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Doing Business in Vietnam
American Jim Okuley is one of many who have recently opened a business in Vietnam not far from where Viet Cong guerrillas once fired rockets.
Driving in a jeep left over from the war, Okuley cruises down newly paved streets flooded with vehicles filled with young people to whom the war is as remote as it is to most Americans.
These days, the cars are edging out the motorcycles on widening avenues and new bridges across the Saigon River – and, in the delta to the south, across the branches of the Mekong as well.
“About 65 percent of the population is under 30,” says Okuley, echoing government statistics. “The only connection they have with the war is through one of their relatives. These kids, the majority of them, have no interest. Their interest is making money and helping their families.”
Okuley prefers to take advantage of all the country has to offer without dwelling much on its tragic past.
“People in the South were living off sweet potatoes and rice,” he says, harking back to when he was here as an airman more than 40 years ago. “When the government puts up a sign that says, ‘35 years of peace and prosperity’ since 1975, people say, ‘Why rock the boat?’ This generation essentially is a pretty happy bunch.”
Okuley has a special reason to be happy. While in the United States, he met his wife, Nicole, whose family had fled the North Vietnamese port city of Haiphong after the communist victory over the French in 1954.
Born in South Vietnam in 1963, the family, including six sisters, fled again, this time in 1968 after the offensive in early February during the Tet holiday. They ended up in Paris but moved 12 years later to Alexandria, Va.
Nicole had a lot to do with setting up the exercise center, called Nutri-Fort, which opened in shining new facilities in December 2008 and is now a magnet for foreigners as well as well-to-do Vietnamese.
Vietnam Alive Travel is acting as a bridge for those who do business and invest in Vietnam.