Characterized by French architectural elements, downtown Saigon’s post office opened its doors in 1981. Fast forward to 2019: team Heist pays the historical building a visit, Kodak disposable cameras in hand.
Entering the post office was a multi -sensorial experience: voices and footsteps echoed around the space, flooded with light - it was like entering a movie set. We were greeted by two maps, one showing the city’s surroundings and the other illustrating the telegraphic lines of Vietnam and Cambodia. Framed by a linear series of iron arches, a portrait of Mr. Ho Chi Minh stands front and center - unmissable.
We observe from a distance; people are scribbling on their postcards to send to loved ones, just like countless others did decades ago. Legend tells me there is one man — Mr. Duong Van Ngo — who serves as a public writer and has been stationed in the post office for close to 30 years. Mr. Duong translates and scribes for anyone who sits down opposite him, articulating their thoughts in either English or French.
Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch a glance of him this time around, I can only imagine how fascinating a conversation with him would have been. We would get some gold-nugget insights on the stories he’s heard, delivered in gibberish or poetry, which he had to convey on paper. Alone, lodged in a space of transient passerbys, transcribing their burning hopes and darkest fears. What anecdotes would he have to share? What love stories, family feuds, wonderful adventures or tragic sorrows?
I jot down a couple of lines to send to my family back home, signed from Vietnam with love. Four stamps later, my post card was on it’s way to Casablanca, Morocco.