Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Saigon is a stew, a bubbling blend of sights, smells, and sounds, that create a flavor that is unique and full of mystery. Though the bicycles and Cyclos have given way to motorbikes and taxis, Saigon is constant. It is constantly moving, constantly changing. I have been here many times now and am always intrigued. No city I have been to can compare with the magic of Saigon.

It's April 29 and I have been in Saigon for three days now. Tomorrow I head up to Da Nang and meet with the director of my school as well as close the deal on renting my house. My group of vets are arriving on the fourth so I want to have this stuff taken care of before I get busy with the group.

I really haven't done much in Saigon since I am staying at a guesthouse that's a little removed from the main part of the city. I my go into town later this evening to watch the Olympic Flame pass through.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Final Day at Home

It's early Thursday morning and I will be heading to the airport in 24 hrs. Today is house cleaning day and I have to do some last minute banking as well as shut down my phone/TV/Internet service. I think I have all the details taken care of but I know there are some things that I have forgotten to do. They will come to me when I'm 30,000 feet above the Pacific.

The past few days have been spent mostly on saying good-byes to family and friends and getting my bags packed. It is not easy to fit a year of needs into two suitcases (two large suitcases). However, I find some satisfaction in knowing that I am shedding all the clutter that I have become buried under. I think of George Carlin's routine on "Stuff".

I will arrive in Saigon on Saturday night a 10:00 pm and spend a couple of days there before flying up to Da Nang on the 29th. The school where I will be teaching is called AVIEC (American Vietnamese International English Center). Though I stil don't have all the details, I will be teaching business professionals who already speak English but want to polish it. I will be teaching Monday through Friday from 5:30 -8:30 pm and am supposed to begin around the first of June. I have an appointment set up to meet with the school on May 2 and also need to sign the lease on my house that day.

Before I begin teaching, I will be meeting up with four American vets who want me to show them around for a couple of weeks. We won't be traveling though the entire country as I normally do but will be spending our time in Da Nang and in Hue. We will get up to the DMZ and other places where we spent time during the war but won't have enough time to get up to Hanoi as a group. It's too bad because I really like Hanoi. If time allows, I will head up there on my own for a few days after the men go home.

Well, it's almost 5:00 in the morning and I had better get started with my day. I wanted to make this entry early because I won't have Internet access this evening and it will probably be a week before I can make my next entry on the blog.

Take a deep breath, Billy. Here we go!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Four Days and A Wake Up

Time is winding down and I will be heading out of here before I know it. It seems to have been a long time coming but now that it is getting down to the wire, I just hope there is enough time to all the last minute details taken care of.

I had a "Going Away" party on Friday afternoon/evening and I was touched by the number of people who showed up. Damn, the place was packed and all seemed to be having a good time. I know I had a good time. There were probably seventy-five people who showed up (I even knew some of them). Really though, it was pretty moving to see so many people who I consider friends all together in one place. Jim came out from New York and Ron flew in from Chicago. Both of these men have made it back to Nam with me in recent years and both of them served as Marines over there during the war. I really appreciated the effort they made to see me off.

My House
It looks like I have a place to live in Da Nang. Anh was very instrumental in pulling this together. Bless you Anh. You have pulled through once again. Though I haven't seen the place in person yet, I did get some photos. It's a two bedroom, three bath (indoor and flushable), furnished, and nicely decorated. And it is less than three blocks from China Beach. I can live with this. Hopefully, some friends and family will come visit while I'm here. There is room but only for four days max.

This view looks through my living room. Yes, this wall comes complete with fountains and a skylight.

The kitchen looks great too. All I need to do now is learn how to cook.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

General Information About Da Nang

For those of you not familiar with where Vietnam is, I have included a map. It sits on the Pacific Rim just below China and to the east of India. Da Nang, the city where I will be living is on the coast about half way up the country (red Arrow). Da Nang is Vietnam's fourth largest city and has a population of nearly a million people. It was also the place where U.S. Marines first landed in Vietnam in 1965 and was used throughout the war as a transit center for Marines coming into and leaving Vietnam. With it's deep sea port and the river, Da Nang is a very active city and is quickly becoming a center of commerce in Vietnam.

This close up satellite image of Da Nang shows the location of the school where I will be teaching (upper yellow marker) and where I believe the house I am checking into is located (lower yellow marker). My house is very close to what was known as China Beach.


It's Friday evening about midnight right now. Two weeks from this time I will be somewhere over the Pacific. I had dinner tonight with friends that I probably will not see again for sometime. It was a good evening.

I am in a reflective mood this evening. I suppose that is not so unusual for someone who is aware that his life is at a junction, a waypoint. It's like when I was gearing up to go to Vietnam for the first time in 1969. I try to envision what will come but only see a distant fog. It's damned exciting and a little scary at the same time. Even though I have some anxious moments, I have no doubt that I am doing the right thing. It seems my entire life has been pushing me down this path. When I look back at where I've been, what I've done, and then look at where I am, it all makes sense. I feel I am where I should be. As Don McClean wrote, "All roads lead to where I stand."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moving to Vietnam

My name is Bill and I am about to embark on a new adventure to teach English in Vietnam. I leave my home in Colorado at the end of April (two weeks from now) and set up house in Da Nang, Vietnam. It's exciting but does come with a few anxieties. But before I get into the things that are happening as they happen, I want to lay down a little background about myself.

My interest in Vietnam comes as the result of my serving over there with the Marine Corps during the war. I was with a ground company along the DMZ during 1969. For many years after I returned from the war, I pushed Vietnam to the back of my life and became a professional photographer. But my experience with
Vietnam had a way of popping back up on occasion. So, after selling my business in 1994, I decided to return to Vietnam and see what it was like now that the war was over. That trip changed my life nearly as much as did the war days and I have returned many times since. Most of the time I put together groups of veterans and helped them get to places that were important to them.

My wife passed away in March of 2007 and I needed to find something to focus on again.
I had been a Photoshop instructor at a local college here in Colorado for over seven years and knew that I enjoyed teaching. I no longer had a job keeping me nailed down. And I still have pretty good health. In September, I returned to Vietnam and sought out a few places where I might possibly teach English for a year or so. I was more than a little surprised when after only a day of interviews, I had been accepted by a school in Da Nang. I just needed to get my certificate to teach English as a Foreign Language before I could start. I have done that now and am ready to head out.

Getting Ready
As of this writing, I am almost done with all the BS that has to be done before one can just head out. I have my home rented out, my bills paid, banking organized, TV, phone, Internet all notified. I have made out and legalized my will, power of attorneys, taken care of all my insurance changes. I've got my visa and passport in order and have my one-way ticket purchased. I have even gone to Kansas and Oregon to see immediate family within the past month. Now all I really to concentrate on is getting my bags packed. I don't have a clue what I need to pack yet but I am stacking up things that come to mind. Man, have we ever burdened ourselves with electronic toys; computers, cameras, IPods, accessories, power converters. It's tempting to just leave it all behind.

As mentioned earlier, I am only 15 days from departure and reality is beginning to set in. I have never done anything quite like this before. Sure, I have been to Vietnam often enough and recently enough to have an idea of what to expect as far as what it's like over there.
I've done enough study on the history of Vietnam that I probably know more about it than most of the people who live there. But living and working in a foreign country is a lot different than visiting for a month. I speak no Vietnamese. It's aways been easy to find someone over there who speaks at least a little English. But I am learning the language via The Rosetta Stone program. It really is as good as they say it is. It's going to be interesting the first time I have to go out for groceries, however. I am hoping to trade private English lessons for Vietnamese lessons with one of my students. But, as a lady I know in Saigon always says, "Never try, never know."

That's it for now. I will try to keep this updated on a regular basis.