Moving Forward With A Broken Heart….

This entry was intended to be a light-hearted look at my recent experiences at the Hanoi Pride Event, comparing and contrasting with my attendance at several Las Vegas Prides. I promise I will cover that, but my heavy heart won’t allow me to write that piece in light of events that took place in my home city of Las Vegas last night.  The worst mass shooting in history, with 59 people dead and nearly 500 injured.  All gathered to bond over their shared love of country music, a pure and heartfelt pursuit.

In my three months in Hanoi, I have observed and attempted to process the many cultural and institutional differences that come with living in a foreign country, given my limited international travel experience and lifelong residence in the USA.  It is a joyful, confusing, extremely educational, mind opening experience!  I am learning a lot about myself and my own cultural biases.

I was a child during the Vietnam War, and still vividly remember images that my child’s mind could not make sense of on the evening news.  The scars of that war are still evident here, but the people have moved on.  They are not bitter.  My colleagues at PATH speak with equanimity about the difficult times they and their families endured after the war, when there was not enough food to go around.  I am always reminding myself that this country only really opened up 30 years ago.  I observe a mix of traditional, Confucian and Taoist principles combined with technological changes occurring at break neck speed.  Quite an interesting dichotomy.

Vietnam is enjoying an unprecedented period of economic growth and development, moving from a low range developed country solidly into the middle range.  There are cranes and construction everywhere on the skyline as new buildings go up and local and outside investors pour money into the country.  There is a Ferrari parked on my street, owned by a local family.  Bare knuckle capitalism is in full swing here, no doubt about it.  Money and business opportunities abound for those with the right connections and plenty of patience.  The upshot of this economic boom is a growing middle class and level of financial security that allows most families to live a comfortable life.  All good news! Of course there are growing pains.  The culture is struggling to keep up with the rapid change.  The Hanoi Pride Event was a joyful, inspiring experience, but on a much smaller scale than Pride events in Western cities.  The very first VietPride was held only 5 years ago.  It all felt very novel and quite sweet.  Not once, in the 4 hours that I was there, did I feel insecure or unsafe in any way.  An act of violence or an attack at this event, that is clearly pushing the boundaries of social norms in Vietnam, is simply unthinkable.  There is no tolerance for that kind of behavior here and it would not even occur to anyone to attempt to perpetrate any harm against a crowd of people, gathered for any reason.  Even is someone had bad intent, they would not have the means to carry out a violent act.  My point is this:  while there are parts of this culture that can feel limiting to a Westerner, I have never felt safer in public spaces and crowds in my life.  Let me repeat that, I feel safer in Vietnam amid the crazy traffic and chaos than I do in my own country.  Still, I would not trade all the privileges that my US citizenship affords me for the security that I feel in Asia, but there must be a middle ground.  Surely, the founders did not envision automatic weapons that could take out hundreds of innocents in minutes when they wrote the 2nd Amendment.  It is time for us to act, for our lawmakers to act and come up with some common sense legislation that will end this senseless violence.  It feels surreal to be so far away from home, yet hear and see the stories from friends of unimaginable terror, grief and loss.  I am very proud to work for a healthcare company that does so much good in the world.  It is my hope that corporate citizens and private citizens can finally band together to create the political capital to make meaningful change for the better.  In the meantime, I am sending positive thoughts and comforting words to my traumatized friends and neighbors from afar.  It does not feel like enough, there has to be more.  It is time to take action.

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11 comments

  1. Great blog – thanks for sharing and thanks for continuing the support of diversity outside the walls/confines of GSK.

    I hope you have gone to see a water-puppet show, experience viet coffee and fine tune your haggling skills in the markets.

      1. 🙂 – it’s all about making lemonade when you are given lemons….mine is a little less sweet and needs more sugar from the market. The real stories I could tell…..

  2. It’s great to hear of the growth in Vietnam, especially that of the middle class. The US should take a lot of lessons from Vietnam in that regard!! It interesting that you feel safer in Vietnam and felt secure at their Pride parade. That is simply superb! As a gay American, Inam hesitant to go the places where many LGBTQ congregate for fear of a hate crime. While we’ve gained many rights in the past few years, I’ve never been more afraid! Social media and technology in general have amplified the hatred many have against marginalized groups. I am proud to say I am amongst 4000 LGBTQ and allies this week in Philly for the O&E Workplace Advocates conference. We must all persist and do what is right and protect those who can’t protect themselves and honor the legacies of those impacted by the hatred. So, I agree with you!! Now is the time for action!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective. I love learning through all the PULSE volunteers!!

    1. Thank you Lo, your bravery is inspiring. I have had a tough week, hearing many tragic and sad stories about friends of friends etc…. I just want it to stop.

      1. I’m so sorry you have to go through this alone whilst over in Vietnam. Know we are holding you close in thought!! I’m so sorry you know of people who have been impacted. It is senseless and it MUST stop. This mass shooting epidemic is almost becoming the norm. That is UNACCEPTABLE. Stay strong and keep the faith.

  3. Ann Marie….well said you know my feelings on how safe I felt in Vietnam and nice to hear you feel the same it be both feel that way it must be true. We can learn a lot from the people of Vietnam, most do not have much but they are so warm and welcoming to share what they have. We have everything yet we are angry, worried about people getting in our space and we live in fear that everyone is out to get us and take what we have….Keep up the faith

  4. It sounds like you are enjoying the cultural experience as am I in Swaziland. And I agree with you that I feel safer here even though I am in a distinct minority. There is no anger here and sometimes the ability to just let things go is annoying. But I have experienced nothing but friendly greetings and a smile from the Swazis. I wish we could import some of this to the US.

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