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The Simple Pleasures of Kite-Flying in Thủ Thiêm

One of the most elegant means to observe the textured heft and untethered strength of otherwise-invisible wind — there is plenty one could say about the poetry of flying kites. 

I could grasp at philosophical pseudo-koans about kites, like “the same string that keeps a kite tethered to the ground, enables it to remain in the sky”; share stories of Kim Yu-sin inspiring an army by tethering a flaming sphere to a kite, to suggest a bad omen had returned to the heavens; detail Ben Franklin's first harvest of electricity by looping a key around a kite string during a storm; offer an incomplete list of governments that have banned kite flying (the Taliban, Mao's China, 18th-century Japan, 21st-century Egypt, etc.); and passionately argue how “kite” the predatory bird out-astounds “kite” the flying contraption in every way.

But it's better to keep it simple. Because flying a kite in Thủ Thiêm is a simple pleasure. Simply show up at dusk when the summer heat begins to lift. Plastic chairs already line the boulevards built for developments that have yet to appear. Vendors sell cold drinks and basic street snacks. You can bring a kite or buy one there. Enjoying the event is as simple as jogging a few paces while a string uncoils into the air and the kite takes flight. You don’t even need a kite; simply ease back in the chair and chat with friends and family while watching colorful swaths of fabric drift across the sky.

Kites warrant no applause. You will not hear the ooh's and aah's that fireworks or sporting matches elicit. Pleasure is measured in small talk and smiles. Pleasure comes cheap. Perhaps that is what I appreciate the most about kite flying. Saigon is not a cheap place to live, doubly so for families. Not everyone can afford restaurant visits or structured entertainment, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have opportunities to enjoy fresh air and a night out. Kite flying ignores demographics, incomes, reputations, and past sins and welcomes all. I don't have to worry about how or even if I fit in. With the city’s expansive skyline towering in the distance, kites smear the skyline like children’s names written in beautifully crude crayon strokes.

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