That was my second visit to Vietnam. In all honesty, I only had chance to stay in this beautiful country for nearly two short months.
Yet I still couldn’t help feeling ineffably overwhelmed by so many indelible memories of the benevolent tender hearted people, of the peaceful yet exotic sceneries, of incredibly amazing cuisines and a plethora of traditions the Vietnamese people have.
Vietnam epitomises a country of peace. Being an American, I had been always perturbed with the thought I had of being stigmatised by Vietnamese against my country. Well that figures for all the atrocities, barbarities we had inflicted in your people in the past.
It was not until I came here that Vietnamese people had proven that I was carrying vain fear. Everywhere I went, I was welcome wholeheartedly with the biggest grin I ever saw, regardless of who they are - a tricyleman, an icecream vendor, or just random people I met on the streets.
I also took notice of something. Whenever I was approached by little boys or girls asking me to take pictures with them, they always posed with their hands in sign of peace (with the index finger and the middle finger lifting up) and of course, uninhibited smiles on their lips.
During my stay, I had the privilege of visiting one of the places where most of foreigners couldn’t. Recommended by my Vietnamese girlfriend, I boarded a train to remote rural areas which was located only 50 kilometers away from the capital. On the train, I was imperceptibly swept away by the beautiful, peaceful scenery outside the window. It is incredible to imagine that all this restful tranquility was once the batterfield of horrifying bloodshed and slaughtering. Turning sideways where my girlfriend was sitting, I couldn’t help thinking what if I arrived here 50 years ago, she could be one of the guerillas with a rifle on her shoulders, waiting for the perfect chance to put a bullet on me.
I wondered why the Vietnamese people could easily sink these terrible retrospective images into oblivion when most of the US veterans I met in my country invariably and literally shuddered and most of them denied any conversation pertaining to this war.
Back with the story about my stay in the countryside. I was invited to some kind of family commemoration of the death of my girlfriend’s grandfather. It was definitely one big occasion where lots of her relatives gather together to drink and feast.
Among the crowd, I conspicuously spotted one man in military uniform, pinned with medals of all kinds obviously in recogition of his considerable contribution to the nation. Also obviously, he prided himself with that. Having waded away the initial trepidation, I decided to approach him with a handshake and regard. To my surprise, he replied me with significant hospitality and showers of welcoming smiles. In his broken English, he said for him in particular in for other Vietnamese soldiers in general, the past had always become dim and distant. There is no point in recollecting those embittered memories any more. With the same sincerity, he convivially coupled me with my Vietnamese girlfriend and wish us all the best relationship wise. All of this was just beyond my imagination.
Vietnam, in my heart, is surely a country of peace./.