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The Crew

My Vietnam Adventure
by Minette Seate

Friday, March 3
and Saturday, March 4, 2006

Arrgh. That's the only word to describe the feeling of getting ready for this trip. We're heading for Vietnam and our flight's in several stages: First, Pittsburgh to LA, LA to Taipei, and Taipei to Ho Chi Minh City. We'll leave here at 6pm on Friday and by the time we finally land in Vietnam, it'll be 10 o'clock Monday morning.
We've got quite a big group heading for the airport. There's myself, Chris Moore, and our boss Darryl Ford-Williams (she's the vice president of production at WQED). Also coming along are Chris' friends from Vietnam, Leroy Perry and Andrew Boone. It'll be their first trip back as well. Making up the rest of our crew is Mark Knobil – he's our shooter (with a camera, not a gun) and Dino DiStefino (our sound man).

So there's all of us, all of our personal luggage and our kit. Which is huge! High Def TV is all anybody wants these days, so we've rented a very fancy, very expensive camera and all the accessories that go with it. 14 bags and cases in all. And that's where the arrgh comes in. One of my jobs is to get all of us, and all the equipment from one part of the world to another. And if you think that's a big deal for us, you should see the poor lady's eyes at the US Air counter. She's gotta tag and weigh all this stuff and make sure it goes everywhere we go. Meanwhile, she's surrounded by all of us, holding our passports and trying to be as patient as she needs us to be. I never got her name but I'll always be thankful for how pleasant she was during the whole ordeal.

Now it's Saturday morning. I think. We're tired and greasy, but on our way to Taipei. We'll be on the flight for the next 16 hours which is more than enough time to think about what's ahead of us.

There's insect spray to be navigated, and summer clothes. Especially odd when you consider that it was 35 degrees when we left Pittsburgh. Another wardrobe consideration is cultural. Shorts and tank tops are not considered suitable clothing choices for women in Vietnam. But man, is it gonna be hot. Then there's the dietary considerations. I'm one of those people who will try pretty much anything (though I'm not too keen on organ meats). I've really enjoyed the Southeast Asian foods that are available in Pittsburgh – pho and ignitable curries and a bunch of other noodle dishes. And there's supposed to be a lot of exotic fresh fruits that are very good. So I'm wondering what's best to eat with a sudden leap to high humidity and 95 degrees. I don't think there are too many Dairy Queens in Ho Chi Minh city.

Boone and PerrySo while I'm thinking about luggage and equipment and temperatures and food, I'm also wondering about the boys. I met Boone and Perry for the first time last night at Chris' house. We did a "sitting at the table talking about old times" session. They're exactly what you'd imagine…big and loud and funny. Full of life and as silly as they can be. I'm getting used to the way they talk. You know how sometimes a different accent takes a while to work its way into your brainpan? They've known Chris and each other for more than 30 years and when they get together, boy are they loud!

It's funny. Chris and I have thought about a program like this for years. Being a Vietnam vet has driven so much of Chris' life in a number of ways. I think his opposition to violence and war comes from the time he spent there. Things like that seem to have a lasting affect on you, if you're prone to thinking. Same story with his friends. The people you learn to rely on during stressful times often make for the most valued relationships in your life. At least that's how it seems with these three.

Sixteen hours I'm gonna be on this plane. Jeeze. But, at least it's big and wide and the seats have footrests. There's a dozen movies to choose from and three months worth of Vanity Fairs in my bag to catch up on. It's great that there are people I know all around me. There's about 22 people from the Friends of Danang all around us as well. I haven't spent too much time with them, but they're friendly and talkative and have lots of good travel advice. Actually when you look around, this plane is choked with Pittsburghers. The whole experience feels pretty tasty actually. Like one of those old cavalcade of the stars movies from the 30's where everybody's on a cruise ship or in the same Broadway show. I'm just waiting for Jimmy Durante to show up.