Five Observations of Wealth in Vietnam – And They Have Nothing To Do With Money

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1 – Wealth of Gratitude

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So many of the Vietnamese people live in poverty, yet they are seemingly content with their lives. They want to share their life stories and let you into their homes to show you their daily surroundings. Working long days every day is their way of life, but they are grateful to be able-bodied so they can take care of their families. Children seem eager to help their parents at their market fruit stand or their banh mi cart. They are proud and kind and they taught me that true happiness comes from being grateful for what is before you and letting go of what is behind you.

2 – Wealth of Art

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 The real beauty of the art in Vietnam relies not only on innate talent but also on necessity and survival of its people. Artwork doesn’t just live in museums and galleries. It exists on the sidewalks with the colorful hand-sculpted sticky rice paste sculptures that are made to entice children and look good enough to eat. It is found in the parks with the colonies of calligraphers and young university student sketch artists who can handily whip off your portrait in five minutes. It is women dancing outside the temples in their ao dai to a traditional folk song. The art of the Vietnamese people is not simply a display of their abilities; each artisan’s craft is essential to their existence.

3 – Wealth of Color

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Brilliant color is everywhere you look in Vietnam. From the natural vibrancy of the tropical landscape – the flowers, the rice paddies, the ocean – and the foods the land produces to the brightly painted hulls of the barges floating down the mighty Mekong and the handmade kites in the shapes of birds and dragons with their long wispy tails trailing behind them flying in the parks, joyful color exists in the busy cityscapes, in the quiet countryside, in the bustling markets and on the clothing of the people. I witnessed a funeral procession with a hearse decorated with dazzling red dragons and giant crepe paper flowers.

4 – Wealth of Ingenuity

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The Vietnamese people seem to have cornered the market on problem-solving. Got 99 chickens to bring to market and all you have to get them there is a Moped? That’s okay; Stuff them all in a big cage with a shoehorn, strap them to the back of your bike and balance like a ballerina. Too much cargo in the pickup truck to fit another passenger? No problem; He can sit on top of the goods and make sure none of it falls off. Five family members and only one Moped? It’s fine: Put the baby in a highchair and strap it on and in front of dad, mom can sit in the way back and sister and brother will sandwich in between everybody.

5 – Wealth of Mopeds

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 There are lots of cars and trucks in Vietnam but mostly there are Mopeds. They carry people, they carry cargo, they can fit in the narrowest of alleyways and they can be parked virtually everywhere. Pedestrians beware; there are no rules, signs, or signals to aid in crossing the street against these two-wheeled rockets. You simply step into traffic and slowly inch your way across like you’re playing a life-size game of Frogger.

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