Archive for Saigon Diary – Page 5

A Cautionary Tale

I’ve written about motorbikes before. There are 6,000,000 of them in Saigon. They are everywhere – on the street, on the sidewalk, in the lobbies of buildings, and on the ground floor of most houses. Not just some motorbikes, millions of them. You are conscious, every minute, of their presence. Right now I’m in my apartment but the sound of motorbikes passing is in the room with me. They are noisy, quiet, dirty, clean, sleek, clunky, fast and slow. They are used for personal transport, pizza delivery, FedEx and DHL, taxi service, family transport (up to 5 on one bike), furniture delivery (I’ve seen 10 twin bed mattresses weaving down the street at 6am), livestock delivery (trussed inverted pigs or 30 dead chickens hanging by their scrawny necks), police patrols, mail, grocery, fast-food, flower, and window glass delivery. Almost any function is and can be performed by motorbike – including larceny and battery. read more

The Lure of the Exotic

ex·ot·ic   [ig-zot-ik] adjective

1. of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized or acclimatized: exotic foods; exotic plants.

2. strikingly unusual or strange in effect or appearance: an exotic hairstyle.

3. of a uniquely new or experimental nature: exotic weapons.

4. of, pertaining to, or involving stripteasing: the exotic clubs where strippers are featured.

Webster is too clinical for me. Exotic has danger implicit. It has romance. The air is heavy and moist. There is a little mold forming under things. You feel different. The air is charged. The mind is altered. And, yes, it is not native. read more

The Wall

In the 1970’s and 80’s I was living and working in Berlin. And occasionally in those years I would make a wrong turn while looking for an unfamiliar address and end up facing The Wall. It was always disarming. I was living an ordinary life – except that I couldn’t walk, bike, or drive out of the city without running the East German gauntlet of checkpoints, blockades, and restricted rest stops. Life seemed normal enough – get the kids to school, go to work, shop at the local supermarket, hang out in trendy bars and cafes, and run in the Grunewald with the wild boars. That part was a little sketchy sometimes, but for the most part it seemed like a normal life. Then there was The Wall. read more

Evil, Evil; Man Was Not Meant to Fly…

One of the low points of my Marine Corps years was a week of Winter Survival/Escape and Evasion Training in a gruesome place called Pickle Meadows. For half of the week we were in the wilderness hunting for food (mice and porcupines mostly, after the rabbits teased us to near madness) and trying to evade “aggressors” whose mission was to capture and place us in a simulated POW camp. It didn’t matter if we managed to evade the dread aggressors – and my team did. In the end everyone was thrown into the POW camp. read more

Why is America Looking East?

After 2+ years in Vietnam I’m convinced that America needs to stop looking east and start looking west. The world has changed but America’s international orientation has not. We live in a global world where multinational companies control much of the world’s wealth and where their tentacles extend out to all continents and regions. Vietnam is a good example. From the rooftop bar of the Rex Hotel the skyline is ablaze with international neon – Dai-ichi (Japan), Mercedes (Germany), Sunwah (China), Prudential (UK, yes UK), Sheraton (US), Samsung (Korea), Gucci (Italy), Shell (Dutch?) and others. 35 years after the “American War” it is difficult to tell who the victor was – if any. read more