A post by lawyer and business consultant Sue McKinney:
I’m a California lawyer who moved to Vietnam 21 years ago at age 40. When people ask what happened? I say “I got lucky!”
In ‘94, I went to Bangkok on business. Then the client sent a group of Thai businessmen to Saigon to look around and invited me along. The embargo against Vietnam had just ended. The country was about to re-emerge into the world community. I was granted a visa at the Vietnam Embassy in Bangkok. It changed my life.
Upon arrival, the airport looked the same as the 6 o’clock news images engraved on my mind from the war. Traffic was non-existent – bicycles, cyclos, a few scooters, the occasional car. As our van drove into the city, my white face shone like a spotlight. People noticed and followed our van – on their bikes, scooters, one man even jogged alongside until we stopped. Everyone else got out. I waited. A small crowd of people waited. Finally I had no choice but to get out too.
I stepped into the crowd of excited people who surged around me, clamoring in English “Where you from? Where you from?”
It was disconcerting, but they weren’t hostile, just anxious. It totally crossed my mind to say “I’m Canadian!” but I really wanted to know what this was all about. I stammered, “I’mm Ammericann.”
The man who’d been jogging alongside reached out his arms to me. He didn’t touch me, but he wanted to. He fought to find the English words. He managed to say, “Are. You. Coming…back?!” They would rush to the airport – organize banners, flowers, a banquet – were the Americans coming back?
Twenty-one years later, that day still stands out among the most profound experiences of my life. The pro-American attitude was everywhere we went. Where in the world does that happen? The group stayed a week before returning to Bangkok. But within 30 days, I was back. Saigon had bitten me hard. Within months I’d closed my law office and sold my house in California. I was in Saigon trying to come to terms with the enigma that is Vietnam. I’m still trying.
When I asked Vietnamese friends, “Why are you so pro-American?” they’d look confused.
“Oh, do you mean ‘The American War’? But that war was only 20 years…We fought the French for 150 and the Chinese for 1,000.” There’s perspective for you.
I export ceramics, furniture, jewelry, art, and rice. Finally, most importantly, I export a rare medicinal herb. Vietnam is a bio “hot spot”. The Amazon rain forest claims 12,000 species of plants; Vietnam claims 20,000 species with 4,000 classified as medicinal.
Vietnam’s top scientist, Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tram, who devoted her life to botanical medicine, developed Crila® over 25 years. Clinical trials for prostate and uterine health were a success. An American medical university confirmed that it’s estrogen free.
Girlfriends tried it for menopause. Magic! We didn’t have to suffer hot flashes on top of sweltering in the heat and humidity of Saigon. Take Crila® and have another scoop of fresh mango ice cream. Saigon Book Club friends invested with me to bring it to market for you. But that’s another story. Follow it on our website, www.crilahealth.com
Giveaway!! I can’t send you the mango ice cream, but enter an enticing comment, and I’ll send someone three bottles of Crila®. Satisfaction guaranteed; it’s that good. For a chance to win, enter a comment by November 20. Winner will be chosen at random. Thanks!
Sue McKinney is a lawyer and business consultant who settled in Vietnam in 1994. She has been instrumental in creating hundreds of jobs and exporting thousands of Vietnamese products. Sue has had the pleasure of witnessing and taking part in Vietnam’s extensive economic and social growth. She’s active in Rotary and has been the incountry liaison on 21 Rotary projects from wheelchairs to libraries to soccer balls.
Top Photo: Sue in a a Crila plantation with Roy Walkenhorst, host of the PBS broadcast, Healing Quest.
Bottom Photo: Sue in Viet Nam.