I like Vietnamese cuisine. My first experience was at being invited to the wedding of my hootchmaid--what we called a cleaning lady during the war. This was an unusual event, because soldiers were not invited into homes of the local population. For some reason, I was different (duh!) and was accepted. There was a risk involved, because I had to leave the safety of the compound, drive a jeep into Qui Nhon, and find her "home", which was in a shanty village and made from discarded wood, metal, and cardboard. To my surprise, I was guest of honor and spent the time being stared at by local children.
Anyways, this is supposed to be about food. The wedding "feast" was chicken, which I learned was a rare treat. It was tasty.
My next run-in with Vietnamese food was at a restaurant in my village. A Vietnamese couple had taken a lease on a German Gasthaus and provided authentic food. The woman worked the kitchen, making everything herself, and the man served drinks. I saw this same practice in Vietnam, where women do most of the work and men tend to relax in hammocks or talk amongst themselves. The food is always fresh and excellent. I prefer most dishes to Chinese or Thai, which are favorites with Germans. Less hot spices are used, but fish sauce is difficult to avoid.
We were fortunate to be served excellent food at each stop on our visit to Vietnam. To prove the point, I offer a few photos of dishes. You will have to take my word on flavorfulness.
Fortunately, we had lunch before visiting the old town. Food shops do not believe in western-style presentation, ie. in refrigerator cases, and are governed by less-stringent statutes. Raw meat lies on tables beside the street in the heat and humidity, which causes one to wonder about hygiene. People seem to be healthy and happy, so they must be doing something right.
Yesterday, I discovered that I'm a zero. At least I assume I am (or rather hope I am).
I read an article about Klout, a name I had heard and knew nothing about.
Because I do not partake of the pleasures of social media, I must not be on their radar screen or search engine or whatever magic they use to find, evaluate, classify, and upset (anyone with a big ego and low score) people.
Perhaps, I could raise awareness for my collection of best-kept-secrets of American “literature”, but do not crave notoriety or riches. I certainly do not need some algorithm to take notice and rate me any higher than zero. I have never lusted after clout, so have no need for Klout.
The French built the first railroad lines, probably to carry goods to ports or move military men and equipment. Of course, these became easy targets during wars.
The Vietcong blew up rail lines in the south, and Americans bombed rail lines in the north.
Today, the lines have been rebuilt and are used for both freight and passengers. One is able to ride the train, with an overnight sleeper, from Hanoi to Saigon. This was not possible during my last visit, as is obvious from the first photo.
The biggest surprise about Vietnam was to discover the lack of health care. They must have tried to take a lesson from the United States, but chose the wrong one. I thought that universal health care was a key feature of any communist country. Look at Cuba, which offers little else to its people. Tour guides pointed out my misconception.
I learned that every hospital bed is “occupied” by up to four persons. Not all sleep in the bed, but the names are attached. The reason is that no one is allowed to remain in the hospital without a bed, so each one gets loaded with names. People then bring their own bedding and sleep on the floor or on a cot.
Of course, like in any good capitalist society--even if this is not one--different hospitals have different prices. You get what you are able to pay. All but the most serious cases are treated in the home, and all fear major illness or injury. And, this country does not seem to have a Michael Moore...
I am not qualified to comment on art, beyond mentioning what I like or dislike.
We visited the museum of fine art in Hanoi. It is housed in a former French lyceum, a fine old colonial building and one of many that give Hanoi its distinct feel. Des;pita being almost 100 years old, the building was in fine shape, a testament to the quality of construction and continued maintenance.
The museum houses some fine examples of talent nurtured in this country, which many view as an agrarian backward. I came away with two conclusions.
First of all, the majority of artworks are rather dark, Few bright colors are evident, and most motifs deal with some form of hardship or suffering. The French colonial masters are villains in many works. Nature plays the biggest role, and she ain't always been kind.
The second conclusion is that I noticed a distinct absence of anything about the war with the United States. Only one work showed a bomber in the sky in flames above a devastated city. I asked the guide, who suggested that such motifs might be found in the war museum. This made little sense, because many works depicted military, just not anti-American. This is surprising, because North Vietnam suffered more damage in this war, whereas the French had visited mostly humiliation upon the land.
Everywhere I went, people were hawking Good Morning Vietnam tee shirts. I did not buy one, for several reasons, one of which being dislike of the film.
Anyways, no one offered Good Night Vietnam tee shirts, so I will provide a look at the sun setting over the city as seen from my balcony on the ship parked on the Saigon River. There are no hills, so this was the highest vantage point to watch the world going round...
There is a reader survey in each issue of Vanity Fair. This month it deals with sin. Readers were asked “Which of the 7 deadly sins do you feel most susceptible to?”
Because I would have been unable to name such devious behavior, I doubt any of my readers will be able to. To jog memories or provide new knowledge, I will provide the list: Pride, gluttony, envy, lust, greed, sloth, and wrath. In this survey, the “winner” was pride.
After reading this list, I got to thinking about these “deadly sins”. (I don’t understand the deadly bit.) Modern life in the United States--as well as large portions of the western world--would be unthinkable without such behavior. Television programming thrives on it; politics is rife with it; cable news would be barren without it or have to deal with real news; and gossip would dry up.
Think about the current list.
Pride: no political candidate could operate
Gluttony: Big food and the fast food industry rely on this
Envy: Fashion brands could not survive without it
Lust: Drives the porn industry, among other things
Greed: Drives the financial industry, among other things
Sloth: checked out average US dress lately?
Wrath: Rightwing Republicans and Glenn Beck thrive on this
I, for one, think it’s time to make up a new list of sins (we can drop the deadly!) to reflect modern times. I’d keep only greed from the old list. Here’s my suggestion:
As always, Gail Collins is on the case. Once again, she points out that every issue in the United States comes down to money...
I took many photos of...water. The pattern seemed to be graphically interesting, I had plenty of exposures on my camera chip, and I had time on my hands (and a camera in them). I look for interesting patterns or shapes formed movement.
When thinking about creating a gallery of a selection of water motifs, novels with a sea tilt came to mind. There's Moby Dick, which I started recently on my Kindle (it was free!) and have yet to plough through. I seem to be as becalmed as the Ancient Mariner, albeit without albatross. Somerset Maugham must have stared at water on his many long sea voyages, but did not seem to own a camera or be inclined to use one. He tended to put into words what I can only capture on "film".
Similar headlines in all British newspapers I scanned all had a firm grasp of the obvious. They all were along the line of the one seen in the Daily Telegraph:
Queues at airport 'hurt Britain's reputation'
Since all were predicting the future, when the Olympic circus hits town, I have the feeling that these people must live on another planet. British airports have always had slow-moving, aggravating lines (translation of queue). Someone must be noticing and reporting, but only out of fear of upsetting the Olympic Committee, more than poor suckers arriving at an airport. There will be cases in which the flight is shorter than time spent getting through Heathrow.
England is, and will remain, a third world country. If you do not believe me, travel to Singapore or Hong Kong, both former colonies. I do not recall such articles or any complaints about Beijing.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.