Caution, Woman at Work
Vietnam is full of women.
I'm not sure what the men are doing. I know they are peddling the cyclos (a Vietnamese rickshaw) around. They build boats. They are policemen and soldiers and politicians and guides (by the way, guides are policemen in Vietnam, something to keep in mind as you b.s. with your guide at night). Other than that, the men are pretty much out of sight.
The women are not out of sight.
Women are in the fields, in the restaurants, in the water taxis, in the markets, in the banks.
One man I talked to told me that a woman in Vietnam is controlling the whole world through a machine that he helped her build. He escaped, when he understood the dimensions of her evil plan. He's now attempting to tell the world.
So, it wasn't my imagination, Vietnamese women are everywhere.
Okay, maybe he's a little bit crazy, but the point is, in Vietnam you can almost believe his story.
Even the young girls are everywhere. They sell water, fruit, magazines, postcards, and candy. They pose and smile and practice being big girls.
Working on a Boat
And they ride bikes through the cities, in their white Ao Dais (the traditional Vietnamese dress). They sit with graceful posture, pedaling slowly through the chaos that is Vietnamese life. Along city streets, along highways, and down country paths, like modern butterflies, riding on the breeze.
One of the most memorable images in my mind is of a terrible rainstorm outside Saigon. It was one of the hardest rainstorms I have ever seen. We had to pull the van over. We could barely see out the window, and the standing water was about eight inches deep.
These Modern Butterflies are everywhere
Through the gray mist, we started seeing these ghosts drift by. A pair, then four more, then a large group. The schoolgirls were coasting past, slowly pedaling the bikes, Ao Dais' plastered against their skin by the downpour. They didn't ride faster. They didn't ride slower. It was Zen in action (though Zen isn't practiced as a religion in Vietnam).
We all smiled, faces pressed against the van windows, as the vision disappeared.
A Traditional Bikini?
The point about Vietnamese women being, I guess, not that they are beautiful (though many are). Not that they are empowered (though in some ways, they are). And not that they are controlling the world (at least not with a machine).
The point is that they are there. Everywhere.
I have a theory about societies.
Men are busy. Mostly for stupid reasons, but busy none the less. They don't have the time to make life pleasant for others.
So, the pleasantness of a society will largely be driven by it's women. In a society where women are either hidden or unapproachable, the society will be unpleasant.
In places where the women are approachable, the society will be pleasant.
In Vietnam, society is pleasant.