The Webner family will be learning about Vietnam this year. Russell has received a Weitzel-Barber grant that will allow him to travel to Vietnam this summer, where he will experience Vietnamese society, visit museums and cultural sites . . . and paint. His current plans include spending time in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Hue, Hanoi, and locations along the Mekong River.
I don’t know much about Vietnam, but that will change as the summer progresses. According to the indispensable CIA World Factbook website information on Vietnam, Russell will be there during the hot, rainy season and may encounter a monsoon or typhoon. Vietnam is a long, narrow country with a lengthy coastline that stretches from the South China Sea in the south, where the Mekong River flows into the ocean, to the Gulf of Tonkin in the north — a body of water that has its own separate meaning for Americans of a certain age.
That will be one of the interesting things about a trip to Vietnam — the extent to which there are still ties to America and reminders of America’s long, costly, and I think ultimately pointless involvement there. The clash of cultures, the nature of the American experiment in that country, and the reactions of the current generations of Vietnamese to the United States and its citizens are some of the reasons why Russell chose Vietnam for his Weitzel-Barber grant proposal in the first place. I have a feeling he will find many subjects to paint on his journey.