Ben and I met with the local Red Cross today. We had a lengthy meeting and discussed the work that the Red Cross is doing in Can Tho and throughout the province. They are quite active, and of course, underfunded. We agreed to help them as much as we could. There are many people and organizations helping the poor in Viet Nam, but all are underfunded. Or, maybe there are just too many poor. I think the last is most accurate.
After our meeting we visited a Red Cross Clinic that dispenses herbal medications and some regular medicines. They were treating a number of people with electric shock for various ailments. I think the treatments have more of a psychological effect, rather than medicinal merit. Still, they give some comfort to the poor who cannot afford to go to the hospital or see a doctor. We have some school supplies and few other goodies that we will drop off tomorrow.
Tonight we are invited to a special dinner to meet with a high-ranking Communist official. The man we will meet is Mr. Hung. They call him Anh Sau, which means Mr. Six. The highest ranking Generals are number ten. At number six, Colonel Hung is a very high-ranking official in charge of Environmental Development for the province. He also owns a good-sized amusement park about 25 kilometers outside Can Tho. We have been invited to tour the park and join him for dinner.
We arrived at the park around 5:00 p.m. and were greeted by members of Anh Sau’s staff. The amusement park is a small zoo in a park-like setting with many small ponds and paths that lead past the various animals on display. The park also has a good-sized aviary containing local birds and a fair bat population. We were taken inside the aviary to see the birds close up. The park was completed four months ago and is very nice by Vietnamese standards.
The swarming mosquitoes brought a quick end to our tour. We took shelter in Anh Sau’s house on the grounds and began our meeting. We exchanged pleasantries and were served fruit, ice water, and ice cream. After the introductions were complete, I explained what Mission Peace is doing in Viet Nam, and our future plans for our work in the country. Bruce explained the doctors’ work at the hospital in Can Tho.
Anh Sau was impressed with our current work and pleased with our future intentions. He offered to give us land and build a hospital for us in the area. We would have to outfit the hospital and provide American doctors to help the poor people in the countryside. I don’t know if we will be able to pull this one off, but if we can, can you imagine a Mission Peace hospital here in Vietnam?
First things first, I have to prepare a written proposal outlining everything about Mission Peace. Then, Anh Sau will present it to the province officials and help us to get their agreement to go forward with the project. There will be many hurdles to jump over, but we may just be able to make this happen.
Following dinner, Anh Sau took the microphone and sang a couple of Vietnamese songs. He has a very good voice. A couple more of the Vietnamese followed with more beautiful Vietnamese songs. Then the Ungrateful Mekong Dead took the stage: Jeff Spanko on guitar, Bruce Lehnert and Barry Minerof were the vocalists. It took Jeff about 15 minutes to get the Vietnamese guitar sounding like something American. Bruce and Barry couldn’t come close to the beautiful voices of the Vietnamese singers, but for enthusiasm and guts, we all gave them a ten. Everyone in the restaurant was all ears -- even the kitchen staff poured into the main room to hear the crazy Americans sing. They really rocked the joint. After the second song they were descended upon by all of the ladies who presented them with roses for a performance well done. I told them not to quit their day jobs.
After much hand-shaking and promises to meet again in 2003, we were off to the hotel. It was a long and fruitful day.