May 082006

Anna here, posting while Chris is nursing a cold. Today I spent some time on my own in Saigon — getting lost and taking cyclos to get back on track. It takes a lot of my energy to strategize how I’m going to cross the street. By the time I get across several streets and a few massive, chaotic traffic circles I end up turned around and heading in the wrong direction. But it’s definitely no problem, still fun.

Today I went to the War Remnants Museum (American War Museum). Chris did not want to go. He wants to focus on Vietnam today, not in the past — which I respect and understand (even envy). That war was over before Chris was born, and Canada wasn’t involved. For me, that war was in my lifetime and I felt some need to display some reverence for the tragic events that my government participated in. After reading about the museum, I had opted to go to the Reunification Palace instead and avoid the disturbing photos. But the palace is under renovation this month — so off to the war museum I went.

I’m not really capable of describing how I felt from this experience, so I’ll just give a brief review of the museum. They had a lot of U.S. military equipment on display. Bombers and helicopters, bombs and tanks and bulldozers and many other weapon and chemical delivery devices, each with a description of what they were used for, how many were in Vietnam and when they arrived, and their effective distance and radius of destruction. Most of the rest of the exhibits were photos, with one wall of paintings by children about war and peace. In school, I learned about what we call the Vietnam war, but it’s a different scale to hear the story told from this side (the American war). Three million Vietnamese killed in that war, and the museum managed to make the point of the individuals — with before and after photos of victims of various massacres, their names and stories. It was impossible not to cry. I don’t understand the motivations for the types of weapons, chemicals and tactics — from this side it really does look like an attempted genocide.

On the up side, I was able to leave that behind when I left the museum. The chaos of the city wouldn’t let me dwell — it swept me back to today.