Asking this very simple question is a challenge (the syntax, grammar, and enunciating the correct diacritical marks and tones) I had to hurdle just so I can buy a shirt for tomorrow. Because of my failure to imagine scenarios, I took all my clothes to my friend’s house where I will stay starting tomorrow without realizing that I have nothing else for my class. I’m wearing my black Nike jacket right now, a blue long sleeves shirt I’ve been wearing for three straight days and a blue jeans I have not washed for two weeks.
My other option is to wash the dirty clothes left in my room, place it in front of my air-conditioning unit and pray to the Almighty that it will dry up in time for my afternoon class.
What I wear was a big fuss for me before. I must be impeccably clothed for my class and look good all the time. What I would feel about myself for the rest of the day was dependent on the clothes I wear. Call it vanity; call it a blatant assault against common sense. Oscar Wilde, nevertheless come to my defense, he said only shallow people do not judge other people by appearance. Maybe I had taken his statement out of it original context, but it served well for me. Until barely a month ago.
When we wander beyond our comfort zones and be left out to fend for ourselves in a strange world, we begin to strip the unnecessary and consider only the entities that are material for our survival. And too much giving importance to cloth I warp my body with in this time when I am barely able to understand my surrounding is scandalous. I’m beginning not to mind whether what I’m wearing now is the same blue shirt I wore a week ago which is a sharp contrast to my mentality a month or so ago-“I must not be seen wearing the same shirt for a semester”–which when I look back now was just plain stupid, or maybe just a little laughable.
The streets of Hanoi are not roads to perdition; they are, in fact, perdition itself. Going to my class each day is an ordeal. I have to ride my bike for around twenty minutes to go either to my tutor’s house or to the university for my lessons. To protect myself from the sun, I have to wear jacket (amid the average 34-36 degree Centigrade). Did I forget to mention the dusty street and the smoke from the motorbikes? I also have to cover my mouth and nose with a kerchief. And my set of donned clothing apparel for the day is not complete without my aviator sunglasses and a shabby-looking cap. Horrible my fashion taste here may seem, but I cannot leave without this horror.
I never become less smart in class. In fact, without the constraint from the pressure of looking good all the time or thinking about what set of clothes to wear for the next day, I can now focus more on my lessons and understand more how the language functions for the Vietnamese people.
I’m not, however, saying that the people here are less keen with fashion. In all truth, I think they are conscious of how a modern man or woman should carry him/herself, American/European style, as they are becoming more exposed to the capitalist mode of consumption.
But I see myself having more leeway, an exception; after all I’m a foreigner here.