Heartache for sale at Vietnam’s ex-lovers market

Above, curious customers leaf through old books, love notes, candles and clothes — relics from relationships past now on sale by jilted lovers at the once-a-month Vietnam’s “Old Flames” market. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2017
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Heartache for sale at Vietnam’s ex-lovers market

HANOI: At Vietnam’s Old Flames market, curious customers peruse love letters and pick through perfumes, candles and clothes — relics from failed relationships put on sale by forlorn lovers.
Entrepreneurial exes meet once a month, bringing their baggage — emotional and literal — to a converted cottage on a leafy Hanoi street to find a new home for items they can no longer bear to look at.
It’s also a means of moving on.
“(After a breakup) I’m very sad, I can’t drink or eat ... but after a while I pick myself up. The past is in the past,” said Phuc Thuy, 29, who was selling clothes, purses and even a tube of toothpaste she acquired during a former romance.
The market has steadily grown since it opened in February, especially among Vietnam’s social-media obsessed youth, unabashed about sharing intimate details of their everyday lives.
“Young people are more open-minded and they want to share deeply and widely to overcome pain, without suffering alone,” said founder Dinh Thang, as a visitor strummed love songs on a guitar nearby.
He started the market after a few bitter breakups left him with unwanted paraphernalia from a now extinguished passion.
He proudly displays love letters, heart-strewn birthday cards and sentimental scrapbooks from his ex as a reminder that such memorabilia need not be painful forever.
He’s also opened the doors to vendors selling new items, and is planning to duplicate the concept in Vietnam’s commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City next year.
For those who haven’t quite reached Thang’s stage of emotional post-breakup enlightenment, he’s set up a message board to pen notes to exes.
“To all my ex-lovers, I’m sorry because I feel like we never really knew each other,” read one remorse-tinged message. Another was more succinct: “I’M FINE!!!“
Thang hopes the market will make the topic of breakups less taboo in Vietnam, a conservative communist nation of 93 million where just a generation ago arranged marriages were more common.
Social attitudes have changed as the country has become increasingly globalized and as its vast young population — more than 50 percent of the country is under age 30 — embrace western dating norms.
That includes Internet dating.
“Many young people meet online, date online and break up online,” said Bui Manh Tien, Youth Programme Officer at United Nations Population Fund in Vietnam.
Today, men and women are waiting longer to get married and divorce rates are also ticking up, according to official figures.
“We don’t want to give up our freedom too early and get tied to family responsibility when we’re young, we want to enjoy life before getting married,” Tien, 25, added.
For some, the Old Flames market is simply a place to make new connections, romantic or otherwise.
“I came here to meet people and to see the goods, explore why they used to be a very beautiful memory,” said Tieu Khuy, before picking up a used copy of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”


Boris Becker’s diplomatic passport is ‘fake’, says Central African Republic

Former German tennis player Boris Becker. (AFP)
Updated 4 min 15 sec ago
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Boris Becker’s diplomatic passport is ‘fake’, says Central African Republic

  • Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status
  • The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014

BANGUI: The Central African Republic (CAR) said on Tuesday that a diplomatic passport that tennis star Boris Becker claims entitles him to immunity in bankruptcy proceedings in Britain “is a fake.”
“The diplomatic passport that he has is a fake,” foreign ministry chief of staff Cherubin Mologbama told AFP.
The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014,” he said.
In addition, the passport — a copy of which has been seen by AFP, and bears the date of March 19, 2018 — does not carry the signature or the stamp of the foreign minister, Charles Armel Doubane, Mologbama said.
Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status.
“It’s the truth. It is a fact that I am, today, a diplomat” of the CAR, he said in a filmed interview with Top Magazin Frankfurt.
On Friday, lawyers for Germany’s three-time Wimbledon champion lodged a claim in the High Court in Britain saying that he had been appointed a sports attache for the CAR to the European Union (EU) in April.
This, they argued, granted him immunity under the 1961 Vienna Diplomatic Convention on Diplomatic Relations from bankruptcy proceedings over failure to pay a long-standing debt.
“Becker’s job profile does not exist” in the CAR’s records, Mologbama said.
Furthermore, the passport says that Becker’s diplomatic function is “financial charge de mission,” a role that “has nothing to do with sporting questions,” he noted.
In April, the 50-year-old former tennis star had tweeted a picture of himself shaking hands with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera at a meeting in Brussels.
Becker shook up the tennis world at Wimbledon in 1985 when, as an unseeded player, he became the then youngest-ever male Grand Slam champion at the age of 17, defending the trophy the following year.
The German went on to enjoy a glittering career and amassed more than $25 million (21.65 million euros) in prize money.

The CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking at the very bottom of the 188 nations in the UN Development Programme’s 2016 Human Development Index.
Landlocked, rich in gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, the country of 4.6 million people has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.
Presidents have traditionally been surrounded by “sleazy courtesans” and “dodgy counsellors who talk loud,” French writer Jean-Pierre Tuquoi wrote in a book published last year.
Its modern history has been studded with coups, foreign mercenaries, assassination attempts, shadowy business deals and improbable figures, he says.
They include Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a former army corporal and fan of Napoleon who became president, then president for life — and finally declared himself emperor before being ousted by France in 1979 after a massacre of school children.
One of his successors, Francois Bozize, was named in a law suit filed in France in 2015 by the CAR government, which said that during his tenure, “numerous advisers and relatives... benefitted from passports of convenience” in exchange for money.
These including a Kazakh opposition figure, Mukhtar Abiazov, a female adviser to former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and an Israeli businessman, according to the suit filed by the CAR’s attorney, William Bourdon.
Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka. His elected successor, Faustin-Archange Touadera, has effective rule over only a fraction of the country as most of it is in the hands of militias.
Poor governance and a tradition of graft make for a toxic mixture, says Thierry Vircoulon, a CAR specialist at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).
“Given the authorities’ extreme weakness and corruptibility, crooks and conmen of every stripe always find a way to gain access to the president and make money,” he says. “This country is perfect for business pirates.”