Welcome to the 'Quiet Australians, Saints and Sinners'.
Kindly take time to read the contents of the back cover...it will give you an appreciation of where the book will take you.....it is a journey of one man, who was grief stricken at what he saw in Vietnam in 1990... his first journey back since 1967. He and many others have subsequently returned with a genuine desire to change, to undo some of the damage that had been inflicted upon Vietnam and her peoples during what the Vietnamese term, 'The American War'.
Vietnam (the War) was for many 'a defining period in one's life'. For me it was so true but I was not able to come to terms with it till that fateful return in 1990.
Vietnam was at a crossroads in 1990. She had just embarked upon a reformation...a process that was hoped would take her out of the communist backwater in which she had struggled since the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the end of the war. That process continues in 2011 with mixed results. Those of the Southern forces or simply those of the South are today ignored by central government....they still suffer unforfilled employment, financial hardship, emotionally and in general the lack of entitlements or services normally provided by government.
Communism is alive and well in Vietnam and as an aid provider, one had to wear blinkers and carry on apolitically, for the recipients would assuredly be of the North.....the decision makers at all levels of government will be communist, as is all the public service along with State owned enterprises and utility providers. Nepotism is a way of life in Vietnam as is graft and corruption. If you are not from the North, your chances and opportunities are limited.
But somewhere in my journey, I managed to make the most of the opportunities on offer, be it the balmy weather, the inexpensive and the freshest of food, the not so cold cheap beer and the company of the opposite sex with a hope that one of them would fulfill all my desires for a happy life. I am still looking for that eternal flame of life along with the exuberance of my past youth......long live those Saints and Sinners.
Photo Credit. The author took this photo in 1996 at the BaRia orphanage, built by the AVVRG. The children are reportedly victims of 'agent orange' and suffer tragic deformities, being missing limbs and mental incapacity.