Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vietnam -2 (and a Mennonite Bank's trust)

1. My adventure will begin on Saturday 26th at 12:30 pm., when my friend Diego Cabral will drive me to Tampa Airport for my flight to Los Angeles via Houston.

2. I’ll stay overnight in L.A. with my pal Derrick Jones before taking flights from L.A. via Tokyo to Bangkok, and thence to Hanoi.

3. I’ll arrive in Hanoi on Monday 28th and begin the tour the next day.

4. I am becoming impressed with the services of the Vietnamese Tour Company. Yesterday they sent me an up-dated itinerary which included details of where and when they would meet me at the Hanoi Airport, and when they would take me to Saigon’s Airport (on my way home). They also included the paper work I will need for an internal flight in Vietnam from Da Nang to Ho Chi Min City (Saigon).

5. This Tour Company specializes in environmentally sound tours, and also in the tours which bring U.S.A. Vietnam War veterans back to Vietnam for the work of post-war reconciliation.

6. I am brewing a cold.  Oh no.  Yes, I am brewing a cold. “This too shall pass” (I hope) before I arrive in Vietnam.

7. I went to my Savings Bank “Everence Federal Credit Union” in order to withdraw $2400 in cash.: - $1400 of this is to pay the Vietnamese Tours Company on arrival in Hanoi (I paid a $700 deposit by pay pal, and they ask for the balance in greenbacks when I arrive).

8. The rest ($1,000) is for spending money in Vietnam (and en-route).

9. Everence Federal Credit Union’s computers were “down”. Nonetheless they allowed me to withdraw $2,400 on  the basis of my word  that I had more than that in my account.

Who could believe that such trust endures? Maybe it’s because Everence is a Mennonite based Credit Union (it used to be called “Mennonite Financial Services”). 

Yippee for small and local business.  As I left the bank I thanked the teller for a bank which is based on trust and truth.

10. This hat was made in China and exported to the U.K. It was purchased in Bristol, England by/for my brother Martyn. He brought it to the U.S.A. last September, and left it in my home.  I will wear it in Vietnam (and leave it there!)

That hat, that hat, where did you get that hat?



I was at my favorite local Supermarket yesterday afternoon.  It was all very sad.  The market is closing, and the shelves are being stripped bare.

Next to no meat.  Very little produce.  Deli counter closed.  Fish counter closed.  Bakery closed.  It reminded me of one of those pictures of a Russian supermarket in Soviet days.

I said my adieus.  To Liz and to Maribel, check out clerks who have been unfailingly friendly and helpful. To the store manager, out on his ear after 32 years of service.

It's all in the nature of capitalism.

"Sweetbay"  is closing many stores in Florida.  That chain is a minnow in the Florida market where the leviathan  "Publix" commands an overwhelming 60% of the market.

Competition is fierce and is being  exacerbated by the success of some of the newer and more "up-scale" vendors: "Whole Food", "Fresh Market" and "Trader Joe's".

I will miss my local "Sweetbay" where the prices were good, the produce was always fresh, and the staff were the tops.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The limit of technology? The blessings of local businesses.

Boeing is to be commended for its vision for the 787/Dreamliner: a plane designed to be more comfortable for passengers; more fuel efficient; and “better for the environment”.

But maybe in this case “man’s reach has not exceeded his grasp”  (c.f Robert Browning).

Maybe, just maybe, Boeing’s “reach” towards a great use of lithium batteries (which seem to be one of the problems for the 787) has exceeded the ability of those batteries to “grasp” their tasks.

I thought about this increasing reliance on technology/computerisation when I was at my local bank today.

My task was simple:  I wanted to add my friend John as a signatory to access my locked box.  (My lawyer suggested this in the event of my incapacity).

The Bank clerk was sweet, kind and friendly.  But the task took 50 minutes, as he accessed and printed various computer records, and got all manner of information from John.

“Honest to goodness”, when I worked in a bank those many years ago, in a bank without a single computer,  that task could have been accomplished in five minutes, using an old fashioned index card.

It’s not that I am against computerisation etc, but I do believe that the use of computers sometimes makes life more complicated rather than simple, e.g. using a debit card at the supermarket sometimes takes longer than using cash.

On the other hand......

I walked into our wonderful local auto shop (Sam’s Auto) the other day to make an appointment for the “free” oil change which they had promised back in October when I had major engine work.

As I walked in Gerry (the manager) said “hi Michael, how may we help you?”

How wonderful it was to be greeted by name!

I reminded him about the free oil change, and also alerted him that various new belts were very squeaky.

So my car went into the shop today. The oil change was done.

But the more the mechanics tightened the belts the squeakier they became, so Sam’s Auto replaced them all – free of charge.

I am not a Luddite, but I tend to like the small and local businesses which have a personal touch, more than I trust the mega-corporations.

Monday, 21 January 2013

A cat speaks about humans.

 I live in a very restricted space with a humanoid who calls me “Adelaide”.

Of course I’d rather be outside – exploring, wandering and hunting.

But I make the best of my confinement.  The humanoid feeds me and caresses me: - and that ain’t bad.

He also made a perch for me.  From that perch I can see the birds, the ducks, and the anoles.

It’s better than nothing, and the loo/bathroom is so handily nearby.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

This time next week.

“Lord willing, and if the crick don’t rise” .....

.......this time next week I’ll be on a United Airlines flight from LA to Bangkok, via Tokyo.

Then I’ll have an overnight stay at the Novotel Hotel at Bangkok (BKK) airport (Jan 28/29)

On Jan 29th I’ll fly from Bangkok to Hanoi.

 My adventure will begin in Hanoi with a local company known as  (cut and paste this URL if necessary)

I especially like their commitment to sustainable tourism.

As part of the tour I/we will trek to the village of Sapa, and stay overnight with a local family.

See: (cut and paste this URL if necessary)

Since I know and believe that my host Vietnamese villagers will also be interested in my family I will take some of my ‘photos to shew to them.


My family in 1979 on brother Martyn's wedding day:  Back Row: l-r Martyn, jmp, brothers Steve  David and Andrew. Front Row Sisters Jean and Maureen, Mum, sisters Liz and  Ruth, Our Dad had already passed,

Our Dad (already sick with cancer at bro. Steve's wedding in  1972 (?)

My twin sister and I  (approx 1953)

My twin sister and I (1944).  I am on the left.

Our Mum (in Saundersfoot, Wales)  maybe in  1997/1998