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The Pedestrian Bridge That Teaches You the Values of Patience

“We need the sweet pain of anticipation to tell us we are really alive.”

I tried to remind myself of this Albert Camus line every time I passed the once-shuttered pedestrian bridge spanning the Nhiêu Lộc–Thị Nghè Canal near the Saigon Zoo.

Spanning the water between the Thị Nghè Bridge and Điện Biên Phủ Bridge, the beloved canal’s first pedestrian crossing will offer locals a modestly more convenient route from District 1 to Bình Thạnh. Reported to be 90% complete and “operational soon” back in December 2023, the humble infrastructure project remained frustratingly sealed behind corrugated steel sheets for months. It looked done, and I’d occasionally see workers on it painting some railing trim or staircase accents, yet for inexplicable reasons, we could not use it. This went on for months. 

As the wait dragged on, I sat down to write this piece. I decided that laughable delay shouldn't be an opportunity to bemoan the city’s infrastructure incompetence or to express skepticism for the other, larger pedestrian bridge recently announced, to say nothing of grander projects. There is enough negativity in the world and I didn’t want to sully anyone’s afternoon with my privileged bitching and bellyaching. 

Instead, when I passed the pedestrian bridge twice a week to attend Vietnamese class, I tried to see it as an opportunity to savor anticipation. The structure, simple in its severe cement, steel, and concrete, offered a lesson in delayed gratification. Humans do better with things to look forward to. The visible but closed bridge was a gift like the wrapped packages my parents would place under the tree a few days before Christmas, their presence heightening my excitement and making me appreciate them more once opened.

On July 4, I went to take photos of the metal barricades and found the bridge, shockingly, open. With no official announcement or news reports, and since my visit two days prior, it had opened. For the first time, I stepped onto the bridge, took a few photos, gazed at the scenery, and then stopped. I didn’t actually need to cross; I had no reason to go to the other side. The bridge has no use for me. Thankfully, Saigon has no shortage of sweet pains to remind me I am alive.

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