Abroad on a Motorbike: Texan Roots in Sai gon Soil
My older sister Aggie graduated with a degree in International Economics, sold her car, packed all of her belongings, and moved to Sai gon, Vietnam all by herself. There she started her own Tex-Mex food business called Chipotle Mama. She sells food at music events, farmers markets and provides home deliveries by riding her motorbike from apartment to apartment around the city. It’s been two years since she left San Antonio, TX and continues treating Sai gon with her cooking.
Written by Ambar Navarro | Photo by Owen Salisbury
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you are doing in Vietnam?
My name is Agatha but the name ‘Agi’ works better here in Vietnam, so I’ve gotten used to being called my childhood name again. After finishing my long-awaited degree, I made plans of venturing out to South East Asia with gardening & permaculture intentions. Unknowingly, in the middle of my journey I fell in love with & in Sai Gon, Viet Nam. It’s been a total of 2 years that I’ve called this foreign place home & now my current endeavor is a Mexican/Tex-Mex ood Company by the name of Chipotle Mama, that feeds hungry festival & farmer’s market attendees as well as my nostalgia for food from my homelands. I live with my amazingly centered boyfriend, his older goofy brother, his wonderful girlfriend & two felines. I try really hard to find time for photography & learning languages.
How has it been starting your own business and what are your future dreams for it?
Luckily for me, this is a country of opportunity especially for the younger generations that starting my own business came fairly easy. I work from our massive kitchen at home with my ever-so helpful boyfriend who lends a hand in prep work & provides a few laughs. We’ll get the idea of making our own deli-style chicken or chorizo & go for it! Sourcing certain ingredients can be impossible somedays that the outrageous 5x price tag is reluctantly paid for on a lucky day. Creating from scratch has become our thing & it translates into our festival food. I graduated with International Economics yet my next step might be a Culinary degree! The best part is that I have learned to let the next step come organically.
What are some major adjustments you found yourself with in a new city as an American/Mexican?
Coping with the lack of quality margaritas has been difficult, but there is a tasty Vietnamese sugar cane rum that pairs delightfully with fresh coconut water & limes that beats the heat nicely. But honestly, the hardest part is the tiny community of Latin@s in Sai gon that there is almost nobody my age that I can relate to. I miss the “soul” that I inherently find in Mexican and Latin cultures that is tasted, felt & spoken. But thankfully, Facebook & Skype have allowed for no one to feel too far regardless of the 12 hours of difference. There are a few Facebook groups that I regularly use to connect to a large audience like, Mexicanos en Vietnam, Latinos en Saigon, & Female Expats in Ho Chi Minh City. Any & every question is answered on these groups that I hope other cities with young expat populations use this as a tool.
What is your favorite thing about living in Vietnam?
Motorbikes. Feeling the wind when you commute never gets old, I’ll take my 50cc Honda Cub over thighs of steel for now. I like to feel more connected to my scenery outside of a vehicle.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to move to a new country by themselves?
Yeah, DO IT! GO! There is a beautiful quote by Saint Augustine that goes, “The world is a book, & those who do not travel read only one page.” In a time where our education system is highly biased, experiencing the world through different perspectives is a modern political statement. So, if you desire a change of scenery, follow your heart & don’t worry, it’s only human to desire exciting experiences.
To get to know more about Aggie and her work, check out her ig account @agiegata13.