It’s easy to glorify the country that you’ve expatriated to. You like to see the best in your surroundings and focus on all that is positive. At the end of the day, if you just focus on the negatives, then what was the point in leaving your home town?
However, it’s also important not to lose sight of reality. Looking back over my blog entries for the past few months, it’s abundantly clear that I’ve had a whale of a time in my new home. But all it takes is the blink of an eye before the reality of your situation kicks you in the teeth.
It’s a story as old as time and one that has been retold a hundred times over. Ironically, a cautionary tale that’s told by expats like myself, to unsuspecting tourists. But last night, it finally happened to us; my boyfriend was mugged.
Waiting for a xe ôm after a meal out with his work colleagues, a man approached him and tried to put his hand in his pocket. As my boyfriend wrestled with this man, a middle-aged woman approached from behind and made a clean sweep of his phone (unfortunately a relatively new smart phone) from his other pocket. She then swiftly jumped onto a motorbike and sped away, all the surrounding onlookers just sat idly as if watching their favourite sport on TV.
What upsets me most about this situation though, is just how much we give back to this society. We’re a tax paying citizens, who donate regularly to our local orphanage and, above all, provide an education which acts as the foundation to the future development of the country. We continually give back to this society that we call home and never ask for anything in return. Unlike some of the more affluent locals, we don’t flaunt our ‘wealth’, I only ever carry around $5 cash in my bag (a Tesco’s finest bag at that) and my phone is a beaten up old Nokia brick. Similarly, my boyfriend is always wary of using his smart phone overtly in public. Nothing about our general demeanour screams wealthy, except of course, the colour of our skin …
It is frustrating, that at times like these, you expect to be able to approach the police for help. You’d assume that’s our right as tax and law abiding residents (with residency cards to prove it!), but of course you can’t. It is so important that you never lose sight of the fact that Vietnam is still a developing country, ridden with poverty.
I love Saigon, and this incident hasn’t shaken my love for the Vietnamese population in general. The number of friendly locals we’ve met certainly out-weighs the hostile ones. I think it’s just an important message to send out to any expatriates or travellers passing through any developing country. It’s easy to say, “that will never happen to me” (we’ve been saying that for 2 years ourselves) but it can happen and when it does, you unfortunately just have to accept it and move on. It’s a cruel reality, but life’s just too short.