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My Brush with Greatness

Dear Bartcop,
    It's been awhile since I sent you anything, but this week while the partner has been in Boston visiting Mama
I was sorting through some of our stuff from our six years working in Asia, when I came across this picture. 

The lady is my artist wife and the guys in glasses are government minders.  The aged gentleman with whom
my wife is kibitzing was the patron of an outdoor art exhibition given by the city of Ha Noi in 1997 to which
my wife was graciously invited to participate.  While her medium is flat glass, it proved too difficult with the
stock available in country, that she turned of necessity, to pottery. She produced a series of 12  (16") ceramic
spheres out of which emerged topsy-turvy standard little Vietnamese tea pots, as though being born.  A little
whimsy surrounded by massive post-Soviet heroic stone carvings by the local artists--all very serious indeed. 
She and the little old gentleman spoke in French and discussed the art scene humorously and at length. 
General Giap, the last of the great 20th century generals--patron of the arts and victor over the French,
the Japanese, the French again, the US, and lastly the Chinese (1979).  The George Washington of his
country, and who would gainsay him?
After 30 years of war and 20 years of US inspired (we were going to punish them) isolation from world trade
and loans the Vietnamese lived quite well relatively, considering how poor the country was by first world standards. 

The shops were always stocked with food and the markets were groaning with fresh fruit and veggies. 
I was amazed at how 'rich' it looked compared to the Soviet Union where I spent a summer as a student. 

In 1966 the Soviets had the rest of the world quivering with it's mighty army and it's international mischief making
but in the countryside they still plowed with bullock, the commune tractor they always insisted on showing you
only had three wheels and looked likely to stay that way for the indefinite future.  They pumped water for the village
with a hand pump in the village square and the electrical wires from the road stopped at the Comusol hall where
the villages' lone TV was located.

The food shops were a disgrace--filthy and nothing suitable to buy.  One meat shop had my room mate out in
the gutter retching.  This on the main highway (sic) between Petersburg and Moscow!  I didn't go down a treat
when I got back to Berkeley.  Branded a reactionary by pimply faced little gits who had never been out of town
but had the ideology down pat.

It should be mandatory for every citizen to spend a year overseas.  It would be harder to talk the young into
killing different people if they had been away from their local cohort learning a bit of humanity and humility.

Love your site and your attitude towards the gang of cut throats running the country.  They say you get the
government you deserve.  Unfortunately the rest of the world doesn't.  We, in NZ, have just been told that
we can kiss off the free-trade agreement because our PM, Helen Clark, wondered aloud if we'd be at war
if Gore had been President.  So we're to be punished.  Bugger those SOB's.

Keep up the fight.
Kind regards,
New Zealand


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