Friday, March 31, 2006

Maybe we hadn't quite gotten there

I'm reviewing maps again after finding Tra My on a map in a Fodor's book. Now I think that we didn't go through Tien Phuoc, but went near it--it was a little further north, along a road parallel to the river we crossed. And I think we didn't quite get to the Mau Ca hamlets if they are still where they were 40 years ago, but maybe they've moved. Who knows?

What I do know, for sure, is that we were in the right AO, or area of operations. Those of you who've read Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" might have recognized the scenery, only without the visible signs of war. It's just as hard to see the place and imagine that a war had ever taken place there as it is to try to imagine Lieutenant Jimmy Cross and his men riding on an air conditioned bus looking out at the lush green countryside.

O'Brien served in the Americal Division around the same time that my dad served in the 101st Airborne Division. The 101st was there that summer to help out the Americal with an emergency operation called Lamar Plain. But that's another story, a very long one.

Some of Roger's photos

My trip mate Roger's posted some of his photos on his web site. Roger left us in Hanoi to travel north to Sapa, and many of the photos Roger's posted are from that portion of his trip.
There are some I can identify: Sunrise at the Furama Resort on China Beach, a mother rowing with her child in Ha Long Bay, and one of the boat crew on the Ha Long Dream preparing lunch. And here's a shot I didn't get: The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Getting a glimpse of someone else's photos makes me want to see every photo taken by every person on the trip. I hope I do get that chance some day.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Maps and the cemetery

I'm a map geek. When I was very young--maybe kindergarten-aged--I used to study maps with my friend Brian, who collected them from the Gulf station up the hill near the Bloomfield Bridge. Ask any of my friends who've traveled with me to other U.S. cities and they will know I've had a map stashed somewhere in my purse. Manhattan? No problem. Get me into rural areas, like the time I was at a reunion of veterans who served with my dad, and I'm easily turned around. I tried to navigate while my friend Rick drove from our hotel in the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina to the downtown area to go to an art museum. I had us going through cornfields in the wrong direction, probably heading straight for Ft. Jackson. I had used the post office on the map as a landmark, and in the real world it was on the opposite side of the road. Maybe.

Rick told me that weekend that after he returned from Vietnam, he'd gone to the library at the University of Minnesota and mapped out his entire Vietnam tour. Rick had given a copy of a map to Freddy, who sent me a copy a few years back, showing me where the ambush site was. We had the coordinates from the battalion daily journal and yearly supplements, and the closest hamlets to the site were right near the road, places called Mau Ca (1) and Mau Ca (3).

I've had several people, veterans especially, ask me how close we actually got to the ambush site. It's hard to tell, for one thing, because there are few road signs in Vietnam. The road we were on had stone-like pillars every so often, naming some village or hamlet and listing the kilometers to it. I'm pretty certain we were on the right road. A government official who accompanied us laughed at how old my maps were.

If I only knew if that cemetery had been there in 1969 and could find anyone who remembered it, that would be a clue. Many of those who were buried there died in the Tet Offensive in 1968, but our guides taught me that often the dead are removed from the ground and moved--especially so three years after their death, though I didn't quite understand the explanation.

Try a Google search for cemeteries in Quang Nam, and you'll get matches for our war dead, buried here. Many Americans died in Quang Nam province. And searching Google for cemeteries in Tra Mi, or Tra My, the nearest town, will get you nothing. And I don't think we got quite as far as Tra My, but I do think we were pretty close.

But before the trip I did find these maps on fallingrain.com: we traveled from Danang to Tam Ky, then inland onto a road that took us near Tien Phuoc and a long, long way past it to the cemetery. The hamlet of Mau Ca (3) is along the road we were on, and that Tra My is just south of that road, and it all looks about right to me, topography-wise. We were heading towards some larger foothills, maybe big enough to be considered mountains.

So maybe we did pass through Mau Ca, as I believed when I wrote an earlier post. And maybe that was about when I had a sudden, panicky adrenaline rush and the words "I have to get these people out of here" raced through my head. The feeling passed as quickly as it had come, and then I felt an intense sense of peace. It felt to me like it was related to all 10 of the Alpha Company, 1/502 soldiers who died there on July 8, 1969, and my dad, who died in an Army hospital in Chu Lai the following day.

When I got off of the bus to walk into the cemetery, I carried with me the rubbings from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of the names of those 11 men. I'd originally thought of burning those rubbings with the joss sticks--and it felt completely inappropriate to me. I felt like those 11 men wanted me to turn the attention to those 900 Vietnamese soldiers buried in that cemetery. Only 300 of the 900 are identified; the rest are unknowns. And so I put the rubbings down and lit joss sticks, and the wind kicked up and suddenly I had this huge flame very close to my hand. I was convinced for a minute my hand was going to go up in flames, on camera and hours from medical aid. And then the flames died down, and we continued with our silent ceremony. All of those unknowns.

I stopped with joss sticks at grave after grave and thought about all of their families and all of their unanswered questions. And I especially thought about my Vietnamese friend who is a son of an MIA. When it's personal, when you know what it's like to be a child of a soldier who died--and when you meet another of those children, you can feel their pain without having to say one word. Then try imagine multiplying that by hundreds and hundreds of white grave markers, rows upon rows of unknowns, rows of markers with names and dates and locations.

Like I told Chris at the ceremony, losing my dad is always going to be there, like a lost limb that's never going to grow back. I didn't expect closure (I don't think it exists), and if I didn't get to the exact site, that doesn't matter. What did happen, going to that cemetery, seemed right and appropriate, and something in me changed for the better there.

Redecorating and rereading

I went to my cousin Terry's house last night to watch TV, drink coffee and eat an assortment of snacks. I couldn't believe the living room redo: Terry has a plant near the door that reminded me of the plants on board the Ha Long Dream:


Terry transformed the walls in his living room to tan and warm brown, much like the colors on board. Terry said he'd been inspired and had just painted the walls over the weekend. There was still a tinge of wet paint smell in the air.

I've decided this morning to reread "Let Their Spirits Dance"--it's a book that fascinated me when I read it, and now I'm ready to read it again, especially for the parts about Santa Fe and the Southwest.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Promoting Peace


My Friends of Danang friends Jack Gannon and George D'Angelo are on a round-the-world tour promoting the International Day of Peace Vigil on September 21. They were with us during our stay in Vietnam. I know they've had some technical difficulties along the way, and their blog at http://www.xanga.com/idpvigil2006 doesn't yet have this most recent update, which I received via email. The above photo of the children at the Hoa An school was included in the email.

I won't repost their entire email here, nor all of the photos, but here are some excerpts. FOD stands for "Friends of Danang".

On Friday, 3 March, the 33rd day of our journey, we arrived at Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam to join in with the bi-Annual trip of the Pittsburgh based humanitarian group, Friends of Danang (FOD). Our stay in Vietnam would be spent primarily as members of the FOD entourage and only secondarily as promoters of the IDP Vigil. War leaves many scars. The FOD offers an opportunity to help them heal, both individually and socially. While this stop may not on its surface greatly forward the cause of the International Day of Peace Vigil, it certainly has strengthened our belief in the need for a more peaceful world.

...

On Tuesday, the group headed to Danang, a seaside city halfway up the Vietnam coast. During the war, Danang was an area that hosted many American troops and has become the focus of the FOD humanitarian efforts. Here FOD would receive the gracious hospitality of Mr. Trang and the office of Foreign Affairs. We would spend the next two days visiting its projects and traveling with World Vision to meet some of the children helped in the "Let Them Walk Again" program, the most gratifying part of the FOD program. At the Hoa An school, the children greeted us with song and dance and the principal gave ample reason for us to know that the school was serving the needs of the children in an excellent manner. We were again fortunate to visit the hamlets and see the results of the Let Them Walk Again efforts. A special thanks to World Vision and the amazing job they do in administering the program. Also to Dr. Ed Kelly who solicited, collected and delivered operating supplies gathered from Pittsburgh area hospitals.

...

Vietnam offered a chance to renew and strengthen old friendships and make new ones and to see the beautiful country of Vietnam, from the Mekong Delta to the magnificent Ha Long Bay. It always provides the opportunity to know better those who we once called "enemy", and to reflect more personally on the reasons, results and responsibility of war.

...

In Peace and Friendship,
Jack and George

Healing the wounds of war


I received an e-mail yesterday evening from my friend Karen Spears Zacharias.

I first met Karen over Veterans Day weekend, 2002, when we met at a dinner organized by Terry McGregor. Like me, Karen and Terry lost their fathers in Vietnam--and Karen, like me, was going to be sending home some sort of report to the newspaper where she worked. It was a little--no, maybe a lot--like meeting a big brother and a big sister for dinner. My mom was with us, too, and I remember Karen asking my mom so many of the questions I wanted to ask, but was afraid to. After that night I started asking, little by little.

Karen and Terry went on the Sons and Daughters in Touch trip to Vietnam in March, 2003. At the time, I didn't feel ready to do that, but I enjoyed hearing about their experiences. Their stories in part gave me the courage to say yes when I had the opportunity to make this recent trip.

Last year Karen's book "Hero Mama" (HarperCollins) was published, and it's going to be released in paperback by William Morrow in May with a new title: "After the Flag Has Been Folded". Karen has a web site at www.heromama.org.


For me, reading Karen's story a lot like reading my own story. Karen and I and other children didn't just lose our fathers in Vietnam. We grew up in shattered families in a society that didn't allow open discussion about the Vietnam War, so we were, in a way, prisoners of that silence, even made to feel ashamed of our fathers. Did they die because they were bad? Or worse, did they die because we were bad?

I don't know if Karen expected the reaction she got when "Hero Mama" was released--in telling her story, in a time when it is unfortunately relevant now that we're once again at war, she's been sought out by these new families. But I'm so proud of the way Karen's become such a caring advocate for these families. Here's an excerpt from her email:

"Hanging in my office are snapshots of young widows and grieving children given to me over the past year. These women hunted me down at book signings, military bases, university lectures, through fellow journalists, and aging veterans. They all want to know how my mama did it; how she managed to raise three children without her soulmate. They ask if Mama’s happy now, and will they ever be again?

I am currently working with a group of war widows, Our Living Legacy, in an effort to bring together all the surviving spouses of those killed in action for a national retreat."

Knowing the isolation my mom and I experienced, and knowing how good it is to finally have friends who've walked the same road we're on--I know what a great idea this national retreat is. Kudos, Karen, and to everyone you're working with on this. And to anyone who's reading this who may know of a surviving spouse, please let them know about the book and the retreat.

And Karen, if you're reading this: the next time you go on a book tour, make a stop in Pittsburgh!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Photos now online

I've posted my photos here:
http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/noreen_ellen/my_photos

Note the albums are organized by day, though I wasn't able to sort the order in which the albums display. I'm not through captioning and naming the photos yet, but I'll be working on that.

The dragonflies keep showing up

Yesterday morning when I was preparing to brush my teeth, I pulled a Dixie cup out of my bathroom dispenser. I usually buy goofy kids' ones--this one was a Disney set with assorted cups and characters. The cup I pulled out had Goofy and Pluto on, of all things, a background of dragonflies.

Then today when I was flipping through a box of music CDs, one (Blue Rodeo's "Five Days in July") had a dragonfly on the back cover.

I listened to the CD, naturally. Not my typical musical thing, but the purchase was prompted by some live Rosebud show years ago when I saw them and I can't remember who else.

I've been Googling around on the Native American interpretations of dragonflies, at the suggestion of a friend--and I've found Navajo, Hopi and Zuni references, mostly referring to the dragonfly as a totem of change. Here's a link to one of the pages I found.

And I remembered something: when I walked into my first Friends of Danang building, I followed a woman with long, black hair. She sat down at the table while I introduced myself to Roger. And when she turned around to meet me, she was wearing a dragonfly necklace. Her name is My Hanh, and she's a Vietnamese woman studying at a local university in Pittsburgh. I remember at a later time asking her about her dragonfly jewelry, because I'd wondered if it was jewelry she brought from Vietnam. She told me she bought it in New Mexico.

I remember, clearly, when I first saw her dragonfly necklace at that first meeting that I was supposed to be there, and that I was supposed to go on the then-upcoming Friends of Danang trip to Vietnam.

And back to things Native American: I've had some spiritual moments on trips to Colorado Springs and Seattle, when I was checking out some Native American touristy things that could just have been brushed off as tacky--and maybe they were--but something about it all resonated with me.

Poetry and China Beach


Last fall when I wrote this ode to lip gloss, I had no idea I'd get to stand on China Beach only a few months later. I've also posted the poem on my other blog. I took the above photo at the Furama Resort on China Beach in the late afternoon the day before we went to the cemetery.

Here's the ode, which is I think the first poem I've ever attempted to write. When I signed up for the poetry class I wasn't quite sure why I was doing it--but it turned out to be a great experience.



Mango Juice


Oh! Mango juice lip gloss
how I love your golden-pink glow
calling to me from your clear plastic tube.

Your sponge-tipped wand
dances across my lips
like a woolly caterpillar
walking across an orange maple leaf.

You cover my lips in fruity castor oil.
Sheer, not quite naked,
the taste of you mixes
with the steam from my jasmine tea.
You melt on my lips,
leaving your mark on the rim of the glass as I drink.

You carry my daydream
to China Beach at sunrise
where I wear you with a red silk dress
and bare feet.
The wet sand sparkles like your glimmer
washed away and reapplied
with each lapping of the sea.

I will carry you with me
through sweaty salt and sea spray,
cardamom, lemongrass and ginger
across the oceans
to the spring.

Lunch, and dinner

Yesterday I trekked off to the Strip District to do some shopping in one of the Asian stores. I also picked up some coffee. I can't go to the Strip without buying coffee. I stopped for lunch at Enrico Biscotti by myself and ended up at a communal table in the back. Some nice folks joined me: a young couple with an older Asian woman.

I explained to them that our Friends of Danang meetings take place there, and that Larry donates his cooking and his space and his time and feeds us fabulous family-style Italian dinners at the meetings. That was one of the things that got me to my first meeting back in October: the food. We give Larry donations for the dinner, and then he gives that money back to Friends of Danang. I love that.

I got to talk to Larry briefly about the food and the trip, and I told him I'd bring food photos to the next meeting. And he already knew that the documentary crew included Mark and Dino, who worked on "The Bread, My Sweet" which was filmed at Larry's bakery. This whole thing has been so filled with crazy coincidences that I know they can't be coincidences.

There is a trailer for "The Bread, My Sweet" (on DVD as "A Wedding for Bella") here. Around the time this was released my friend Eric had been working on some musical projects with a few of the folks who worked on the sountrack--which is one of the reasons I went to see the movie.

I'm so not a movie person, or a television person, because I'm constantly nitpicking everything I see and hear and the screenwriting and all of that. I'm much the same way with books. But I loved this movie.

Then yesterday evening, I joined my friends Scott, Fedko, Harold, Theresa and Jen for dinner at Pho Minh in Garfield. It felt great to eat Vietnamese food with chop sticks and kick back and share photos from the trip. The tea at Pho Minh is what really took me back to Vietnam--to both the tea and fruit stop on the Mekong Delta when we listened to live music, and to the boat cruise on Ha Long Bay, when I walked around the boat serving tea to my fellow passengers.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lunch!

Of the photos I've printed and shown to friends and family and coworkers, this is the one that people asked about the most. "What is *that*?" they'd ask. And when I'd respond with "lunch," several of them said, "I couldn't eat that."

I'm sure a lot of you would be surprised to know that yes, I ate that--quite a stretch for someone like me who prefers tofu and soy milk and could pretty easily adopt a vegan diet. On the other hand, I did want to honor Larry Lagattuta's request to try all of the food.The fish and seafood I could deal with--and even tried squid a second time when the first squid tasted like a rubber band.

I drew the line at the meat products: barbecued something-or-others. No, we were not served dog (it's bad luck to eat dog during the first half of the lunar month) but as most of you know it takes a lot for me to eat pork or beef as it is. And I fell in love with the cows in Vietnam--they were beautiful.

I can't recall any chicken being served, other than as a pho add-in during breakfast. I did have an omelet in Halong, and that just felt wrong. Didn't taste right, either.

At one of the dinners, a Buddhist woman joined us and couldn't eat any of the fish. She explained to me how hard it is to be a vegetarian in Vietnam, and I gave her the carrot garnishes off of my plate. Silly little gesture. She ordered french fries and ketchup and ate them with chop sticks.

It's too bad there's no Tofishy in Vietnam. I'd have shared one of those with my Buddhist friend.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Airlines, here & there

I've been attempting to find cheap flights to DC for Memorial Day weekend. Sure, I could drive, but that's a big-traffic weekend and with Rolling Thunder's thousands of motorcyclists descending on DC, I'd rather fly. (Plus who wants to pay $15 or so a day to keep my car in a hotel parking lot? Not me.) So far the cheapest option is for me to drive to Cleveland and fly to Baltimore-Washington International, but I'd have to account for train/Metro fares and gas and parking to and from Cleveland. I'll probably fly Pittsburgh to Reagan National on a commuter airline affiliated with United. I'm still mourning the loss of Independence Air. I used to be able to get round trips from Pittsburgh to Dulles for under $100--and the service was great.

All of this I just remembered an odd tidbit about our trip: we had to pay a US$14 tax to leave Vietnam from Hanoi. We were originally going to leave from Hanoi but a few months before our trip EVA Air cancelled that route. So, we all paid the US$14 in Hanoi, and then once we got to Saigon, we were told it was only a US$12 tax to leave the country from Saigon.

So, if you're looking to save a little money on your trip to Vietnam, keep that in mind. :)

Here's a link to the Vietnam Airlines web site. They have a frequent flyer program! Had they told me on our flights with them, I would have signed up. Funny how their web site looks like it has its act together, until you start clicking around. They had very new aircraft (very nice Boeing and Airbus jets) but they couldn't figure out how to route our bags on the way home. No biggie--we just rechecked them all with EVA once we got to Saigon.

missed opportunities

I just remembered why I have so few photos of the trek from Danang to the cemetery in Quang Nam and back. On the way there, I sat with Chris Moore on the bus and we talked from Danang to Tam Ky. It was an interview, technically, but it felt like we were just talking. Most of the way to the site from Tam Ky forward I was too caught up in looking out of the bus windows and talking and being lost in my own head to remember I had a camera with me.

On the way back, my camera battery went from 3 bars to 2 to zip in a hurry, and the last photos I was able to get were in Tien Phuoc, where we stopped to get some bus shots and to pick up some fruit.

I know there were a lot of other folks on the trip who were taking photos. I'm kicking myself for not getting the ones of the big, tan-colored rocks in the fields. John Glover has some shots of those from 1969--one I especially love has the company CO standing on those rocks, overlooking a valley. I saw something that looked like it might have been the same area, only I have no photographic record of it.

I know that once we got back to the hotel I switched to a charged battery and then took my camera along for our beach-side picnic dinner--and promptly forgot to take any photos. Kicking myself for that, too.

Different war, same questions

My friend Karen Spears Zacharias lost her dad in Vietnam in 1966. She's someone I look up to, an older sister, someone who's been on a similar journey as I have, only is a few miles out in front.

Karen was interviewed in a story in the Arizona Republic recently. (Okay, registration is required--but it's a simple, free registration. And I know some people who work at the Arizona Republic, if that counts for anything.)

Karen's book, "Hero Mama," will be coming out in paperback this spring under the new title "After the Flag is Folded". It's Karen's story about her family.

Here is an excerpt form the Arizona Republic story that resonates with me. I know what this young boy is grappling with, because I've lived it, and it's heartbreaking to me that we have children who are dealing with this.

Another time in history, another war, but the book in which she lays bare the effect her father's death had on her family, is calling to families of fallen soldiers in this war.
At a book reading at Fort Hood in Texas, a young boy whose father had died in Iraq had questions for Zacharias.
"If my father's death makes my mother a war widow, what does it make me?" he asked Zacharias.
The young boy told her that people express their sorrow to his mother. They don't say anything to him.
"Don't they know I miss my father too?" he said.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dive bars and airports

Last night I fell asleep on the couch at 8 o'clock and didn't wake up until 4 a.m., when I finally dragged myself off to my bed. I had a few people forewarn me that I'd have problems sleeping when I got home. That hasn't happened. I just want to sleep and eat and sleep and sleep!

Tonight I'm determined to fight it, at least for a little while.

On Tuesday night, I met up with my friend Troy at Dee's Cafe on the South Side. For those of you not familiar with Pittsburgh, Dee's might fit the mental picture you may have of a Pittsburgh bar: it's old, and it's nestled along a main street that runs parallel to the Monongahela River, below the slopes that rise up from the river valley. I lived on the South Side for about five years, and many years before that I worked a few blocks from Dee's. The neighborhood and the main street has for the most part been tidied up and restored from its industrial days and its post-industrial decline. But Dee's still retains some of the old-time South Side: a plain-jane bar where the beer is cheap (a small glass of Miller Lite is $1), the waitresss are no-nonsense, and the food is delivered to the bar via a small dummy elevator.

I plopped down in a vinyl-seat booth (the kind you sink into when you sit down) with a Miller Lite and waited for Troy, noticing that many of the other people in there were alone, watching TV, or in twos, discussing music or job opportunities. And I realized I hadn't been alone in a bar--or anywhere where I was just sitting around--in awhile. It felt oddly risky and bizarre. After looking around a bit more, noticing the lowered ceiling (probably from a rehab attempt during the Cold War) was painted black, and that the jukebox was too loud, I had this vibe that the place seemed to me like an airport bar, if there was such a thing, in Saigon or Danang. Very functional and industrial and spartan, with plain and hopefully functional bathrooms. Dee's first-floor ladies' room has old ceramic tile on the walls, and the stall doors are wooden with the old metal-rod latches, and the sinks have old push-down faucets and scraggly-small bars of soap.

I used to be afraid of that ladies' room in Dee's until I had enough beers in me to know I had to use it. Now, I just wanted to reach for the antiseptic hand wipes I'd kept in my purse. And I didn't bring any with me--which caused a temporary moment of panic for me.

The light over the booth in Dee's was bright enough for me to show Troy my pictures. I can't recall Dee's being that bright before. And the television looked out of place. It was a flat-screen TV. If any places should have old, big, console TVs, preferably in black-and-white, and with bunny-ear antennas, it's Dee's and the airports in Vietnam.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Photos to and from the ambush area

Speaking of photos to and from the ambush area, I have those posted in my Yahoo! Photos account.

The first one is, I think, from after we turned off Highway 1 at Tam Ky and headed inland. The last photo is from a town called Tien Phuoc, which is just to the coastal side of the river (the river is in one of those last shots).

I wish I had photos of all of the roadside coffee and pho shops and kids walking home from school and the cows and the water buffalo and the cinnamon bark drying in front of the houses along the road.

I didn't see any evidence of bomb craters, but I did see a few areas of thinner vegetation (or was that my imagination?) and one area that looked like maybe there had been a mudslide that revealed a mountain trail.

There probably always have been trails in those mountains and foothills, and probably always will be. There are not many roads in that part of the world.

A warm welcome home

I think I'm having readjustment issues. Physically, I'm fine, but I'm rested up now to realize I didn't take as many photos, especially to and from the cemetery, as I should have. And I know that if I were to go back tomorrow, it would not be the same experience, which makes me sad. I was sleepy while I was in Vietnam because I was so excited to be there that I didn't want to waste much time sleeping. I didn't want to miss anything.

Now that I've been back a week, I've been struggling to balance my wanting and needing sleep with getting together with friends to talk about the trip and to see my photos. Thanks to Steve and Lisa and Mary Anne for being there last week--and to Lane and Troy for being there this coming week. And Harold, Scott and Fedko will likely be joining me for a Tram's outing in the near future. And Eric--thanks for IMing me!

I feel like such a jerk for complaining to myself about everyone wanting to get together. For one thing, I really do want to see everyone. I'll just try sleeping on the bus on the way to work. I think it's just that I haven't yet had time to process any of this.

I realized this morning what a great welcoming home I've had--not anything like a parade (which is good because I don't like parades)--but smiles, kind words, things like that. This culture seems so fast and so quick to anger compared to where I've been.

What I can't get out of my head is the idea that maybe I got the welcome home that most Vietnam veterans didn't. Then again, maybe my friends and family are reacting just like their friends and families did. I'm too young to remember.

Maybe what I did learn is how to treat more recent vets coming back from combat. I've said hello to the vets I've met, the few times that's happened, but I know I did it with an awkward silence stuck somewhere in my chest. It now seems more simple to me. Just being kind and making eye contact and just saying hello--maybe that's enough.

It bugs the heck out of me that we've passed the three-year mark in Iraq. But I'll leave that thought at that, otherwise I'll be typing all day.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Leap of Faith

For those of you who have known me a very long time, you'll know I spent much of my younger days really into graphic design (my major in college) and music. I was lucky to meet The Affordable Floors in my sophomore year of college, and Harvey, the lead singer, is married to a graphic designer, Jocelyn, who became someone I looked up to. One of the reasons I wanted to meet the band was because I was enamored with the cover of "The Sounding."

The Floors haven't been performing live in a very long time, but they have a web site at www.theaffordablefloors.com. By the time of their last CD I hadn't been around much--the whole working world transition, maybe, my trying to be a grown-up (now that I'm older I know that I was young and stupid then).

I'm listening to "All The Things I Meant to Be" right now--and went over to the CD player and skipped tracks to #10, "Leap of Faith."

Shopping, Part 2

This past weekend was my first one back in Pittsburgh, and I made plans to go shopping in the Strip District with my friend Lisa. The Strip is roughly six or seven blocks long and two blocks wide; it's the old wholesale district that has primarily Italian and Asian stores.

Lisa found a parking place near the Wholey's warehouse, and I begged her to stop with me into the first Asian store we encountered, the one near Wholey's retail store. I wanted badly to find the coconut chewy candy I'd had in the Mekong Delta. I found the cashew brittle/rice wafer candy I tried on the bus to Hanoi, and I found some sesame candy and macadamia nougat candy from Taipei. I had a layover in Taipei on my way to and from Vietnam, so that gave me an excuse to buy the candy.

I was still digging through the candy bags when I heard someone say, "You couldn't stay away, could you?" I turned around and it was Darryl, who was on the trip with us. She'd picked up some snow peas and some pomelos. I have a foggy memory of one breakfast buffet in Vietnam, when I'd whined to Darryl that I was going to miss the pomelos. I was so happy to see Darryl and to know that I'd be able to find pomelos here.

On Sunday, I did a little more shopping--this time to Whole Foods in East Libery to pick up some fresh flowers to take to my dad's grave. And I picked up a few other things, like more fruit. As I was heading towards the coffee, I saw my friend Harvey from the Affordable Floors. I raced my cart towards him and kept saying "Harvey!" until he figured out who I was. I swear I must look different than I did in the late 80s--maybe it's that I often wear my hair pulled back these days--but I've had this happen before. It must be that my real appearance doesn't match the mental picture of me.

Harvey and I talked a little bit about Vietnam, and about how we should get everyone together again (the last time we saw each other as a group was in October for the WXXP tribute show at the Rex). I had to mention that Dino and I talked about the Floors in a government parking lot in Tam Ky. Talking with Harvey felt like the inverse of that conversation: Talking to Harvey in a Pittsburgh supermarket about talking to Dino about the Floors in Tam Ky.

What's it all mean? Oh, I can't help but think none of it's coincidence and all of these people are put onto my path for a reason. But I also think it means I have to shop more in the Strip and at Whole Foods--well, just because I should, anyway.

I did go to the cemetery after that, and I found that my dad's new headstone, the one my mom and I requested awhile ago, was installed. This new one has the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart designations, which is what I knew needed to be on there after we got my dad's Silver Star awarded after 30-some years.

I'd wanted to take some joss sticks, but it was very windy yesterday, so I stuck with the purply-pink flowers I'd picked up at Whole Foods.

Shopping, Part 1

When I was in Vietnam, there were things to buy everywhere. Other than a dash to the Saigon market with Roger on our second morning there, when we picked up some souvenirs, I didn't get much time to shop.

Snacks quickly became one of my favorite things to shop for when I had the chance. I'd picked up some coconut chewy candy and some shredded coconut on a Mekong Delta tour, and broke into the shredded coconut on the way to the cemetery. I had to put the chewy candy into my checked bags so I'd forget it was there.

We had a three-and-a-half hour bus ride from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, and along the way we stopped at some official government rest stop/souvenir shop, with some crazy name like, "The People's Dragon Beauty Company," only that wasn't it. My first stop was to the ladies' bathroom, which wasn't fancy, but at least the toilets weren't the squat kind. Then I walked over to the souvenir shop. This place had everything: an area where young people wearing flimsy masks were making lacquer artwork and probably choking on the fumes, another group of young people creating embroidery, racks of silk clothing, display cabinet after display cabinet of jewelry, sales people everywhere, and lots and lots of candy and beverages for sale. In the cooler, Cokes and Heinekens were plentiful. I opted for a coke and some bags of candy.

We'd stopped at a similar place on the other side of the road the next day, when we made our way back to Hanoi. This time a lot of us shared the snacks we bought with everyone on the bus, and I got to try a lot of things that way. One of the things I liked was a cashew brittle between two crispy rice wafers.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cinnamon

Tonight I went to the Slaughterhouse Gallery in Lawrenceville to hear Sharon McDermott's poetry reading. Sharon was my professor at Pitt in Fall '05 when I was studying intro to poetry writing, and she invited me to the reading tonight.

Back in August, Sharon had us write an ode for our first assignment. I wrote about a lip gloss I'd purchased that weekend in a shade called Mango Juice, and my poem took me to China Beach in Vietnam--and I mentioned cinnamon in it. The night we handed in our odes, Sharon handed us a Yusef Komunyakaa poem about China Beach. We studied Komunyaka during the course of the semester; he's a Vietnam veteran and a poetry professor at Princeton.

Throughout the semester Sharon encouraged me to write about my dad. And when I told her I was going to Vietnam, she was supportive at a time when most people I know were I'm sure wondering what the heck I was thinking.

At the airport in Pittsburgh while waiting at the gate for our first of several flights on the way to Vietnam, a man sat down across from me and said, "Do you know Sharon McDermott?"
I nearly fell out of my chair. I knew then, without a doubt, that I was supposed to be going on this trip. He was the audio guy on the crew, Dino, and over the course of the week discovered we knew a few other people in common. (A similar thing happened with Mark, the video guy, who lives two blocks from where I grew up.)

Tonight during Sharon's reading I was reminded of one of the things she taught me about poetry: to use all five senses. And I remembered a moment while we were on the bus the day we traveled to the cemetery. Mark boarded the bus with a leaf, and passed it around for us to break off pieces to taste. It was a cinnamon leaf. And it was fabulous. All along the road, people had cinnamon bark drying in front of their houses.

I had no idea that cinnamon grew in that area--and it's so strange to me that I used cinnamon in that first poem.

I so miss being in the English writing program at Pitt this semester, and tonight it was great to connect with Sharon and some other writing folks, especially when we stopped for a drink and some appetizers. Right now I feel like home is being with the right people, no matter where the physical place, and the trip and this outing tonight felt like that.

I keep thinking about the blog post I want to write about all of the people I want to thank for leading me home--and there are so many it's hard for me to focus on particulars. But tonight, hats off to Sharon for being one of those people, and for such an enjoyable reading!

Power Puff Girls



One of the surprising moments of the trip for me: after we lit joss sticks and prayed at grave after grave in the cemetery, I turned around to see smiling children seated under a pine tree, smiling.

I went back to our bus and brought over some individually wrapped Life Savers. When I handed them out, each child said in English, "Thank you!"

One of the girls was wearing a Power Puff Girls t-shirt.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Safety

Last night my friend Troy brought up the concept of Vietnam being a dangerous place. Maybe it used to be, but I didn't see any evidence of that. The hotel staff in Saigon did once remind me to keep my digital camera strap around my wrist to deter pickpocket types. There are tourists all over downtown Saigon, a city of 8 million people. So it does have a little bit of the Times Square element--tourists gawking at the sites and not paying attention to their wallets. I did have one of those hidden travel wallets, and on the second day I bought a conical hat. I wore crop-length pants and crew-neck t-shirts, and once I got there I realized how badly the European women stood out in their tank tops and peasant skirts and sandals. If anything, I'd take more button-down, long-sleeve shirts next time. But as far as police presence and military and that sort of idea of danger, I didn't see much. I think that the police carried pistols attached to their belt buckles like they do here in the U.S. We went through a few toll booths and I couldn't tell if those were staffed by police or not, but whoever was in there had on a uniform of some sort. (I tried not to make myself obvious at toll booths, because they reminded me of how I imagined checkpoints in Soviet-era Eastern Europe.) I dug through my photos and tried to find something depicting the military, and I found this one:


I took this on a Sunday afternoon while Vietnamese hip-hop music was blasting and kids were busy skateboarding on ramps on the other side of the park. There were Yamaha banners all over the place and more motor scooters that I'd ever seen before. I wasn't sure at all that I left home--it felt a little like being at Point State Park during the Three Rivers Regatta.

I knew the presidential palace (in the middle of this park) had something about it that reminded me of the fall of Saigon. I was six years old in April, 1975 so my memories of that are blurry. The photo I took reminds me of the Tiannamen Square incident, only the man in my photo struck me as someone who was just curious about some military relic. Thinking back now I'm surprised there weren't children climbing on it like I used to do with the old firetruck that was part of the playground near the pool in Schenley Park.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

photos of the cemetery area



Moore, Perry, me and Boone at the cemetery. It was on the right side of the road, leading into the mountains. The background is to the north, roughly.







And here's the view from where we were standing. That's Minette, Mark, Dino and Darryl. If you look behind them you'll see something blue past the cemetery gates. That's our bus.

maps



Here's a map of where we journeyed to near the area where my dad's company was ambushed. We went south on Highway 1 from Danang to Tam Ky, then turned in towards the southwest.

We followed the road through Tien Phuoc, crossed a bridge and started up into the foothills.




Here's a closer-in map. There are no road signs this far out, but judging by the landscape, and the creepy feeling I got on the bus, I think that the cemetery we visited was past the ambush site.

Hau Duc is now called Tra My, and we were somewhere near Tra My, but from what I remember didn't see a town quite big enough to be it. I'm guessing Tra My is around the same size as Tien Phuoc, which on the way back looked like a city compared to where we'd been.

Photos from the cemetery in the next post.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Balancing on the roof in the rain


The image that's been haunting me today--a woman on top of her boat in Ha Long Bay and her young daughter and son, out in the rain and mist, trying to sell us fruit though the windows of our larger boat. I'm sure some of the other passengers on my boat bought the bananas in the basket. I was focusing on getting the shot and hoping like crazy that little girl wasn't going to slip and fall into the water.

Some late evening thoughts

Two thoughts are haunting me tonight:
I know how my story is a sort of can opener here in the States for veterans and families to open up and share their stories. But what of the people in Vietnam? In a week I gathered up a few nuggets of stories. If I spent a longer time there and got more comfortable with the people and the language, what could I come back with?
Two, as my SDIT friend Susan pointed out, so much history is going to go with the older generation in Vietnam--and then what? This seems to me to be especially applicable to POW/MIA cases. Here in the States we have the Veterans History Project, which I'm sure in only hitting the tip of the iceberg. But who if anyone is gathering the stories of veterans in Vietnam?
I met the son of a Vietnamese MIA while I was on my trip and I can't get that out of my mind, that time is running out on hope to find anyone who might know where his father's remains are. I wish there were some way to get all sides together and tell stories and map out where graves were found. Wishful thinking, I'm sure, but I can't help it. And what of those 600 unidentified soldiers in the cemetery we visited?
I have to explain somehow to my friend that my father is not MIA, as it somehow was misinterpreted. I think there was a reason for that misinterpretation: it's making me focus on that, and it's not at all fun to imagine what things would be like if my father really were MIA. I'm so sad for those families.

Tram's Kitchen tonight

I want to go back! The food was incredible and as a lot of you know I've never been that much of a fan of Western food, and that's even more true now. Last night I went with Mom, Jimmy and Celia to Spice Island Tea House. That interior felt more like home than any of the outside world here.

Mom's meeting some of her friends at 5pm today at Tram's Kitchen, and I'm going to try taking a bus to go there after work, probably getting there around 5:30. Anybody want to join me? Please do!

A short visit with Terry

Here's a photo of Terry McGregor and me at LAX.

Terry's one of my "big brothers" in Sons and Daughters in Touch, and has always been kind and supportive. And funny, too. Nice job on that horn honking in Manhattan Beach!

Terry bailed me out in an airport once before, a few years ago when I was waiting in BWI for a delayed flight and was at my wit's end.

Terry, thanks so much for saying "Welcome Home" and extending a warm welcome to me and to Arleen.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cemetery photo

Here's a photo of me in the cemetery near where my dad's company was ambushed.

If I have my bearings right, the view behind me is to the north, or possibly the northwest.

I'm home, and barely awake

Hi all!

It's 4:30 p.m. on Monday, which menas it's 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Vietnam--and I was often up that early because of our crazy-busy schedules.

The Furama lost Internet access for two days. Then I wrote a bunch a post from Ha Long Bay and the computer locked up. I thought I lost it but I just found it saved as a draft. The Blogger interface was in Korean there.

At the last minute I got the last seat on the non-stop from LA to Pittsburgh, but my bags were on the flight from Charlotte that I was originally scheduled for. Everything made it.

Having that long layover in LA was nice. Thanks to Susan and Tony and Sandy and Terry for talking with me. And Terry, thanks for joining me and Arlene for much-needed pizza and getting us back to the airport!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hi!

The travelers have arrived in LA! Noreen called at 6p.m. Eastern. She should arrive in Pgh. at 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Message to Linda: please call 412-414-7228 to arrange pick-up of Roger's stuff.

Can't wait to hear the stories!

Barb

Saturday, March 11, 2006

In a hotel in Hanoi

Hi all,
Long day! We went out on the boat tour on Ha Long Bay in very Seattle-like weather...fog, low ceiling, mist alternating with rain. We were bummed that we couldn't see much, but it turned out to be great for photography. The photos out there with these women and children who come up to the boats to sell snacks (the "Unimart of Vietnam" according to Thanh) were just incredible. Sad, though. You'll see what I mean when I bring back the photos.
I wore flipflops and nearly wiped out walking down the ramp to the boat; three young Vietnamese men saved me. We had some of the best seafood yet--I thought so, anyway--on the boat at lunchtime.
I had a fit of punch-drunkenness (and had had some wine) and had a pretend "walking down the aisle" thing. I keep joking that it's so beautiful here that I want to have a wedding. Not get married, necessarily; just have the party and ceremony.
Our tour guide in this part of the country is Mister River. He's great and is working so hard to deal with us very tired and cranky people.
When we got to the Melia in Hanoi tonight, I at first did not have a room, and then was assigned a room that was already occupied by someone else on the trip. Mister River helped translate the problem, since the comprehension of English isn't as good in this part of the country as it is in other places. Mister River cracked up during my faux wedding ceremony, when I pulled on a swimsuit cover-up white dress over my red pants, with my comment of "it's the traditional dress in Vietnam." He later said that the ao dai (which really is the traditional dress in Vietnam) "covers up everything but hides nothing."
We were tired and hungry when we got to the hotel tonight, so a bunch of us opted for having dinner at a hotel buffet in the hotel. Worth every of the 400,000 dong or so that I spent. They had desserts! I can't knock the fruit here, but there was something about chocolate and vanilla mousse and flan that was like medicine.
Tomorrow we fly from Hanoi to Saigon, then have a four-hour layover, then fly to Taipei (with I think about a three-hour layover) and then it's off to LA. You LA guys--I'll try giving you a ring when I get through customs, which (if flights are on schedule) should be about 3pm on Sunday.
I will *so* need to either be sedated or fed or maybe just sent home as checked luggage. :)
Hopefully all's well there. Had my last pho for breakfast today in Ha Long Bay and I am definitely going to miss the food! I was going so crazy for dessert today I think because this is definitely (in the South, at least) a cuisine of fruit and seafood and only a little rice....probably going through some major carb withdrawal.
Still feel fine but I swear I've dropped 5 pounds--and ate constantly!
Shopping here is fantastic. Today on the boat I bought some good quality pearls, and on the rest stop (think of Breezewood with lots and lots of merchandise) I picked up two shirts. More on those when I'm home.
Hey Sam--other people are now seeing my dragonflies. They say a whole bunch of them escorted us in to the Ha Long Bay harbor, but I was below deck at the time and the woman who saw it couldn't find me in time.
I'm going through that sad/tired/I don't want to leave thing.
I'd better go to bed. The crew's abandoned me. :)

Friday, March 10, 2006

in Ha Long Bay

I'm in the lobby of the Saigon Halong Hotel in Ha Long Bay. I just struggled for 15 minutes to log into Yahoo! Mail, and a hotel employee came over and did some troubleshooting. Just like at home, he went to Google and saw that Google came up--and said it must be a Yahoo! problem. Didn't know if I'd be able to access Blogger from here, but I can.
It's been a long few days. We were out all day to see the area of operations of where my dad's company was when they were ambushed in July, 1969. The special guest I thought would be joining us didn't show. And it took us *forever* to get there. But it was fantastic--the scenery was the most beautiful that I've seen so far in Vietnam. (Which is saying a lot. This is a beautiful country.) I got to meet some charming country kids who knew how to say "Thank you" in English when I gave them candy. They had some questions for me in English, like where I was from and how old I am and why I'm so white. The documentary crew was amazing...on a day when I thought I'd feel like I was in knots, they made me feel at ease.
Mark the cameraman's cat, Kat, showed up at my grandma's house that day. He lives a couple of houses away from my grandma. How crazy is that?
The sound man is in the internet kiosk next to me right now. If anybody knows if Steve Morrison is reading this--Steve, remember a sound man named Dino who worked on the last Floors album and some other stuff, I think, with you? Well, he's here!
Roger says G'day. He's hovering over me right now and he says he misses his children and Linda and is looking forward to coming home and is enjoying Vietnam.
Today was Mr. Boone's birthday, and anyone who knows who he is might be happy to know that we had a birthday cake for him at dinner tonight.
This morning we left Danang (such a bummer!) and flew to Hanoi. It's different up here in the North. It's sad and depressing and polluted. We drove past some coal mines on the way to Halong Bay and the pollution was unbelievable. The weather was cloudy so we've got this fantastic bay outside that we haven't been able to see. This lobby is really bizarre...we have this crazy Muzak pumped in all over the place in here, and so far we've heard a song from "Jesus Christ, Superstar" and "Yesterday" from the Beatles and some Simon and Garfunkel song. Seems like the American music is pre-1975.
Our tour guide, Mister River (not his real name!) was born in 1976, and he said he had to learn about the war by reading books. Sound familiar?
We're going out on a boat ride tomorrow morning and Dino just checked the weather forecast and it's supposed to rain until 3 p.m. tomorrow with a high of 73. So much for sunning! We see it's supposed to be 66 in Pittsburgh tomorrow...not much difference from here.
Tomorrow afternoon we have a drive back to Hanoi (a long one) and then we'll spend the night there. Then the following morning it's back to the airport, so this may be the last chance I have to post until I'm home.
You L.A. folks--hope to call you when I get in there on Sunday afternoon.
And hey Mom, did you listen to Chris yesterday? I told him I gave you the heads up to listen.
Gotta go settle up my Internet bill!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What day is it? I'm at the Furama in Danang

Hello everyone,

Sorry I haven't posted for awhile. Yesterday morning we had to leave our hotel in Saigon at 4:30 a.m. for a flight on Vietnam Airlines to Danang. In case you're wondering, Vietnam Airlines flies Airbus jets--as my guide said today, Russian aircraft are too dangerous.

We met with Foreign Affairs yesterday and I had a a great experience I will relay once I'm home. In the afternoon I went with a few others to Hoi An to shop--it's the place for silks. I bought myself what I'm calling a Purple Rain jacket. (Lisa--you know what I mean!) Then we went to dinner with Foreign Affairs and had some very interesting discussions. Danang really does have a lot in common with Pittsburgh, including riverfront development. The restaurant
we went to was located in an area that looked much like a beach-and-neon version of Station Square.

We're staying at the Furama here in Danang, and it's fabulously beautiful but I have not yet made it to the beach. I'll do that before dinner (though not in my swimsuit.) Last night after dinner as we were walking back to our rooms past the bar, there was an Asian group performing "Light My Fire" from the Doors. It couldn't have been all that different from in-country R&R entertainment, and no, I was not hallucinating. I have a witness.

Today I went to Hue with a guide and a driver. It's not that far on a map, but Highway 1 isn't what we would consider a highway back in the U.S. It's more like the pre-interstate era routes, like taking US 22 from Johnstown to Altoona. I had one of those Real World meltdowns yesterday at lunch when I found out we didn't have the time to go to Hue yesterday, so I had to pass up going to visit the Friends of Danang projects--which was a difficult decision but one I had to make. I had my heart set on going to Hue and it had been on the itinerary since I first signed up with the trip. (My dad served near there.)

I got to see Phu Bai on the way there, and Camp Eagle (or is that Camp Evans? Can't check from here) and got to go on a boat ride on the Perfume River and visit the Perfume Pagoda. Hue is fascinating--architecturally and historically. I also got to visit the Citadel, which was important to me since a friend of mine was there in 1968.

It's hot and the infastructure is challenging once we're outside of the city (potholes, hole-in-the-floor toilets)--but so far, I've not fallen ill. Drinking lots of bottled water and being very careful to avoid ice and things like that.

Must go get a shower, though. :)

One last thing for now: there are real live dragonflies *all over the place*!!! Hey Sam and Peter--I think they're for you. I so wish you two were here with me right now.

Tomorrow is my big day and I found out it's going to take a *very* long time to get to the ambush site, but I am very comfortable with the crew I'll be traveling with, and someone very special has rearranged his schedule to go with us so we don't have to worry about getting lost.

The driver's cool, too. His English is not great, but today he said very clearly, "there's our football field." Soccer, of course, but I knew that.

Bye for now--hope you are all doing well and are not dealing with snow!
-Noreen


PS--Today is Women's Day in Vietnam.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Vietnamese Lunch

In honor of Noreen's trip (and also because I love the food!), Celia, Jim and I had lunch at Tram's Kitchen today. Deeelicious! I had #24 with crispy noodles and veggie spring rolls. Jim and Celia both had Pho. Yummy!

Monday, March 06, 2006

and back on the home front

Hi! For those of you who don't know me, I now live in Florida. I came to Pgh to "babysit" Noreen's cats, Misha and Cookie. They're doing great! I'm also having fun visiting with family and friends while here. Noreen called from VN on Sunday morning (my time zone) - hard to believe a person can talk to someone on the other side of the world!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Day 2 in Saigon

It's 8:51 a.m. on Monday, March 6 in Saigon. We're leaving in ten minutes for a day trip to the Mekong Delta. Roger and I got up early and had breakfast at our hotel. I had rice porridge, some noodles and vegetables and shrimp, a bowl of pho. I'm now wearing chili oil from the pho on my khakis. The stain wipe I used to try to remove it just made a bigger stain. Well worth it, though, to have pho for breakast. I also had a steamed dumpling, a dessert kind made with rice flour and a fruity rice flour gelatinous filling. Then I moved on to coconut cookies, dragon fruit and papaya. The coffee was great, but I wasn't sure if the water dispenser had ice in it, and I skipped it. It would be horrible to get a food-borne illness here because the food is too good to miss. Roger and I took a cab to the markets this morning. For any of you from Pittsburgh: do you recall the smell of Forbes & Market Square on a hot summer day? It's a particular blend of popcorn and moth balls and trash and George Aiken's. That is what the markets smelled like. It was huge and overwhelming, but we were some of the only round eyes there. Roger got some great shots and
we bought a few souvenirs. I picked up two sleeveless embroidered silk shirts--in large--and they just fit me. I warned the men on the trip of this, in case they are shopping for any women back home. I'm as big as it gets here. Except, maybe, for maternity wear, but I haven't seen any of that. "Madame! I have your size!" the vendors shouted out to me (most of them women) and I guess that should have impressed me. I didn't realize I was Amazon Woman until I got here.
It's very hot and humid--but at least our hotel room is air conditioned! I hear my group gathering. See ya!

We're in Saigon!

We just got back from a day of roaming about Saigon. We got to the hotel around 1:30 this afternoon and went on a tour after settling in. Then we went on a cyclo ride around the city (scary traffic!) and had dinner at the Rex. I tried the squid, but as someone else in the group said, it was too much like eating rubber bands. We have to be up tomorrow around 5 a.m., and I'm hoping to sleep well. Didn't get much sleep on the flights on the way over, though they were
smooth sailing. It's warm and humid here, but not unbearable. Tomorrow morning we'll hit the markets early and then head out on a tour of the Mekong Delta.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

No News Yet

Haven't heard from the travelers yet...no news = good news.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Taking off from Pgh

Noreen made it to the airport! She's on her way, first stop, LA. This will be quite an exhausting day, I'm sure.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

here's a photo


Hi,

I took a break from packing to post a photo. It's from Memorial Day 2004 and left to right it's James Hines, Freddy Baker and my mom (Barb Doloughty). Hines and Baker are survivors of the ambush in which my dad was killed. They had just met face to face a few minutes before the photo was taken.

I'll try to post more photos before I leave on the trip.

Nite nite,
-Noreen

Big Day minus 1

Hi!
This is Noreen's Mom and I'm practicing posting to the blog. It's the night before the big trip begins and Noreen is still packing! Will everything fit? Will she forget something very important?...like medicine? Hope not. I'm sure everything will work out!