U8. Going Digital?

The third floor of Trang Tien Plaza was rather deserted at lunch hour. I just came to look around for some merchandise or people. Then I saw this high school girl looking into the digital recording showcase. Is she going to buy or not? Maybe not today. But she has to know exactly which one and how much before deciding to tell Mom and Dad. (Hanoi, Nov. 2004)


U7. Sticking it to the Bell

Who began the tradition of sticking the family wish to the bronze bell at Vinh Nghiem Temple? The inscription on the Bell of Peace states that this was a donation from Japanese Buddhists. But if you do this in Japan, the resident monk will kick you out. To be effective, your wish must be written on a wooden plate and serviced by a proper ritual (at a cost, of course). But in Vietnam, imported culture changes form. (HCMC, Mar. 2002)


U6. Blue Dragon Boys

Every Sunday morning, an NGO hosts a one-hour football match for street boys. Dark blue plays light blue. Older boys and younger ones play separately. I could count at least 40 or 50 boys in two fields. They are all very serious. After the match, they get yogurt and have a meeting. This is an excellent way to get the attention of boys and people like me... but what about girls? (Hanoi, Nov. 2004)


U5. I Like Bus

In order to ease the traffic craze, urban authorities have become very serious about the bus. Previously, few took buses as a viable option. But now, it must be admitted that buses may be safer than motorbikes when they collide. The usual problems, namely long wait and super crowdedness, must be also acknowledged, however. Can someone tell me why city bus conductors are mostly female in HCM City but mostly male in Hanoi? (HCMC, Feb. 2003)


U4. National Holiday

Finally I moved from a mini-hotel to a rented house. One morning I woke up to discover that all houses on my street were flying the national flag, except mine. Not knowing what was the occasion, but not wanting to be left out, I scrambled to get the bamboo stick and tied the flag to my second floor balcony. Hew! Could someone tell me in advance when I should do that, and when I should take it down? (Hanoi, Oct. 2004)


U3. Red River Fishing

Phuc Xa, along the Red River, is the area inhabited by migrants from outer provinces who came to Hanoi to make a living. I also live there and know many friends there. But you can't see the River unless you walk to the very end of the street, which you rarely do because you have no business going there. Well, one day I decided to do just that, and this is what I saw. Sewage is dumped into Hong Ha without treatment and rubbish was all over the place. A solitary man was fishing 30 meters downstream from the sewage discharge. But if you take a macro view, the Red River still looks beautiful. (Hanoi, Oct. 2004)


U2. Fifty Years Later

On October 10, 2004, Vietnam celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the liberalization of the capital from the French colonialist. Around Trang Tien Street, colorful posters commemorating the event were on display. I stopped to gaze at them, and some of them were really nice propaganda posters. But very few Hanoians bothered to look up. Did the ancient Chinese writing say, a good government is the one no one seems to care or know about? (Hanoi, Oct. 2004)


U1. The Power of Ad

This boy got ahead of me or behind me as I  was taking a leisurely walk. Then suddenly, I found him transfixed at this Pepsi promotion poster. It says, "Have You Drunk Pepsi Today?" And you can win 20 Sony stereo sets, 100 DVDs and other wonderful prizes with the total value of over 7 billion dong!!! Or is he studying the sexy lady? (Hanoi, Oct. 2004)