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August, 2018:

Book of Condolences

So there’s a protocol for this, too, I learned this week.

We set up a table in the American Center, where members of the public can sign the book of condolence.

As we received the news of John McCain’s death, we began preparing for condolences.  It’s human nature for people to want to pay their respects, and we were not surprised that so many Vietnamese people were saddened by Senator McCain’s death.  He is remembered here in Vietnam as a soldier turned statesman, who worked hard to normalize relations with the United States.  They are especially impressed by the fact that he was treated so harshly as a POW here, and yet put aside his personal pain in the interest of a greater good.  He was the embodiment of their country’s resolve to overcome the painful past and work toward a better future.

There is a specific State Department protocol for a book of condolences.  We set up a signing station in our American Center, and publicized times for the public to come in and sign.

 

Local government officials also came in to sign, and that was covered by the local press.

The pages of the condolence book will be sent to Washington, D.C. and added to the international collection from our embassies and consulates around the world.

Flowers have been coming in all week.

Flowers are from private citizens as well as the government.

Regardless of whether one agrees with his political party’s policies and agenda, his reputation as a man who put country first is universally admirable.  The Vietnamese people held him in great regard.  All the press coverage here, and social media, wrote moving eulogies.  Even the social media trolls on our Facebook page were silent.  It seems that Vietnam is unified in its respect for John McCain.

Strangely Hypnotic

So this was going on in the taxi yesterday.  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it.

 

My latest obsession

We’ve all been here. You’re in Starbucks, and you hear a song that really catches your ear, so you open the Shazam app in order to identify the song, then you get the name of the song, then you open Prime Music to see if Amazon offers it for free, then you see that no, Amazon doesn’t offer it for free, so you go to the iTunes Store and buy the song, then you listen to that song for the next several days. We’ve all been there, right? Please say yes. I don’t want to feel like I’m the only one who obsesses over songs.

It turns out that the song in question came out a few years ago. It’s called “Summer Sun” by the Ruen Brothers. I highly recommend it.

The song is the epitome of “low key.” Literally. The opening vocal sounds like a Roy Orbison song. Then the instruments join in, all at a low pitch, to match the singer’s baritone vocal range. Even the guitar solo sounds like it was played on the lowest two strings.

The money shot is the climbing vocal climax, that’s reminiscent of the goosebump-rising vocal in “When your mind’s made up” by Glen Hasard (a previous obsession).

Every time the song ends, I think to myself: “What?! Over already? You just got started!” So I have to listen to it again.

This all started on Friday. It’s now Monday, and the song is still in my head. Songs won’t give you cancer or make you fat, so if I have to binge on something, at least there isn’t any physical harm. So I’ll feed my obsession.

Truth in advertising

There must be a more poetic middle ground between “fragile” and “unbreakable.”

“not easily broken.”

Rainy season

The rainy season in Vietnam stretches from about May to about November. Since it’s late August now, it means we’re smack dab in the middle of the rainy season. Which means that it can rain at any time. Yesterday we got three downpours during the day.

Rainy season is a great time to work inside.

A nice musical perk

I went to Hanoi last week for a work trip.  As I’ve said many times, business travel is not vacation travel.  After I returned to Ho Chi Minh City, several people asked me “How was Hanoi?”  “I don’t know,” I replied.  “All I can tell you is how the airport, hotel, and embassy were.  I didn’t get to do anything in Hanoi.”

Although that isn’t totally true.  I had a nice dinner with a co-worker.  And I got a wonderful unexpected benefit.  On Friday evening, in the hotel that I was staying at, a young lady performed on a traditional Vietnamese instrument, and that instrument happens to be almost identical to one of my favorite traditional Chinese instruments.

So I got a little treat.  After several stressful days, it was relaxing to sit and listen to the beautiful music.  It almost felt like a vacation.

Almost.

Yes, that’s exactly what you think it is.

On my way to the airport the other day, I passed this pair of travelers. On the highway.

“Jesus is my seatbelt.”

What could go wrong?

When the most common mode of transportation is the motor scooter, that’s the only vehicle that some people have. And sometimes you have to transport things that really should be transported in a truck. But you don’t have a truck, so you make due with what you have.

Remnants or junk?

Last weekend I traveled to a coastal town, and we stumbled on a museum in the making.  A real estate developer has been collecting old vehicles that the U.S. military left in Vietnam after the war.  I think the idea is that they will make a museum as an attraction to lure people to stay in the resort that the company is building.

The process is in the early stages.  They have collected some equipment, but they haven’t done much work on it yet.  So, in all honesty, the site looks less like a museum and more like a junkyard.  Still, there is some interesting stuff.

Or not far enough?

“Way too far.”