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First, the good news. Yesterday, I spotted a new Wife Cafe, not three miles from me. Who says Vietnamese hicks aren’t innovative? With this marvelous idea, lonely bachelors the world over can stop ogling and whacking compulsively, and with their next morning joe, choose a black, white, cream or cappuccino life mate. Eternal happiness, understanding, misunderstanding, compromise, harmony and quarrelsomeness have never been cheaper. Suddenly, I realized it was merely a Wi-Fi Cafe, misspelled! So mysterious and perverse, English is a foggy maze filled with booby traps, sucker punches and bouncing betties, but so is every other language, obviously. Each culture is exclusive.

Each man is shaped by the numerous peculiarities of his native tongue. For example, a single Vietnamese word, “mình,” can mean I, me, we, us or even one’s spouse, and the noun for husband, “chồng,” is also a verb for placing something on top. That’s not very PC, agreed, but no society needs outside sanctions, so bug off!

There’s a verb for pulling one’s pants down, “tụt,” and one for straining to defecate, “rặn,” which can be used comically, as in this pathetic strain to crack a joke: When a bunch of cavemen flew into two skyscrapers, three blew up and fell down, so what’s the lesson here? Don’t go bowling with Muslims, obviously.

Two months ago in Saigon, there was a gathering at my in-laws, and seated at a table was a Taiwanese, a long-time friend of the family. In Vietnam for a decade, Tai spoke the language comfortably, but with enough of an accent to strain listeners. Further, his jokes and witticisms were awkward, at best, since he didn’t share our culture. Though we did our best to make Tai feel at home, I suspect many simply wished he wasn’t there at all, so our conversations could flow more freely.

Unlike physical borders, a language is much harder to breach, so few outsiders can even become a tourist in one, much less settle there.

Two days ago, I met a Vietnamese, Phu, who spent eight years in Angola.

“Wow, man, I didn’t even know there were Vietnamese there!”

“There are lots, around 40,000!”

There are even more Chinese, Phu said, and they’re not exactly loved by the locals. Still, the yellows have flooded in to work and set up businesses, with many employing blacks.

“They don’t have the same sense of time as we do, everything can be delayed, amanhã, but you can’t yell at them. It’s just how it is over there.”

Outside Luanda, electricity and running water are unreliable or don’t exist, and crime is rampant, with yellows particularly targeted. In May, two Vietnamese were stabbed to death by robbers, and in June, another was shot and killed. In 2016, two Vietnamese were tied up, had gasoline poured on them and burnt. A woman died.

Phu, though, recalled Angola with much fondness. He missed the food, especially funge, a sort of foo-foo. He recalled music playing everywhere, and people dancing marvelously and joyously, not stiffly like Vietnamese. Four times larger than Vietnam, Angola has less than one third of its population, so the streets there are less congested, the traffic less chaotic. Phu also mentioned crime and small kids picking through trash at landfills. Ranging over a thousand miles, Phu went to Namibia and South Africa on a ten-day trip.

“Before I left, a woman even said to me, ‘But you must leave me with a baby!”

“So did you?” I laughed.

“No, I said my dick was too small.”

“Never say that, man. Let her decide!”

Angola doesn’t have to let foreigners in or owe them anything, so if immigrants don’t like it, they can just leave, yet they keep coming, for there’s money to be made. Angola has oil, minerals, rhino horns and ivory, and you can make a few bucks by trafficking women.

“We’re better at business than them. We can think to three or four. They’ll stop at one or two. An Angolan will bring his motorbike to a Vietnamese shop with just one problem, but the owner will convince him that he needs to have five different parts fixed!”

Vietnamese newspapers boast of these immigrants’ success. After graduating from Hanoi Business Administration University, Nguyen Ngoc Ky arrived in Angola at age 20. Doing odd jobs, Ky saved enough to open a photo studio, then got into construction. He now employs 60 Vietnamese, paying each $1,000-$1,500 a month, plus room and board, and also hires hundreds of Angolans for lesser tasks, at $250-500 a month.

Ky, “The demand for construction in Lubango is huge. But local people aren’t trained for the job and they don’t have a good command of the latest technology.”

Cuong Viana is the only soft drink distributor in Angola. Like construction boss Duc Huambo, motorbike dealer Thi Benguela and other Vietnamese, he has adopted an Angolan sounding last name to better, uh, blend in.

A Hanoi shoeshine boy became a millionaire in Angola. Hired by an Angolan building contractor, Dang Van Hoa learnt enough Portuguese and lay of the land to take on side jobs with other Vietnamese, then borrowed money from his compatriots to open a photo studio. He now owns electronic stores, internet gaming centers, a construction firm with 40 employees, 30 of them Vietnamese, and a brick kiln.

Hoa doesn’t just primarily hire Vietnamese, but people from his home province, Nam Dinh, for he trusts them the most, and they make him feel more at home in an alien land. A photo shows Hoa with an Angolan man and nine smiling Angolan kids. Scrawny, Hoa looks like a boy himself. The starving must go anywhere to make a buck.

In 2011, seven Angolans armed with knives and guns robbed Hoa at home. To not get killed, Hoa coughed up $50,000, plus valuables, then he moved to a better neighborhood. Eventually, Hoa will return to Vietnam, for there’s no safer place than home, he explains.

Sometimes, Vietnamese rob Angolans, as when a contractor disappears with the advanced money, typically half on a construction job. This also causes his newly-hired Vietnamese crew to be deported or even jailed, and they may have just landed, having been recruited straight from the airport!

ORDER IT NOW

So what we have here is a more competent, driven, united and/or smarter population moving into an alien society to outperform the locals, just like in black American ghettos, by the way. Like all fresh immigrants, Vietnamese employ mostly themselves and rely on each other for all sorts of assistance, including financial. Should they be allowed to stay, this society within a society can persist even centuries later.

A few years ago, I spent a day at a Vietnamese-American judge’s grand house in Washington D.C. A loyal Democrat, he was in the Clinton delegation that went to Hanoi in 2000. As a young man, though, he served two years in the Peace Corps, and while in Africa, visited a handful of other black nations. When I asked how far behind were these countries to the developed ones, he said quite frankly, “Maybe half a century.”

“Will they ever catch up?”

“Probably never,” he grinned.

Most people talk entirely differently about race in private vs. public, and the more refined your milieu, the worse your hypocrisy. If you want the straight dope on blacks, browns, yellows, WASP and Jews, etc., chat with a plumber or geriatric nurse.

In Angola, whites, mixed whites, Arabs and Indians are also more successful than blacks, and nature must also be a factor here, as it is with everything else. In the West, there is a vehement campaign against nature, however, so that even your dick is debatable, even as you’re stroking it. Everything is subjective, which means everything is a fantasy. Should the West fail to snap out of this, it will have a darker future than the yellow, brown or even black universe.

Diversity means differences, so between any two items, one must be bigger, longer, smellier, tastier or firmer, etc. and with this comes a value judgement, so that no one can prefer both equally. What we have, then, is a world of endless inequalities, and whatever discomfort or hurt this may cause, it’s foolish to pretend they’re merely biases.

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Africa, Africans, Angola, Vietnamese 
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