The Great Garage Saga, Part 1

July 25, 2016 § 1 Comment


That’s Elizabeth back there. I think.

I am going to tell a (very much on-going) story about my garage. And if you were to detect any symbolism, any metaphoric connection to our current political situation, that would be completely intentional.

There are two major problems in the garage. Maybe more, depending upon how one counts. The problems result from conditions we knew about, ones we didn’t know about, and ones we should have known about. We had every opportunity, in other words, not to be in the position we are in and yet here we are and, really, we aren’t to blame. “How were you to know?” one contractor said. But I should have. « Read the rest of this entry »


April 5, 2016 § 2 Comments

vguernIn Hanoi, three of us went to the National Museum of Fine Arts. My academic training kicked in, so I moved quickly – to get an overview of the history of art in Vietnam, to see how the styles changed. At the point the French began teaching Vietnamese artists a studio style my art historical brain began ticking off the stylistic succession  – Impressionism, Cubism, even a Vietnamese take on Picasso’s Guernica. In spite of my uncharacteristic tunnel vision, though, I noticed that the styles might have been derivative (my first, analytical, word) but the subjects were Vietnamese and the styles served the nation. There were expressionistic fighters (including women) crawling forward, holding weapons. What in Western traditions would have been bucolic landscapes depicting a pastoral life were almost manifestos – images of the land, the villages, the rice paddies, that the fighters were defending. 
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The reason we come

March 21, 2016 § 1 Comment

imageVo Minh, the author we met last week in Binh Dinh Province, came to our hotel in Hanoi last night with his wife. He brought a present of Vietnamese coffee from Buon Ma Thuot and an hour of conversation that took place in such rapid Vietnamese that often Hai forgot to translate. Vo Minh wanted to tell me a little about the book he had given me, so that I would understand. He wrote the book to help in the process of reconciliation, he said, not between Vietnam and the United States – there is hardly anything in the book about the United States – but between the North and the South. « Read the rest of this entry »

Tunnel Entrance No. 5

March 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

imageThis might not look like a metaphor, but I am going to turn it into one. This is the path through the Vinh Muoc Tunnel park, the path we took along with a guide who pointed out the bomb craters, which still remain and some of which are labeled, and the entrances to the tunnels that had provided shelter from the relentless bombardment from American ships off-shore.

These were no ordinary tunnels. Under ground, accessed through entrances hidden in little hills and protected by stone vaults, these tunnels were like a little town, with separate areas for living and cooking and storing supplies. There was a hospital, a maternity ward, and a nursery for the babies born there. There were multiple entrances and an elaborate ventilation system. The tunnels were brilliantly conceived and they existed all over Vietnam, including under American bases. It was all very Vietnamese and so not-American that it baffled and foiled our military. « Read the rest of this entry »

Country of Origin

March 17, 2016 § 3 Comments

image Project Renew, Unexploded Ordnance Removal, Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam




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Prepare to defend

March 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

imageWe, of course, thought it was beautiful. “Did you notice the map of Vietnam in the garden,” someone said at breakfast. ” You can see it from above and there is a light to show where Hoi An is.”

But Hai grimaced. “If the police come by and see that, they will be in trouble,” he said. “The map does not show the islands.”

In the States we hear vague rumblings about China taking over islands claimed by Vietnam. Our press speculates about China’s intentions but in Vietnam they know better than to ignore what is plain to see or waste time debating the obvious.  So the roads approaching Qui Nhon are being widened to reach a new deep water port that can receive ships from around the world. Vietnam is small and vulnerable but it can make a show of an international presence that means China’s actions a few miles away cannot go unnoticed. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Egret Garden

March 9, 2016 § 1 Comment

imageAn hour out of Can Tho by bus along the old Route One we stopped just somewhere along the highway, or so it appeared to me. A team of motor scooters appeared, summoned by a call from Hai’s iPhone. We settled ourselves on the backs of the scooters, and were told how to do xe om –  the “hug ride” – and then we were sailing along a path into a village completely hidden from the highway. Another first thing for me in Vietnam, riding the scooter, and I loved it. « Read the rest of this entry »