today as we walked around i could not help but think that this place used to be war torn about 30 years or so ago. i cannot even wrap my head around that. the closest i can come is to thinking about visiting iraq in 30 years. i know it is way different, but the only similiar situation for my wee brain to fathom.
i think about the people here and wonder what their stories are---what have they seen, experienced, heard, came back from, and had to rebuild. the place is bustling now and is not in too bad of shape. i mean it is no american city or even seoul for that matter, but the people are vibrant and moving around. there is no evidence to me from what i have seen so far (which truly is not that much) that can help me imagine that 30 years ago this place was a wreck and riddled with war. not too far from here is where the US base was stationed from what i read. i just sit and wonder. i look into the faces of people, both young and old, and want to ask questions and hear them share. i know these stories won't all be pretty or flashy, but it is who they are. it makes them them. just like all my history makes me, me. their history is obviously more tramatic (in my opinion) than mine in ways since i have not lived somewhere where war and unrest happened in my front yard, so to speak. i sit and my brain spins.
then add to that spinning and curiousity, the faces of western men i see here. they are a part of the generation that vietnam conflict was, at least from my age guess. many of them are aged, you look at them and see that their lives have not been a walk in the park. this is all my speculation, of course. i do have to wonder though about why they are here. have they ever left? does anyone know they are alive? did they return for closure and then never return to where ever home is? did they return to find their kids they learned about after the war was over? a war time romance they could not leave behind? what is their story? most of them sit solitary sipping on cold beers and others sit with comrades. many of them have the forearm tattoos that were part of that military generation. i am curious. i have questions. i most likely won't have any of them answered the way i imagine i would love to, but i can think and wonder. that is part of the great joy of having a brain and being wired to be compassionate for others. it would be such a joy to me to be able to share a drink with some of the old guys and hear what they have to share. are they bitter? upset? happy to be here? did they fall in love with this place or have compassion for a country so broken?
tonight at dinner paul and i were sitting just inside the closed glass doors of the restaurant we were eating at. on the front porch, there sat a man....older, aged, sipping a cold beer. he sat alone. he was people watching (at least i think he was). he also wore an united states marine t-shirt. was he a marine here? behind me sat another man with a local lady who had tattoos on his hands. he was western, most likely american and from the same generation of folks that would have served in vietnam. i sat and wondered. towards the end of our meal, one more american guy came in. he was more dressed up than the others which is not to say much really since it is a tropical culture where flip flops are the norm. he wore a collared polo like shirt with khakis. he walked in and spoke to the waitress in vietnamese. he also had a sleeve of tattoos on one arm and then some solitary forearms on the other. again, questions spun.
it would be really interesting to find out these guy's stories. some may be more heartfelt than others. i am sure i might be digusted by some, cry at others. it would be great to come back, hang out and just listen. take notes, take pics, do some sort of photo documentary on their stories and the country now. that would be cool.
feel free to post comments, thoughts, questions, or email me too. i am really desiring some good dialogue about my thinking. pipe up people....