04 July 2006

D Block, Nguyen Van Thoai Apartment Complex

Maybe the excitement of the moment caused my memory to be somewhat jumbled, the building I pointed out in the last blog entry isn't really considered THE Nguyen Van Thoai apartment building. While it was indeed my old home, it's really just the D Block of the larger Nguyen Van Thoai apartment complex, as encircled in red in the photo. I am sure of the B Block as it's right behind my block, but beyond that I'm not so sure. How I wish our physical memories be more like computer memory or hard drive - as long as it's not physically removed, it's always there to be retrieved.

Do you notice the black "holes" in the buildings, such as those found in my old D Block? Those are air shafts. Also, somewhat obscured by my overlay text of "Home Sweet Home Saigon", there's a longer strip of black hold near the center of the building. That's because the stairs are in the center of the building and the longer black strip is the open space between the stairs. B Block is somewhat unique because it has apartments on only one side. D Block and others have apartments on both sides, thus the air shafts between the backs of the apartments.

I don't remember much about the other buildings in the complex, but I still have vivid memories of my D Block. Elevators were still a new thing back in 1970s' Viet Nam so our building didn't have one. We lived on the top floor, third floor, and walked up and down day in and out. We did have other creature comforts that were not available to the average people of the time. Tiled floor, cool air (as we were high up above everyone), running water, and electricity. Well, I do know some neighbors couldn't afford tiling and lived with cement floors.

I may draw an outline of my old building some day, but if you've seen the movie Kung Fu Hustle, the Pig Sty Alley building is somewhat similar to my D Block. The part where the hero chops down the henchmen one by one to get to the bad guys' boss, that's what the apartment units are like. There's a common walkway, sort of like a shared balcony. The big difference is that the stairs are inside the building, not exposed like in the movie.

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