Ken and Bill's Excellent Adventure
IV. Going Back
      What most amazes me, however, is how strong the bond between us has remained through all those decades when neither of us knew what had become of the other, how little effort it took to renew that bond, how obviously happy we both are when we have the chance to be together.  But those chances have come only when Ken has reason to be in the U.S. and time enough to detour to Philadelphia for a day or two: visits on the fly, always too brief.  So when Ken suggested that the two of us return to Vietnam, he didn’t have to ask me twice.

      This was not my first trip back to postwar Vietnam. I’d been back in 1985, when the devastating effects of the war were everywhere evident, and it was rare indeed for an American to be there. Children would point and say, “Lien Xo” (Soviet), and when I would reply, “My” (American), their eyes would become huge round saucers. I’d been back again in 1990, this time as part of a delegation of veteran-writers. The American War (as the Vietnamese call it) was still visible everywhere, but modern Vietnam was clearly beginning to emerge from the wreckage.

The Holy See of the Cao Dai religious sect, Tay Ninh, Vietnam, 1985.
The three major saints of the sect are Sun Yat-sen, Victor Hugo,
and Nguyen Binh Kheim. (WDE)
Bill sharing his poem “Making the Children Behave” with General
Vo Nguyen Giap, Hanoi, 1990. (WDE)
       This trip would be special for two reasons, however: I’d be able to take my wife Anne with me this time, to share with her a place she had only—but endlessly—heard about during our thirty years of marriage.  And I’d be traveling with my buddy, my comrade, who’d literally been where I’d been and knew what I knew and needed no explanations.
(Background photo by AGE)
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