Sunday, April 30, 2006

On the road

We spent a lot of time on the roads in Vietnam. Here's a photo from the day we were on the road leading to the cemetery. As you can see, it wasn't a very wide road, but it was paved. The driver always had a lookout. He's the one whose head is visible in this photo. The lookout is able to quickly exit the bus to judge distances and to help resolve situations like one we faced when a bus loaded with passengers and sacks of rice made a pickup stop.

The day before this, I traveled with another driver and lookout--but the same guide--in a van to and from Hue. Both sets were brave and courteous. It takes a certain amount of bravery (at least it would for me!) to drive on the Hai Van Pass in pea soup fog, and to venture out into the far reaches of the countryside.

I remember when we were somewhere in the area of where I took this photo, one of the passengers asked our guide if we would be going up into those mountains.

"Yes," the guide said.

I think we all got a little worried that taking such a large vehicle through such terrain might be dangerous. Maybe the bus would tip over. Having survived the Hai Van Pass trip the day before, although in a smaller vehicle, I had faith.

When I took these photos into the office, one of my coworkers was amused to see a web site address on the bus window. I hadn't noticed, because web site addresses were all over the place in Vietnam.

http://www.hukotransport.com/introduction_en.html

Yes, as it says on the bus, the vehicles have good air conditioning. Most buses had cup holders and elastic netting to hold onto snacks, and all of the vehicles had containers for water and for snacks. I think those of us who tried the yogurt will agree it tasted like buttermilk. I stuck with the fruit.

All in all a very comfortable experience being on the road in Vietnam, especially on those two days. These folks took care of our transportation for three days (while we stayed in Danang) but the transportation in Saigon, Hanoi and Halong was just as nice.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dinner on July 9

Friends of Danang is holding a benefit dinner featuring Vietnamese cuisine on July 9, 2006. That's also the 37th anniversary of when my dad died, and I think it's fitting that on the date this year, I've got the chance to gather friends together for dinner and raise money for the children in Vietnam.

Here are the details on the dinner:

Experience the Vietnamese culture and authentic Vietnamese food. Join Friends of Danang for a benefit dinner to support the "Let Them Walk Again" project.

Sunday, July 9, 2006
3 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Bethel Park Community Center
(near the entrance of South Park)
Map of 5151 Park Ave
Bethel Park, PA 15102-2709

Tickets: $25 (includes dinner and door prizes)

Shrimp Saute, Grilled Pork with Lemongrass, Lemon/Green Papaya/Carrot Salad, Coconut Rice, Stir-fried Vegetables, Homemade Egg Roll and Seasonal Fruit.
Free children's meals (12 and under): Hot dogs, pizza, drink.
Takeout available.

Fresh made spring rolls ($1 each) and gourmet Vietnamese coffee ($2 each) will be available.
There will also be a bake sale and Vietnamese specialty handcrafted items for sale.

For more info, e-mail me.

Tram's Kitchen closed for vacation

For those of you in the Pittsburgh area who frequent Tram's Kitchen, it's closed for vacation until May 17.

Where's the vacation? Europe.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weekend Edition, Danang

This morning I'm having my coffee and listening to the radio and checking my e-mail, and trying to shake a headache. I just heard a story on NPR's Weekend Edition about Danang, and the Furama, and China Beach, and a US Marine veteran who returned there. I found their story page, but it won't have the audio component posted until later today.

It was a good listen. You can hear in the veteran's voice the hesitation he talked about in how he'd be received, and he sounded surprised and relieved to have been welcomed there.

I think that something similar will come through in the documentary. I remember standing around outside of the Danang Foreign Affairs office, my head spinning about our group having just received an official welcome, one that seemed gushing and over-the-top to me. But I had no way to measure anything like that, either.

I looked over at Boone, one of the veterans on the trip who hadn't been back to Vietnam since the war, and asked him, did you ever think you'd receive a welcome like that?

Boone just shook his head back and forth and grinned his big Boone grin.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My army buddies

Nope, I wasn't in the army. But they were. I was Googling around again and found two stories today on my trip buddies Chris and Boone and Perry.
Here's the first link.
And here's the second link.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lang Co

I was talking the other day with a coworker who served in the Marines in Vietnam. We talked about Highway 1 from Danang to Hue, and the Hai Van Pass, and Phu Bai. Before my trip, these were all places I'd heard about and found on maps. But now, it was great to be able to talk about them as real places I'd seen.

On the way north from Danang to Hue, we spent most of the trip in thick fog. And on the way back from Hue to Danang, I tried to doze off. I was unsuccessful at sleeping because of the constant horn-honking of vehicles (everything from motor bikes to fuel trucks) signaling they were about to pass.

What I remember seeing, through glimpses of fog and fatigue, are fishing boats in a bay, and a town just north of the Hai Van Pass, a congested area with roadside shops. But I didn't take any photos, and I was the only person on the Vietnam trip who made that day trip.

My friend Samantha emailed me this morning. She was excited about the photos she'd found of a town called Lang Co, which is near where her father was wounded. Here's a link to the photos. I recognize those places as the ones we passed in the fog! I'm so thrilled that Sam found those photos. Not only does she get to see the area where her father was, but I get to see how it looked in better weather. And now I can link to those photos and share a bit of that part of my journey.

There's even a photo there of a man in a circle boat. I'd photographed two circle boats on the beach at our hotel in Danang, the Furama. It's one of my favorite photos of the trip. I took it in the late afternoon, when the sun was low on the inland horizon, when I returned to the hotel after the Hue trip.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Photos, Easter eggs and lanterns

I've been tinkering around with a site called Flickr. I set up my own account after I found Mark Knobil's Flickr photos. He's got amazing work on there, including some of his Vietnam photos. This one of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Polish Hill, in his Pittsburgh set, is one of my favories.

I was at the church at noon today for the traditional Easter basket blessing. I brought lavender and turquoise marshmallow Peeps to be blessed. Got to see a lot of folks I haven't seen in a long time, and I showed several of them some of my photos I'd printed and put into albums.

There's a lot of interest about Vietnam up there on Polish Hill. Several men from the neighborhood, including my dad, served. One of my grade school teachers said her husband works with a woman from Hanoi. And she reminded me about the family from Saigon who lives a few doors over from her. My grandma's neighbor was married to a Vietnam veteran.

A bunch of my family spent the afternoon at my grandma's, and Jimmy set up an Easter egg hunt for Samantha and Jake. I don't have photos from that yet (well, I do, but they're on my digital camera and I don't have the software that works with it installed on this laptop). So in the meantime, here's an Easter-eggy photo of some silk lanters in Hoi An:


Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

It's the evening of Good Friday. I haven't written much this week because I was out three nights in a row (literature reading, birthday celebration and Friends of Danang meeting/dinner). I worked today, and it always feels weird for me to work on Good Friday.

When I was a kid, we spent Good Friday afternoon in church, and the life-size crucifix of Jesus always freaked me out. (Sorry, Mom.) I used to wonder that afternoon what had happened to my dad. I knew he'd been shot in the abdomen, but what I didn't know was how much did he suffer? And for how long? And the whole Good Friday thing was posed as such a punishment--we were all bad, so Jesus had to die. It doesn't take much of a reach for a kid like me to wonder if that was how things worked, that I did something bad, so my dad had to die.

I always believed it was my fault.Wiith no one ever talking about what happened, I didn't have a way to draw any other conclusions.

Fast forward to Good Friday, 1992. I was at work in a creative services department in Downtown Pittsburgh--not the greatest job ever, but it was a nice bunch of people. We wore jeans to work. I had a little run-in that afternoon with my X-acto knife, which is basically pen with a pointed razor blade at the end, like the blade on a box cutter.

I wasn't being careful, and the knife rolled down my drafting table, bounced, and landed in the backs of the ring and pinkie fingers on my right hand. Those few seconds took forever--I watched that knife fall in slow motion and tried to get out of the way in time, but I couldn't.

Skipping the gory details, I knew I had to get to the hospital to get stitches. My friend and coworker Steve stayed calm, asked a writer from downstairs to get his car, and the three of us went to a nearby hospital.

I wasn't in pain--it was a clean cut--but I was bleeding, and I was scared about getting stitches. I remember Steve had wrapped my hand in some paper towels and sat in the back seat, windows down, holding my hand through the open window to keep it elevated.

That drive to the hospital only took a few minutes. Once we got to the emergency room, the triage nurse bandaged my hand. Then I had to sit in the waiting room until an emergency room doctor could see me. This was a no-frills inner-city Catholic hospital (no, not the one where my aunt worked), and the waiting room looked a little like the seating area in a laundromat.

I felt pretty helpless. Steve offered to get me something from the vending machine. And I can't remember what he got me. I might not have thought about it much at the time had it not been for the nurse at the desk. She called me over and said something like, "Hey, you should have let that knife fall into your leg, because he would have carried you in here."

I remember thinking, yeah, right, like I'd really want a knife in my leg. Or put Steve in a position of trying to lug me somewhere. Someone would have had to have called the paramedics for both of us.

But what I'm thinking of today is how my dad must have been carried--about the length of a football field, if not more--through enemy fire to get to where the medevac was to land. I wonder if his last thoughts there and in the hospital were about the great effort that went into trying to save his life. And I wonder if the smaller gestures for comfort (I don't know specifics, but I'm guessing they happened) meant a lot to him. I would imagine they would have, as Steve's vending machine run was for me.

I don't blame myself anymore for my dad's death. And I have a scar on my hand that reminds me of kindness I received in a time of distress.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Waking up

I don't remember having any dreams about Vietnam. But often, when I'm starting to wake up, I feel like I'm on the long Los Angeles-Taipei flight, not sure of where in the Pacific we are or how much longer before we get to Taipei. I did fall asleep a few times on that flight, and when I'd wake up, I'd look around the cabin for familiar faces. I'd feel better once I'd see my travel mates.

That's Mary Lou, Tony and JD in the above photo, standing in the lobby of the Hotel Majestic in Saigon. As I was starting to wake up this morning, I felt like that's where I was. I could feel the sunlight and heat and humidity and air conditioning. I could smell the fresh fruit--lychees, longans, pinapple, dragon fruit, bananas--and pho.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Is it fate?

Last year, on Memorial Day, I met Allen K. Hoe. He is a Vietnam veteran, the friend of a man who served with my father. And he is the father of Nainoa K. Hoe, a soldier who was killed in Iraq in January, 2005.

Something changed in me when I heard Mr. Hoe's speech. You can read it here. After the speech I introduced myself to Mr. Hoe and he allowed me to touch the flag Nainoa carried in Iraq, the same flag he'd carried in Vietnam.

This year, on Memorial Day, I signed up to read at the Vietnam Women's Memorial. That is a very special place--two years ago I met Mr. Hoe's friend, Jimmy Kuroiwa, there, and last year--I'm not going to give it away. You'll read about it in Mr. Hoe's speech.

I don't know what will happen when I am there this year. I just know I have to be there.

Phone calls, dragonflies and the Beatles

It's April 9 here, the one-month anniversary of visiting the cemetery in Quang Nam. In Vietnam, it's early morning on April 10. Last night (the morning of April 9 in Vietnam) my friend Samantha called to say she got a dragonfly tattoo.

Sam's had the dragonfly thing going on too, and the ladybug thing, which we've both experienced. And she's had a ton of what she calls "song cues" lately...all ways we're sure her dad tries to get through to her. I don't get as many of the "song cues," but every once in awhile I'll be out somewhere and will hear a Beatles song and it'll get me thinking, hmm, maybe that's one. We listened to the Beatles a lot at my house when I was a kid.

Yesterday I got into my post-Vietnam trip Saturday routine: going to the Strip District in the early afternoon to shop in the Asian markets. I stopped first at Enrico Biscotti and picked up some hazelnut biscotti and the last two almond macaroons (and dug them out of the paper bag and ate them as soon as I got outside--I'm addicted). I went to the two bigger Asian markets and bought jasmine tea, cashew cookies, instant coffee with cream and sugar, some sesame brittle, and coconut cookies.

Then I headed to Tram's Kitchen for a late lunch. I was there a few Sundays ago, and had pho and Vietnamese iced coffee and showed Tram and her father and her brother my pictures. Tram's father stopped on a photo I took in Danang. His eyes lit up and he pointed to Mark. "I know him! I know him!" he said, and so I explained that yes, I was in Vietnam with Mark and a bunch of other people from Pittsburgh. I pointed out some of the other people in the photos, and he said he didn't know any of them.

Then he stopped on a photo in Hanoi and said, "Miss Thanh!" and looked at me as if he were a little confused. He said he knows Thanh, and that she's a travel agent, and asked me, "You go with Thanh?"

When I explained, yes, I went to Vietnam with Thanh, he seemed really happy about that. And he brought me out some jasmine tea, and told me a few stories. Tram and her brother came out to look through the photos, too.

Yesterday, things were a little busier in the restaurant. There was the usual mix of artsy types, older couples, solo diners and Asian college students. I sat by myself near the door, and had tofu lemongrass with vegetables (actually, shredded lettuce) and steamed rice. Tram's father asked how it was, and he said it was a simple dish. Simple, but yummy--the lemongrass sauce was slightly spicy.

One of the Asian students walked past me to go outside, and he came back in a few minutes later and I got a good look at the back of his white sweatshirt. It had a winged insect and some lettering printed on it in metallic silver ink. I wanted to stop him to ask him if that was a dragonfly, but I figured he'd think I was nuts. So I didn't. I know it had two sets of wings, not just one, and so I'm pretty sure it was a dragonfly.

But even if it were something else, would it matter? I think sometimes I'm supposed to see certain things. That was one of them.

I talked to Sam about something that's been bugging me, and in talking it out with her I realized I'm trying to force coincidence. She reminded me that I need to let it go, and as soon as I do, whatever is supposed to work out will work out. And she's right: we have to learn to be willing to hand over control to forces bigger than us. I told Sam that the whole Vietnam trip was a lesson in that. For me, at least.

Just crossing the street in Saigon was an exercise of trusting the universe, or at least the drivers. Getting into buses and vans with drivers you don't know, taking you up a mountain pass with little or no guard rails in pea soup fog required a lot of letting go. Believing we were going to the right place when we were on our way to the cemetery when I hadn't seen a map took faith.

I felt a little like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz on that day, going down some road through a magically beautiful land, traveling with people I'd only recently met--but people I was supposed to be with. You know how for Dorothy the characters were actually people from her "back home" life, only she didn't know that? I wondered if there was something like that going on, but it felt more like for whatever reason those were the people my dad wanted to be traveling with me.

And no, we did not encounter any flying monkeys, fields of poppies or wicked witches.

But I did see a dragonfly fly between the open iron cemetery gates and into the cemetery. And I heard a Beatles song on the radio while I was at Tram's Kitchen yesterday.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Veterans Day 2004


James Hines sent me this photo the other day. He's on the left, standing with Freddy Baker at the Florida marker at the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC. My mom, Freddy and I were there for Veterans Day weekend and met up with James on Veterans Day at the Wall. James and Freddy both served with my dad in Co. A, 1/502, 101st Airborne and are survivors of the July 8, 1969 ambush.

About a year ago my mom moved to Florida to live with Freddy, which is a nice but a very long story. I'll wait to write about that until I have some time off.

Speaking of time off, I quit my job. I agreed to stay for a few more weeks and help with the transition. No, I don't have anything lined up and yes, I do need to find a new job.

One thing I'm sure of: I'll be in DC again for Memorial Day. I hope to be reading at the Vietnam Women's Memorial that morning. More details as I have them.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Welcome, Gracie!

My friends Cindy LaPointe and her son, Joe LaPointe III, emailed me this morning with great news:

Joe and his wife, Amy, announce the birth of Gracie Catherine LaPointe at 4:41 pm on 4/6/06. Gracie is 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 19 3/4 inches long. Joe says she has her mother's fire and her dad's appetite.

Joe's father, Joseph Guy LaPointe, Jr. was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Quang Tin province on June 2, 1969. I met his widow, Cindy, and his son, Joe, at the Wall on Veterans Day, 2002. Cindy and Joe have traveled to Vietnam twice--one of those times was with a television crew. They graciously shared a videotape with me of their trip, and it inspired me to one day go to Vietnam.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Home movies

On Tuesday night, I went out to my cousin Kenny's house. Kenny and his wife, Chris and their son, Matthew, watched my Vietnam photos on CD on the television, through the DVD player. Matthew fell asleep on the couch.

Then we looked at Chris's pictures from Paris, also on the TV, and we noticed a lot of architectural similarities between Paris and Saigon.

Kenny got out the old home movies that his grandfather, Dzia Dzia, had taken and saved. The projector didn't work, but Kenny had a splicer, and we watched as he hand-cranked the reels through the small screen.

We watched his mom's bridal shower, in August, 1966. It looked to us like it was at the old YMPAA, the Young Men's Polish Athletic Association, on Herron Avenue. There was a woman on stage playing an accordion. And old ladies in fancy dresses and pumps danced polkas, spinning around in pairs.

Kenny's mom, my Aunt Janet, said my dad tended bar at the shower. We couldn't find my dad in the movie.

We found only a few seconds of my parents' wedding. The ones from inside the church were very dark. But there is a tiny bit of film shot outside, when my parents came out of the church and walked down the steps.

I'd never seen my dad walk before. And on home movies, nobody moves the way they do in real life. Still, I can't wait to see it again. I know I'll never hear my dad's voice, or find better quality film (unless I can somehow locate the CBS footage that was taken when they had a crew out in the field, as mentioned in my dad's letters). My situation isn't all that unusual, though. I have several friends who, like me, were very, very young when their dads were killed.

Kenny and Chris and Matthew are going to DC in a few weeks, and they're planning on visiting the Wall. I've been sending Kenny a list of names and their locations on the Wall, asking Kenny and Chris and Matthew to say hello to them when they visit. I just hope it doesn't become overwhelming for them.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Stories of older people

While we were in Vietnam, we were told that something like 70 percent of the population was born after 1975. It's hard not to notice young people, particularly school children, seemingly everywhere.

What's harder to notice is the lack of older people. Granted, many older people might be stay-at-home types like my grandma. But the sadder and more likely scenario is that so many people died during the war, and many in the South made their way to the United States..

In Hue, while I walked with my guide through a plaza in the Citadel, my guide pointed to a refreshment stand and said, "You want ice cream?"

"No," I responded. "That's okay."

"We stop for ice cream," he said. I knew it wasn't an option. He picked up two ice cream bars and handed some coins to the woman behind the counter. Then he lead me to a table in the shade.

I watched the woman who'd been behind the counter walk away from us, towards a garbage can, where she tossed some paper wrappers. She wore a loose-fitting, black-and-white-print pantsuit and a conical hat. She wasn't heavy, and she wobbled a bit, like she had a bad hip.

The guide gestured to her and said to me, "She is eighty-two years old."

I could sense that he viewed her with a great deal of respect. Hue, and the Citadel in particular, where we were, was the site of some of the worst, maybe the worst, urban fighting in the Vietnam War. Thousands of buildings were destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968. I heard from a veteran friend of mine who said that there wasn't much of a city left when he passed through Hue in early 1969.

Later on in the trip, when we were returning from the cemetery, we stopped in a little town so that we could get out of the bus and stretch. One of my fellow travelers brought fruit from a sidewalk shop. I stayed close to the bus and stood in the shade.

An old man slowly, and smoothly, walked towards me. I was able to get a photo while he was still some distance away. When he passed me on the sidewalk, I felt like he floated through the scene, unnoticed by anyone but me. Then my camera battery died.

I managed to get a good look at his face, and I'm guessing he was around the same age as the women in Hue. They both seemed so graceful.

As a child, I spent much of my time around older people, who were always good for stories. I can't help but wonder about the stories these two older Vietnamese people must have. Would they be able to talk about what they lived through? Or would it be too painful for them? I can't imagine surviving what these two survived. But they live in a culture different from my own. In my family, everybody avoided talking about the painful stuff.

Dinner, dragonflies and coincidences

I should be careful what I say about internet access in other countries. I have DSL, and it kept going out on me all day yesterday.

I had a long talk about the trip the other night with my friend Eric. We were at a new restaurant near the University of Pittsburgh called Saigon Tokyo. I think it's more Tokyo than Saigon--the pho reminded me of ramen noodles.

Eric ate and I talked (well, I ate a little too--and big surprise, I can't stop talking about this trip!) about the people I met in Vietnam, and the string of coincidences that threaded through the trip.

First, the people. Most of the opportunities I had to talk with people took place early in the trip, when we were in Saigon and Danang. I didn't get to interact with anyone on a one-on-one level in Hanoi. The closest I came to that was learning that the hotel front desk employees didn't speak much English, and our guide had to help me straighten out a little problem I had: someone else had my room. We exchanged a lot of smiles and the guide and I got the list of our group's room assignments: I agreed to be Mary Lou, and that was resolved.

I had some internet access issues at the hotel computer in Ha Long Bay, and one of the hotel employees came over and did the test I often do at home: pull up the Google home page. If that works, then the problem is likely the other site. Then I tried to work with a couple of the hotel guys to get Jack's laptop connected to their TCP/IP. I don't know if they resolved the problem, but I understood what they were doing. I fell more into the tech-to-English translation role I often play at work.

At a rest stop/shopping facility somewhere on the road from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi (think an old discount store like Zayre's or Hill's combined with an interstate truck stop), I met a young man who worked in the store. He was, I'm guessing, around 18, and he wore a white shirt and black pants and a Canadian flag pin. He asked me if I needed help with anything, and pointed out his pin.

"Are you Canadian?" he asked. His face lit up. I couldn't help but wonder if this young man had been wearing this pin for years and had yet to meet a Canadian. I didn't see many Westerners around.

"No," I told him, but not wanting to disappoint him, I said, "but it's not far from where I live."

I started looking around at some women's silk shirts, sleeveless and tunic length, fitted like the ao dai dresses. I flipped through a rack and found a black shirt with dragonflies stitched in purple and blue. I checked the size. It was an extra large.

"Do you have this in medium?" I asked. He seemed eager enough to go find the fabric and have a shirt made for me if there wasn't one on the rack. I flipped some more, and found one in medium.

"This will work," I said.

"Please, try it on," he insisted. He showed me to one of those phone-booth sized dressing rooms in the middle of the store, like the ones I remember from places like Hill's. I can't say the only thing missing was the snack bar, because they had one of those in that store.

I tried it on. It fit perfectly. I decided to take both the medium for me and the extra large for a friend, and my Canadian flag-pin friend took the shirts back to another part of the store, where he had them neatly folded and slipped into clear plastic bags with a flap that sealed.

Okay. So I spent forty dollars and he was just doing his job--an excellent job of customer service. But I really wanted to stay and hang out and have coffee and talk with him. I never did find out where he got that pin and why he was wearing it.

But I did get two dragonfly shirts on my last afternoon in Vietnam. I couldn't pass that up!

On to the other topic of the dinner conversation Eric and I had: there were just too many coincidences and dragonflies on this trip to brush off as nothing. Then again, neither of us really believe in coincidences, anyway--we're more into believing things happen for a reason. I feel like something's going on here. All of what it is I'm not sure yet, but I'm starting to wonder what's going to happen once this documentary airs. Something good. I can feel it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Lunching with Steve at Primanti's

I had lunch at Primanti Bros. in Market Square with my friend Steve on Thursday, one of those early-spring nice-weather days that was almost warm enough for us to take one of the outside tables.

Steve moved back to Pittsburgh after riding out Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans, where he'd lived for several years. He's adjusting to working in downtown Pittsburgh again, where we worked together in the early 1990s.

Once our sandwiches were out of the way, we talked a little bit about what I saw in Vietnam, and a little bit about Pittsburgh. Pieces of the conversation went like this.

Me: "There's retail everywhere in Vietnam. And young people."

Steve: "Unlike Pittsburgh, then."

Me: "Yeah. Our tour guide said some places in Vietnam are corrupt. I told him that happens in any form of government."

Steve: "Louisiana, for instance."

Riders on the Storm from the Doors came onto the restaurant's sound system.

Me: "I would have freaked out if I'd heard this song there. But I did hear a band play Light My Fire. And I heard a muzak version of Hotel California in our hotel in Hanoi."

Steve: "I bet they pick up strange things from American culture."

Me: "They picked up baseball hats from General Westmoreland."

Steve: "You mean they really seem okay with Americans?"

Me: "Yeah, they really do."

We talked about China and Google and Internet access restrictions, too, and I'm still trying to figure out what the deal was with the Internet in Vietnam. It's worse than the old days of overcrowded ISPs with everyone on dialup.