Saturday, October 13 – Saigon, Vietnam

 
I was interrupted last night so now I’ll finish my thought.
 
"You are traveling alone? You are so brave!"  As of yet, no one has asked me the dread question, "WHY are you traveling alone?"  But in case they do, I have two answers prepared, one more truthful than the other.
 
The first, and the one I would give (indicating straight out that it is probably the less truthful of the two) is this: I enjoy traveling alone.
 
That’s not a lie – I really do. I don’t have to confer* (is that even a word?) with anyone, I can do what I want, when I want. If I want to blow off the day in my air conditioned hotel room, I can. But the other answer is probably more truthful: There isn’t anyone to come with me. Because all of the reasons I give for traveling alone wouldn’t matter if someone cool was traveling with me.
 
There is no clock in my hotel room. I have my wind-up Warhol-styled Che Guevara clock from Langkawi, but didn’t set it yesterday. I woke up slow and lazy this morning. Understandably.  I went to bed early last night (based on the time the hotel guy called to tell me about the train tickets – which was at 7:20pm and I was already dozing). I slept through the night. And even though I screwed around all morning – laid in bed daydreaming, played DS, finally got up to shower… I was still downstairs by 11am. 
 
I’ve been walking the streets of Saigon all morning, trying to ignore the calls of "Ma’am! Miss! Hey! You want motorcycle?"  I think the Vietnamese must know that white people don’t normally walk anywhere if they can help it. I kept saying, "No, no" and made my way to the War Museum.  Unfortunately, by the time I got there, they were closed for lunch. So I walked on and checked out the Notre Dame Cathedral and Post Office. I bought a book on the street, and am now sitting in a coffee shop drinking water, lime juice, and, in a moment, traditional Vietnamese coffee. I was going to read my book when a thought occurred that I wanted to write down before it slipped my mind: Right now I could be in a coffee shop anywhere in the world. Vancouver, Seoul, Manila, Saigon – all the same. In that way, I don’t know if globalization should be cursed or praised.  On one hand – I can get a coffee with relatively little hassle. On the other – why the hell am I in Vietnam if I can have this same experience in Vancouver? Hopefully once my coffee is finished and I’m back at the War Museum, I’ll know exactly why.
 
Later
 
Yup. War Museum let me know that I was not in Kansas anymore. It wasn’t the best museum I’ve ever been to – mostly it was photographs. But oh – the photographs. No wonder people went nuts after the Vietnam War. The enormity of what happened here is staggering. And it didn’t end with the "end" of the war. An entire generation born with horrific deformities that were often fatal because of Agent Orange. And what they went through if they were imprisoned is not even imaginable. One of the more moving displays (to me) was near the end in a part of the museum reserved for protests of the war. In one of the display cases was a smaller display case with several medals inside. There were two small plaques. One simply said: "To the people of a united Vietnam. I was wrong. I am sorry." The other gave the American soldier’s name and address.
 
At the bottom of the page is a note that says "Remember the rain and thunder at the museum." While I was there, it started to rain very, very hard. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to try to fight a war in such weather. It was surreal to look out at the American helicopters and planes that were used during the war through a mantle of torrential rain.
 
*Not only is it a word, but I both spelled it correctly AND used it correctly. SWISH!
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