I apologize for skipping a beat last week. I had problems with the internet connection. In two days I will publish another post, for I have accumulated experiences enough for a week with two posts. This, for now:
My second week in Vietnam has been a slow one, but filled with delight. I have seen little other than the center of Ho Chi Minh, but that is not a problem - the trip is long, and this place is pleasant. The food is quite interesting: I have recently tried (for the first time) duck fetus and dog meat. I prefer the duck - quite tasty and unique. Dog meat was very similar to pork, but much fatter. Not bad at all, but not special as I had hoped. In the coming days I hope to try serpent and turtle, and I've been told pregnant spiders make for a delicious snack.
At the beginning of last week, I was introduced to a Vietnamese tradition. While I worked in my room, I heard a marching band play outside. As any good curious tourist, I took advantage of my balcony to take a look and enjoy the show. It was quite a good band. Later that day, celebrations continued to happen at the street I was staying in. I thought nothing of it, and went to bed. Next morning, I woke up to some loud Vietnamese sounding Blues-Rock; good stuff. And the celebrations continued throughout the day. At a certain point, I had to check out the precise spot where that was coming from, and to my surprise, there was a coffin there. It was a Funeral Party. Monks dressed in white prayed, people left offerings and musicians played, all day long. For 1 day. 2 days. 3 days. On the third day, when I was starting to get tired of the whole thing, they played some Deep Purple. I couldn't believe it - I too want Deep Purple on my funeral, that's the kind of goodbye party I'd be happy with.
Later in the week, I made great trip to the Mekong Delta - I met some girls who were going there to escape the big city vibe, and I rode the free seat on one of their motorbikes. We travelled for almost 3 hours to get there, and despite the uncomfortable bumpy road and the effect it had on my behind, the trip was worth it. I also had some sugar cane juice on the way, which is as good as the Brasilian one. The delta is a beautiful place, and the boat ride was pleasant, despite the blistering heat.
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Finally, the third and main moment of the week was going to the War Museum, which has exhibitions on weaponry, photos, the effects of Napalm, and about the schools and children during the war against the U.S.
It was heavy. I felt filled with sadness and anger, and of course, again, more admiration for the Vietnamese. Certain quotes exhibited explain the whole thing magnificently. Parts of Eisenhower's Domino Theory include these passages -
"... two of the items from this particular area that the world uses are tin and tungsten. They are very important. There are others, of course, the rubber plantations and so on." He goes on to finish his explanation with "it takes away, in its economic aspects, that region that Japan must have as a trading area or Japan, in turn, will have only one place in the world to go--that is, toward the Communist areas in order to live.
So, the possible consequences of the loss are just incalculable to the free world."
Lyndon Johnson also said something quite interesting: "Tell the Vietnamese they've got to draw in their horns or we' re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age."
So, the 'free world' needed tin and tungsten, and they needed Japan to have a nearby trading area which was not communist (in theory, 'communist' means a strong state that manages resources for the people, instead of private organizations doing that). The 'free world' needed communist dictatorships to fail, otherwise the whole world would eventually become an evil place where states are corrupt, and keep their tin and tungsten for themselves! How dare they! Well, I ask you, is Vietnam doing any of that? Did the communist victory (which was expensive in terms of lives) do any harm to the world? And what is more - why was the Vietnamese communist government a dictatorship that had to be bombed back to the stone age unless they gave up, but the Khmer Rouge genocidal dictatorship, also communist, had sponsorship from the U.S.? Anyone with half a brain can understand why.
But what impressed me the most about all of this was the Vietnamese attitude. They hold no grudge against the French or the United Stateans. They have truly forgiven all those sins, threats, killings and napalm spraying - even in the museum, where they show the cruelty of the enemy, the main message is "this is in the past, let us look to the future together and try to bring peace and happinness to the world". They are indeed one of the happiest people I have seen, in general. And that does not come from religion or financial wealth either - they claim that 90% of their population is non-religious, and they are quite clearly in a bad financial situation, having one of the least valued currencies in the world. Even so, they forgave the Chinese, the French and the United Stateans. Even at the photos you see in the museum, of the fighting during the war - the United Stateans usually have two expressions - anger or mockery. The Vietnamese usually show sadness, fear, or pity. It's hard to find anger in a Vietnamese face. And that I cannot relate to - I am an American as well, and when I see those images, and the result that that war had on this country, I cannot forgive. Just as the United Stateans on those photos, my reaction is to feel anger towards their evil motives, and to mock their incompetence and their defeat.
Maybe in time I will be able to learn this from the Vietnamese.