Susie Stann has been back to Saigon three times since we all left so many years ago. The first trip was with a goodwill educational group in 1993, the second in 2001 with her husband on a 5-star business trip for Hewlett Packard, and the most recent in Nov. 2006 to do some teacher training for Vietnamese English teachers through her college in Cupertino, California.
According to Susie, the country has changed dramatically in those years, but in some ways, it hasn’t changed at all. Life in the countryside remains much the same, with rice farmers tilling the fields and bicycles taking pigs to market on country dirt roads. In town, you can still go into the bustling BenThanh market to bargain good naturedly for goods. The tailor shops can still make a beautiful outfit for you overnight at a reasonable price, and the Continental Hotel, where she stayed for two weeks on her last trip, has hardly changed at all and is poplar with French tourists. Yet right next door is a 5 star Hyatt, and the Caravelle across the street is hardly recognizable. Young people still cruise the crowded streets at night on their scooters. The Cercle is now a people’s exercise club and is a bit run down, but it brings back lots of memories.
On the first visit, her old house across from the commanding general’s house on Tran Quy Cap was being used by a government architectural firm, and she pretended to be a British architect to get in to see it. On the second trip, sadly, it was in great disrepair and the gardens had been paved over for a motorcycle parking lot. On this last visit, her house was gone entirely and had been replaced by a high rise modern hair salon and spa. The general’s house was in disrepair and was being used as a travel agency for Vietnam Airlines on this last visit.
Here’s photo of Susie with her students in Saigon in November 2006. She’s hoping to arrange another similar teacher training assignment to coincide with the reunion trip if possible. While there on this last trip, she traveled all around the south and to Hanoi, Da Nang, Hoi An, Hue, Da Lat, and Sapa-wonderful adventures all arranged on the fly with the Saigon Tourist office on Dong Khoi Street. (AKA Catinat).