My name is Cherry Narumon. I love working and living in any country I have never been to before. I usually want to live in a foreign land for one, two, or three years at the most. But I have lived in Vietnam for five years, and plan to stay here for at least another three to complete my PhD in business information systems at RMIT, a university in Ho Chi Minh City.
When I am here, unexpected things happen every day. There’s always something surprising, particularly in this southern city – one that never sleeps.
I took part in Tet (Vietnam’s Lunar New Year) once and loved dressing up in an ao dai (Vietnamese national costume consisting of a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over pantaloons) because it makes women look very elegant. Every Friday, I see many girls wearing ao dai and bicycling to school. They look very nice and should preserve that. It makes me want to look as nice as them.
I do not see ao dai as sexy, but it is rather feminine. It shows elegance and brings out the more feminine side of the wearer, partly because its design helps put the person in a good posture.
Ao dai is very unique. Everyone who sees it straight away could say that this is Vietnamese. It reflects a culture that is subtle, classy, and mysterious. Because of the nature of the dress, the girls are forced to behave properly; for example no running or jumping up and down. It also reflects the classy and elegant nature of Vietnamese women.
When I wear ao dai, I feel more feminine, and more self-confident because it covers everything, from neck to ankle. I wore an ao dai for a Tet festival held at RMIT, where I teach.
Prior to the party, I talked to my housekeeper Cam and asked for her help. She said her auntie had a lot of ao dais but did not know if they would fit me. Three days later, she came to my house with four ao dais. It was hard for me to choose the best one, so after I tried on a few of them, I picked the black one with gold pants that looked more traditional. It was actually a bit small, so I could not put it on by myself. Instead, my housekeeper had to help me.
She said “wow” after she put it on me. Because I did not have a long mirror, I had to stand on the bed to see myself. The funny thing was, after wearing it for an hour, I felt very comfortable and natural in the ao dai (except for dancing). But when I took it off at the end of the day, I felt like jumping and running.
After the party, my housekeeper and I went to the market to buy material to make an ao dai. I ended up getting a red silk cloth with flowers printed on it. I was so happy, and we went to the tailor straight away. The tailor asked me if I wanted the traditional cut or a newer version with no collar. I insisted on having it the traditional way, and the tailor told me she would try. She measured every single part of my body. I realized that making ao dai requires detailed work. Now I have four ao dais: red, green, pink, and purple.