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Changing fortunes in Vietnam

Changing fortunes in Vietnam

Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 16:03 GMT+7

My young puppy, Lulu, is now liberated after weeks of wearing a plaster cast, and is grinning from ear to ear. On a quiet Monday recently, I had a motorbike accident and burned my leg. Now I’m limping and she’s bouncing around. That’s what I call a change of fortune, when life takes a strange turn and either gets better or worse.

A few days after my accident, I met some American tourists on Saint Patrick’s Day, the Irish celebration of his life and the changes he brought to Ireland. They thought Vietnam was wonderful, full of beautiful landscapes and interesting things when compared to Cambodia, where they were shocked by the inescapable poverty in most places. I compared some things about Australia, where I’m from, to Vietnam and how my fortunes had changed, mostly for the better since coming here.

Australia is a fabulous country, but is getting harder to live in as the cost of living rises. In Vietnam, most people can afford to buy a bike – still a very hard thing to do in places like Cambodia. Again, the changes in fortune are driven by fate, chance, accident and deliberate action.

In the past year or so, some of my expat friends have died and others have struggled through difficult health problems due to accidents or just plain old age. Many of them are people who, I imagined, had found their perfect life and seemed fairly indestructible. While it’s fortunate that most of them are getting better, I still shake my head at how life changes so quickly.

For Vietnam itself, the roller-coaster continues – China is knocking on the door, droughts in the south and the endless grind to make a living. For Da Nang and Hoi An, their fortunes have risen rapidly over the last fifteen years as Ho Chi Minh City’s problems appear to become more complex. Still, that remarkable Vietnamese ability to remain cheerful in the face of so many difficulties may be its best defense for the future.

As some tourists commented to me the other night on Vietnam’s love affair with ‘lady luck’; the pagoda praying for good fortune, burning the full moon paper and all the other rituals, I just said, “Can you blame them? Life can change so quickly here.” It’s perhaps an odd comment for a day when Irish legends of good luck were also recalled.

The rules of establishing good and bad luck here are too complicated for this short article, but I’m never surprised about this particular superstition. Imagine making a constant flow of prayers to pass tests every week, or performing ceremonies during the festivals for the protection of your neighborhood. It’s a sense of trying to ward off danger and hazards.

Western skeptics such as myself, not believing in any god, still cross their fingers for good luck or say ‘knock on wood’ to prevent disaster. While I supposedly don’t believe in fate or destiny, coincidence or magic, you can still find me muttering wishes for a great day or good luck under my breath on a regular basis.

It has been said that instability is man’s constant companion and that changing our fortunes is beyond our control. Strangely, it’s that same quality that is also believed to push our ability to grow, evolve and become more adaptable in the face of climate change, globalization and trade wars, not to mention rising floodwaters and so much more.

We are granted the opportunity to take a chance every day, or to struggle to avoid the risks of an unpredictable life. I took a chance on finding a new life in Vietnam and so far, despite all the bizarre problems, it’s beginning to pay off.

Maybe Vietnam could change your fortunes too...

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