5/13 Cu Chi Tunnels and a Water Puppet Show

Today we started of the day with a drive out to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels were a key part of the Vietnam War and they were used by the guerrilla fighters in the south.  The tunnels were used as a base for the guerrilla fighters and they were used for fighting, cooking, defusing bombs, traveling and escaping, and as bunkers. The tunnels were super narrow because the Vietnamese are smaller compared to Americans. The tunnels were able to be built easily due the ground having clay in it. It was interesting crawling through the tunnels because the ground was hard due to the clay. They were also incredibly hot. Even after crawling just 50 meters, I was drenched in sweat. I cannot imagine having to live in the tunnels. The tunnel system was kept hidden by covering the entrances with leaves. Also to hide a smoke source, the smoke vents were dug away from the main tunnel system and a giant pit was also dug there to absorb some of the smoke. Since the tunnels were so well hidden, this would allow the Vietnamese to come up to attack and then quickly disappear. This allowed them to fight guerrilla warfare very effectively. Before we went into the tunnels, we were shown an official video about Cu Chi and the war. The government portrayal of the war showed the Americans as evil and American killers were regarded as heroes. Also Cu Chi was portrayed as a place that was peaceful until the US came in and destroyed that peace. I found this to be an interesting video because I rarely see accounts of history without an American bias. It was eye opening to see another country’s perspective on the war. What makes the Vietnam War a bit different is that the victors did not really get to write the history. This trip was my first time seeing the war from the Vietnamese perspective. Even though America lost, it still retained the power to tell its story about the war. This allowed America to explain themselves and leave out some of the bad parts. For that reason, I thought it was important to see the other perspective on the war, even if it was biased too. While the Vietnamese did talk about celebrating American killers, they also don’t seem to be hostile towards Americans. This probably has to do with a combination of the culture and the importance of America as a trade partner. Young people especially don’t harbor much resentment due to American involvement in the war, probably due to them being from the generation that did not grow up in a war.  They are also from after the US embargo. The Vietnam they know is the modern, global one it is today.  During our visit to the Cu Chi tunnels, we had an interesting snack that was popular with the guerrilla fighters.  It was tapioca (cassava) root with crushed peanuts, sugar, and salt. After the Cu Chi tunnels, we went back to Ho Chi Minh City. Since we got back pretty earlier, I thought that tonight would be a good night to try to see a water puppet show. Water puppet shows are more popular in the north, but there is a theater in the park right by our hotel. I took a few other kids there with me and we saw the show. It was all in Vietnamese, but it was still super fun. The puppets are about 2 feet tall and entire show is done in a pool with the puppeteers behind a curtain. At the show, we saw many of the traditional instruments we learned about in the lecture at UEF.  After the show, I took some people to a banh mi cart for their first banh mi of the trip. For dessert, I had durian ice cream because the Vietnamese students had been telling me I needed to try durian. The flavor was easily one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever tried. At first it was sweet, but the aftertaste was similar to an onion or garlic. I honestly don’t know how to explain it any better, but I’m glad I tried it. After ice cream, I walked around the city and to the river. It was Sunday, so Nguyen Hue street was closed and there were tons of people out walking. That made for a great end to the night and then I headed back to the hotel. 

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