As I wipe the moisture of the morning rain from my eyes, my Xe Om driver speeds past the front of the Saigon Opera house. For an instant my mind flashes through a storied century of occupation, fighting, and loss, but I immediately whip back to reality as my driver shouts, “Duck!” We narrowly avoid a man riding perpendicular to us while carrying twenty or so ten foot long copper pipes. I’m not phased; neither of us so much as shrug. What would be the point?
As we arrive at our destination, I signal using crude sign language and some broken assemblage of the few words I know in Vietnamese to pick me up later. I wave at the security guard, walk into the French cafe, and ascend four stories to the top of the building. At the top is a balcony that looks down Le Loi toward the Opera House. I am an immigrant, but I am clearly at home.