Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where is the Integrity of Vietnam?

Does Vietnam have any integrity at all?

A woman poisoned her husband with heartbreak grass because after he invited two friends over to get drunk, she saw a quick way to stop his drinking and beating on her forever.  Why is a woman and her children beaten regularly and community members come to the house and drink with the abusive husband for pleasure?

Poisonous porridge has become popular in Ha Gaing. Why would people in the area be attracted to a dish called "poison" and why would they risk eating something that if prepared incorrectly could kill? 

In my childhood, when we were still South Vietnam, we used our exotic gifts for their medicinal value, but not for excitement. 

We ate fish and chicken with herbs such as lemongrass, picked fresh coconuts and oranges off our own fruit trees. Snake has its place as a medicinal remedy and otherwise as a respected if not feared part of our local habitat. The same Burmese python recently outlawed for shipment from foreign cultures to the U.S., was a natural wildlife of our playground near the rice fields or by the Lai Gaing River.

I do remember one time when someone in my family ate snake but not as a gourmet food nor even as a meal. Thac's face broke out in horrible acne when we lived in Qui Nhon. She had always been the prettiest of my family, with beautiful eyes and skin. Because she felt the break out so ugly, Thac began hiding half her face behind her hair. One of my uncles on my mother's side came for a visit. When he saw saw Thac, he said, "I know how to fix that." When he left he said, "I'll be back soon with a cure."

Several weeks later, he returned with a pot of cooked meat stew. Uncle said to Mother, "Don't tell her what it is."

After Thach had eaten all she could hold, she asked, "Well, what is in this?"

"Snake meat," is all my uncle said. Thach groaned loudly.

Within two days, a miracle happened. Thach's face returned to her clear beauty.

One day, I hope our lost culture can still be saved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tet Offensive

At this time of year, it is impossible not to think of the Tet and the battles that occurred on or around January 30, 1968. Previously the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army had not worked together in the war against South Vietnam. During this horrifying sequence, the North took several of our cities, later to be won back by the U.S. and South combined forces. As we fought to drive the North out of our land, we began to lose ground.

This segment of the battle to win back Hue was to be named the Massacre at Hue. Thousands of South Vietnamese were executed and 100, 000 of their homes lost as the North vindictively desecrated them one by one with bombs. Both the North and the South had agreed to ceased fire during the three days of Tet so people could celebrate, but the North did not keep their promise and attacked Hue and other cities nearby. Though these cities were all recovered, Hue was destroyed forever.

This is the saddest time of the war for all of my people. So many lives were lost unnecessarily. Though the war should have seemed winnable at this point, losing all these lives and all the destruction made us feel disspirited and made many feel they had no home in Vietnam.