Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet adventures

Good morning! Gene and I are in the lobby. He's using his laptop down here because in our room, he'd lose his wireless connection every few minutes. Down here in the lobby's business center, I had the staff try to get the Internet to connect on two different PCs (I think it's a network problem but I don't know how I would explain that--their English is limited). They were gracious enough to let me use the PC at the business center desk, and a few minutes ago an Australian man stopped in. I told him I didn't work here and he cracked up. (Okay, perhaps the fact that I'm not Asian and not dressed in a black and gold tunic dress screams tourist.)

Just like many other things here, the computers at first appear to be new and top-of-the-line. (The flat-screen monitors are nice.) But the PCs are big old towers in some knock-off brand, running Windows XP in English.

On this PC, there's an icon for Yahoo! Messenger on the bottom left. Yahoo! Messenger is very popular here in Vietnam, and someone here has the PC logged in. Parts of the interface for it are in Vietnamese, but much is in English. And then some things on here (like Blogger) came up with the page title in French because a previous user hadn't logged out. (Bienvenue! Creez votre blog maintenant!)

Yahoo! Messenger just popped up an alert that Hang Luu is now online.

I haven't learned much Vietnamese so far, but I now remember that the word for chicken is Ga. I can't wait until I find an internet connection strong enough to be able to upload some photos. I have some pictures of Ga and some video clips of a Vietnamese band covering Besame Mucho and Hotel California. Never expected to hear anything in Spanish here, though I'm sure at this point I could understand both French and Spanich...it's much more familiar to me than Vietnamese is.

Sad News

My dad's Army company medic died: here is more information from Dave Nesbitt, who also served with them in A 1/502, 101st Airborne Division:

James 'Doc' Feliciano died Sunday morning, March 30, 2008 at home in Liverpool, NY. His wife Bernie said he was sitting in his recliner and was resting comfortably when he passed away in his sleep about 2:30 a.m. Doc, born May 19, 1948, in Utica, NY, would have been 60 years old on his next birthday.

Visitation will be at the Farone & Son Funeral Home, 1500 Park St., Syracuse, NY 13208 on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 from 4 to 7 p.m. Phone: (315) 422-1911

Mass is Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at the Emmaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 259 East Onondaga St., Syracuse, NY 13202 beginning at 9:30 a.m. Phone: (315) 422-4177

In lieu of flowers, Bernie requests donations honoring Doc be made to the 101st Airborne Division Vietnam Veterans organization, PO Box 7150, Sumter, SC 29150-1001.

In my discussion with Bernie I asked her if she would mind if contributors made donations to the 1/502 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and she agreed that was OK. Doc was a committee member for this memorial fund and had been raising funds for several years to erect a monument to those of the 1/502 who made the supreme sacrifice in Vietnam. If you would like to donate to the memorial fund, please use the following information:
Make donations payable to the 1/502 VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL FUND and mail to:
Memorial Fund
Attn: Wally Morrow
W 5527 Rustic Lane
Appleton, WI 54915-9393

Contributions to 1/502 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and/or to 101st Airborne Division Vietnam Veterans are tax deductible in accordance with IRS Code 501(c)(3).

Bernie also wanted to know if anyone from the 101st who was planning to attend services wanted to serve as a pallbearer. Anyone attending on Wednesday willing to serve in this capacity, please let me know as soon as possible.

Doc is survived by his wife Bernie and five children; Jeffrey 19, Alexis 18, Jonah 17, James 16 and Ruth 11. Please remember them in your prayers.

I'm so dizzy

We returned to the Majestic about twenty minutes ago, and I'm still dizzy from the traffic. Even after two Dramamines. I'm feeling motionsick while sitting here trying to look at the monitor.
I should have some great photos from the back seat of a van coming back from My Tho to Saigon. I took some video, too, but as the traffic got heavier as we got closer to Saigon, I couldn't look through the viewfinder anymore. I was way too dizzy.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

We're in Saigon

We had a long day...as soon as we got to our hotel in Saigon, it was in the shower and then off to Cu Chi. Then it was off to dinner and a few of us went to the hotel rooftop bar. Things are going well, except please keep Tony in your prayers...will explain more on that later.

It's 10:13pm Saigon time. Good night!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hello Taipei!

We're in the international airport in Taipei...a much nicer and more civilized place than LAX. Our flight was delayed, so Thanh worked her magic and we're now on a different flight to Saigon, upgraded to Evergreen Deluxe class, and we're only going to arrive two hours later than planned.

But the best part? We're departing from gate C3, which just happens to be the EVA Air Hello Kitty gate! I'm going to run over there and take lots of pictures. I might do a little shopping, too, since I don't know if we'll have time here on the way back.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Airport Gates

While we were waiting at our gate in Pittsburgh, I heard from someone's phone ringer or iPod or something a Guns 'n Roses song...I swear my dad likes to use Axl Rose to torture me.

Now, we're in Charlotte waiting at the gate for our Los Angeles flight, and a young woman traveling alone plopped down next to me and Gene. She's got a dragonfly tattoo on the top of one of her feet. (She's wearing ballet flats so I was able to see it.) Sam warned me to watch out for the dragonflies!

Our aircraft is on the way from the hangar, and the flight then has to have a security check because it's the aircraft's first flight of the day. Our departure time is now listed as an hour later than we expected, but this just means a shorter layover in LA. US Airways oversold the flight, and they're offering free round trips anywhere they fly for anyone who takes a bump, but we can't, because we leave LA tonight.

Thanh's brother is going to meet us in LA and bring us some Vietnamese hoagies.

Almost time to leave!

Now that my electricity is back for the second time this morning, I figured I'd check Gene's blog and whip up a quick post here. I meant to sleep in this morning, but at a quarter to six, the street lights went out, along with electricity to the neighborhood. I set an alarm on my cell phone and tried to go back to sleep. But this was no morning to worry about oversleeping. I crawled out of bed at seven, and shortly after the electricity came back. I was in the middle of writing a long email to a friend when poof! there went the electricity again. I decided to get into some warm clothes so that I could move the car closer to the house when the electricity came back.
I'm going to hit the Publish Post button and hop in the shower and hope the electricity doesn't go out again.

Just one more thing: I think Mom and my cat, Misha, are going to have a fabulous time. They sat at my little kitchen table this morning (each in their own chair) and Mom shared her Cheerios with him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mom's here!

My mom arrived in Pittsburgh late this afternoon. A group of us went to Tram's Kitchen for dinner. Tomorrow (Thursday) night the family is headed to Church Brew Works. Friends are welcome too, of course. Just keep in mind I can't have too many beers because I'm not going to fly across 12 time zones with a hangover.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A dress and a motorbike

Just when I thought I had my travel wardrobe figured out...I found out tonight we have to dress up for the bridge dedication. I had an extra dress packed, but without a jacket, my arms stand a good chance of sunburn (SPF 50 is only going to help to a point). I made another shopping trip and found a linen blend jacket for $20. But I'm trying to envision myself on a motorbike, in a dress, with sandals and a jacket and a backpack, and probably one of those conical hats the women wear in the rice paddies. Those hats have adjustable chin straps, so they'll stay on while I'm on a motorbike (unlike my floppy hat, which doesn't have a chin strap).

I should just unpack what I bought and have a traditional Vietnamese tunic dress with pants, an ao dai, made, while I'm there, and wear that. I'm starting to see the practicality of that outfit...one can ride a bike while wearing it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My arms are tired, and I haven't flown yet

I just packed. I don't know why. Maybe because I'm sick of thinking about it. Maybe because tomorrow night I'd like to do at least a little bit of apartment cleanup before my mom gets here on Wednesday. (She hasn't been here since she helped me move in last summer.) Maybe I was worried I had too many clothes set aside to pack.

Okay, well I did have too many clothes set aside. But I have this fear of one of my bags disappearing, so I decided I'd distribute gifts, clothes and toiletry items (including SPF 50 sunscreen and a fancy insect repellant from REI) over the two suitcases. Problem was, I had to attempt to distribute the weight as well, and the smaller, much better made small suitcase is heavy when it's empty. The big one (a cheaper model of the same brand) is a lighter weight bag, but the fabric got pretty banged up on the last trip. Part of me wishes I'd bought the better made bag in the larger size, but the weight would be an issue. Still, I'm not sure how long this bag will survive.

Enough fretting about the actual bags. They're packed now, complete with a small photo album with photos from my last trip, so I can show my friend in Danang that I made it out to the cemetery in Tra My. I have another photo album with pictures of my dad, and a few of my mom and stepdad and the veterans who served with my dad and my stepdad. (This is a long story, but my stepdad served with my dad in Vietnam.)

We'll be meeting some Vietnamese vets there. (I am wondering if they call themselves American vets, since they called it the American war, and we call our veterans Vietnam vets.) I don't know how curious they'll be about the photos, but I figured I should bring them.

I am taking no books, no iPod, no portable DVD player, no laptop, no cell phone. I am taking a swimsuit, and a floppy hat, and Power Bars, two dresses made in Vietnam (one purchased at Target, the other at Dress Barn), lots of t-shirts and tank tops and khakis and lots of underthings. (I have this fear of being photographed with dignitaries and forgetting to wear a slip, and having the sun be at such an angle that I end up looking...well...like a total idiot.)

I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of ironing once I get there. Not to worry, our hotels not only have irons and ironing boards (yes, in a developing country, they have that) but we also have air conditioning, in-room coffee makers, TV and mini bars.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Kids Building Hope

There's another group of some friends who will cross our paths during our trip to Vietnam. That's the Kids Building Hope group. It's pretty amazing to me, but a group of American kids raised tens of thousands of dollars to build a school in Vietnam.
Gene and I will miss their school dedication because we decided instead to spend a day in Saigon. I may be trying to be in two places at one time on that day, thanks to Gene's laptop, our hotel's wireless internet and the Kids Building Hope blog. You can read it here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Hawaiian tribute

While I'm in the thick of laundry and packing and trip planning, here's a nice tribute to my dad written by my friend Jimmy Kuroiwa on the Hawaii Reporter. Mahalo, Jimmy, and I hope I'm spelling that correctly.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I have a stepdad!

My mom and Freddy were married yesterday in a very small ceremony (even I wasn't there) at their home in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. My mom called me this morning and said she just realized it's been almost 40 years since her first wedding.

I went to visit her mom today at the nursing home where she lives, and she asked me, how long has your dad been dead? (I just love how blunt old people are.) Thirty-nine years, I told her.

Freddy was a friend of my dad's, and I'm sure my dad would be happy that my mom and Freddy are together now, and I'm happy about it, too. It's just a very strange story, how it all happened, one that led not only to this but to my dad finally being posthumously awarded his Silver Star.