Duong with Self-portrait, 2018

There is something about Vietnamese artist Duong Thuy Duong that makes you want to explore – to find out more about what is inside this quiet painter and her enigmatic works of uncanny self-portraits, kitchen-tableaux’s, railway stations and hovercrafts, all in the most beautiful colors – often a more enchanting blue than any blue I have seen before.

Duong does offer a key to her door in the form of a famous Nietzsche quote: “Wir haben die Kunst, damit wir nicht auf der Wahrheit zu Grunde gehen.” (We have art so that we do not perish because of the truth).

Duong’s website  leaves it to her paintings to speak for themselves. A brief CV gives you an insight in her educational background in Germany and the most important exhibitions. That’s it.

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Now we know a bit more in Hanoi, because her (and my) friend Ly Truong curated Duong’s present exhibition in Hanoi. After working with Duong, Ly shared her thoughts in her beautiful handwriting and pinned her observations on the entrance door to the exhibition premises in Dang Thai Mai:

There is a “black hole” in Duong Thuy Duong’s universe and you will feel its strong magnetic field when you look at her paintings. The journey might begin in her kitchen – a mother of two daily space’s, and end up on a highway where you might ask yourself “What is this? Is this the end of the world or is this the Eternity, where am I?
In my situation, I was lured by her stunning self- portraits that looked like old photos turning yellow and green. They make me curious about what’s inside this woman’s head. In her paintings, every object is moving and vanishing. They are so lively, they seem so catchable, they are so real, but also so distant. They make me want to cry…


Duong with Self-portrait, 2018

On a chilly Hanoi morning Duong offers me a few more clues to what inspires her: Mozart’s Requiem is among her favorite music along with the Russian composer Rachmaninov and his Concerto no. 2 for Violin.

The Danish movie director Lars Von Trier is on top of her movie list with Dogville and Melancholia.

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Lunar Eclipse, 2018

Duong’s eyes light up, when I ask her about Berlin, where she lives with her two children (of 9 and 8) and her boyfriend:

“I am longing to go back to Berlin tomorrow. I love that place. The Germans are warmer than they may seem to be at first. I do not feel like a foreigner in Berlin. There are so many nationalities living there, so foreigners are just a natural thing.”

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No name, 2007

Born in 1979, Duong does remember the bad old days in Hanoi’s extreme postwar poverty.  She recalls days with very little food and plain sugar as the only luxury. Playing alone in a small courtyard, which served as a playground.

“We were poor, but we had things others did not, because my father’s younger brother had gone to Germany. He sent home pacakages from time to time.”

Duong has no plans to move back to her native country:

“My beloved Hanoi does not really exist anymore.”



The Duong Thy Duong exhibition venue: Dang Thai Mai, House 19B, Lane 12.



Ambassador John Nielsen: ” I will never be able to fill out Peter’s footprint.”

Today I hand over this blog to John Nielsen, Danish Ambassador to Yangon, and his farewell speech to our friend Peter Lysholt Hansen.  Family and friends from all over the world paid their respects to this formidable man.


Dear Lien,

Dear Khoi,

Family and friends

It is still difficult to grasp that Peter is not here anymore. Just a few months ago he was still vivid, energetic and good humored as always. Filling the rooms where he entered, sharing his visions and thoughts so everybody understood it. It’s tragic and unfair that he is not able to enjoy his retirement in his newly built house in Long Bien together with you – Lien and Khoi.

Peter was a very good colleague and friend of mine for more than twenty years. He was one of my mentor, when I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I owe him a lot and learned a lot from working with him.

DK_Family 2

Farewells from the family in Denmark

He was a tremendous asset for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the countries he served in. He worked 24/7 to make a difference. For Denmark, but not least for the people in the countries, where he was posted. In whatever position he was put in, he always managed to show substantial results and represent Danish values.

He could be very stubborn when he pursued his objectives and never ever turned away from a dispute. He met people eye to eye, at all levels and always got his message across, whether he was with people in the countryside or with a minister.

He fought hard for justice and freedom of speech in the countries he served in. His last professional challenge was his defense for two jailed Reuter journalists in Myanmar.

Peter loved to get out of the office and to visit projects in the countryside and talk to farmers, labourers, students – people from all walks of life.  He often conveyed  messages from these meetings to ministers or highlevel officials and asked them to take action if he had noticed any injustice.


Lien and Khoi saying the final goodbye to Peter

He was innovative and never afraid of trying out new ideas. I worked very closely with him on the decentralization of the Danish development cooperation. Many may have forgotten today that this was the most comprehensive reform of Danish development Aid and Peter was one of the main architects of this reform. He set the direction and managed to devolve responsibilities to the Embassies against a lot of internal resistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lost a leader by example, a charismatic and sometimes undiplomatic diplomat, who made a difference.


Peters last wish was to have his ashes strewn in Hanoi’s Red River

I have had the honour to follow in Peters footsteps first in Vietnam and recently in Myanmar. And I must say, that although my feets are bigger than his,  I will never be able to fill out his gigantic footprint. Peter left behind him, both here in Vietnam and in Myanmar, impressive results and fond memories for many people. The staff at the Embassies in Vietnam and Myanmar were proud of working for him, occasionately also arguing over ideas with him, but always with good humor.

Personally, I will miss the many times we met privately. Peter always greeted me with the words “hva’ så” or what’s going on. On these occasions we sat down for many hours with coffee or a glass of wine and reviewed the situation in the world, in Denmark and not least gossiping about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and common friends. I will remember his sharp analysis, an analysis which was always  accompanied with laughter and good humor.

We often talked about our joint passion for Vietnam, the fantastic Vietnamese people but also about our families. I had hoped to continue our encounters  here in Peters beloved Hanoi or in Myanmar. Now I will keep the memories and content of these talks for myself as they are certainly not suitable for others!


Qui came to pay his respects – he was the Ambassador’s driver during Peter’s tenure at the Danish Embassy in Hanoi.

I also came to know Lien and Khoi through these conversations and felt how happy and proud he was when he talked about you. As I got to know you both, I understoodwhy. Peter and Lien wasa power couple with tremendousenergy in the diplomatic circles in Hanoi, Seoul and Yangon. Always filling the room with good humor. And Khoi matured in school and in size and is todaya young man.

Lien and Peter took both very good care of Charlotte and me, when we visited Vietnam in 2010. Charlotte still tells the story of how you, Lien, drove her around in the narrow streets of Hanoi on a motorbike. She is still trembling, I believe.

Lien, you have lost a fantastic husband, whom you made very happy. I hope you will keep the good memories of Peter and you know you have a lot of friends in Myanmar and Hanoi, who will want to see you and always be there for you.

Khoi, you have lost a father, who adored you and was so proud of you. I always noticed  how happy Peter was, when I saw you together. He was also very ambitious on your behalf and really wanted to give you the best he could.

After 45 years in the Foreign Service, with 28 years in 8 different countries, Peter was about to retire. I had hoped to see him in Hanoi on his morning trips looking for his favorite pho bo, or riding his motorbike through the streets of Hanoi, with Lien at the back. Sadly, this is not going to happen, but I will keep the memories of an outstanding personality and good friend.

Today, let’s talk about Peter, share good moments.He would have wanted us all to keep our heads up and look forward even in this difficult moment. Let us remember him as the loving husband and father he was, but also for his hard work for the poor, his tremendous energy,innovation and good humor.

Finally, I would like, on behalf of his colleagues at the Embassy in Myanmar,  the staff at the Nordic House in Myanmar,  and hundreds of people in Yangon to convey our heartfelt condolences to Lien, Khoi, the family in Vietnam and his daughters Mia, Christine and Sarah in Denmark.

Lets all honor Peter with a minute of silence!


 Xin cam on



Robert Mapplethorpe’s legendary portrait of Warhol on display in Malaga.


Malaga’s Picasso museum is graciously hosting a marvelous Andy Warhol exhibition this summer, totally overshadowing the rather mediocre collection of Picasso’s own works in his hometown.

Some of Andy Warhol’s finest works are on display: The Monroe series, the Mao wall, the Shah of Iran, the Campbell soup cans, the super 8 takes of Bob Dylan, Susan Sontag, Allen Ginsberg, and many others, who whirled around in Warhol’s frenetic Factory years in New York.


A screening room with original takes brings you right back to the ‘White Light – White Heat’ nights of the Factory, complete with Nico, Lou Reed and their Velvet Underground.  A truly amazing experience in the middle of the beautifully renovated old town streets of Malaga.


Mao Tse Tung according to Warhol.

Right at the entrance to the Warhol exhibition is one of my own all time favorites. Richard Mapplethorpe’s phenomenal photo of Andy Warhol, shot in 1986, the year before Andy Warhol died.  Mapplethorpe himself was hugely famous in his own right along with Warhol and the other celebrities.

Mapplethorpe’s short life is beautifully cronicled in this essay SEXUAL OUTLAW written by his former lover, Jack Fritscher.




The bamboo talk is performed with unique instruments, made by the artists themselves.

Today, I hand over my blog to Ms. Nguyễn Thị Ninh, logistics officer in Mascot Int. Vietnam, winner of the first prize of our company essay contest.  Here is her reflections after seeing “The Bamboo Talk” – an intriguing performance at  Phu Sa Lab, an experimental music center in Hanoi.



Nguyễn Thị Ninh

“Mother, Is it possible that the bamboo can talk?”

My 6-year-old son wondered when I told him I was going to watch a play called “the Bamboo talk.”

“Mother, you go to see and tell me later, please. I am eager to hear more about this.”

“Son, the performance included 18 instruments, including the Goong, Đàn Đó, Saxophone, and Đàn Nhị …. They all took the audience through the story of the bamboo. All are harmoniously combined creates many levels of emotions, low, high, peaceful, noisy, fun, gentle and like a rapid fire.

My son, you are too young for me to express the whole performance for your understanding.  But I want to tell you that you should share and love nature from small jobs such as planting trees, caring and protecting trees around the house, saving paper when you write and draw like the other children.”

I said that to my son after I came back from Phu Sa Lab.


Water ressources are being depleted, people are dying of thirst in the Bamboo Talk. 

When I saw the performance, I came to think of the famous words “art is not what you see but what you make others see” by Edgar Degas, a famous French painter and sculptor. I found myself coming back to my childhood in my hometown, to hear the sound of bamboo like the sound of the wind, the sound of the woodpecker, the sounds of insects bouncing on the bamboo body, joking and tugging, peaceful and in amazing serenity.

The big Đàn Đó seemed to be the most utilized in this performance.  I was thinking of cats, bamboo treble, roasted chestnuts and children playing around the neighborhood. Then the  skillful performance by the artists through juggling with bamboo tools brought me back to Phu Sa Lab. There is a couple, loving each other in the bamboo forest. People live together, share and love beside the village bamboo clusters.

“Art is nothing without talent, but talent is nothing without labor,” said Emile Zola, a practical author who is considered the pioneer of naturalism. It is the truth. The artists at Phu Sa Lab not only create amazing instruments but also create the sounds in the way they want. Độp … Độp … Độp…….Sound combining image is always a great tool to influence the human brain to communicate.


The powerful voice of Mai Khoi brings new emotions.

The torment of water-sun-fire-thirst. The powerful singing voice of Do Nguyen Mai Khoi with the sound of the Goong piano resonates and brings new emotions. People have forgotten the value of what people have, forgotten to see the value and respect it. People need to come back to spirituality, the pagoda and faith. The sound of the saxophone by the artist Quyen Thien Dac is louder and louder enough to make the chest burst, combined with the jew’s harp of Mr. Nguyen Duc Minh, making my heart sobbing. All the sounds are blended together to awaken the mind, the acknowledgment and face of the truth of life. It finishes resoundingly and immediately make me wake up from the mysterious things.

Trống Chum, if you already know the drum made of leather, then you will encounter a strange drum at Phu Sa Lab. A string of shrunk cloth is placed in the middle covering a third of the clay jar, the sound will emit as you tap on the other string and jar body. The juggling drummer made me anxious and I asked, “What happens when they throw away the tape? That’s the precise gravitational pull to every centimeter, where every artist contributes to create a cheerful rhythm.  I came to think that these people have realized what is important in their lives.

The show ended with short Đàn Đó perforance by the artists. It reminded me of the wind, the sound of leaves and bamboo, the sound of bamboo colliding in the peaceful and cool moonlight. It is peaceful place when the nature is quiet.

I admire the meticulous training, creative and full of enthusiasm by Phu Sa Lab artists to create a special work “The Bamboo Talk” like that. I would like to thank Mr. Thomas Bo Pedersen and the company for facilitating this performance so that we can better understand art and improve our knowledge. Over all, I feel excited, happy, love life and nature, dare to express and contribute my little to do meaningful things in the community.

The Bamboo Talk is a live performance of  a journey imagined by artists Nguyen Duc Minh, Dian Anh Tuan, Tran Kim Ngoc, Nguyen Quang Su, Nguyen Duc Phuong, Quyen Thien Dac and Do Nguyen Mai Khoi.  Director: Nhat Ly. 

In July 2018, Mascot Vietnam and Mascot Laos´celebrated our historic productivity output in several ways, including a two day beach trip.  We invited our nhan vien staff to experience The Bamboo Talk and encouraged them to participate in an essay contest.

Ms. Nguyễn Thị Ninh essay was written in very eloquent Vietnamese. Translation into English does not reflect the actual beauty of Ninh’s language skills. Here is the original text for the benefit of Vietnamese readers:

Tre có nói được không mẹ ?
cậu con trai tôi 6 tuổi của tôi băn khoăn hỏi khi tôi nói cho cậu bé nghe rằng tôi sẽ đi xem một

chương trình có tên “lời của tre”
Mẹ đi xem về rồi mẹ kể cho con nghe nhé.
Tôi háo hức lắm và càng háo hức hơn vì còn mang thêm một trọng trách to lớn như thế.
Con trai, buổi biểu diễn là sự thể hiện kết hợp nhuần nhuyễn của 18 đạo cụ trong đó có Đàn môi, đàn Goong, đàn Đó, saxophone , kèn nhị…. đưa người nghe hành trình về miền tre. Tất cả được kết hợp hài hòa, dung dị tạo ra nhiều cung bậc cảm xúc, lúc trầm, lúc bổng, lúc thanh vắng, lúc ồn ào, lúc vui vẻ, lúc nhẹ nhàng thanh tao, có lúc lại thúc giục dồn dập. Con còn quá nhỏ để mẹ có thể diễn tả hết buổi biểu diễn ấy cho con hiểu. Mẹ muốn nói với con rằng hãy biết chia sẻ và yêu thiên nhiên từ những việc làm nhỏ như trồng cây, chăm sóc và bảo vệ cây xanh quanh nhà, tiết kiệm giấy khi con viết và vẽ con nhé. Tôi đã nói như thế với con trai mình sau khi tôi trở về từ Phù Sa Lab.

Tôi rất thích câu châm ngôn “nghệ thuật không phải điều bạn thấy mà là điều bạn khiếnngưới khác thấy “của Edgar Degas một họa sĩ và nhà điêu khắc nổi tiếng ngưới Pháp để nói về chương trình này. Tôi thấy mình được trở về tuổi thơ quê hương , được nghe tiếng tre tiếngtrúc âm vang như tiếng chuông gió, tiếng chim gõ kiến, tiếng những con côn trùng bám vàothân tre đùa giỡn và quấn quít, bình yên và thanh thản đến lạ lùng. Cây đàn đó lớn dường nhưphát huy công dụng tối đa trong màn trình diễn này. Tiếng đánh khăng, tiếng chuyền tre, tiếng rang hạt dẻ, tiếng trẻ con nô đùa quanh ngõ xóm. Sự thể hiện khéo léo từ các nghệ sĩ qua cáctrò tung hứng bằng các dụng cụ tre trúc đánh thức tôi quay trở về sân khấu của Phù Sa lab.Lấpló đâu đó cả những đôi nam nữ yêu nhau bên rừng tre rừng trúc. Bên lũy tre làng, con người sống quần tụ, sum vầy, chia sẻ và yêu thương.

Emile Zola-nhà văn hiện thực pháp được coi là nhà văn tiên phong của chủ nghĩa tựnhiên, từng nói “Nghệ thuật chẳng là gì nếu thiếu tài năng, nhưng tài năng chẳng là gì nếukhông có lao động” .Quả thật đúng như vậy. Những nghệ sĩ ở Phù sa Lab không chỉ tạo ra những nhạc cụ tuyệt vời mà còn sáng tạo ra các âm thanh theo cách mà họ mong muốn. ĐỘp,ĐỘP, ….ĐỘP ….ĐỘp…….. độp ………độp độp….Âm thanh kết hợp hình ảnh luôn là công cụ tuyệt vời tác động đến não bộ con người để truyền đạt thông điệp một cách hiệu quả nhất- sự hiếm hoi của nước-nắng lửa- khát cháy. Giọng hát mênh mênh mang mang của nghệ sĩ Đặng nguyễn mai Khôi cùng âm thanh của chiếc đàn Goong để lại dư âm và mang đến những cảm xúc lạ. Ngưới ta đã quên trân quí những điều người ta từng có, quên nhìn thấy giá trị để trân trọng. Người người lại tìm về với tâm linh, chùa chiền và đức tin. Tiếng kèn sắc xô phôn của nghệ sĩ Nguyễn Quang Sự vang lên dồn dập to dần, to, TO, TO đến vỡ lồng ngực, kết hợp với kèn môi của anh Nguyễn Đức Minh da diết, thiết tha làm tim tôi thổn thức. Tất cả các âm thanhđược kết hợp nhuần nhuyễn làm bừng tỉnh cái tâm thức, cái sự nhìn nhận và dối mặt với sự thật của cuộc sống. Kết thúc VANG DỒN và dứt điểm làm tôi choàng tỉnh khỏi những điều huyền bí.

“Trống Chum”, nếu bạn đã biết trống được làm bằng da thì ở Phù Sa Lab bạn sẽ gặp một loại trống cực kỳ lạ mắt. Người ta dùng một dải dây bằng vải chun đặt ở giữa che 1/3 miệng chum sành, âm thanh sẽ phát ra khi bạn dùng dùi gõ vào bản dây kia và thân chum. Trò tung hứng dùi trống khiến tôi lo lắng hướng mắt theo mỗi hồi trống, rồi tự hỏi “điều gì xảy ra khi họ ném dùi lệch khỏi dây băng kia? Đó là lực hấp dẫn chính xác đến từng centimet, ở đómỗi người nghệ sĩ như những phù thủy khéo léo nhẹ nhàng điều khiển mỗi chiếc dùi theo từng nhịp điệu đều đặn tạo ra sự rộn ràng vui vẻ. Con ngưới đã nhận ra điều gì là quan trọng trong cuộc sống của họ.

Buổi biểu diễn kết thúc bằng màn trình diễn đàn Đó ngắn của các nghệ sĩ. Nó gợi cho tâm trí tôi tiếng gió, tiếng lá lao xao và tiếng trúc, tiếng tre va vào nhau trong đêm trăng thanh gió mát, tĩnh mịch. Chốn bình yên khi thiên nhiên yên ả.

Tôi cảm phục về sự rèn luyện tỉ mỉ , sáng tạo và đầy nhiệt huyết không mệt mỏi của các nghệ sĩ phù sa lab cho ra đời một tác phẩm đặc sắc “lời của tre” như thế. Tôi xin cảm ơn anh Thomas Po Pederson và công ty đã tạo điều kiện tổ chức buổi cảm thụ này để chúng tôi hiểu biết hơn về nghệ thuật và nâng cao kiến thức. Hơn hết thảy,Tôi cảm thấy thích thú , vui vẻ ,yêu cuộc sống, yêu thiên nhiên , dám thể hiện và góp phần nhỏ bé để làm những điều có ýnghĩa trong cộng đồng.

Ghi chú.

“Nghệ thuật chẳng là gì nếu thiếu tài năng, nhưng tài năng chẳng là gì nếu không có laođộng” (The Artist is nothing without gift, but the gift is nothing without work”.
“nghệ thuật không phải điều bạn thấy mà là điều bạn khiến ngưới khác thấy “ (Art is not whatyou see, but what you make other see)


A new must-read book for decision makers, donors and everyone else dealing with one of the worst man-made disasters in modern history.


How do you cope with a tragedy of epic proportions – a tragedy engulfing some four million people, who have been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam? How do you bring an end to a manmade disaster, which erupted five decades ago and still claim victims among the poorest of the poor in Vietnam as well as among veterans and their families from the US and other foreign troops serving during the war in Vietnam?

The answers to these complex questions are now at hand from two key actors in the efforts to secure assistance to victims as well as cleaning up the remaining dioxin hotspots in Vietnam.

Vietnamese toxicologist Le Ke Son and US Dr. Charles R. Bailey have joined hands in producing the most comprehensive account so far of the Agent Orange issue in their new book: “From enemies to partners – Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange.”

During the war,  some 72 million liters of herbicide were sprayed by the US Airforce in order to defoliate the jungle and destroy the crops in areas, where the farmers were suspected of supporting the insurgents and the North Vietnamese troops operating in the South.

Son and Bailey have been deeply involved in the efforts to deal with all aspects of the deadly legacy of Agent Orange – Dr. Son as a leading medical expert on the Vietnamese side, Dr. Bailey as director of Ford Foundation Vietnam, distributing millions of dollars in support of Vietnams Agent Orange victims.  Bailey is also well known for his successful lobbying efforts in the US congress to secure financial assistance to deal with the Agent Orange issues.

So far the US has provided USD 231 million in direct financial assistance, since Agent Orange ceased to be a taboo issue in the relations between the US and Vietnam. Most of the funds have been spent on cleaning up two of the three heavily contaminated hot spots, the former US air bases in Phu Cat and Da Nang.  The worst and biggest hotspot at the former airbase in Bien Hoa remains to be dealt with.

In 10 chapters Son and Bailey provide well founded answers to the questions, most often asked about Agent Orange. Here are some of them:

  • Is there still dioxin pollution in Vietnam?
  • Does dioxin exposure lead to birth defects and reproductive failures?
  • What have the US and Vietnam done so far?
  • What do the Agent Orange victims need?

The approach of Son and Bailey is factual and somber – no pointed fingers or dramatics are needed here. The facts themselves are frightening, indeed.

Daunting task ahead

The book stands out as unique and important documentation how Agent Orange is being dealt with in Vietnam and in the US.  The cleanup of Phu Cat and Da Nang has been succesful, and some assistance has reached victims, primarily in the more easily accessible urban areas of Da Nang and elsewhere.

Ahead lies the daunting task of cleaning up Bien Hoa, now a densely populated area,  including 20 lakes with persistent high levels of dioxin contamination in the food chains. The US has committed to assist in the clean-up, which is expected to take a decade at a cost of USD 800 million.

Son and Bailey also point out a very important shortcoming in the assistance: That little or no assistance reaches the most vulnerable victims in remote rural areas in the Central Highlands. I saw exactly the same during a number of visits I have made over a recent five year period to the victims.  More info on this aspect is available in my essay: Letter to Obama.

With their book, Son and Bailey have not only delivered very important documentation on the tragedy of Agent Orange. They have also included suggestions for future systematic action to deal efficiently with the aftermath of the ecocide, which descended on Vietnam during the war.

Therefore, “From enemies to partners” deserves the widest possible reading among decisionmakers in Vietnam and the US, the donor community and everyone else for that matter.



John Balahan/Tao Te Ching: “Be as careful of the end as you were of the beginning.”

John Balaban is back in town
One of the greatest things about living in Hanoi is the fascinating visitors who come back again and again. Yesterday, American poet John Balaban stopped by at Nguyen Qui Duc‘s Tadioto on ‘his last visit’ to Vietnam.
“I am in reasonably good health, but I got one machine now running my heart and another one running my knee,” John said with a very healthy grin and added a quote from Tao Te Ching: “Be as careful of the end as you were of the beginning.”
Like most of us in the audience, John got Vietnam under his skin as a young man, starting with being a conscientious objector to the war in Vietnam. He went on to become a relief worker during the war, taking care of wounded children, getting himself wounded in the process.
Balaban also set out to collect and preserve the Vietnamese folk tales, which have been handed down verbally from generation to generation. Through Balaban’s translations some of Vietnam’s finest poetry have become available to all of us.
His own 12 works of prose and poetry are legendary gems in world litterature. ‘Remembering Heaven’s Face’, and ‘After Our War’ just to mention a few.

John and Duc co-edited ‘Vietnam – A traveler’s Literary Companion´.

At Yesterday’s Hanoi event, John’s long time friend, journalist et al, Nguyen Qui Duc displayed his excellent interviewing skills in prompting John on a far reaching adventure into war, peace and poetry of the finest kind, throwing in some Gloria Emerson and her love for Graham Greene – and a spice of sexual connotations in fluent Vietnamese.
Romania encounter
My personal clue yesterday flashed like a tracer round, when John spotted me with a “We have met before!”
We had indeed met, 29 years ago during the Romania revolution (or whatever it was).
John and I had ended up in the city of Cluj, where angry people were stringing up members of Securitate, dictator Ceausescu’s hated security forces. I still have the shoulder strap from one of the Securitate uniforms, given to me by one of the anti-Ceausecu activists ‘as a souvenir’.
John and I bumped into each other in front of the house of a famous Romanian writer, who had just been released from jail. We must have exchanged a few words, but I only remember how it incredibly cold it was that day in Cluj, and how good half cooked potatoes taste for dinner, when you have not eaten anything serious since yesterday morning.
John collapsed a little later and ended up in surgery at the hospital in Cluj.
“I got the best of care, because the doctors were too scared to have an American die at the hospital,” John says with that healthy grin, he is wearing these days.
Yesterday, John Balaban offered this exit advice, a quote from Vietnamese poet, Hồ Xuân Hương: “Where is Nirvana? It is here – 9 times out of 10.”