Dec
25
2010

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And So This is Christmas

by Tara

Here in hot, sunny, loud, crowded Vietnam, Christmas is a day like any other. To pass the time until our families will be awake and on Skype, we decide to visit one of those educational-but-depressing sites we feel it is important to see. Heading outside, guidebook in hand, we point ourselves to the nearby War Remnants Museum.

Since it's Christmas, and because riding one of Vietnam's ubiquitous cyclos is a "required activity" in Ho Chi Minh City, we splurge and hire a pair of them to take us. Climbing on the creaky old bikes, we sit and watch the world go by while a couple of guys pedal us oh-so-slowly along the busy streets.

Tara on a Cyclo in Ho Chi Minh City

It's fun for a few minutes…

Tyler on a Cyclo in Ho Chi Minh City

…but the novelty wears off quickly; the ride is slower than molasses in January, it is scorching hot out, and the whole thing feels a bit exploitative. I mean, I don't need to pay some old guy a dollar to pedal my butt across town—that's what my bike is for!

Before we can feel too bad about the whole thing, they shovel us out of our seats, far from our agreed destination, saying that cyclos aren't allowed to go any further on this road. I'm not sure I believe them, and Tyler is fairly certain we just got ripped off.

But whatever. Grumbling, we pay them, and then walk off in search of the museum. It's hot and we get crankier and crankier until finally, it's time to face the facts: we're lost. Though we ask for directions numerous times, either no one knows where the museum is, or more likely, no one can understand us.


We almost throw in the towel several times, wanting to say to hell with an educational experience, but we persevere, and eventually find our way. Reaching the museum, we pay a paltry entrance sum, and start a long, depressing slog through these exhibits. Photo after photo, the horror of the Vietnam war, known here as the War of American Aggression unfolds.

Phan Thị Kim Phúc Running After Napalm Attack

Each dolorous picture of a child affected by Agent Orange, each preserved, deformed fetus, each story of terror and fighting… they all hit us like a punch to the stomach. We're left feeling a sad, cynical cocktail of homesickness about our country of origin.

American War of Aggression American War of Aggression The Army Can Really Fuck Over Your Mind if You Let It Atrocities of American War of Aggression Toxic Chemicals Used on Vietnam Defoliants Used in Vietnam War Napalm-Caused Deformities Napalm-Caused Deformities Napalm Usage in Vietnam Bomb Them Back Into the Stone Age Carnage of War Bones Broken by Torture POW Prison Cell War Remnant Museum Tank & Helicopter

Soon, we're wallowing in a deep hopelessness. The world isn't good or beautiful, and neither are the people in it. How can any day be a cause for celebration, when there are so many horrible things happening around the world, right now?

Tyler at War Remnant Museum

So much for a Merry Christmas.


In Years Past and Future
2009 - Christmas in the Desert
PG-13
Topics:

2 comments

Thank you for posting this.

I, personally, can relate to your comment, “How can any day be a cause for celebration, when there are so many horrible things happening around the world, right now?” I feel this question’s weight upon me every day. I’ve worked really hard to balance the depression that naturally comes with facing the atrocities of our world with a sense of hope in our capacity to show great love and compassion. It is a difficult task.

The great (and the horrible) thing about truth is that you cannot turn away from it once you acknowledge it. It is forever with you. It opens your eyes and moves you to feel all the pain of the world in your heavy heart. But its grace is that it also moves us to be better human beings.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
Posted by Sheila on March 16th, 2011 at 3:20 AM
The great (and the horrible) thing about truth is that you cannot turn away from it once you acknowledge it. It is forever with you. It opens your eyes and moves you to feel all the pain of the world in your heavy heart. But its grace is that it also moves us to be better human beings.

This is beautifully put, Sheila, and so true! Thank you!
Posted by Tara on March 20th, 2011 at 3:16 PM
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