Tuesday, November 10, 2009

At Home in Vietnam

Nov. 3, Mekong Delta

Jungles on both sides, little fishing boats, passing tankers - we're heading up the river toward our "home" for the next five days, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Our first communist country. Terry Bangs, a faculty member who served in the airforce flying bombers and supplies out of Tuy Hoa (Dad was also based there) tells me it was a bit of a jolt passing a Vietnamese ship proudly flying the "enemy" flag. Another reminder that we actually lost that war (which, by the way, is known as the American War to the Vietnamese). Yesterday in the Global Studies class (which the entire shipboard community is expected to attend), a statement was made which struck me: Vietnam has moved past the war much more quickly than the US has. I have no way of knowing if that's really true, but it certainly makes me think. Vietnam has a long, fierce history of battling for its independance - the American War wasn't the first or the last, probably. But the US experienced the kind of inner division over the war that scars a national psyche, AND we, the all-powerful, lost that war. When we played music chosen by the student panel during Global Studies, it all came back in a rush - we were so proud of our resistance to the war - I'm still proud in fact. The voice of a generation: For What it's Worth, Ohio, Give me Shelter.
I had hoped to be able to visit some of the areas where dad was stationed from '64-'67, but it's apparently not all that easy to get there in a limited time and Tuy Hoa was hit hard last week by the typhoon which has caused largescale flooding. Too bad!
Now that I've had some time on shore in the city, I have to say that Vietnam surprises me. It seems so clean, calm, and friendly. Funny, to feel so at home so far away from home. I've been thinking lots about all the wonderful Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Thai people I've had the pleasure of meeting since the streams of refugees began arriving in the '70's. All those families who made their transition to life in the US by staying a while with mom and dad - my life was enriched, my world expanded by each of them. Makes me really miss Nareth, who first moved in with mom and dad when he was a teenager after a long time in a refugee camp. A special person to our family, he recently died after a long battle with cancer. Although I didn't travel to Cambodia, his home, on this trip, people who did go said it was an amazing and beautiful country. Next time!

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