While Da Nang itself was not particularly worthwhile, I was able to spend most of the day with a mutual mutual friend, expat Ronnie Defour. He is Caribbean, raised in the U.S., lived in SoCal as a pharmaceutical salesman, and moved to Vietnam nine months ago to change it all. I don’t think he’s ever planning to move back; he loves it here. He teaches English part-time, works out constantly, and does some volunteer work. It seems like he’s really living.
Part of this change in Vietnam that I am examining is caused by expats moving to the country with money, bringing their own traditions, and making waves. But I was interested in interviewing Ronnie because he comes off almost as the anti-expat. As he would call it, the “expat-local”. That is because, unlike many of the expats who have moved here, Ronnie chose to embed himself in the local community. For him, this new chapter of his life is all about cultural connection. Sipping on an iced Vietnamese coffee at his neighborhood shop, he tells me that he thinks that being an expat means engaging in a cultural exchange - giving a bit of yourself to the community but learning a lot in return. This is the kind of change that he wants to see. It’s important to note that from what I’ve seen, not all expats think like this. Many are interested in transplanting their own culture here, which isn’t without merit. I recorded an extensive interview with Ronnie, and when I get back home, his audio recordings (and others) will be presented as part of my findings. For now, these notes are partially to serve to jog my memory, as well as to share a bit of the process with my stateside audience.
Today’s ride was incredibly short, barely even worth mentioning. I left Da Nang at around 3:00, but not before giving my bike chain some quick attention. Yesterday’s water and road debris had completely seized the chain, and it needed a wipe and some new oil to run smoothly again. The bike is completely filthy, and tomorrow I will look for a hose to clean it off. Running without fenders saves a lot of weight, but makes everything dirty. Today’s ride: 15 miles on a fairly busy oceanfront main road connecting Da Nang to Hoi An. Technically, I’m not staying in Hoi An. Another friend of a friend has a house in the hottest new tourist area, An Bang Beach. And so, after leaving Da Nang, discussing utopian ideas of some kind of cultural melting pot, the responsibility of expats and tourists, etc... Resort hotel after resort hotel, American restaurants, tourists on motorbikes. An Bang Beach is a bit more laid-back, but no less tourist-centric. Less than ten years ago, I’m told, it was a small fishing village. It’s this paradox that, although garnering some of my base-level discomfort, deserves attention. This is one interesting piece of Vietnam’s story that I’m getting ready to dive into in the coming days.
It was a cheeseburger, fries, and a coke for dinner. I’ll be heading back into Vietnam’s heartland on Sunday, so best to burger up now! It will be an early night for me too. In addition to resting my legs tomorrow, I have an exciting interview with an American veteran and expat who has lived here for the last decade running a charity that assists with children’s education. As always, thank you for following along. It means a lot to me to have “ground support”.