set up of the stands. It was interesting to see that each stand had slightly different products but all were knock offs of expensive designer goods. The quality of the goods was amazing and it reminded me of the article I read in my Global Issues book. The title was “The Five Wars of Globalization” by Moises Naim. One of the ‘wars’ was that of intellectual property. It mentioned how much goods are pirated and sold in other countries. It is described as “…an illicit trade that cost the United States an estimated $9.4 billion in 2001.”  The article goes on to mention that knockoffs are less expensive and less risky and many of the products being sold are made on the same machines that real products are made on. To be honest I bought a few of the Chanel products because they look like the real thing for a fraction of the price. Truthfully I would rather give the money to the Vietnamese people who really need it, rather then the rich designers who don’t.

In Cholon City, I met a man on the street. He came up to me because he liked my tattoos. He asked where I was from and I responded with “California.” He then began to tell me that his whole family is there. They had left Vietnam 7 years ago with hopes of making more money in America. He said he wanted to go as well but could not afford it. He was hoping to save money and travel there in 5 years. He had never been, but his family came back to visit once and said he should come.

Another man that I met was my tour guide down the Mekong Delta. Our guide was amazing. He spoke very good English and told us of how he has family living in both San Diego and Canada. The man told us of how he would like to go there too someday. He also wants his children to be able to live in America so that they can have a better life then in communist Vietnam. In order to prepare them, he has them enrolled in an international school so they can learn both Vietnamese and English.

Both of these men’s families were granted permanent status in the U.S. and that is why they have been there for so long. They are lucky to have been given this privilege because according to the World Refugee Survey of 2006, Vietnam has generated 305,500 refugees and asylum seekers as of December 31, 2005. It was a shock for me to hear of these men who wanted to reunite with their families in California and to think that I live there and am traveling to their country to see what it is like. It made me feel lucky, not only to live in California, but to be able to freely travel between the two countries.


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