A sojourn in the cities
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where these photos were taken, I was delightfully overwhelmed with the swarms of bikes flying my way. Part of that bike culture includes donning a handkerchief over one’s face — as in other countries where pollution and bugs are ubiquitous urban companions. Although not everyone rides a bike, bike culture is is a good prism for seeing Vietnam — a fast-moving, on the move, moving-forward society. This is not your mother’s Vietnam.
Going to Ho Chi Minh City reminded me not only of the travesties of the war, but also the power of resiliency. The old and new Vietnam seem forever linked — as if one colors, but does not overshadow, the other.
In the main market in Ho Chi Minh City, I conversed with a Vietnamese woman who now lives in California.
She asked me where I came from.
“Me too! I’m also from the U.S.A.!” she told me.
How can she be, I wondered, with that thick, clearly Vietnamese accent?
“I am from Vietnam, and I am from the U.S.A.”
What could that mean?
“Vietnam birthed me; the U.S.A. nurtured me.”
Vietnam is not about past perceptions — it’s not the nightly news showing soldiers disappearing — and yet it finds truths in these images; it finds the truth of resiliency and moves with it.
In Hanoi, we also saw the remnants and memories of war, and evidence that French is still a strong cultural force.
And yet I still could not easily grasp this place, or its people.
A walk around the lake in Hanoi’s heart– which felt like a stroll in a faraway land–whispered some answers. Vietnam both exists and is being created. The difference now seems to be in who is creating, and the mystery surrounding the creation.
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