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Rambling thoughts on history.

In the spring of 2011, I was talking to my friend Karl about why I wanted to go home. Societal norms had been shaken to the core: premarital sex, LGBT community… issues once hushed up were now proudly coming to the fore. The changes in our private life highly correlates to the shift in ideology of the country we live in. I predicted that we would see more fractures in politics, and I wanted to be home for it. Change always excites me, especially when things are going downhill.

One year later, while doing research on the urban development history of Vietnam, I first saw the uncanny parallel between the Vietnam under French rule and the Vietnam today. It is the same pattern of land expropriation, proletarianization of landless farmers, construction of grandiose structures catering to the fancy of the top few, and an aspiration to Western aesthetics and modernity. Read the rest of this entry »


Khmer temple Trà Vinh, VietnamOn Thursday, I got to Tra Vinh province after a 4-hr bus from Dong Thap, only to find out that I wouldn’t be able to go ahead with work. Already there, and not wanting to spend another 4 hours on bus to get back to SaiGon, I decided to stay for a day.

Next day, on a rental Honda (scooters here are simply referred as Honda), I rode along the major roads and just stopped at whatever that caught my eyes and piqued my interest. 60% of the population here is Khmer and the most visual indication is all the Khmer temples dotting around.

At the third temple that I stumbled upon, the monks were friendly, and spoke Vietnamese well enough, that they invited me to stay for a drink, and then for lunch. Our conversation ranged from the differences between the Southern school of Buddhism (Theravada, found here and similar to what you’d see in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar) and the Northern school (Mahayana with heavy Chinese influence), to how this land once was all Khmer land. Read the rest of this entry »

The election is today. Everyone talks about being part of history. I confess i felt jealous for not being there during this historic moment [there’s another one in VN right now as well]. I also missed out Obama’s speech at my school. But after all, it’s not so important whether i am there or not, i’m still witnessing right now, admitted from far away. The most important question is not: were you there? Rather, it is: what did you do that moment?