I’m now sitting in a Starbucks café here in San Francisco. I can’t believe I’m back in the USA and my head has been spinning ever since I landed. One thing I can say is that I hate culture shock and jet-lag.
I really need to write down all the culture shock aspects but for now the one thing I find very strange is the amount of homeless in San Francisco and Berkeley. There are actually more beggars here than in Saigon. The reason I guess is because this place is so liberal and Vietnam is the opposite of that. I know there would be more beggars but Saigon has a strict policy on that. One thing that I find very strange however is how fat the homeless here are. I’m not trying to be mean or malicious but I’m used to seeing beggars without limbs, suffering the after effects of war and are extremely thin. The beggars in Berkeley are reading novels and I saw one drinking Starbucks!!
One African-American didn’t look very poor but was in a wheelchair but for some reason I don’t think was actually handicapped. I can’t be sure and maybe it’s just from my experience in nam seeing people without legs scooting themselves around on a makeshift board with wheels. Those people I gave a bit of coin too, but this beggar in Berkeley was even wearing fashionable clothing and said “Yo, can I get 50 cent so I can get something to eat.” I imagine they wanted something from McDonalds but I just kept walking and he/she called me a “faggot.” Now that is something I’m really not used to and I almost turned around and pushed them into oncoming traffic.
I know it sounds really terrible to say that, but this is what culture shock does. America is really an aggressive society and apparently I have lost the thick skin and ability to ignore all the name calling from aggressive beggars. I dropped quite a bit of money to people that really needed it in Saigon and to see these rich beggars really gets under my skin, especially if they call me names!
I guess over time, I’ll become accustomed,, or should I say “hardened,” again and regain the ability to ignore the bad people. But I’ve got to say, from my international experience, I would actually be less worried about traveling to Iran or the Middle East since I know why violence occurs there and there is usually a reason. Here, I could get mugged, beat and so on for no reason what so ever. Being here makes me realize that the slum I lived in in Saigon was actually 300% safer.