Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wedding Party

It was a big day on the block today. My next door neighbor’s son is getting married and they threw a big party for him in the street in front of my house. Since it was basically set up on my driveway, I was invited, of course. The street was covered by a metal roof and decorated up as only the Vietnamese can do. By noon, the party was in full swing, complete with a band, karaoke, great food, and an endless supply of beer. I think the main object of the party was to see how much the American could drink because everyone wanted me to join in a toast with them. I would have been very rude for me to decline. Whoa, I did pretty damn well keeping up with them but I’m am glad I didn’t have to drive home.

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Friends

I’ve often been asked how people over here treat Americans and if there is much resentment as a result of the war. I can say without reservation I have felt no sense of resentment. On the contrary, when people learn that I am an American, they often go out of their way to be helpful. I’ve only been in country for two months now and have made more friends than I would have thought possible in a year. Of course, I am a curiosity in the neighborhood and all of my neighbors have had to stop by to check me out. But once we have introduced ourselves, they are always quick with a genuine smile and a wave. I’ve even been invited to the wedding of my neighbor’s daughter next week. That should be interesting.

This is Phan Duc Nhuan, a man I met a couple of weeks ago. He is having a house built in the neighborhood and he heard about me being here. He stopped by to introduce himself and we seemed to hit it off right away, especially when he learned that I served here during the war. He is an intelligent, gentle man who is retired but plays in the local symphony. And he fought on the other side of the wire during the war. Since he doesn’t speak English and I speak no Vietnamese, we have had to limit our conversations through a translator when one is available but we have learned a lot about each other and are becoming good friends with a great respect for one another. It is amazing how many way we are alike though were enemies at onetime. I’ve given him a copy of the book I put together of photographs of Vietnam and he was quite pleased.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Driving Mr. Bill

Driving here is a real experience. In a city with nearly one million people and ninety five percent on motorbikes, it can be total chaos at rush hour. I have yet to see a stop sign and there are only a few stop lights. They don't really count though.No one stops for them. It's amazing how the traffic weaves through itself with clearances so thin you couldn't slip a credit card between the bikes. Yet there are not many accidents and I have seen no sign of road-rage. Everyone just moves along and allows others to slip in and out around them. You have to be on your toes though. It's common for people to just stop in the middle of the road to chat or look around.