Ho Chi Minh city

The alleyway to your hostel twists and turns so much that you feel as if you are in the midst of a snake. The noise from the street dissipates and you feel as serene as if you were in any forgettable small town.

Dodging more scouters than you can count you make your way to the war museum, avoiding only two sudden downpours. The images on the wall do more than any page in a history book as you stare at children born without eyes, men with half a face and women with holes in their skin so inexplicable you wonder how a god could’ve even imagined it.
A handsome young man stands next to you. Dumas flashes in your head: “He was a handsome young man, but then again all young men are handsome.” His eyes are red and your normal thoughts dissolve as you realize the feelings you’ve been keeping back like any good Texan would’ve.
The young man suddenly leaves the room filled with images of war and bangs a wall in a flurry of tears. You turn around so as to not cry. He had dirty blond hair as well, without a second glance he was you, twenty something on a trek.
The neon lights of Ho Chi Minh sting your eyes like the young man’s tears must have stung his. A park appears out of nowhere behind a grandiose statue in a roundabout. Women and men exercise to music. You swear they just twirked it. The memory of the museum and the young man seem to fade like the cigarette smoke around you.
The alleyway to the hotel curves and embraces you as you escape to privacy.

Did you want to cry?

HCM

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Tourists

The old man in the hostel room never stops coughing. You swear he is dead every time he goes in and spits out what must be an egg sized phlem.
You toss and turn, no hostel is comfortable.
You feel awkward being in a steady stream of white, slowy ebbing to and fro locations. You’ve always made fun of the tourist groups, now you are one. There is no blending in.
He is still coughing.
Tourism can make any country feel like dinsey land. But how else would you see it all without a local friend?
You buy a knock off catch-22 book, xeroxed from the original, its green.
It feels good to have a book so dear.
But that guy is still fucking coughing.

Back in Hanoi

Last night in Hue the sound of frogs looking for love filled the air. It reminded you of home where the constant song of frogs used to keep you up, but then became necessary for sleep. The frog tasted the same in Vietnam as it did in Louisiana. Your thoughts roll back to the country side. You saw lives so different you could not even begin to figure out how to make a connection.
Was the trip lost?
You feel like the answer will come when you are in a more comfortable environment, where your knees don’t touch the stall door and you don’t clog the toilet the first time you use it.
It’s all a funny story in the end though.
Now you wait to show your roommate Vietnam then travel on. You’re a backpacker now, and most backpackers annoy you.
You remind yourself not to drop your smile.

Children

The bus dashes over cracks and holes in the road as you jump about as if you were loosing control of a horse. People stare from their porch as a giant whale of a veichle whisks by, a flaire of red, a blur of privilage and a cough of the western. Your skin feels as white as the paint on the bus as children dash by in torn clothes and smiles. They sing songs and you wonder if any of them will remember the day a group of mostly white people came to watch them sing and hand out candy. A child stares up at you and begins to cry. You are just so fucking big in comparison. Your blue eyes roll across the children as guilt pulls your eye lids shut. Is this supposed to be for me? Is this supposed to make me feel something?

Children are children everywhere.

You are happy the NGO has helped build the school, happy they get rid of unexploded ordinates, but what’s your role? Why does it matter that you are here?

Would Americans let Vietanmese youth come to support a local NGO? Would a kindergarden in Texas sing for strange forigners smiling more for how cute the children are rather than smiling for any sort of life they live? You’ve seen places in the States in the same condition. Why won’t Americans help themselves as much as they try to help others?

There are few beggers in Vietnam. Part of that is no social safetynet by the state, part of it feels like a sink or swim mentality. Is this part of it you wonder as a mother carries goods by the bus.

Clouds roll over the mountains like the thoughts in your head. You feel useless following this NGO. You felt good tiling that floor, but that was because you did it with the family and workers paied to do the whole job no matter what. The man in the house cried when we left.

Our govnerment brought bombs, now we bring hugs.

The rice fields bend and sway in the wind. You hear pop music rolling over a family shrine. Menos swim amongst the rice plants. You could imagine any sort of mythical creature coming over the rice with the wind.

There are so many smiles here, but where is yours?

Issues are brought to attention, ways to deal with them arise. Help employ locals like the NGO. But will it ever stop? A country of blue eyes coming in to help a nation it once hated?

War leaves odd marks. Here it seems the only signs are some bomb cratres and missing limbs while unseen bombs haunt the grown. Back home there is furry on lips and anger in hearts and minds.
The land here is still healing, the people have seemed to move on, but what about us? Is this about guilt, is this why we hand candy to children?

Children are children, they will continue jumping in lakes and laughing, candy or not. But adults are different.

Fires of Hue

Smoke rolls across the street at every corner. Balls of light in the gutters. Burning prayers for relatives, there are hundreds around now for the war. You can smell the smoke hundreds of miles away as you stare at a hole a bomb left by a thousand year old temple.

The grass grows back.

The sun feels like the flames from the burning prayers as you plant a tree at a former U.S. army base. Names buried with the trees, so that their memories will blow in the wind.

As you stare at the trees prancing around you it is hard to see a war. There are remnants of stone, but that is the same at any site. You stare at the lake and watch a water buffalo do things water buffalos do.

How do you see a war?

How do you comprehend the stories, the fake and real.

How do you not feel guilty?

You smell the smoke, watch the flames, enjoy the wind, smile and live.