Several of you asked me to elaborate on my Dad’s health conditions, so here’s the reader’s digest version of the story.
My Dad served in Vietnam from November 1964 till November 1965. He was in the Air Force installing encrypted communications systems between the military bases. His assignment had him travel through the brunt of South Vietnam and exposed to a lot of pretty bad stuff.
His health issues didn’t appear right away, but evolved over a period of time. Sleeping disorders and asthma were some of the mild issues. What really hit hard was his bipolar disorder issues. We had not linked his health issues to Vietnam until my Dad visited the Veteran’s hospital in Loma Linda for the first time.
My Dad had always been acutely ill, and we found after the fact that private medical systems were misdiagnosing his problems. They medicated him heavily, and the medication itself caused health problems. My Dad developed a Parkinson’s like health condition due to medication taken over decades for his bipolar disorder. The VA system knew exactly what to do because they have been treating veterans with the same problems for years. His medication was corrected, and my Dad was able to live as normal of a life as he could with the health condition hat he was in.
As good as the VA system was in taking care of my Dad, they still fell short in properly treating him. They were fixing the symptoms but not really fixing the problem.
We heard of Vietnamese suffering from the same ailments as my Dad being successful treated in Vietnam. We had planned for years to take my Dad here, and my wedding here made for a pretty good excuse to come.
As mentioned in a previous E-mail, the treatment that my Dad is receiving here isn’t incredibly spectacular. It is a combination of acupuncture, ginko biloba, vitamins and massage therapy administered over a four to six week period. He started the treatment just before my wedding, and we seen positive results a couple days later. He is much more mobile and active than before the treatments, which caused our family to immediately change our plans.
My Dad has been on heavy medication for many years, so it will take some time for the treatments to completely take effect. He still has times during the day when he becomes tired and reverts back the previous condition. His first series of treatments will end next week, and will continue again in a couple months at a new acupuncture center in Tijuana (this will cut the drive time down considerably).
I’m a God fearing red-blooded American and I have to travel 10,000 miles to a communist country for an opportunity to get a glimpse at my president. If you don’t know already, George Bush and Bill Clinton took turns visiting Hanoi during my stay here. In fact, I believe Bill Clinton is still in Hanoi and staying at the Hilton, which is an easy walk from my house here. George’s arrival was known months in advance, while Bill’s arrived virtually unannounced.
What I find interesting is the difference coverage of the President by the media here and back home. It was a huge event for Bush to arrive in Hanoi. People and the press here were talking about it well before my own arrival. The coverage was so big that information about leaders from Russia, Japan and China were snubbed. On the other hand, just about every news story I read in America about Bush’s visit here was pretty harsh. It was interesting to see how another country shows more respect for our president than us Americans do.
Clinton’s arrival was a big surprise to everyone, and he received just as big of a reception as Bush. Clinton has some liberties now that he’s not president, such as relaxed security that allows him to mingle in the crowd. He walked around Hoan Kiem Lake and through the old quarter with crowds of Vietnamese surrounding him.
I’ve received numerous questions about my Vietnam ventures, which I will try to answer in this segment.
Q: How do the Vietnamese feel about Americans?
This is the most asked question, and for good reason. We were at war here over 30 years ago, and many of them could still be holding a grudge. The simple answer is the Vietnamese love Americans and wants to be friends with us.
Most of the Viets today were born after the war, and know little of what happened then. The American War, as they call it, is not studied in detail as our schools studied the Vietnam War. Even the older generation has put the war in the past and moved on a long time ago. In fact, I was hard pressed to find anyone who would talk about the war.
My visit here last year has shown me that the Vietnamese are among the nicest and happiest people that I’ve ever met. All of them seem to want to meet me and be my friend.
Q: How did I meet Ha?
I met Ha the real old fashion way. My Mom set us up.
Ha was supposed to be an interpreter and tour guide to me for a couple days during my trip here last year. I didn’t like her when we first met. I thought she was mean and didn’t care to be around me. All that changed after just one kiss.
Q: Do I feel safe when I travel through Vietnam?
I feel extremely safe and confident during my travels here. Then again, this is my second time here and I’m usually with my wife if I go anywhere. I’ve ventured off on my own a few times, and have no problems trekking out on my own if necessary. The one issue I have is the language barrier, which has caused some small problems.
Q: Is it easy to find women in Vietnam?
I’m not sure if I can answer this without getting in trouble with my wife. I guess you can say that it is easy to find women here, because I met my wife within three days after I arrived here last year. I will tell you that there are incredibly beautiful women here. I’m taking just one home and leaving the rest of them here.
Q: Can I be a travel guide?
Those who choose to use me as a travel guide here could meet the same fortune as the Donner Party traveling to California.
Q: How is the food?
The food here is absolutely incredible and cheap. You can get a decent meal for less than $2 US. Most of the Vietnamese food I’ve eaten here is the same as what I’ve eaten in America.
Q: Do I want to live in Vietnam?
I’ll admit that the thought has crossed my mind, but I have no immediate plans to do so. I do plan to visit more often as well as travel more too. I’m seeing that most Americans are not well traveled, and there is so much to see in this world.
Q: Do I speak Vietnamese?
I have been learning Vietnamese as quickly as I can since the last time I came here. I believe that I’ve improved remarkably, but I’m still far from being fluent.
Do you have a question? Leave a comment with your question, and I’ll do my best to answer it.
Dan Harley, Jr.
Those of you who use AOL have not received a few of my recent messages, because my E-mail server had apparantly crashed around the time of my wedding. I’m making a few desperate attempts to fix my E-mail server in hopes to soon be back in complete operation here in Vietnam.
For those of you who missed me, make sure you check my blog and pictures for updates. Updates on my ventures can be reviewed at:
Pictures are at:
If you’re on AOL, please reply to this so I know that you received it.
I’ve been having problems with my E-mail server, and need to change how I will deliver my messages to you back home. I will posting my travel scribes on my blog site (http://danharley.blogspot.com) in lieu of sending them by E-mail. Please go to http://danharley.blogspot.com for future posts, and please leave comments.
My friends with AOL E-mails probably didn’t receive my last E-mail and may not receive this one too. The problem is beyond my control at this time, and I will appreciate it if the rest of you can pass the word to them about my blog site.
Don’t forget about my photo site at:
I’ve posted new photos of the wedding and of a recent boat trip up the Red River.
Everything here is is very good, and I hope everything is well back home.
Dan Harley, Jr.
I thought that I should update everyone on what’s been happening in Vietnam. I should tell you that the original honeymoon plans have been shelved for the moment. Ha and I are still in Hanoi, but very much enjoying the time we’re spending together. Why we haven’t embarked to Southern destinations has something to do with my Dad’s seemingly miraculous improvements in his health.
A friend told me that everyone would be taking care of his or her parents sooner or later. The time came sooner than later for me. My Dad’s health issues have directly impacted my life for several years. This has caused my family to make some tough decisions to best accommodate my Dad’s increasing health needs. The decisions for my Dad’s care would become more difficult to make now that I’m married. About the only thing that would keep my family and myself out of ever increasing hardship is a miracle, and it appears that miracle might be happening.
Some of you know that my Dad suffers from several health complications, which are related to his tour of duty in Vietnam. The American medical system, and especially the Veteran’s Administration have done a pretty good job at helping him, but have fallen short in properly treating him. It seems like the solution to health problems in America is to take a pill for it, and that has caused more harm than good for my Dad.
Perhaps my Dad’s worst ailment is Parkinson’s disease. His body is riddled with this disease so bad that he can barely walk at times. He hardly goes out in public because his hands and legs always twitch uncontrollably. Sometimes the problems are so bad that he can’t get out of bed. The Parkinson’s and his other health problems have been my family’s biggest concerns for several years. This certainly raised serious doubt if he would be able to travel. Somehow, my Dad put himself together well enough to make the trip and see his Son get married.
We heard of successful medical treatments in Vietnam for ailments similar to my Dad’s, and my wedding in Vietnam gave the opportunity for him to undergo such treatments. The treatment is a combination of acupuncture; massage therapy and large doses of vitamins and ginkgo biloba. The treatment may seem mystical to Western healthcare, but is very common practice in this part of the world. You cannot receive this kind of medical treatment in America, because the AMA won’t approve it. I had my own strong doubts that it would work, and I regularly have acupuncture treatment. I quickly changed my mind when I seen dramatic improvements in my Dad’s health after just a couple days.
My Dad started going to a health spa here in Hanoi, which was a part of the acupuncture school. The spa almost immediately started to improve my Dad’s health. He was examined for acupuncture treatment between the spa visits, and started therapy a couple days before my wedding. The doctors indicated that two weeks of treatment would be required to see if there would be any effect on my Dad’s advanced ailments. It didn’t take that long, because improvements could be seen in just a couple days.
At this time, my Dad’s health issues appear to have rolled back four to six years. His Parkinson’s shaking has diminished considerably, while his strength and energy has increased. His speech is strong and clear, where it was very difficult to hear him just a few days before. An important effect from the treatment is my Dad being more aware of his own health issues. This is important, because he can better access if or when he needs his medication and can take care of himself again. Long story short, my family is watching a medical miracle happen right in front of us.
His health could improve enough that he would become completely ambulatory, and would not need the constant care that he has had for several years. This would allow Ha and I to start our lives together without the burden of taking care of my Dad right away. That in mind, it’s worth postponing our honeymoon a couple weeks to accommodate for my Dad’s improving health conditions.
Although Ha and I aren’t where we would like to be for our honeymoon right now, we’ve made the best of the situation. Even though our honeymoon has so far been spending time in our bedroom, I believe the situation has worked out to be beneficial for us. We’re both learning that our time together is more important than where we spend the time. There is so much that both of us need to learn about each other.
We’re finding out that we will encounter problems like any married couples would, and we need to find new ways to deal with problems now that we’re married. One of the big problems we’ve been having is communications, but our communication problems are not what you might be thinking. There are times when we literally don’t understand each other. Ha’s English and my Vietnamese can often fall short, and we often misunderstand each other. The problems from this are comical most of the time, but there have been some situations where the problems were more serious. Other than that, life has been wonderful.
We’ve been practically inseparable since I arrived, and constantly being together seems to make time itself slow down. I hardly realize that it’s been a little more than a month that I’ve been here. The down side is I will eventually leave for America, and we both know that day will be the saddest day of our lives. We both try not to think about it for now, and enjoy the time we have together.
There are dozens of other events that have happened, which I will provide more detail in other blog posts. I will close this for now, so I can enjoy a quiet night with my wife.
Dan Harley, Jr.
Dan Harley, Jr.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!
My travel plans and itineraries have changed slightly since my last E-mail. Im married, but have not traveled to Hoi An for the honeymoon yet, which Ill explain later. I first want to give some details about the wedding, because many had asked about it.
Ha and I were married in traditional Vietnamese custom and ceremonies. Although different from a Western ceremony, the wedding turned out to be a lot less complicated than I was lead to believe. The wedding had four basic parts to it, which are:
Vietnamese couples have an engagement ceremony in lieu of a wedding proposal. This is basically a party between the families to formally announce the marriage intentions of the bride and groom. The engagement ceremony was held on the November 9th. My family caravan to Has parents place with food candies and booze. Pictures were taken. Speeches were made. I was told to fetch Ha out of her room, which formally indicates that Ha and I were engaged. After that, everyone ate like pigs and drank like fish. The engagement ceremony is usually a few months before the wedding. Ours was set just a few days before our wedding to accommodate for all the traveling that my family had to do.
Ha and I had our traditional Vietnamese marriage ceremony last Sunday (November 12th). The wedding was in three parts and two ceremonies. This would give the impression of being complicated, but it turned out to be very easy and simple.
The first ceremony was at Has parents place, and followed a similar pattern as the engagement ceremony. My family had caravan over. Pictures were taken. Speeches were made. Someone told me to get Ha from her room, and we were married after that. It was literally that simple. No preacher, monk, church or vows were involved. Ha and I were whisked away shortly after to take wedding pictures around Hanoi while the family caravan to the wedding reception.
The wedding reception is where the rest of the family and friends participate in the wedding. It was held at the Government Guest House, which is a stones throw from Huan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. Heres some coordinates for those of you using Google Earth: 21° 1’36.60″N, 105°51’16.63″E. It seemed like Ha and I were taking pictures non-stop for two hours straight after we arrived, because every aunt, uncle, cousin, friend or neighbor lined up for photos with us. We were ready to parade through the reception when the photo-op drew down enough for us to work our way into the building. I was still expecting a formal exchange of vows, even though we were already married by this time. The only formal exchange was the rings and a kiss. Once again, no preacher, monk or church was involved. The whole ceremony was remarkably simple. It just took three days to go through it.
Ha and my family spent several months preparing the reception and especially the selection of food. The food was excellent from what I heard. However, I didnt get a single bite of it because Ha and I proceeded to greet and take pictures with every single person that came to the reception. We were, again, whisked away to take more pictures moments after we greeted the last guest.
Both families caravan to my familys place and proceeded with the final part of the wedding ceremony while Ha and I were taking more wedding pictures. It is customary for the brides family to inspect the bedroom before the wedding couple is allowed to retire to it. I figured this would be the most embarrassing part of the whole wedding, and I was correct. Not only did both families parade through our bedroom, the photographer took dozens of pictures too. The line was crossed when the photographer wanted pictures of us in bed. Subsequently, I threw the photographer and anyone that wasnt my wife out of the bedroom, which ended the public part of the wedding. Shortly after that, Ha and I unwrapped our presents .
What Happened to the Honeymoon?
As I indicated a few times before, Ha and I were to be on our honeymoon in Hoi An right now. These plans have been set back a little bit, because of my Dads recent change in his health condition. I am happy to say that his health is improving.
My Dad suffers from numerous health problems related to his tour of duty in Vietnam, and, the best place to treat him appears to be Vietnam. He just started acupuncture therapy that is already causing great improvements in his health. It will take a couple weeks before it can be determined whether the therapy is working, and the familys travel plans will be determined based on the results. Its likely that Ha and I will leave for Hoi An sometime next week and then to Saigon where we will stay until I return to America.
Pictures, Pictures, Pictures .
There are a few of you who would swim here and beat the hell out of me if I didnt produce some pictures for you to look at. Im not going to let you down. Following is a link to some of the wedding pictures with many more to come:
[ click here ]
Things are settled down a bit since the wedding, and it looks like I will be in better contact than I expected during my honeymoon travels. Ill catch up on things with a few e-mails over the next few days.
Ha wants me to unwrap my wedding present now, so Im going to close this E-mail.
I hope everyone is well, and please write back with more questions.
Dan Harley, Jr.
Today’s the big day! I have some time to myself to think about my past, and ponder my future. This will probably be my last E-mail for a while, as I will be on my honeymoon.
Ive avoided marriage all my life, and had thought that I would be at least a little nervous towards the last few moments of being single. Whats strange to me is not being nervous, and actually being a little anxious. The last few weeks with Ha has removed any doubts that I may have had about marrying her. Her and I are soulmates, and are meant to be together.
It turns out that my wedding is going to be a pretty big event with or without me. I have relatives from all over the country here right now. Ha and our families have done an incredible job at planning and preparing for this event, that Im assured to have a memorable experience. The reception will be held at the Vietnam Government Guesthouse near Hoan Kiem Lake, which is a spectacular place with or without a wedding reception being held in it.
Tomorrow is also the beginning of APEC 2006 here in Hanoi, and the whole city is decked out for it. George Bush is supposed to show up tomorrow with an entourage that requires four 747s to transport. Its going to be interesting to see how my wedding party is going to get through town with the President here.
Ha and I will be heading to Hoi An by Wednesday, which is when I will start doing some real traveling around Vietnam. Ive been enjoying Hanoi so much that Im probably going to miss leaving it.
Thanks to everyone that have been writing to me. I really appreciate it, and will catch up with answers to some questions after my honeymoon.
Dan Harley, Jr.
The wedding plans are coming down to the wire, and I haven’t had much time to write. I have been taking lots of notes on things around here, which could make for some interesting reading. I have been living in Hanoi for the past few weeks, and making the best of it in this strange world.
Welcome to the Neighborhood
The house that my family is renting is located in a rather busy area. We’re about 1 block from the Red River, and about 1 km from Hoan Kiem Lake. There are all kinds of noises and smells that I can experience by just opening my balcony door. I call it the essence of Hanoi, while others call it the essence of spoiled garbage.
The house opens into a busy street. Directly across the street is a beauty salon, and two doors in either direction are Bia Hoi and Bia A Chau. Both are places that serve draft beer. Every once in a while, there is a lady that cooks and serves food right from the steps of our house.
There’s a couple infamous spots very close to the house. About a block away is the Titanic Night Club, which is moored in the Red River. Also not far away is the Bia Toilette, which is another infamous hang out for locals and expatriates.
My last trip to Vietnam convinced me that this country is not as backwards as I had thought. This trip is quickly proving how much Vietnam has in common with America. One thing that’s common are supermarkets. Hanoi has a few chains of supermarkets, which FiviMart is my favorite.
The FiviMarts are stocked somewhat similar to a Super Wal-Mart, but about half the size of a regular supermarket. There is a food section, clothing, household appliances, etc. The items lean toward an Asian market (for obvious reasons), so you will a lot more rice and vegetables than huge meat department. The FiviMarts are so similar to an American supermarket that I don’t think Ha will experience as severe of culture shock as I had originally thought.
A perk for me is being able to reach the top shelf for an item, because everything here is designed about six inches lower than in America.
Bia Hoi literally means gas beer. It is draft beer found virtually everywhere in Vietnam. Locals come to these places for more or less the same reasons Americans go to a bar. There is an infamous Bia Hoi location not far from the house, which is nicknamed Bia Toilette. The name of the place almost sounds like toilette. The place is huge, and is usually packed every night.
Food is abundant and incredibly cheap in Vietnam. You can get a decent meal for less than $2 US. Lunch with Chuck Searcy, Ha and myself cost about $3.00 US. Much of the food here is very similar to Vietnamese food that I’ve eaten all of my life in America. What I found interesting during this trip is the abundance of Western Food available here.
As I mentioned in a previous E-mail, Ha and I went out for pizza. Although the pizza was a far cry from the quality found in America, it is edible. What’s interesting was the salad bar, where local greens and things of different colors was served.
For the Dog Lovers
If you are a dog lover in Vietnam, you will have to determine exactly what you love about dogs. There is an ancient myth about Vietnamese and other Asians eating dog. The myth is actually true, but I still found some irony about how Vietnamese look at dogs.
Believe it or not, owning a dog is considered a status symbol here. I had seen many Viets walk their dogs around Hoan Kiem Lake, just like they were Americans taking a stroll with their trusted four-legged friend. There seems to be a commonality among these “man’s best friend” varieties. They all are very small or toy dogs. Putting it bluntly, there’s not much there to eat. I believe that staying below appetizer size is what keeps such dog alive.
For the record: Some Vietnamese do eat dog. Furthermore, dog is not served in secret from a street restaurant in the dark allies of Hanoi either. My uncle went to a huge “dog” restaurant that could seat over 300. Also for the record: I did not eat dog, cat, rat, mice or anything exotic during this trip (yet). I’m sure this snippet is not going to go over well with PETA.
The Missing Communist Flags
If I can choose one distinct difference between Saigon and Hanoi, then that difference would be the numerous hammer & sickle flags found in Hanoi. The communist flag was seen in massive numbers around Hanoi and North Vietnam, while only seen on government buildings in Saigon. The communist flag is flown at the same level as the Vietnam country flag, which symbolizes that the party is equal to the country.
There is something distinctly missing in Hanoi today. I haven’t seen a hammer & sickle flag anywhere in the city. Even Lenin Park failed to display a communist flag. This is unusual because the communist flag was quite prevalent during my last trip here.
Ha jokingly said that the Vietnam Government knew I was coming, and removed all of the communist flags while I was staying in Hanoi. She said the flags are stored in Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum.
Actually, the APEC conference is in Hanoi this weekend, starting the day of my wedding. A special guest to this conference is George Bush, which spells out why any trace of communism in Hanoi has been hidden for the time being.
Spa & Massage
My uncles, Dad and I had visited this incredible spa and massage place. My Uncle Hung claims that he has never visited the place before, which seem unusual because all of the staff there knew him. Nevertheless, we weren’t there to meet one of my uncle’s girlfriends, but to see if the therapy treatment could help my Dad with his numerous health issues. Also, I had a stomach flu that I was having problems trying to shake off for the past few days.
The therapy starts with a cup of tea made from herbs and ginseng. The tea was like a miracle elixir, because I could feel my stomach problems go away almost immediately. Afterwards, we sat in a wine barrel filled with warm water mixed with herbs and then sat in a whirlpool filled with the same herbal elixir. I was beginning to wonder if I was going through a health spa or being prepared to be the main course at a dinner that night. My Dad went immediately to massage therapy, which I sat for a while in a sauna that was steamed with lemon grass.
The real experience was the massage therapy. A tiny Vietnamese girl contorted my body like a rag doll for about an hour. She was doing things to me that I’m sure would be illegal in several states, and especially Utah. She massaged just about every bone in my body, from my fingers to my toes. She even walked on my back, and I didn’t know someone could do things like that with their feet.
The session ended with a bowl of hot chicken soup. My stomach flu disappeared, and my Dad was walking without his cane, where he could barely stand up just a couple hours before.
I have a few other things that I’ve taken note of around nere, and will save it for another E-mail. Ha is yelling at me to eat dinner now (looks like she’s getting used to married life very quickly), so I gotta go.
Talk to you later!
Dan Harley, Jr.