Saturday, 17 September 2011

War Remnants Museum

The first thing we did the first day we arrived in Saigon was a trip to the War Remnants Museum. Well, actually, this isn't strictly true, the very first thing we did was check into the hotel, which, by the way, is the fanciest of fancy hotels and has a gold and cream colour scheme, and then we went for lunch at the same place Clinton lunched when he came to visit Saigon. But after these things the very first thing we did was to visit the War Remnants Museum.

I am going to stop being jokey now, because this was a fairly serious and sombre event, and prompted the deepest conversations the group has had since starting the trip, also the first group tears. Thus I invite you, blog reader, into the world of serious blogging, here I will make a brief sojourn.

The museum is right in the centre of Saigon, and we had to pay to enter, and it was honestly one of the most chilling museums I have ever been to, it was right up there with the Red Cross Museum in Geneva. It focused mainly on the anti-war movement around the world, the war crimes committed against Vietnam during the war, and the continuing effects of Agent Orange.

This last was the most upsetting as there were pictures of young children and unborn babies with various birth defects becaus of the chemicals used by the American Army. It struck me that although I had learnt about the effects of Agent Orange during GCSE History, and I had seen many of the photographs before, I was more shocked by them than I had been in the past. I'm not sure whether it was due to being actually in the country where it had occured, or being older, or a combination of the two, but the horror of the Vietnam War hadn't really affected me in the same way before. What I also hadn't considered seriously before was the lingering effects of war on the Vietnamese people.

Over dinner the girls and I discussed how perhaps the reason why the Vietnam war didn't seem so real to us before was because in our own way, less seriously, less dramatically, less painfully, less physically, but still in a real way to us, we were ourselves the third generation affected by our own war. We discussed to what extent the war was talked about at home, and in what ways it had impacted the lives of our grand-parents, parents and by association us. It was really interesting to hear everyone's stories and to think about the potential links between us, and the third generation affected by Agent Orange. It makes me think though, to what extent will my children be affected by the ghosts of war, and how many generations will it take Vietnam to recover from the atrocities committed within its borders.

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