This morning, we got up and headed for the airport in Hanoi. No problem catching the Air Vietnam flight to Ho Chi Minh City. An hour and a half later, we landed at the Ho Chi Minh airport which was the old American Tan son Nhat air force base. I was here only a couple of times during the war, passing through going somewhere else, once to Hong Kong and then Hawaii for R&R (rest and relaxation). So this is my first time to really visit the city that was once called the “Paris of the Orient.” We can already tell that life here is at faster pace than Hanoi. More motorbikes and cars and more hustle and bustle.
We were picked up by Ms. Hue and Ms. Thi and carried by taxi to the International Institute of Education-VN offices where we met Ms. Ngoc who is the leader of the group. We went over the plan for the next day, then Linda and I went to the library to consider the essays written by students about their dreams which may include going to school in the USA. It wasn’t easy but we picked the top five essays, the winning writers getting some very nice monetary prizes which will be helpful with their schooling. I was impressed by the English writing ability of all of the student writers. Clearly, they are serious students and I’m proud of them.
We just got back from dinner with the staff of the IIEVN at a Czech restaurant (Hoa Vinh was the name, I think). Had some great food and beer! Wonderful conversation, too. It is really wonderful to meet these fine young folks who are dedicated to helping Vietnamese students to go to the USA for advanced education.
Our hotel – Sofitel – is very modern, clean, and efficient just as was the Opera Hilton hotel in Hanoi. Internet here and all the amenities. Tomorrow, we go to the High School for the Gifted to talk to the students there who are said to be Vietnam’s very best. I am more than humbled to talk to them but I will do my best. I will tell my story and encourage them to follow their dream. This, I think, they already know! In the afternoon, we will go to the Dan Tri publishers to talk to the publisher and staff who are bringing out this week the Vietnamese version of Rocket Boys. That should be fun.
Bottom line – another great day in the new Vietnam.
PS - Chris Welch of the Huntsville Times wrote a very nice article about my trip here: http://blog.al.com/goguru/2009/09/hickam_fought_in_60s_war_book.html