Tunnels and Traditions

Today we visited the Cu Chi tunnels. During the Vietnamese War, these tunnels were dug by and used by the Viet Cong (guerrilla fighters in South Vietnam fighting for the North) to strike at targets near Saigon.

At first I thought that most of the day would be spent physically crawling through these tunnels, but I quickly became glad that this was  not the case. The first tunnel we went down was extremely tight, and with people behind and in front of you it felt claustrophobic. When we came out of the other side, I was shocked to see that we had only traveled less than one hundred feet, as it had felt much, much further. This one experience instantaneously made me amazed that the Viet Cong essentially lived in these tunnel systems for hyper-extended periods of time.

What would have made this slightly better were the various rooms that had been built into the tunnel system, including command headquarters, bunkers, and even kitchens and make-shift hospitals. All of this was underground, with the entrances well hidden. The bunker system we were in only had three small holes, covered with metal lids and then could be scattered with leaves to make these entrances completely invisible.

For the obvious reason that they fought on the other side of a war, the Vietnamese government told a much different tale about the war than the American view. The word hero was repeated over and over again about men that killed Americans, and a short video they showed us constantly mentioned the American enemy and how they had destroyed peaceful Vietnamese life. However I do not believe the “history is written by the victors” mentality applies here, as our tale of the story was not destroyed, it is just believed in different parts of the world.

I am not sure what the students here at UEF believe about the war, as I have not personally asked them. I do not, however, believe that they are completely indoctrinated to the official Vietnamese government’s position on the war. This is because of the high percentage of Vietnamese that hold Americans in a positive light. I know for a fact that the UEF students do, as we all have become close friends very quickly. This would not be possible if they believed that all Americans were monsters trying to destroy their way of life. This is exactly because of globalization, as all people are able to read about the events of the war from different viewpoints.

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