Friday, August 2, 2019

From Hong Kong to Hanoi, stumbling through history from cold war to trade war

Into Hanoi from a typhoon in Hong Kong. 
Her son was on death row in a prison camp for seven years before the war ended. Here she is greeting her son again. The history of women in Vietnam is amazing and horrible terrible and beautiful and heroic and painful to imagine here.

 It was hard to leave Hong Kong.

It was raining when we left the hotel  for lunch,
Colors dancing with umbrellas and neon lights.
“Watch out, a typhoon is coming” noted one of the workers at the hotel.
A typhoon?
The day we were  going to leave.
No strikes today? I asked, referring the subway strikes the day before that crippled the subways,
Sending us all into the streets to grab buses and cabs.
It took hours to get home.
Hours and hours.
A typhoon today, ok.
Pouring, we walked into a lunch spot for a snack.
And make our way to the airport.
Our emergency visas arrived, finally.
For Viet Nam.
Flight delay at the airport.
A few of us sat.
Chatting away with US ex pat now living in Taiwan.
“The extradition bill is a mess,” he vented.
“Everyone wants a piece of Hong Kong.
It was the first,” he replied, the first Asian global city.
Gin and soda.
Chat about the world.
Los Angeles.
New York.
Hong Kong.   
Into Hanoi where the streets are sweet, full of food, people drinking and eating, sitting on railroad tracks and hanging out.
It's glorious.
People are sitting outside.
We had a beer.
Looked out at the city.
The excitement compelling.
Made  it to Hanoi.
French colonial  meets a free city.
Walking the next morning,
A full day one Aug 1
Museums and food tour 530
Walking through history and geopolitics and food in Hanoi.
Just crossing the street can be difficult.
Take a few steps,
Look at the scooters,
Close your eyes,
Pray to the Bhudda,
And step out.
Exuberance competes with the melancholy, 
The tragedy of it all.
Our interventions here have been tragic.
Colonial conquests.
The French fought for control for  decades.
Creating prisons, inspiring resistance movements.
And then the US sent advisors and the good
people  here resisted, fought back.
The world turned upside down.
Women’s Museum.
Images of heroes,
Women who went to jail.
Created program,
Wrote  letters.
It’s a lot of history to take in.
A lot to witness.
Sometimes unbearable.
As Americans, our Cold War foray here divided our country
 in a way we have never come back from.
 Apocalypse Now to Vietnam Vets in the streets, we never came back.
Why were fighting them?
The center stopped holding when we fought here.
Cold wars then, trade wars now.
We never came back.
Mothers separated and reunited with their kids.
So much horror.
They wanted to call Ho president, he said call me uncle.
We are all family.
Ho asked Truman to stay out.
Why didn’t we listen to him?
Why’d we listen to the French.
Yet, somehow today, the wounds are receding.
I’d rather have a trade wars  than cold wars, turned  hot.
They like us now, our guide explains.
We like Trump, he tells us.
He does not like China.
Opening relations has opened new sets of relations.
Chinas losses are Vietnam’s gains.
Cold wars to trade wars.
US interventions are never simple of benign. 
Touring Hanoi, we hear how the city has changed.
Conflicts with China, tensions with Cambodia.
The soup is delicious.
The coriander makes all the difference.
Ten hours to make the broth.
Add vermicelli. 
Five minutes to eat.
Forty cent draft beers.
For  a night, life is good.
Graham  Greene wrote Hanoi is  a place for forget your troubles.
It certainly feels like it for a day.
For a day.


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