Vietnam (General)

by dulan drift, Wednesday, September 08, 2021, 09:21 (133 days ago) @ dulan drift

Dear Jeremy (cont.),

You strike me as an idealist - who genuinely cares about ‘the poor people in Africa’ - it’s not merely a line - like it is for the others.

My feeling is it has something to do with your time in Vietnam?

You moved there in 1996, aged 35. (I went to Taiwan in 1996 aged 33! Though not to fill an Oxford position, i admit.) So what prompted the move?

Francis Collins,(ts3:30): (You) describe(d) this experience of addressing a conference of neurologists and looking over at a ‘sea of white men’ and thinking ‘I can not spend my life with these people’.

(Ironically 25 years later, you organized the Feb 1 Teleconference with - not a sea of white men as such - more a refined pool of them.)

Here you were at 34, up on stage, the guy who fell short on his A-levels, twice, rejected by all of them - now headlining Oxford conferences - looking out condescendingly over a ‘sea of white men’ - hearing yourself speak in that out-of-body way - hearing them still laugh at your jokes - but taking no pleasure in that.

You were younger, street-smarter, more energetic than them. Brash, idealistic by nature - but not yet sure about what.

The cushy conference scene though - you knew already - 'the answer sure ain't there'. It was not the ‘real’ world. (Technically, everything is the 'real' world - even academic cliques.)

At that time, is it fair to say you were driven by twin, conflictive impulses:

After the conference you went to the coffee room for the usual chitchat - overheard someone (do your remember whom?) talking about a gig in Vietnam?

You: Actually it wasn’t in the coffee room, it was actually in the bar, where still things do happen (laughter).

Sorry, my mistake. Bloody Francis Collins - unreliable as usual. So he says you ‘overheard’ a conversation - is that right - or did they approach you?

Uhr, uhm - and they were looking for a director (at Oxford pay, clears throat) of what was then a nascent program (11:21) in Vietnam, Ho Chi Mihn city, in Vietnam, in 1995.

Oh - so it was more of a head-hunting thing? Do you happen to remember ‘they’s’ name(s)? The recruiters? Or is that classified?

Anyway, piqued your curiosity. A few beers later you were in. As you say, things still do happen in bars - Oxford bars at least.

So in 1996 you moved there . Thought ‘a few years tops’ (me too with Taiwan, initially) - then succumb to normalcy by going ... “back to a migraine clinic in Oxford or Edinburgh" (not me too).

In fact stayed 18 very, very happy years living in what is a remarkable country.

Me, a little longer. Very very happy years? - constant very, very happiness is not my metric for weighing existence, but there is a life-affirming spirit in Taiwan that i'll always be grateful for. It's a place where you're allowed to be. Don't get automatically locked up for that. So yeah, also "remarkable country" - especially in today's War on Freedom climate.

The ‘freedom’ from the ‘scientific herd' that the Vietnam anti-freedom system afforded, better suited your restless dreams … while being on the frontline of SARS fed your dare-devil adventurousness.

The chance to co-ordinate with centralized political power holders - to orchestrate operations - for the 'common-good' - that was the clincher though.

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