From May

Life has sucked in Sài Gòn since May. Yet another outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported in late-April, April 27th — I think, in Vietnam and has not begun to abate. It’s already mid-July. The Communist Party of Vietnam immediately started to shut down businesses starting with those in Hà Nội. In Sài Gòn:

  • All cinemas, bars, dance clubs and karaoke parlors were forced to close on April 30th
  • Gyms, yoga and fitness centers, wedding and convention halls and buffet restaurants were forced to close on May 7th
  • Street-side restaurants were forced to offer takeaway only or close on May 18th
  • All restaurants, including those street-side, and cafes were forced to offer takeaway only or close; and all hair salons, public parks and religious activities were forced to close on May 27th
  • All taxi or ride-hailing services, except for those traveling via motorbike, were forced to close on June 19th
  • All food and drink takeaway and taxi or ride-hailing services, including those via motorbike, lottery and outdoor activities were forced to either close or stop last Friday, July 9th

It might be a bit presumptive to casually declare that there is nothing more to shut down, but I don’t know what else the government can take from us except for shipping services. The only places we are still allowed to leave home for are food and convenience stores. People have to eat, no?

Much of the closures didn’t matter to us. We don’t go out to bars, clubs or karaoke parlors, anymore. We definitely aren’t the most religious and, except for seeing Bố già, haven’t been to a movie theatre together since your birth. Your grandmother had watched you that night. But the closure of restaurants, cafes and parks has sucked, definitely. We’ve gone out almost every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, since I moved to Vietnam. Now, that time is spent watching Netflix or Amazon Prime to a bottle of cab, which is for my enjoyment only because you’re still breastfeeding. As for the parks, I haven’t been able to take you for our once daily hour-long walks for the last two months.

Gym closures have also sucked, but just for me. I had finally broken through my previous plateau on the bench press and got some of my speed back before my progress went belly-up again. I tried to keep my legs under me for a week or two, but with the closure of parks, followed by men dressed in fatigues riding on a motorbike with a loudspeaker telling everyone to either go back home or comply with the government’s regulations, and then the threat of being fined by the government for being outside without a food buying purpose, it’s been difficult both legally and psychologically. Honestly, I’ve been a little bit depressed. Prior to last week, I slept more than normal and had struggled to be productive. I’m really trying to get back into a good rhythm again.

What’s changed? My focus. I was able to mindfully take a step backwards and realize the satisfaction in getting small wins, like last year. For example, my work is almost finished on an e-commerce website for your mother. Maybe it’s obvious that I’m not the best website developer, but everyone has to start somewhere. Since Shopify and WordPress couldn’t fulfill my design requirements out-of-the-box, I made the decision months ago to build the website from scratch as coding in their paradigms would have been a headache. Getting the logic correct for the APIs and menu, sorting and pagination took some time, but it should be ready for testing in a live environment soon. Performance might be an issue. TBD.

Otherwise, we’ve been paying off your grandmother’s gambling debt. Had it been a believable, one-time mistake, I probably would have got the money to satisfy her debt immediately even though it would have taken 20-30 trips to the ATM though as the banks here limit withdrawals from international cards to 2,000,000 VND to 3,000,000 VND per transaction. But, since it isn’t the first time your grandmother has placed this type of burden on her family, I need to teach everyone a lesson. Not only have we cut back your grandmother’s monthly allowance from 5,000,000 VND to 2,500,000 VND (your mother’s idea), of which 80% is for meds, I’ve tried to enforce a weekly food budget. That’s caused some stress on both your grandmother and mother, but even I scarified some of my recent food habits to make a point. Gone are the days when I would get a coffee or two, and enjoy milk and cereal in the mornings. And gone are the days when I took the whole family on vacation.

Also, your mother has selective memory when it comes to many things. If we had already paid your grandmother’s debt in full, I’m confident that she would forgive her and forget about it. Your mother would put this situation behind her and blindly trust your grandmother again with the thinking that she really has learned her lesson. My target is to give 10,000,000 VND per month towards servicing the debt. Knowing that will costs me an extra 2,000,000 VND per month in interest, it’s worth it.

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases day-by-day, a product of the city-wide mandatory COVID-19 testing — and re-testing — now underway, and low vaccination rate, I don’t expect that life in Sài Gòn will begin its return to normalcy until, at earliest, mid-August. The Communist Party of Vietnam imposed the last closure regulations, so-called Directive 16, for 15 days, starting on July 9th and ending on or around July 23rd. But, as with every previous social distancing campaign (a.k.a lockdown), it’ll likely extend it for another 15 days. Of course, we, the public, won’t know until the night before via shared social media posts because the Communist Party of Vietnam is piss poor at communication. For example, it can’t even write its regulations clear enough for everyone to understand, hence, the wide-spread rumors this past Thursday of a forthcoming absolute lockdown that led to mass food shortages, which was the worst your mother and I have witnessed by far. A public clarification was made, but damage had already been done. No fines, arrests nor forced public apologies were made for disseminating misinformation, atypically. The Communist Party of Vietnam is starting to lose some control of the country. Some locals, including your mother, are finally beginning to clue in to its incompetence.

Does it make a difference? No. Vietnam is a country full of sheep.

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