March 15, 1997

Well, I tried to send this yesterday, but it seems to have gotten lost somewhere along with 2 months of Lan's messages. so I'll type these few pages over

Saturday Hanoi. I'm really in Hanoi!! Thursday as the plane was boarding and I was waving goodbye to Sarah, Marguerite, Kim, Bill and Penny, I felt just a bit giddy. Then the plane door closed and we rolled down the runway. I felt a little sad and perhaps somewhat anxious. I tried to imagine how Bill might have felt as the plane lifted off taking him to Vietnam the first time, and the second time. An impossible task just as trying to imagine how it feels to know you are going where many unknown and unseen people will try to kill you. I would be welcomed by the Vietnam Writers' Assn and I would be with American friends of theirs. The best I could imagine was the excitement and anxiety of going to a totally foriegn culture half-way around the world to meet people with whom I had one common bond - our husbands had died because our government's imagination at problem solving was limited to war.

Airtime was 21 hours - total hours for the trip was 25 hours. Korean air and Vietnam Air FEED economy class - no peanuts and pretzels for them. The Korean stews looked like China dolls, too tiny and neatly prim. For 15 hours they fed us. I couln't stay awake to eat all they had for us. Flight was from San Antonio to Dallas via Delta. Then Korean air to Seoul, and Hong Kong. Vietnam Air to Hanoi. I met up with Larry Hienemann and his son Preston in Seoul. Larry is the author of several books, his most popular was PACO'S STORY Larry is a v-vet, author and VN traveler.

The van ride into Hanoi was facinating and at times terrifyingly funny. Except for the green rice paddies, the cone hats on the people working in them - I could easily imagine the interior of Mexico or the Bahamas. Motor cycles, Bikes, cars and trucks, all whizzing along honking and passing regardless of lanes - it was one big game of "chicken" you blink -you lose! and that was on the highway - once in the city it was a riot of more of the same only with intersections and cyclos. There were no traffic signs and only a few signal lights. We turned down one street and hundreds of these cyclists were coming head on at us...and it was a two way street.

The streets were lined with "noodle shops" - literally sidewalk cafes, flower vendors, bike mechanics (a table with tools to fix a brokenbike) and little vegetable/sundry shops. As for the little noodle shops,the dishes were washed on curbside by water bubbles in the pans of gray water. Our little hotel is clean, near the Writers' Assn Bldg. and cheap -- $25 for one. I might add there was no elevator and I was on the third floor. I kept telling myself it was good for the fanny and thighs. My room is actually 2 rooms and a bath. I have a fridge. First thing was a shower and change of clothes. Then while waiting for Larry, his son and I stood on the street in front of the Viet Long Hotel. I took pictures then became involved with a couple of peasant women - both had the "yoke with 2 baskets"of goddies. The younger woman wanted me to buy an orange. That was the ugliest orange I have ever seen. I asked if I could take her picture. I gave her $1 American in quarters.

What I didn't know is that they don't have coins so she was uncertain I hadn't cheated her. The old woman looked at them, called over some young boys selling books, stopped a woman on a bike..they were facinated with the quarters. The younger woman accepted them. I took her picture and let her keep her ugly orange. The old peasant woman was selling rice (sticky rice). She scooped a dollop our onto a banana leaf napkin and insisted I taste, against my better judgement, I did.I just took a pinch of it so as not to offend her. Then she offered the nouc mam..I'm not sure fermented, rotten fish can spoil, but I did decline that. The young bike woman was still sitting on her haunches giving advise and encouragement and ended up eating the rice and let me take their pictures..$1 each...then the little book boys wanted their picture then I was down to nothing but coins so they each got 60 cents. Everyone was happy and I had a wonderful time. It was very profitable for my peasant friends.

Larry, son and I walked around the block and up and down some streets exploring. We stopped at a noodle shop and ate rice and soup (several hours ago - no ill effect) I showered is hot and muggy!! Then came the big surprise. I sat on the bed. It is a board with a 2 1/2 inch pad (I measured) for a mattress. The pillows are shredded foam and lumpy and hard. I'm so glad I brought my own pillows. I fell immediately asleep. It is now 2:20AM here (12 hours ahead of Texas). I love being here.It has been a wonderous day.

March 16 Sunday (I think)

The time difference and the International Date Line left me a dayshort. The 14th just didn't happen except for an hour. It is now 5:22 AM here. Still dark out and quiet. Standing on the balcony watching the morning wake-up, quiet bicycles whirring by - peasant woman with yoke is checking the bags of trash. OOHH, flash back to photosof the 60's - a black pajama'd, cone hatted guy just pedaled by.


short nap in room. Looking out balcony, across the street 2 young girls are playing across thestreet. One of them squats, holding pants out of the way, she pees, right into the gutter. Wipes with her hand, pulls up her pants and the girls continue playing. I had been told - I just couldn't believe I was seeing it. Kevin and rest of group are expected this afternoon sometime. Dinner tonight in another "soup kitchen" called a noodle shop. Delicious. Kevin, Chung, and Fred from the Joiner Center, Larry, Preston, and, Kim Moi and Pham Tien Duat from the VN Writer's Assn. With acceptance comes familiarity - Kim held my hand as we walked as is the custom of same gender friends.