Hey, welcome back to my blog! Today was another life changing-adventure where we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. As a quick history lesson, Vietnamese gorilla fighters used the tunnels to gain a major advantage over the U.S. during the war. In the dense jungle forests, both citizens and soldiers built hundreds of interconnecting tunnels that were virtually undetectable. Soldiers would then hide out in these tunnels for shelter or to attack their enemies. When we arrived at these tunnels, I knew that they were going to be small, but I had no idea how small. I went into two tunnels, the one they made for American tourists and the real ones. When I was in the tourist tunnel, I thought that I was going to hyperventilate because of how claustrophobic I felt. The tunnels have dim lighting and you need to either crawl on your hands and knees or hunch over to get through the tunnel. If you take a wrong turn, you could literally end up in Cambodia; that’s how extensive these tunnels were. Luckily, my sense of direction did not lead me that astray, and I was able to navigate out of the tunnels. As I was hunched over in the dark, it dawned on me that citizens and soldiers dug these tunnels out with nothing but a basket and a hand plow. Imagine that for a second and think about how long it would take. Inhabitants had to spend weeks underground in the dark with no food while their enemy was walking right above them.
Before we entered the tunnels, we watched a fifteen-minute video of the war through the eyes of the Vietnamese. It was hard to hear the narrator call American soldiers “American devils,” but at the same time I tried to understand the situation from the Vietnamese perspective. Americans were thought of as the ‘bad guys’ by North Vietnam, foreign invaders that came in and killed civilians. Yes, I know the situation is much more complicated than that, but at the end of the day, the conflict was difficult for all sides. After the tunnels, we visited a cemetery for fallen Vietnam soldiers and I walked through the hundreds and hundreds of graves. I don’t think anyone truly ever wins in open conflict. I feel like this sentiment is shared by a lot of people in both countries. All of the young Vietnamese students that I met have been so open and friendly that’s it’s crazy to imagine that a few decades ago our countries were fighting an undeclared war. I understand that many in Vietnam badly wanted American soldiers out of its country. Once American forces were drawn down and the war later ended, the Vietnamese were able to move on and try to rebuild the relationship between our two countries. Overall, the entire situation was a very bad one for all sides involved but I am grateful for having today’s experience because I definitely gained a new perspective.
On a much lighter note we had an amazing riverside lunch! Sorry for the 180 degree mood change but I’m trying to lighten things up a bit. The place where we ate was a local restaurant which had the best shrimp spring rolls you will ever have. Along with many other positives, Vietnam has amazing fruit, and today’s pineapple was no exception! My picture for today is a picture of me emerging out of the tunnel!