Utahns have had little exposure to daily life in Hanoi, but Hanoi residents have had regular doses of information about Utah in recent months.
My guide while on assignment in Hanoi was a Vietnamese reporter named Chinh Quoc Nguyen.His reporting specialties include architecture and visual arts. He's a family man, with a wife and two sons. He gets around town on a small motorbike, as many people do there. He's good with a camera and lives on a typical Hanoi salary of $20 per month.
He was a young boy when American bombers were rocking Hanoi and later spent three years in the Army, where he claims to have picked up absolutely no marketable skills.
"They taught me how to kill people quickly. I never could understand why I would want to kill someone I didn't know," he said.
Chinh spent 100 days in the United States last year, including a monthlong stay in Missouri (he pronounces it "Misery" - he must have been there in the summer) and a visit to Salt Lake City. He has a cousin here and stayed for Thanksgiving.
He would like to own a computer but does not have one - not even on his desk at the newspaper Hanoimoi. So all of his writing is done longhand and then transcribed by someone else.
Chinh has written five stories about Utah since he returned to Hanoi. He also visited Dallas, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. But he insists Utah was his favorite place.
"I feel Utah," he said. "I can look at New York, but I don't feel it."
Americans asked during his visit if he wanted to stay here. "I say, `If I stay in the USA, who will write about the USA to my people?' "
So he returned to Hanoi, for which I have since become extremely grateful because of the arrangements he made for me. I asked him to book a hotel suitable for a reporter, so he reserved a room in the six-room "mini-hotel" the Associated Press correspondent occupied for some time. And I can still picture and taste the food his restaurant-owner friend spread for the two of us.
Chinh said his five Utah stories in Hanoimoi have attracted a fair amount of attention. "After my writing, people call my office and ask me about Utah. I know and understand about Utah life."
Call the Chamber of Commerce. Sign this man up.