Yeah, but at that point we had run out of Propecia anyway, so I figured -
Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in. Please sit down. Can I get you a drink? Some roasted walnuts perhaps?
So good of you to join us. My name is Galen Stolee, and I’ll be your photographic storyteller for the next ten weeks. The goal of this column, if there is one, is to take you on a visual journey that I hope will titillate and tantalize that wanderlust nerve located right at the base of your spine, and show you all the lovely places you can visit for just a few thousand of your adorable little yuan. Each week I’ll be showcasing a different city or region throughout India, Nepal, Indonesia, and Vietnam. I’ll tell you a bit about the people, the culture, a few things you can see or do. Really basic stuff here, people.
And if you don’t care to visit any of these places, then I’m sure you can at least appreciate the pretty pictures. But if you can’t do that either, then you are truly lost and there is nothing I nor anyone else can do to help you.
Moving right along…
It was Winter 2008, and I was just another newly minted EFL Teacher looking for my first gig. I had the whole globe to choose from, fielding offers from the Czech Republic and Hungary, possibilities in Chile and Argentina, and abundant options throughout Asia at large. I eventually settled on Vietnam for a few reasons. First, there was the obvious historical value of getting to live in a country that only 35 years prior was still at war with the United States, and until 15 years ago was still almost completely closed to the rest of the world. Vietnam is still a developing country, and is still changing every day, and that’s what attracts me most to a place.
Then there’s the mythos of Saigon itself. The Paris of the East, the Jewel of the Mekong Delta, the Thrilla in Ho Chi Milla! I wanted to see for myself this city that had achieved such a distinct identity and inspired so many stories and creative works, yet remained so much a mystery to me. Which isn’t to say it was an easy process. My first few days I was basically Martin Sheen at the beginning of Apocalypse Now, stumbling around drunk and naked in my hotel room, smashing my head into mirrors while Jim Morrison’s disembodied voice played from the stereo. All I could see of the world outside was hot, bright, wet, and loud.
But these things just take time, and before I knew it, Vietnam was my home. This place of three million motorbikes and five stoplights, constant afternoon rain showers, and street cafes all of metal tables and plastic chairs that serve homemade beer all night; this place had become my reality. But it was only the beginning of my journey, and there would be many challenges and surprises ahead of me.