Friday, 01 November 2013 07:21

Another Side of Vietnam

Written by Ed Weinberg

Another Side of Vietnam Awards

Scroll down the page of the Facebook group Another Side of Vietnam and you’ll see: Buck Skidmark posting a pic of a leaky airbridge, and explaining, “It’s raining… IN THE PLANE!”

 

You’ ll see award-winner for Best Troll, Jase Nguyen, with a pic of a bus passenger tucking his head into the seat cover to keep from falling over, And you’ll see a Bui Vien Circle K combo pack of condoms and a razor. Our tour ends with a display stand for a product called GmB — “Goat-Milk-Belief” — and a string of comments refashioning the acronym: “GET in MAH BELLEH!”, “Gagging meets Butthole”, “Gorge, My Babies!!!”, “Grunting, Meat Bumping”.

 

This is the little group that 7,600 have joined since its inception six years ago. On Oct. 19, its members were finally recognised for their efforts.
The night’s prizes were awarded in six categories: Best Poster, Comments; Best Poster, Pictures; Best Discussion Started; Best Picture; Best Troll and Best Love Story. For one of the categories, two banh mi cut into the makeshift slippers worn in a famous picture on the page were given as a prize. And, in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek nature of the page, not all the awards were honours.

 

“Best Love Story, I hate that kid!” eventual award-winner Chau Nguyen says. “He’s 17 years old! He messes around with whatever woman he likes… I don’t know why people nominate me.”

 

During the award giving, Another Side founder Adam Edermo encouraged the crowd to sing along to Why Can’t We Be Friends? as Chau pouted.
Despite the occasional protest, the night rolled on with an unpredictable kind of camaraderie, as people who’d only previously met on an internet forum discovered their inside jokes still worked IRL (in real life).

 

Not Just Jokes

 

The stand-up comedy that followed the awards was a heroic experiment. The four members of Stand-Up Saigon who made it out presented the same material they’d staged a week before in their regular monthly show, but this time in front of a majority Vietnamese crowd.

 

Adam was pleased at the turnout — in particular that the group has turned into more than a western hangout. One of his worries when he started the page was what his friend Tim Scott terms as ‘Vina-bashing’ — taking a picture of an overloaded motorbike and using it to conclude that Vietnam is a primitive place.

 

“I was afraid there would be a lot of Vina-bashing,” Adam says, “so I was selective in the pictures. I wanted to choose pictures that weren’t joking so much about poverty, not joking so much about that kind of stuff.”

 

Instead the forum has developed into a place where both Vietnamese people and westerners go to make sense of this at-times crazy place. And, although the emphasis is on the funny, sometimes these discussions get heated.

 

The award-winner for Best Discussion Started, Hang Vuong, started the awarded discussion with a post about Vietnamese men smoking in the halls of a hospital she’d been in, while their wives were giving birth.

 

Some didn’t take it well. Says Hang, “We’re just discussing back and forth, back and forth, and it’s becoming a really heavy topic… and then finally Adam had to stop it, delete the topic.”

 

Although it’s not always easy, this is how a vibrant community develops and learns its boundaries. Adam wants the community to continue to grow and give all of its members something to laugh about daily, as long as they keep in mind a cardinal truth about this weird, wonderful place: “[Vietnamese people] walk outside and say, ‘Tomorrow’s going to be better than today’ — that’s the essence of Vietnam.” — Ed Weinberg

 

Find Another Side of Vietnam by searching for it on Facebook

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 November 2013 08:08

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