Today was by far the most serious day of our trip. We drove 2 hours to the Cu Chi tunnels (another early 7:15 departure), a very prominent site in the Vietnam War. We crawled through 3 sets of underground tunnels. These tunnels would lead to a big open space, each with different uses. Some were used as hospitals, kitchens, bedrooms, meeting rooms, and more. Some would lead to bunkers where the Viet Cong soldiers could fire from very thin slots, completely concealing them from eyesight. There would then be one or two tunnels leading in different directions branching off from that room and all the tunnels form a complex matrix, basically creating an underground community. The Viet Cong soldiers dug these tunnels themselves with only two tools, which is an amazing feat considering the depth and length of the tunnels. They ranged from 3 to 10 meters below ground level. I noticed that the tunnels were very well kept while traveling through them. The tunnels couldn’t have been taller than 4 feet, as we all had to crouch down low and shuffle our feet to get to the other side. It was a bit claustrophobic at times, but I’m really glad I did it! The staircases to get down into the tunnels were covered with lids to cover all traces of it, efficiently protecting the Vietnamese from detection.
Before we went to the tunnels, we watched a short documentary about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese side. It was really eye opening to see how propaganda works from both sides, as obviously the Vietnamese had a different perspective about the war. In the documentary, the narrator called the killing of 16 Americans a “success”. The people who killed Americans were hailed heroes. It was a little uncomfortable at times but it just got me thinking about how subjective history is. Those the Vietnamese called heroes are the same people we call the enemy, so there is no right or wrong interpretation of history. Though the relationship between the our countries has been shaky, it’s improving gradually and there honestly doesn’t seem to be any bad blood in the younger generations. We get along so well with the UEF students and they definitely don’t share the same views of Americans as the Government portrayed and the older generations.
After our Cu Chi Tunnel visit, we went to a cemetery for all the fallen soldiers of the Vietnam War and participated in a ceremony. We lit incense and the group split up to put them on graves. It was a pretty moving experience, and the cloudy weather and rain contributed to the serious and somber mood.
Tomorrow will be another company visit (and we get to sleep in!) so we get a break from this heavy stuff.