The other day, I was out for a jog. Three men spotted me, and I made the mistake of making eye contact. So they started chasing me. I glanced at their flip-flops and in that moment chose flight over fight, and sprinted as fast I could away from them. I ended up out of breath behind a hotel. There, a young white man spotted me and waved me over. He was a bright eyed and bushy-tailed American, fresh off the plane, ready and eager to start a life in Quinhon. He asked me how I liked the city, and I said, well it’s okay. He looked taken aback. Just okay? Everyone he’d talked to loved it and never wanted to leave. I told him the reason I’m so out of breath is because I had just run away from a few men chasing me. He shrugged and said, “Well, you’re a cute girl.”
I can’t tell you how many foreign tourist/expat men I’ve met in Quinhon who share his attitude. Some guys seem to think it’s completely okay for them to stare, shout, touch, chase, and follow just because they’re attracted to me. Well, it’s not. In many cases, sure, I don’t feel an imminent threat of death or rape, but I still feel a threat, and it certainly disturbs my peace.
For instance, the other day I was in the hotel lobby trying to pull apart shampoo thingies (Vietnam has these tiny plastic shampoo thingies that are really small and hard to work with). An old man sees me and pulls them apart for me. I say thanks! Then I head over to the elevator. He does, too. I press 5, my floor number, and notices he does not push any buttons. I think, maybe he lives on floor 5, too. I get off the elevator. He gets off the elevator. At this point, I’m getting nervous. I look at him and he smirks and makes the shower motion with his hands. I quickly head over to my room and slam the door with him hard on my heels.
Realistically, could this old man hurt or rape me? Well, maybe but probably not. Nonetheless, it was still a chilling encounter.
I guess my point is, you’ve gotta respect women and don’t be like that American guy (who’s actually going to replace me at the language center) and shrug it off when you hear women tell stories of harassment! It’s a serious problem, not the dues I have to pay for having tits.
I did, however, just have an interesting instance of seeing what it can be like from a man’s perspective when he’s well-intended yet perceived as a creep. I just got off skype with my dad. My dad apparently met this barista woman in her late 20s who he thought was really interesting, just as a friend. She gave him her blog info, he read it thoroughly, and sent her several emails regarding its contents with platonic intentions. She never replied, and my dad realized he unintentionally came off as creepy. He was pretty sad about it. I was, too.
Anyway. Now after spending three months living in Quinhon, I can say one huge struggle I’ve dealt with here is my status as a foreign white woman. Too much attention in all the wrong ways. But as I said in my previous post, going through this has taught me so much–still figuring it out, though, I certainly don’t have all the answers. One thing I want to work on in the future is re-calibrating my relationship with relationships. In previous years, I used to tell myself that I didn’t really need anyone. I made little to no effort to make friends during college and the years after. I kind of let it happen. If it did, it did. If it didn’t, it didn’t. But now I believe that friendships are essential and I can’t survive alone, annnnd I can’t survive with only one best friend because it’s not fair to him or her. I’m looking forward to returning to my home state, where I can build new relationships, strengthen old ones, and continue the quest to be a better person in general. Three more days left!
And the last long lap is the hardest, And I shall be dumped where the weed decays, And the rest is rust and stardust. -Nabokov