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bookcover-homeViet Nam 1993 documents the experiences of an American University Professor and his travels in Viet Nam where he explored opportunities for agricultural and nutritional research. The journal describes interactions with Vietnamese officials, professors, and citizens met along the way and presents vivid descriptions of the land and people of Viet Nam. The author traveled the length and breadth of Viet Nam – from the ethereal beauty of Ha Long Bay to the southern reaches of the Me Kong Delta. Viet Nam 1993 documents through literary descriptions and photographs what the country and people of Viet Nam were like before diplomatic relations were established with the United States.

Background:

In 1993 the author was invited by the government of Viet Nam (National Institute for Agricultural Planning and Projection, Ministry of Agriculture) to visit Viet Nam and to hold exploratory meetings with agriculture-related officials and university professors. The purpose was to explore potential opportunities for research and scientific collaboration between Vietnamese scientists and colleagues at the University of California, Davis.

The book represents the author’s transcribed journal written during that 22-day visit to Viet Nam. The author worked and traveled with a team of Vietnamese scholars and administrators from Ha Noi University and the Ministry of Agriculture. They formed a working team and together, drove the length of Viet Nam from north to south – from Ha Noi and the region of Ha Long Bay – south into the middle reaches of the Me Kong Delta. Along the way the team examined health clinics and agricultural projects, spoke with farmers and villagers and explored how Americans might become involved in assisting Vietnamese scientists in efforts to improve the health and food-related capacity of Viet Nam.

The narrative passages in this journal reflect daily activities, impressions, observations, interpretations, and personal feelings. Each day in Viet Nam was emotional as thoughts from the war years of the 1960s and early 1970s returned and flooded me with images and memories merely by seeing road signs – 50 kilometers to Da Nang; 60 kilometers to Sai Gon; or 100 kilometers to Hai Phong. I was touched deeply when I saw T-shirts for sale with the logo Good Morning Vietnam; when I heard American music from the 1960’s played over hotel muzak systems; when I stood before memorial stone tablets at My Lai; when I felt the back-draft of motorbikes speeding by; and when I smelled sunrise while deep in the Me Kong Delta.

At the time of my 1993 journey the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam did not have diplomatic relations. While travel restrictions imposed on Americans had been lifted by President Clinton, the Economic-Trade embargo remained in effect. Despite these political and economic constraints my hosts greeted me with kind hospitality and I was made to feel comfortable and at ease throughout my visit. I was welcomed with personal kindness by the Vietnamese officials, scientists, students, and citizens that I met. Hands of friendship and wishes for better relations between our two countries were extended to me by officials and members of the general population that I met.

Although the war was over, scars remained in 1993 …

Some of the landscapes described remained lethal 20 years after hostilities had concluded, whether from unexploded ordnance or from lingering toxic effects of herbicides and defoliant agents. Some of the citizens described in this journal exhibited the physical and mental effects of the war that ravaged their country. Other passages, however, describe uplifting experiences and document how Vietnamese citizens struggled to overcome the war years and worked to improve their country.

Themes:

The overall themes that emerge from the book are those of exploration and introspection, coupled with thoughtful descriptions of interactions with Vietnamese officials and citizens. The narrative provides the reader with insights and images of what war was like to the Vietnamese and how in 1993 the process of healing between our two countries – once former enemies—had begun.

 

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