E-mail to Giang 3.6.2004

Hello Giang,
I don’t have Uyen’s e-mail!  Could you please send it to me? 
Life in Japan is very interesting.  I have been here 3 years and learned so much.  The Japanese way of thinking is very difficult to understand and I’ve made many mistakes in 3 years.  I finally feel that I can understand them now and appreciate the beauty of their culture.  Everyone here is very polite but it’s more difficult to become “intimate” with them.  In Vietnam, everyone smiles at me and I feel that they are very friendly.  The Japanese smile to be polite but there is always a distance which is normal in their society.  It takes a long time to gain their trust and become “true” friends.  It was difficult at first because I’m always considered a foreigner, whereas in Spain, France and Mexico, I could become like them easily.  Not true here, but it’s just something I have to live with.  Sometimes, foreigners have a very hard time adjusting to life in Japan but Asians do better than most westerners.  However, for Koreans, and Chinese, they have to deal with a little bit of racism from time to time but it’s getting better.  How is it in Vietnam?  How do Vietnamese feel about westerners and other Asians? 
Anyway, I’m trying very hard to find a job in Vietnam because I really want to live in your country.  I see a lot of potential for businesses to move there because the wages are so cheap.  The Americans want a large salary for easy jobs that anyone can do, so many businesses are moving to Asia which will help the country become richer.  Many of my friends in America have lost their jobs because the company went overseas.  I see that this trend will most likely continue unless the politicians in America try to stop it.  I hope not, because I really love Asia and want to stay here. 
Take care!
Matthew M. Curtin
Website: www.mcurtin.com

—– Original Message —–
Sent: Saturday, March 06, 2004 3:47 PM
Subject: RE: Hi there!
When I am opening your photo file, I reply this to you.
Uyen said that she did not receive any email from you. Pls check.
I am still in the office working. Not know what to chat now. Tell me about your life in Japan. How you enjoy it?

E-mail to Mom 3.3.2004

Hello Mom!
I received the jacket yesterday and it is beautiful!  Thank you so much!  It is extremely nice. 
Now let me get to all those questions.
I would like to work there simply because I feel happy there.  I could do anything there and still be happy.  The reason is a feeling of being relaxation, and people going on with their lives without the troubles the rich countries have.  I feel as if I’m always being judged in the rich countries based on material things.  In vietnam, people are curious about me and if I smile at them I will always get a smile in return.  Therefore, I can open myself up completely to everyone which I cannot do in America, nor Japan.  It’s a wonderful feeling. 
As for the language, I can learn it on my own time.  Japanese is extremely hard because I cannot read many of the symbols and the pronunciation keeps changing.  It really is an arduous task to learn Japanese.  Yet in Vietnamese they use the roman alphabet.  I’m sure I can learn the conversational style easily.  I’m also not worried about it because many people speak English.  Since the Americans were there for so long a large portion of the older generation speaks a little.  The school age children also learn English very very well.  It’s very strange that even the poor speak a good bit of English.  The portion of Vietnamese that fought with the Americans are not allowed to own property and were relocated to the countryside.  They snuck back into the city but cannot own land.  Therefore they are poor, yet have retained their English skills.
I don’t know if H will be able to adapt there, but it’s something where we’ll just have to wait and see and let it play itself out as it will. 
As for jobs, the market is booming.  There are jobs anywhere and I could always fall back on English teaching if need be.  I’m 90% confident I can find a good job in business however, especially with the connections I’ve made. 
H is coming with me on vacation.  I’m excited to bring her to hang out with the family some more. 
As for the pictures:
I’m not sure if the church is Catholic or not.  I’m going to guess that it is, but the government still puts a lot of restrictions on the clergy there.  Proselytizing is still not allowed. 
The war museum was modest, not big at all.  It was done in a tasteful way and the disparaging of Americans isn’t overdone.  However, there are many pictures that will completely shock as well as some exibits.  The worst picture I saw was of a GI holding up some mangled mass of parts after the VC had been hit with a shell and smiling.  The other shocking pictures were of groups of civilians that were unarmed and had a huge amount of fear in their eyes and after the picture was taken were all killed.  As we all know the war got very messy and I’m glad the American Army has taken many steps to stop this in the current war.  Finally there is the exibit of children still being born looking like monsters do to Agent Orange.  There are also two babies that died shortly after birth that are kept in a jar in liquid.  It was quite disturbing. 
The “traps” were part of Cu Chi which is the famous underground tunnels about an hour or two outside of Saigon.  We went through some tunnels widened for tourists and they explained how the traps worked.  I could just imagine the fear of the poor soldiers who had to venture into that area.  The Americans didn’t know about the tunnels and built a base right on top of the enormous network.  They couldn’t figure out how they were getting killed in their tents as they slept.  Also, to be walking through there and having the enemy pop out of no where, then running and falling into a booby trap must have been horrendous for the soldiers. 
We really didn’t spent too much time visiting the war exhibits, but instead were able to go out into the poor villages and meet the wonderful people.  The picture with the children are kids who wanted us to pay money so we could slide down the sand dunes.  We bought them all cokes and had them sit down with us.  They are truly wonderful.
Some people can speak French, but most people speak English. 
The food is now my favorite.  The lobster, crab and shrimp are huge and extremely cheap.  The strange things I ate were mouse and eel.  The mouse eat rice only in the paddies and were very good.  The eel was ok.  I didn’t try snake but I would if I had the opportunity. 
On the beach, there was a bit of trash and many dead animals.  The poor villages lack a trash collection system so the ocean serves as such.  But it isn’t very dirty since they do not produce much trash.  But when an animal dies, it is put in the ocean.  We saw quite a few dead animals on the beach.  In the picture is a cat. 
The friend I was with is in an International MBA program from South Carolina.  He studies at Waseda with me. 
I did get sunburned quite a bit and now have a good tan as a result. 
I’ll give you a call soon!

E-mail to Mai 3.3.2004

Hello Mai!
It’s been a long time and I’m glad we’ve remained friends.  I also write you first about Vietnam since it is with you that I wish to share my amazing discovery. 
I wish to live in Vietnam because the people are warm and beautiful.  A smile will always be met with a smile and this is something that has been lost in Ohio and in my experiences with people back home.  It is true that many will return a smile there but many will also assume you want something and put up a barrier.  If I wish to talk with someone I do not know, I will often be met with mistrust. 
In Vietnam I was able to feel something beautiful.  The people have nothing yet, I can feel their warmth and friendlieness.  I see so many children with scowls on their faces back home.  Yet, in Vietnam, my most amazing experience was not with women, money, or war but with a beautiful little girl by the ocean.
As I stood by the waves, I saw a little girl about 2 years old with her mother.  She was looking at the ocean splashing gently upon the beach and looked at it with such delight.  When I saw her it made my heart melt and I could not help but spread a smile from ear to ear.  When she noticed me she smiled so big and took some little steps to hide behind her mother.  She kept peering from behind her mother as they both smiled and it broke my heart to think of the pain that was caused to these people not so long ago.  Her mother rolled up her pant legs so her little tiny feet could be caressed by the waves and I could see the pleasure in her eyes.   It was then I realized that I wanted to be successful there so I could help as many as I could.  I did not only see this beauty in a small child but also the adults smiled back at me just as warmly and without alterior motives.  I could see the child in the poor beggar in the road who still is able to celebrate life. 
I feel that many back home have been corrupted by consumerism, money and the opinions of others.  Even though many live in big houses, they remain unhappy and mistrustful.  I do not get a good feeling when I’m in the midst, like they are judging me by the clothes I wear or how much money I make.  Many of the girls I’ve dated at home pay more attention to how intelligent, or how much money I have to offer.  In Vietnam the people will be extremely happy if I just sit and talk with them.  We sat a bunch of poor kids down trying to collect money and bought them all cokes and cookies.  We played games of slap hands, and junken and their eyes became so bright.  I found true happiness in this. 
It is my plan to reject the desire to be wealthy and be looked favoribly upon by my peers back home.  Their opinions of me have vanished with the smile of a child by the sea.  I am going to live there and I’m certain that with my knowledge of business, language ability and connections I can be successful.  I want to take whatever wealth I gain to help these people and I must admit it is for my own selfish reasons.  For when I see them smile and their eyes become bright I’m filled with such happiness of which I cannot begin to describe.   
Most people from wealthy countries will only see poverty and the bad aspects of the city.  What they fail to see is the beauty of the people.  If a person calls out to them and ask them to buy something, they will automatically put up defenses.  Yet, if they would simply sit and talk with the people and open themselves up, they could see how truly special the people are.   
In their smiles, I can easily sacrifice the time away from my family and friends.  I reject the idea that making money and being “successful” is the key to happiness.  My happiness will be making the Vietnamese happy and I will get to know them and will integrate as much as I can. 
I know we talk little, but from our discussions, I can sense your worry about the future and the pressures that are put upon you almost daily.  Life is all in our perceptions, yet these life pressures all too often form these perceptions.  My own perceptions have been radically altered from where I was mentally only a few years ago to where I am now.  You are a beautiful person and I can still remember the Mai from High School so full of life and aspiration.  Even though we talk little, I sense that maybe you have become a little unhappy, mistrustful of people and their intentions.  Maybe I am wrong, but I only wish to be a strong supporter of yours and hope one day to see your beautiful smile.  So if life’s pressures ever get you down, please remember that there is someone even though an ocean away thinking wonderful thoughts of you and who believes in you even though we have never met.  Even though you cannot see me and we may never meet, I’m am always right here. 
Your Friend,