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Tết Tây

Western New Year passed us by, towing an old sensation in its wake. It was a strange celebration, or if not completely strange then slightly out of joint. The Ball was stationary, and around its would be equator white faced clocks were placed at regular intervals, each one marking a time zone and a city therein.

Somewhere between Moscow and Tokyo was Hanoi, and through some unspoken synecdoche the rest of this tall slender territory. The Ball sat still on the ground, blinking blue lights along its longitudinal boundaries. Orbiting the Ball was a great mass of people, not unlike space debris, maintaining a certain distance lest the orbit decay too rapidly and slingshot a Chinese tourist or, god forbid, a Canadian headlong into its surface.

The Clocks were familiar classroom decor, bureaucratically austere and clashing with the vibrance of the city and occasion. Just like classroom clocks, the lack of a second hand left us all curious about when to start the all too crucial act of counting down. In fact, the complete similitude of all the clocks, with no special "you are here", testified, whether purposefully or not, to a violent uprooting. And the Ball was massively immobile, stubbornly holding time itself hostage. With no second hand, and only a one-fifth section of the crowd even able to see the appropriate clock, feral countdowns began popping sporadically around in the sea of people, after two or three rivaling countdowns all finished at different times, tugging the slowest of the herd in stonato and self consciously trailing tones, half of a firework show began exploding in the sky over the street behind the Ball. The other half of the show was concealed by a building.

The youth of Saigon were out en mass, an impossibly viscous soup of motor-scooters, locals, and westerners clamored through one another over the refrains of "hapee-nooear", the Vietnamese and non-native English speaking Europeans sounded alike when sown together into a fabric of honking horns and the whining 100cc work horses so familiar to this continent. The trip back was slow like a disastrous mudslide. Oozing back into Bui Vien, while it was our destination, was no more our choice than our fate. The thickness of the whole mess of bodies was enough to choke even the prostitutes and street vendors, or at least put them in a temporary sleeper-hold. I could hardly stand the whirlwind of vodka, tobacco, shitty weed, and humid human bodies for more than an hour.

Now, as I write this two days later, the sensation towed in the wake of that celebration has settled on me like a quilt. Now I'm wrapped, almost trapped, in this stillborn globe, rendered indecisive between goals, between countries, and between calendars-- its 2014, but not quite Horse. In fact the ball still hasn't quite dropped here, and I'm unsure whether I would want to be in Saigon when someone drops the ball. At the moment a great dust storm is whipping around inside of me. An acrid soup of fever, strong coffee, post-nasal drip, and sound pollution is steaming in my belly with air bubbles and phlegm. Despite or due to this, I think I'll stay. This is going to be an important country in ten years. For better or for worse, the Vietnamese People will be dangling from the lips of the world once again.

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