Getting Ready 17

Went to a meet-up of the Ho Chi Minh-San Francisco Sister City Committee in San Francisco this afternoon. It was held from 5:30 to 8:30 pm in the bar of a boutique hotel, The Rex, at 562 Sutter Street, a couple of blocks up via cable car from Union Square.

The host is a man named George Gaston. I had emailed with George previously about finding a way to take books to Vietnam. It’s very expensive to mail books – it cost $15 to send one paperback – and we have a lot of books to send. We’ll take as many as we can in suitcases, but there’s a 50 pound limit. George will be organizing a delegation sometime in November. He said I should make a list of the books and he’d send it to the State Department and they’d let him know which books were OK and which weren’t.He said they don’t like to approve books that are out of date. Maybe he can take some with the delegation.

Between 8 and 10 people showed up at the meet-up at one time or another. They were all men except me and one young Vietnamese woman who works in tech here in the city. Average age probably in the 60’s. A sense of looking for something — jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities. We sat at a round table and ordered glasses of wine from the bar. One man, who had been in Vietnam in the 1970’s and several times since, spoke Vietnamese and demonstrated this with the two young Vietnamese men. Joe and I had tea. The Japanese consul dropped in and said hello.

The first person I talked with said he didn’t think there were any unions in Vietnam. Other people agreed with him. Another man said that there was no minimum wage in Vietnam. This was a man who runs a company that employs between 75 and 100 people. He also said that there were no strikes. He said, “If someone wants to strike, I tell them not to come to work.”

Another person said that one of the things the TPP was going to do was “standardize” labor laws in different countries of the TPP.

I asked him how he knew, since the text of the TPP has not been made public.

They talked about how beautiful Ho Chi Minh City is, with skyscrapers. None of them knew where the people who built the skyscrapers got trained. One young man was quite interested in the idea of building trades apprenticeship programs. He did say that Intel has built a training facility there.

You could compare this many social situations I’ve been in in the US .

Everybody was basically nice guys.

George passes out membership forms and a beautifully printed small book, Speakpeace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children’s Paintings. The paintings are reproduced in full color; planes,bombs,rivers, bodies, doves, some kids with amputations. On the right side of the page are poems written by American children in response to the paintings. No discussion.

We said good night to everyone, and thank you, and went and had some pasta at Roxanne’s Café up the hill.