“New-year Resolution” of American Ambassador to Vietnam
A moment of relaxation of Ambassador Shear (left).
Huynh Phan: Before the lunch, you tried Eugenia tea. How was its flavor?
Ambassador David Shear: This is the first time I tasted Eugenia tea. I will see whether I can buy it in Hanoi.
Huynh Phan: Certainly, Eugenia tea has become very popular in Hanoi in recent years. You can drink it for free at some coffee shops.
Mr. Shear: (Smile) Well, that’s good.
Huynh Phan: Do you like the lunch?
Mr. Shear: All of them were seafood. I like seafood so I also like trips to coastal provinces.
Huynh Phan: What is the best in Vietnamese culture, in your opinion?
Mr. Shear: I’m very interested in culinary culture. I like Vietnamese food. I like Vietnamese coffee. It is the most interesting for me to sit at a pavement coffee shop. I and my wife both drink coffee and talk.
At both luxurious and outdoor restaurants, we can enjoy delicious Vietnamese cuisines.
Huynh Phan: Can you cook Vietnamese courses?
Mr. Shear: I’ve just started learning it.
Huynh Phan: I know an expert of Vietnamese food. He published a photo book on cuisines of three regions in Vietnam, which is entitled “Culinary Vietnam.”
Mr. Shear: Well, perhaps I have that book, too. But I do not remember the name of the author. What’s his name?
Huynh Phan: He is Daniel Hoyer. I made an interview with him for the Saigon Tiep Thi (Saigon Marketing) Newspaper. If you want to talk to him about Vietnamese cuisines, I will give you his number.
Mr. Shear: Oh yes. Thank you!
Huynh Phan: Hoyer’s book is special because it not only introduces how to cook Vietnamese cuisines but also introduce about the locations where the cuisines come from. The book is likely an Atlas on culture, history and culinary culture rather than a simple cook book.
Mr. Shear: Excellent. I must see him. I like Vietnamese cuisines because they are peppery and spicy. I like pho (Vietnamese noodle), bun cha (vermicelli and grilled meat) and banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe) the most. In general, all Vietnamese cuisines are delicious.
Huynh Phan: Where do you taste Vietnamese food, at luxurious or outdoor restaurants on the pavement?
Mr. Shear: Both. Cuisines offered at outdoor restaurants are always the best.
Huynh Phan: Have you ever been noticed as the US Ambassador at an outdoor restaurant?
Mr. Shear: Sometimes. Because, before I came here, I made a video clip. Some people watched it and they recognized me.
Hanoi is very charming. I like Hanoi’s architecture, especially historical buildings. I also like Hanoians.
I and my wife often take a walk in the city and then dine out. We usually go to Hoan Kiem Lake by car then walk around the lake or discover the old quarters.
I plan to enjoy the Vietnamese Tet holiday in Hanoi. At that time I will ride my bicycle around quiet streets to further discover this city.
Huynh Phan: Your bicycle is manufactured in the USA or China?
Mr. Shear: The USA.
Huynh Phan: You always take it with you abroad?
Mr. Shear: That’s right.
Huynh Phan: How old is it?
Mr. Shear: 12.
Huynh Phan: How many places that you have taken it with you?
Mr. Shear: Washington, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi.
Huynh Phan: How about Beijing?
Mr. Shear: When I was in Beijing, I had a Chinese bicycle, a “Flying Pigeon”. It is very heavy.
Huynh Phan: You pedal alone or you carry your wife?
Mr. Shear: Alone. My wife also has her bicycle.
Huynh Phan: What are your hobbies?
Mr. Shear: Listening to music. Any genre of music. I like reading, especially reading books in a coffee shop. I also like playing tennis and cycling. I like enjoying food and cooking.
Huynh Phan: Can you cook Japanese or Chinese cuisines?
Mr. Shear: My wife cooks Asian cuisines. I cook American dishes. I processed barbecue turkey for the recent Thanksgiving. I always make steak for the Christmas.
Huynh Phan: I know that you practice Japanese martial arts named Kendo. Why do you like it?
Mr. Shear: Because it is not only good for your health, but also for your spirit. Discipline and high concentration are the prerequisite conditions to be good at Kendo. Practicing Kendo is the best way to control yourself and to collect your thought. I practice Kendo with my wife. She is even better than me.
Huynh Phan: Why don’t you practice Kendo at a club in Hanoi?
Mr. Shear: I do not know that Hanoi has Kendo clubs.
Huynh Phan: Last year, when I visited the home of the Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam Yasuaki Tanizaki, I saw the chief of a Kendo club there. The Japanese Ambassador also practices Kendo.
Mr. Shear: Really?
Huynh Phan: Do you think that you will learn a martial art of Vietnam?
I like watching Vietnamese traditional martial art performance but perhaps I’m quite old to begin practicing a new martial art.
Huynh Phan: No. We have very gentle martial arts, for example Nhat Nam.
Mr. Shear: Could you repeat the name?
Huynh Phan: Nhat Nam. The master – Ngo Xuan Binh – developed this martial art in Russia. He taught martial arts to President Putin’s bodyguards.
Mr. Shear: I will certainly see it. But perhaps I have to spend time in improving my skill in playing golf.
Huynh Phan: Golf is a favorite sport of diplomats…
Mr. Shear: I think many people play golf in Vietnam, not only diplomats.
Huynh Phan: Which golf courses that you have visited?
Mr. Shear: I’ve just been to two golf courses.
Is today interesting? A day in the life of an American ambassador.
The Ambassador and his wife at a Vietnamese restaurant in the US.
Huynh Phan: Yes. Perhaps I will post a photo story on VietNamNet, entitled “One day traveling with Ambassador David Shear.”
Mr. Shear: That’s a good idea!
Huynh Phan: The article, instead of the “blog style” as I discussed with Beau, I should keep it as a chat. Actually, it is very comfortable and interesting to talk with you.
Mr. Shear: Interesting. Did you interview my predecessors?
Huynh Phan: Yes, Ambassador Pete Peterson and Michael Marine. I and my Japanese boss interviewed Peterson at the US Embassy on Lang Ha Street after the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement was signed.
Mr. Shear: In the Ambassador’s office?
Huynh Phan: Yes.
Mr. Shear: That room is still my office. That building is too old and too narrow. You know, we have many employees so we have to work in three buildings. We cannot hold a Christmas party for all embassy staffs and their family.
Therefore, another priority in my term is trying to negotiate with the Hanoi government to find a new site to build a new embassy. Certainly, the Washington administration will have to find a new site for Vietnam to build a new embassy.
Huynh Phan: What are you going to this Christmas and New Year holiday?
Mr. Shear: We plan to go to Da Lat.
Huynh Phan: Why Da Lat?
Mr. Shear: Because it is the place where anyone wants to and has to visit, besides Sapa, Ha Long Bay, the Mekong River Delta or Son La.
Huynh Phan: Thank you very much and have a good holiday!