Category Archives: Life in Vietnam

Saigon

Note: I’ve been writing these as I go, but I was actually in Saigon August 3rd-5th…no laptop with me and only intermittent internet access.

I had breakfast in Hanoi – sticky rice with dried squid from the old lady who sets up shop outside my former apartment – and lunch in Saigon.  Continue reading

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Filed under History, Life in Vietnam, On Human Connections, Travel

The chicken in the popular imagination

Chickens at Green Vietnam

I was perplexed by a friend’s seemingly irrational hatred of chickens.  His explanation weaved itself through an afternoon of conversation.

Over coffee and hash browns (with nary a chicken in sight), the conversation turned to writing.  I’m going to write a post about chickens, I said.  He laughed and said something about absurd blog topics, which sounded distinctly like a challenge.  So, chicken thoughts. Continue reading

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Filed under Food and Cooking, History, Life in Vietnam, On Agriculture & the Environment, On Human Connections, Politicking

Chop it all off!

“Our limbs, indeed, have enough room, but it is our souls that rust in a corner.”  — Henry David Thoreau

There’s nothing like a new haircut to inspire one to action!  I said, chop it all off, do what you will with this mop.

Maybe it wasn’t just the haircut.  Maybe it’s also the fact that I’m on the move again, living out of a bag for the sixth time in as many months. Continue reading

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Filed under Academia, Life in Vietnam, On Human Connections, Politicking

Rats

The rain is upon us, day two of three, I’m told.  Parts of the city will probably flood, the sewers groaning until they throw up their hands in defeat at the sheer weight of all this water.  The first sign was probably the rats, who have been unusually active over the past few days.  I should take out my garbage before they all escape for the cozy refuge of my second-floor apartment. Continue reading

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This is what I do to procrastinate (part 1)….

Work continues on the biotech article, and as is usually the case with research, the more I learn, the more I realize the people and their stories descend into a twisted myriad of connections I can’t possibly hope to capture in systematically-ordered prose.  So instead of writing my article I am thinking about theories of historical change.  Is change dialectical in nature, meaning when an initial state (whether it be abstract, as Hegel suggested, or a particular mode of production, as did Marx) is met with an alternative, their inconsistencies force a new synthesis, a new state of being?  Perhaps, but right now it seems too simplistic and, especially in the case of biotechnology, ignores the role of non-human nature.

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On account of the weather

It rained.  It rained and rained and my eyes stung and it felt a bit like crying because the tears were there against my will and made me think I should feel melancholy, but I don’t.  Or maybe I do and nature’s response was appropriate.  I pulled over a few yards past the local Indian restaurant when I could no longer see and decided to get some vindaloo.  “Look at that rain.  Do you live here?” asked the woman at the table across from me, as she twisted in her chair to look out the wide open windows.  And thus began my evening with Meg.

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Romance and biotechnology

“Yet capitalism is nothing if not vitally expansionist.”

-Jack Kloppenburg, on capital’s pursuit of the commodification of seed, First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology

If you don’t look too closely, if you blur the proverbial edges, it’s easy to settle into the comfortable notion that Vietnamese agriculture is the pastoral ideal: the ‘slow’ life, rice paddies that sway with the breeze, the market vendor whose little bundles of herbage elicit ooohs and aaahs from tourists itching to revel in something ‘quaint.’  I can romanticize it too.  Do you see any farmers in that field of maize, concerned about whether or not their new high-yielding seeds will allow them to hold onto their land for another year?

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Greenery and hinterland

“We fool ourselves if we think we can choose between them [the country and the city], for the green lake and the orange cloud are creatures of the same landscape.”

-William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West

I hadn’t any real goal in mind when I took off for a drive yesterday afternoon, but it was well worth it.  It took 1.5 hours to drive from Hanoi to somewhere resembling uninterrupted green space.  After following a single road through a litany of small peri-urban towns, I noticed a curve ahead that climbed a modest hill, another sign that one is leaving Hanoi.  It led up a road on a ridge above the surrounding area where I stopped for a couple minutes, stretched my legs, and took in the expanse of green.  It’s not possible to explain just how green the northern Vietnamese countryside is.  The photos (especially from my crappy cell phone camera) don’t do it any justice.  The greenness is marvellously suffocating.  Part of my joy at this sight might just have been the contrast with Hanoi, which is an impressively dense city despite their attempts to incorporate green space.

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Filed under Life in Vietnam, On Agriculture & the Environment