DA NANG, VIETNAM

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If you look at a map of Vietnam, It’s a long thin country with a blob at the top with Hanoi, the capital, in the center, bordering on China. Hanoi was the center for the communist North Vietnam and is still quite old and charming. At the bottom of the country is another blob with Ho Chi Minh City located in the center. Ho Chi Minh is the old Saigon, the center for the South Vietnamese which is the part of the country that the US assisted in the Vietnam War. The Vietnamese today insist that the war was between Vietnam and the United States and that the US lost the war to the Vietnamese. Of course the story in the US is that we were assisting the South Vietnamese and that the partnership lost the war. It was not a pretty war and not a happy memory in our US history. Ho Chi Minh City today is modern and industrialized.

Da Nang is in the center of the country. Quite a beautiful city along the seashore as a large river empties into the ocean. They are building big beautiful, exclusive resorts along the ocean. We arrived here about midnight on a hot, humid night exhausted after about thirty hours en route expecting to be met by a representative of the Minh Toan Galaxy Hotel. No hotel driver and the phone number we had didn’t work for the hotel. after waiting about an hour we grabbed one of the last cabs to the hotel. The cab driver dropped us off. Exhausted we grimly schlepped our bags up endless marble steps. No bell hops at that late hour, only to find out that we had been dropped off at the wrong hotel. So we schlepped back down the stairs and traipsed up the bumpy deteriorated sidewalk what we were told was but a short block. Wrong! Three very long, deserted blocks.

The Minh Toan Galaxy is a very new hotel, perhaps only a week in business. Flashy marble, but built in typical Home Depot, do-it-yourself style. Nothing works very well. Last night we got caught in the elevator with four young Vietnamese (super small elevator with no air conditioning) for about 15 minutes. Couldn’t go up, couldn’t go down, couldn’t open the door. We kept ringing the alarm. Finally we were rescued. The employees are all young and new and inexperienced, but trying so very, very hard to do everything right, and all wanting to practice their English. I can’t tell you how many times I got asked, “Where you from? When you get here? How long you stay?”

Dinner at the restaurant took over three hours as they brought each person’s order out separately about 10 minutes apart from the other orders, the main course, followed by the starter. The food was great! We each ate our meal while the others watched starving.

The workout room has no equipment…..so I decided to get a massage ($25 for an hour massage). I made an appointment. I arrived precisely on time and was told to sit down. They brought me a yummy teapot of strong ginger tea. And I waited and waited. I think they had to call the massage person from the other side of town. Finally a young man came and started asking me the prescribed questions. Then he disappeared, but came back and waved me down to what I assumed was the massage room…a massage table with no mattress and a large bed mattress on the floor. He told me to take a shower and lie down on the bed…no covering blanket or sheet….and he left. About this time I was ready to slip back out the door and return to my room. Just then a tiny young girl arrived. I thought, Oh dear, this is going to be a whimpy massage for my 350 dong. To my surprise it was the best massage I’ve ever had. Worth every dong.

Sunday we had a marvelous tour. Went to a Protestant Church, jam-packed with people and a choir of about 60 people who sang their hearts out in unison. The women were dressed in a colorful array of traditional Vietnamese dresses. We then visited a Cao Dai church and a Cao Dai missionary told us all about their very interesting religion in quite understandable English. It was a Cao Dai graduation of some kind. Everyone was dressed in long-sleeved white robed outfits with white hats, men, women, and children. There were probably 500-600 people packed into a very hot humid auditorium.

Then we went to climb a “tall” granite mountain full of caves of every size and shape. This mountain was used as a hospital for the North Vietnamese during the war. It was beautiful. They had built shrines, pools, fountains, and sculptures everywhere and the views of the countryside were breath taking. How in the world they had done it in this amazing granite mountain is beyond me.

We finished the tour with a Catholic church called the Rooster church with a rooster on the top instead of a cross and finally a fascinating museum with relics from the Cham people who were very early inhabitants of the Vietnam area.

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An Austrian Bar Scene

It’s Corpus Chrisi Day, a holiday in Austria.  It means body of Christ, but i appears to be a big party day in Austria.  There was supposed to be a parade this morning, but we never saw it materialize.  Rainy and Cloudy.  But they’ve set up a big tent in he square behind our hotel with food booths and bar booths, a band spot, and rows and rows of picnic tables.  Every one is having a great time.  Lotsa beer.  And dancing whenever one feels like it.  Many folks dressed in Austrian lederhosen and traditional outfits, medals on their Austrian jackets, military clothes.  But they were singing YMCA, Proud Mary, and …that Billy Ray Cyrus song that was so popular….can’t remember the name.  Lotsa staggering and falling and lotsa smoking and lotsa fun, but they’ll regret it in the morning.  People of all ages were there, old folks, kids, babies, teens.  Not a bad thing to do on a rainy, foggy, cloudy, cold day.

We had a great day yesterday.  It was a bit overcast.  We hiked along the Salznach River for about four miles to the Lichtensteinklamm (I think that must mean gorge or canyon).  Very lovely.  The fields were full of wild flowers of all colors and the birds were chirping and the air was clear.  Then we had to really hot foot it back the four miles so we would miss the rain that was due to arrive.  We got back to the hotel exhausted and sore.  The distance and the time constraint were more than we had bargained for, especially after our climb to the top of the ski hill the day before.  Not bad for two octogenarians.

(The party has turned wild over there.  Can’t exactly call it singing, but it’s loud.)  Cliff said it was time to head home.  It was about the time the fights start he thought, recalling his Dad who was a mean drunk.

I’ve already devoured three books  on this trip.  A rainy day is a good day to read a book.  Dinner will be at 7 or 8.  Food’s Fabulous.  I’m sure a diet will be in order when we return.

You should see this room.  It’s so narrow that when Cliff sits at the desk (18 inches deep) I have to climb over the bed in order to pass behind him.  Cute room.  Nice deck looking out at the Alps and ski hills.  We head out on the train on Saturday for Florence where we’ll be for almost two weeks.

More later

Impressions of St. Petersburg, Russia

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The Legal Conference was spectacular. Over a thousand people and it ran as smooth as glass.  Lots of student volunteers kept us all going where we needed to go.  They all spoke adequate English, were polite and helpful.

The Russians are quite upset about a law suit filed against the Russian government by some US citizens, Jews who demanded that a certain set of Jewish books currently in possession of the Russian government be returned to them.  The case was appealed to the DC Circuit.  The court has fined the Russian government $50,000 a day until they return the books to “their rightful owners”.  The Russians are up in arms; Putin says the books will never leave Russia and refuses to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.   Cliff had to diplomatically handle that one several times.  They are not particularly gracious to Americans.  Nevertheless, the language of choice seems to be English when they want everyone to understand.  Even the French are willing to speak English as opposed to Russian when the translators can’t handle French.

The hotel is spectacular, our suite gorgeous, the service and the food outstanding (and expensive).  I’ve had my borscht, blinis, piroshkis, caviar, crepes, smoked salmon and white fish, wierd ice cream, and unbelievably great hot chocolate (as good as Blake’s).  The Hermitage Museum is beautifully maintained and breathtaking.

But the thing that really got our attention was the evening program after the gala dinner–CLOWNS.  Clowns are traditional entertainment in Russia, both humorous and sad.  They got the whole audience involved by coming down ino the audience  with their monstrous clown shoes and walking over and onto the chairs with umbrellas that spun around and squirted water.  Of course my chair got stepped on and we both got squirted.  Then they started rolling out a huge lump of stuff like cotton candy and stringing it across the whole audience (it wasn’t cotton candy so it wasn’t sticky). Then we had bubbles endlessly blown out across the audience and huge paper snow flakes falling from the ceiling……and finally, huge fabric balloons of all sizes and colors started rolling and bouncing throughout the room–some 10-12 feet in diameter.  Needless, to say it was an experience and a lot of fun.

We couldn’t find the church and acted $40 in cab fare trying to get there and finally to get back to the hotel.  Russia is not cheap.  The buildings are huge and boxy and grey and old with downspouts every few feet about 8 inches in diameter (monster downspouts).  The people just look Russian, angular features, beautiful women, high platform and spiky heels, shoorrrt swishy skirts or short spandex skirts and dresses.  No sport shoes, as they call them,  like we see in San Francisco as the women sprint from BART to their office and make a quick shoe change.  Lots of big, bouncy b…….  Oops, not the “b” word.  Lots of cleavage.  The latest, greatest, fashion statement seems to be professional attire with fluorescent hot pink spike platform shoes.  So much for Russia.  We’ve loved our stay here.  Wonderful helpful people.

I’ll try to add my photos, but I’m having trouble so far.

Berlin and the Fred Furth Conference

So far we have mainly stayed in the hotel.  It was cold, windy, and rainy yesterday, our one day to tour without a conference.  After living in San Diego we are weather babies and we didn’t bring any rainy weather clothes…only an umbrella, and a small one at that.  That’s what happens when you travel for two months with only carry on luggage.

The conference is quite wonderful.  Judges and Chief Justices from all over, Egypt, Togo, Indonesia, Bulgaria, East Timor, Czech Republic, Montenegro for starters.  Fred Furth puts this conference on and has done it 16 times.  He foots the whole bill, hotel, food, equipment, everything.  Fred has been an incredibly successful attorney in San Francisco  and the owner of a wonderful winery in Sonoma County.  He just sold the winery for some phenomenal amount of money.  Just won a law suit where he represented Walmart employees in a class action suit where he settled for $175 million dollars and for starters his initial fee was $50,000,000.  He talks in millions like we talk in hundreds.  Big, loud, cigar smoking attorney who wears white slacks, white shoes, and a blue blazer.  He chaired the meeting and sat right in front, but couldn’t stay awake for more than 5 minutes unless he was talking.  We’re talking about head-hanging-down-lolling-over-to-the-side asleep.  He has a heart of gold, but he’s really a piece of work.  Clayne, were you at Joe Alioto’s New York firm at the same time as Fred.  I would think you would have been contemporaries.  He got fired and you quit.

We are so fortunate to live in the US where the court system works.  So many of these countries really struggle.  Even places like Egypt where the courts seemed to be a model in the muslim world are now a disaster and in complete conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Ireland is struggling.  Sometimes the litigants just refuse to obey the decisions of the courts openly in court.  Cliff as usual is doing a superb job and I continue to attend the meetings where I continue to learn a great deal.  I told Fred what he needed to do to make the conference run more effectively.  My Stanford experience taught me a lot about running good conferences.

I’ll try to post something about my experience of Berlin in a couple of days.

A New Real Estate Boom by 2015?

According to CNNMoney (Oct. 12, 2012) there are strong indications that the market says, “YES”.  Some of those signs are home prices and home sales are on the rise, new construction up, foreclosures falling, and mortgage rates near record lows.  Some economists are getting optimistic about the housing recovery.  Some even predict the market will return to its “boom” level in just three years.

In a recent report Barclays Capital  predicted that home prices could be back to peak levels by 2015, perhaps even rise 5 percent to 7.5 percent a year.

Home construction is also expected to soar, rising 20 percent or more a year , according to some economists’ forecast. Building of new homes could return to its pre-bubble average of about 1.5 million homes a year by 2016 as reported by CNNMoney.  That’s double what is expected for this year.

BYU Law and Religion Seminar

First Lady of the Office of the President of Cape Verde, Ligia Dias Fonseca, US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson-Cook, Senior Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, J. Clifford Wallace, and his wife Dr.Jenee Wallace in the Conference Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Cay Saints in Salt Lake City Utah.

Brigham Young University sponsors an annual seminar hosting dignitaries from all over the world, governmental decision makers, academics, lawyers, and judges.  All participants are passionate about the value of freedom of religion in their various countries.  The conference this year boasted 83 delegates from 43 different countries.
Delegates experience Utah’s radiant, autumn colors, mind-expanding lectures and panel discussions, the BYU folk dancers,  a Native American Living Legends performance, the International Children’s Chorus, and personal discussions with LDS Church Leaders and fellow delegates.