Thursday, November 17, 2005

Innovation, discipline and abundance in Vietnam

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, November 17, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Innovation, discipline and abundance in Vietnam

ROSAMUND and Benjamin Zander believe that in the realm of possibility, we gain our knowledge by invention. “The action in a universe of possibility may be characterized as generative, or giving, in all senses of that word—producing new life, creating new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning, contributing, yielding to the power of contexts. The relationship between people and environments is highlighted, not the people and things themselves. Emotions that are often relegated to the special category of spirituality are abundant here: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion.

The Zanders might have been describing the people and life in Vietnam when they wrote their book, The Art of Possibility.

My good friend Bert Tato, president of RC Diliman, lived, worked and started a family in the 10 years that he stayed in Saigon. He traveled throughout South Vietnam during the war surveying and mapping roads, ports and harbors, airports, bridges and military facilities. Likewise, my fellow Rotarian, Edison Gatioan, visits Vietnam frequently for business reasons.

Here are some of their experiences:

• Vietnamese people eat only what they think they need for the day, so that they have something for another day. This results in excess supply such as rice that enables them to export. They also eat less fish so there is abundant supply. So, they stay slim and use less fabric for their clothes, and many other benefits of abundance-thinking. Hoarding of anything (except gold bars) is unheard of, sharing is the norm.

• The size of families is small because they know that it is difficult to feed so many mouths and nurture them to imbibe traditional Vietnamese values.

• If a husband does something wrong to his family, e.g. has a mistress, he is asked to leave the house. He is not allowed a second chance, because they believe that if he is forgiven, he will do it again.

• During the war, farmers never left their fields. They simply stayed in their bunker/shelter during bombings and shelling. When all is quiet, they go back to the farm and continue tending their crops; production is not disrupted. This is because of their prolonged war with China, France and USA. They learned that running around will not bring them anywhere.

• Theirs is an agriculture-based economy. Their agriculturists studied here and when they returned to Vietnam, they consistently apply and improve w• At the Mekong Delta, the fields are almost always submerged in high waters, they couldn’t plant under deep water. So, they use a tall variety of rice. When they harvest, they leave one or two stalks for each bunch so they need not replant.

• There are many small entrepreneurs to spread the wealth around and for more people to benefit from a robust commerce.

• Every community council (similar to our Barangay) maintains a National Family Record where the names and number of residents (parents, children, etc.) are recorded. The council officers conduct a random check on each family every now and then. When a family member is missing, an explanation is demanded.

• When anyone travels to another place or province for longer than a day, he needs to ask permission from the council, then register his presence in his destination.

• Vietnamese people are highly nationalistic and patriotic.

• They do not rely on their government for livelihood or job. The neighborhood helps each other. Example, if you have something to be done in the house like repairs, you employ the unemployed. They never blame their government for their misery.

• Office hours are 7 to 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 6 p.m. They take three hours lunch and siesta breaks to go home, get rested and go back to work refreshed and reenergized.

• They have little use for banks. They prefer to exchange their money for gold bars and keep them at home. Likewise, for big transactions like real estate, they use gold bars as currency. They only use their dong for small day-to-day purchases.

• Their houses are made of bricks, so when there is fire (which is very rare), only one house or one part of the house is affected.

Bert and Ed have many other poignant stories, but space is limited here. My own observation is that life in Saigon is laid back and relaxed. The self-imposed speed limit on city streets is only about 20 KPH. No wonder there were no road accident in the four days in November we were there.

As I told Bert, no comparison with the Philippines, please. Draw your own conclusions and action plans.

Teacher training: sponsor a teacher to the ongoing 4-day accelerated learning workshop at the Aurora Quezon Elementary School. Call 0917-899-6653 for details.

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and the Rotary Club of Quezon Ctiy North. Her e-mail addy is

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