17-8-13 -- Report on a wonderful cafe time this morning with Ms Dang Hong Nhut, the Vice President Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, a veteran who served in the “Long Haired Army”. Ms Nhut was accompanied to the restaurant by her
grandson who was knowledgeable and proud of the part his grandmother has played in the history of their nation. We discussed the effects of agent orange/dioxin on humans, animals and the land and soil and how even after all these years it is still killing folks and causing children to be born with major defects. Leanna and I assured her that we will continue to work on this issue when we return home. In turn Ms Nhut invited us to visit a workshop where agent orange/dioxin victims are taught skills that make use of the talents they have so that they live with all possible dignity and contribute to building VN's future. We accepted the invitation and will report on it in a future blog.
This gracious and caring lady also invited us to go to the “Women's Museum”. This museum tells the history of Vietnamese women and the many roles they played in the struggle for freedom and equality. We'll report on our museum visit as soon as possible! We had a lively discussion about Vietnam today and about the role of the VGCL and the labor movement in moving the country forward as they represent an important link adding the strength of the working class to the challenge as building a modern nation. As we discussed politics she shared with us her interest and knowledge of the USA Occupy Movement.
After more than 1 ½ hours we broke up our meeting with a commitment to get together soon to continue the conversation and visit the workshop and meet the workers there. Incidentally, we had our coffee or cafe at the Trung Nguyen Coffee Shop and our coffee and refreshments were excellent -- think sophisticated Peet's.
After we concluded our meeting our translator, the venerable Vinh,
took us shopping at the Cho Tan Binh market – another giant building that has about 1000 shops under one roof, like Bien Thanh Market that we visited shortly after arriving in Vietnam.
Cho Tan Binh is newer than Bien Than but still older than me. Leanna found some blouses there and we looked at bolts of silk material sold for the construction of the Ao dai (Ow Yai) dresses for women and Ao Dai for men that are traditional silk “pajamas” that are worn on special occasions such as weddings … . To prevent mis-information, there are also Ao Dai for men and women that are worn on a daily basis as work clothes. Pictures of women at work in rice paddies dressed in ao dai are not unusual. It was impressive to see row after row and little shop after little shop featuring beautiful silk fabrics.
After arriving home after our talking and shopping morning we went out to get groceries, clothes, and some novels at our local shopping mart. Rather than take a taxi we took a route 86 bus. The driver posed for a picture beside his new bus, the bus was made in Vietnam at one of their new factories. The accommodations in it were very sturdy and we felt comfortable and safe on our trip. Now this is important because it means that VN can modernize its mass transportation infrastructure utilizing locally made products so they create jobs for the working class, use new technology, and provide improvements for the use of the community, socialist theory and practice at work. Of course for developing countries like VN, the USA and other developed countries often use trade agreements to threaten trade sanctions against such VN manufacturing and products claiming they are "unfairly subsidized by the VN government."
What hipocracy and a laugh: the USA subsidizes big oil with oil depletion tax allowances, subsidizes farmers not to grow food, subsidizes wind power generation and solar power generation, bails out Wall Street and banks with tax money (subsidy) and on and on. The USA claims their pro-corporate and pro-wealthy policies corporations are not a subsidy. We say FAIR trade, not USA-version of FREE trade!
For the architecture and building buffs the picture below illustrates the construction of the very large open air buildings that house the Bien Thanh and Cho Tan Dinh markets. Now I am no builder, though I worked on construction as a young man. It appears to me that the lattice work supporting the roof in the photo is made from concrete. It must have been quite a job to construct this with all the angles and triangles necessary to hold the weight of the roof with safety. Now it may be that the roof is corrugated steel with windows here and there but though that would be lighter than a concrete roof or a clay brick roof it still would represent a considerable weight.
If a reader knows more about this type of construction please feel invited to leave a comment.