A rare political post while searching for “bad hombres” in Mexico

It is day 40 on the extended Mexico sojourn. We’ve been in university cities, at the bottom of mines, in jungles, canyons, ruins, fishing ports and places with either a Portland Oregon or Miami vibe. We’ve been looking high and low but have yet to find any “bad hombres”.

We left America, as promised, as Donald Trump became president. In full disclosure, we planned to leave if Hillary Clinton won as well. It was time for a break from the insanity of 2016.

Even in 2000 year old ruins we’ve had wifi so despite daily decisions revolving around “does this t shirt smell or can I wear it” and “mezcal or beer” we haven’t lost touch with the discourse from my country.

here is what I think:

trump was elected president in a free and democratic, non violent process. He won by the rules in the constitution. People may not claim him as “their” president, but he is The president.

I would encourage my liberal friends to re-read the constitution.   The president is Not all powerful; there are 3 branches (4 if you consider the media) and there is a balance of power.

Also, please stop the allusions to trump as Nazi; he isn’t one. He is a narcissist, which is a diagnosis-not an ideology. Brownshirts aren’t coming under cover of darkness for Jews, Muslims, gays, Mormins, vegetarians, Meryl Streep or Lindsay Graham,(ok, Lindsay Graham maybe). Adding fear does nothing to dismantling the trump agenda, assuming he has one.

I will not blindly “resist”. Resist what.? I pray daily that Mr Trump will show, soon,a modicum of decency and humanity and cease demonizing the poor and disenfranchised , entitling the already entitled class, and speaks to our higher aspirations as Americans.

I will oppose vigorously any attacks on our civil liberties; that I will resist. And, if Mr Trump succeeds in having enacted laws violating human rights I will take a page from Thoreau, Gandhi, King and both oppose that law and accept consequences of obeying a higher authority.  But I am a cautious pessimist…and do not believe it will come to that.


Arrival in Guanajuato

We land in Leon Mexico, the international airport for Guanajuato and the region.  A great flight with me being mistaken for Robert DeNiro, an event which resulted in complimentary cocktails and a hummus-based snack box.  Bless you Delta.

At “immigration” we are asked to fill in a form and stand in the only line (we are the only plane).  A pleasant airport employee notes (in perfect English, unlike TSA officials at LaGuardia or JFK) that we failed to fill in “residence in Mexico” for our tourist card. Informing her we were here for six weeks and were staying, week one at an airnb owned by Mike and Ana she laughed, “ok, but fill in the name Camino Real Hotel – it’s well known and no one will hassle you”.  Welcome to Mexico.

Our luggage arrived in minutes, a courteous taxi booth informed us of the rates ($25 for a 45 minute ride), took our money, gave us a receipt and had someone escort us to a waiting mercedes taxi.   The driver, equally courteous brought us to our difficult-to-find destination where Mike, from Oklahoma, awaited and gave us keys, instructions to the cable tv, wifi and locks, all of which worked perfectly. It was late.  In the morning we get to explore Guanajuato – once the source of much of the worlds’ silver and a rich town, patterned in style from imperial Spain.   A university town with alleys, nooks and crannies, touristy squares, I am confident that we will find some of those “bad hombres” that Mr. Trump warns about; the ones who have not already fled to the US before the wall is built!
In the morning we find perfectly hot water,in the shower, better wifi than in New York, good coffee and one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen-and I have seen a lot.

in mexico – searching for “bad hombres”

Mr. Trump, the president of the United States, warned of “bad hombres” coming from Mexican. The ones bringing the drugs, rape, crime. His caveat was that he assumed that some were “good people”
On Inauguration Day we exited the United States to head to Mexico. I had made a solemn pledge to leave the US if Trump was elected president. In full disclosure, I made a solemn pledge to leave the US if Hillary Clinton was elected president. A no lose proposition.
I have nothing but fondness for Mexico. I have traveled widely in the country, but not widely enough. My daughters studied in Cuernavaca. Much of the American southwest was Spanish/Mexican and we incorporate their food, customs and culture into the mosaic that is America.
I do not like the demonizing of any peoples, races or groups. It is mean and mindless.
So, I am here in Mexico in search of bad hombres and good experiences. My seasons in Saigon has ended; now it is a new adventure!

Election daze in Vietnam

It is evening in Vietnam – or morning/mourning in America – depending on whose candidate won or lost.

Here in Vietnam, people followed the election closely with most Vietnamese I know having rooted for Hillary Clinton.   The reasons:  1. they like her husband Bill Clinton, the first US president to come to Vietnam (and for whom Pho 2000 – the soup chain was named in his honor and the year he came) 2. she is a woman and 3.  Trump was too “loud”.

The exception was my reliable Saigon barber, Cuong. In addition to a good haircut he dishes out, softly, pearls of wisdom, promising to make me 10 years younger by his craftsmanship, and generally good humor.

In a pre-election whisper he proffers “I like Trump”.  I am surprised since he seems to be both well informed and an outlier.  “Why”? I ask.  His answer was simple:

“Trump is strong, and Vietnamese like strong leaders” and “Trump hates China and Vietnamese hate China too”.   Simple answers and understandable.

A long time between my blogs; life has interceded in its myriad forms but I am back here for another “season” albeit in Da Nang.

The most liveable city in Vietnam – Da Nang

When foreigners arrived in Vietnam over the centuries – Japanese, French, Americans – they landed in Da Nang or Tourane or any of its prior namesakes.  And, for good reason.

The city’s oceanfront stretches for endless miles, framed by Song Tra (Monkey Mountain) to the North and Marble Mountain to the south.  Nearby are cool hill climes (Ba Na which has one of the longest cable cars in the world) and higher peaks further afield.

I may sound like a Chamber of Commerce or tourism authority shill, but Doi Yeu Da Nang – I love DaNang.   It is where the American University in Vietnam (AUV) is due to launch this summer/fall – for real – and where change has happened quickly over the 15 years since I first visited – but in an orderly, quality manner, befitting good urban management and a progressive outlook.

I walk from my modest hotel to the riverfront, through tree-line neighborhoods and daily life, without hassle or hustle found in larger cities in the country (and elsewhere).  Coffee shops abound, chic and local restaurants, a night scene or bars and music even and enough expats (not too many yet thankfully!) to bring amenities to the city; along with a thriving middle and upper class of Vietnamese locals and visitors.

The Cathedral in DaNang is alive with its English 10 AM Mass and the energetic Sister Catherine (my late mother’s name I might add – fate) signs me up to teach English as a volunteer; it was impossible to say “no” to her.  The Mass was alive with applause for the readers (all women), applause for love, mercy and forgiveness, and applause for Jesus – something I rarely experience in the US.    There is a joyfulness to the place and in my celebration I sip a cold, fresh coconut (90 cents) on the river quay and watch the world go by.




The long awaited letter on behalf of the Government of Vietnam authorizes the “American University in Vietnam”, Dai Hoc My tai – Vietnam.

It’s not over until it’s over (as the late Yogi Berra said) but this “decision” from the government on behalf of the Prime Minister is (in the words of Donald Trump) “huge”.

Stay tuned…..

What’s in a name?

Vietnam, like so much of the world, embraces the”brand”.   Whether high end Gucci or lower end KFC, things with an identity – whether good or not – find a following.

So too it is with education.

The recent hoopla over the Fulbright University of Vietnam has evoked endorsements by the new US Ambassador, press coverage in Vietnam and the US, and a constellation of interests that seem irresistible.  After all , who can resist Harvard, Fulbright, big money and “elite” education?
The Fulbright folks have labored long in Vietnam (twenty years?) so you sometimes reap what you sow. I wish them well. My time here has only been 5 years – although there are days it feels much longer so I am hardly an “expert”.

What I do suspect is that they will be succesful,launching an “elite” graduate focused university with attendant speakers and speeches about cooperation, autonomy, academic freedom, a new chapter between our two countries etc.

It would represent a public relations coup for Vietnam and another notch in the belt for the Harvard-Fulbright axis (after all, rival Yale has its campus aready in Singapore!)

But,in the final analysis is that actually what Vietnam needs; can’t elite and connected students already find countless pathways to American university education?  Doesnt Vietnam benefit more from foundational learning – like english speaking, writing, understanding, problem solving, critical thinking and skill development in fields where there are actual jobs?

But Fulbright and Harvard come with a brand identity and that is hard to resist.  I wish them well, but I would rather see the US government and the Vietnamese government encourage the kind of educational diversity and variety that made the US education system great; all types of schools for all types of learners.