On October 10, 2017 I interviewed Stanley Eruese. I made friends with Stan when I lived in Vietnam in 2014. Although this post is under Saigon stories, I actually met Stan while both of us were living in Hanoi in the north of Vietnam. Hanoi is actually the political capital of Vietnam and has an entirely different character from Saigon. Saigon is more of a party city where as Hanoi is a sober, administrative capital-outside of the back packers’ quarter that is. Hanoi actually has a winter where it gets cold between November and February. Saigon is warm year round. Hanoi is more Communist where as Saigon is distinctly Capitalist. The south has a much stronger American influence. The north and the south are also ethnically different to speak of their people and their dialects are noticeably different.
Stan grew up in Nigeria and lived for several years in the North part of Vietnam as a student and a teacher. At that time, it surprised me to know that Stan was 35 years old. When you live in Hanoi as a foreign person, you will notice that there are several different expat cliques. There are quite a few students from different places in Africa. There are Americans, Canadians and Britons. There are small pockets of people from other countries too. Most of the foreign people there teach English. There were literally only a handful of Black people there who were not students and we all knew each other. Stan had a place among them all these different groups. He fit in on all sides as someone who was respected because of how long he had lived in Hanoi and how well he knew the Vietnamese people and culture.
It was easy to see that seniority counted for a lot with the people in Vietnam and played a huge role in how the people of Vietnam interact with just about everyone. Stan also functioned as something of an older brother for the various expat communities that take up residence in Hanoi.
Stan expressed to me a deep love for the Vietnamese people that he has carried out of Vietnam and holds with him until this day. From him, the Vietnamese are a very warm and a very family-oriented culture. The two drawbacks that we discussed were the job discrimination that all Black people face there but is mitigated quite a bit when it comes to Black Americans or Black Britons but which intensifies a lot when it comes to brothers and sisters from Africa. Second to that, although I met some amazing women in Vietnam, most women in Vietnam prefer not to date someone with dark skin. Other than that, Vietnam is a cool, developing country with wonderful potential.