Today was an exercise in a lot of things, flexibility, resilience, and empathy. The plan for after lunch was to visit VinaCaptial, an investment firm. However, when we showed up it turned out that there had been a miscommunication. Instead, we headed back to the hotel and then walked to the War Remnants Museum. As the visit to the museum was just thrust on us, I didn’t get the chance to mentally prepare myself to see what I was about to see. Even so, I don’t think any amount of mental preparation would’ve gotten myself ready. As soon as you walk in the gate you are greeted with tanks, helicopters, flamethrowers, artillery guns, etc. To see and read about the size and ability of the American equipment was terrifying. In this area there was also an audio loop of dropping bombs playing. The first floor starts of light compared to the rest of the museum. It is mostly photos of protests around the world from Syria to Australia to Denmark. The other photos were of Ho Chi Minh in various diplomatic settings. For example, one was a photo of a meeting he had with American intellectuals that opposed the war.
What was most impactful about the museum was how it demonstrated the lasting effects of the war on people today. The first floor ended with a temporary exhibit about the removal of unexploded ordnance. While optimistic about the future, it highlighted the danger to civilians in post-war time. The second floor was incredibly difficult to get through. It was entirely about American war crimes and the effects of Agent Orange. I have never seen a place that better used the concept a picture is worth 1,000 words. The way I felt seeing the effects on people born of parents that were exposed to Agent Orange can’t really be put into words, and maybe that’s the best way to put it into words. Some of the research I did for my pre-departure paper said that 84% of Vietnamese have a favorable view of the U.S., making it the most approving country in the world of us, and I cannot begin to understand why. It’s only been 40 years since the end of the war. I think today, more than any other day so far, showed that there’s a lot to learn from the Vietnamese people. When I told some of my own family that I was going to Vietnam, they seemed shocked and worried. There still exists some stigma in the U.S. about Vietnam, even though they lost millions, and they brunt the aftermath.
I cannot begin to understand why.