war wounds

such recent history is not easily forgotten – although in many ways, it’s diffcult to picture this landscape, these people as wartorn (such an apt word for the systemic destruction of society’s fibre, a nation’s fabric) yet the scars are still visible everywhere if you look. it takes such an immeasurable toll on the psyche, by undermining everything you thought you knew about your background, your history, your heritage. those are the kinds of things which time will never erase. here in hue, the ancient imperial city was all but wiped off the map during the war. the relics of millenia of kingdoms, gone in a blink. so much discussion begins with the phrase, “before the war”. children of agent orange walk the streets as a daily reminder. and while communist propaganda and pride is everywhere, so is the poverty of those whom the free market has left behind. there is nothing more humbling than when a hotel manager who works 7 days a week and earns $60/month asks you about the salaries back in the u.k.

yet in spite of these wounds, or perhaps because of them, there is an undercurrent of resilience, even optimism. people keep on keeping on in the custom of the generations. they still wake every morning to the music and call of the local party headquarters, to sweep their curbsides in unison, and prepare their breakfasts as a community of families. they perform their ablutions and wash their dishes in the company of their neighbours. they open their shops day after day, make their offertories and tend their shrines, as their parents did. they still harvest their rice, set the cattle to graze, catch the fish for the local market.

vietnam is not a victim to its history. they don’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for themselves or dwelling on grievances. they must keep on keeping on because there is life to be lived. there are meals to cook and children to raise. the work hard at getting past their past – in spite of all that has shredded their families, their culture, their country… or perhaps because of it.

it’s a philosophy that has served them well these last 30 years. and that’s what inspires hope about their future 30 years from now.

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