Climbing Into History

Starting out on today’s adventure my mind was filled with questions; what is the jungle going to be like and how will I fit in a tiny hole in the ground? The first question was answered right after I stepped off the bus, the jungle was hot, dense, and filled with creepy bugs (somehow I was the only one visibly scared of the bugs?). After trekking through the jungle for a while, our group reached a rest point where the tour guide gave us some background on the Chu Chi Tunnels and the pivotal role that they played in the Vietnam War. Inside this dense set of intricate tunnels, Viet Cong soldiers were able to hide, get medical supplies, reload on ammunition, and get from one side of the country to the other. We also watched a short video on the War which was from the Vietnamese perspective. It was hard to watch because of slurs towards America, such as “American devils”, as every country writes its own history. Later in the day I got to talk to Vietnamese students about the War, and they spoke about how their government does not publish many truths. The video and War Museum include lots of propaganda and untrue statements, but the students told me to always look at the pictures as these cannot lie. Both sides of the story of the Vietnam War was not balanced, whether reading something from the American or Vietnamese side, I find that it is best to examine the facts and stories with an impartial viewpoint. None of the Vietnamese students that I have talked to share the same position on the War as their government, they are open and very welcoming to Americans. In my opinion, this reflects the country’s recent development and acceptance of capitalism. As people are more open to new ideas, their economy will continue to grow.

After watching the video and having a background lecture on the area, we ventured farther into the jungle. Finally we reached the first tunnel and almost the entire group climbed in, including me. Inside the tunnel was dark and musty. Crouching down for an extended period of time and the closed space made me feel like it was hard to breathe. Once I emerged I decided not to go into the following four tunnels as they got smaller and longer, and I do NOT regret my decision. As we toured the area our guide showed us how the Viet Cong soldiers camouflaged the entrances to the tunnels and set up traps for the American soldiers. The entire trip was very interesting and on the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Vietnamese cemetery. This truly rounded out our experience for the day as it was difficult to see how many people died in the Chu Chi area, but it is important to learn the history of the relationship between America and Vietnam.

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