Saturday, November 12, 2011
In Vietnam, 1 Year Later
Exactly 1 year ago, Saskia and I packed our bags - 2 large suitcases, 32 kg each; 1 small suitcase, 10 kg, a large backpack and tote bag - and went to Soekarno-Hatta International airport. Our parents were there, and a few of our friends were kind enough to see us off, to an adventure of a lifetime. We were moving to Vietnam.
After 2 apartments (we moved to an apartment complex in a nicer area in April) and right now in the middle of a move to a new office building, we've had the opportunity to take trips to Phan Thiet and the Mekong Delta, and I've had the opportunity to visit Hanoi.
Needless to say, the challenges that we both faced were mostly beyond our expectations - and then some. It's been crazy - the workplace challenges are almost totally different than what I was used to in Indonesia, not to mention the frequent language barrier. The weekends are bliss - every weekend is like a holiday, if only to enjoy the city (which we still don't know all corners of it yet) or just to go out to the movies with friends. There is a close-knit Indonesian community in HCMC, which despite living all around the city, they manage to communicate and get together often, through planned yearly events like Pesta Rakyat (a sort of Independence Day celebration, but done in June at the beginning of school holidays).
Despite the sometimes incomprehensible challenges at work, I've managed to learn a lot - since our company works in TV production (including franchises like Vietnam's Got Talent, which is currently in casting stage right now), movie production and distribution (local and overseas titles), cinema (we own 2 cinemas), cable TV channels (a financial news channel and MTV Vietnam) and many other things including development of Digital programs, I've had the opportunity to be involved with all those projects, and expand my skill in marketing and business development. I'm particularly proud of the fact that I've been able to train the marketing team into an efficient, independent team. But of course, the guys in the team were the ones who did the good work, I just showed them the way.
I know I'm not the smartest or the most skilled of workers but I hope that my time in Vietnam has - and will continue - to improve me; but if all else fails, the food is GREAT!! I might miss Indonesian food a lot, but between homecooked meals expertly made by Saskia to a profound selection of Vietnamese and other food (Italian, French, Korean, even 1 Indonesian restaurant), we can safely say that we are eating very well here :D. We usually take anyone who comes visit us in HCMC to one of the best selections of Vietnamese food, with reasonable prices to boot (since we know to avoid the more, um, tourist-oriented spots).
Living abroad has let me gained more perspective on many things, and many insights to a way of life and thinking that is so similar but so different than ours. It also has let me reflect on what is truly important - family, friends, and wanting to improve life as a whole, beyond material means. No, I haven't become that religious yet, but I have affirmed my belief that our everyday work must have a lasting benefit for us all outside of fleeting monetary benefits. That business needs to be something more than chasing profits and increasing shareholder value. Business needs to improve our quality of life - especially the long term.
I am looking forward to see where the road will take us next!