I went to Vietnam to make peace with a part of my father's memory. I went there because I'd heard the word "Vietnam" all my life and I knew it as a horrible place and time that people didn't really know how to talk about. It was a story that I would catch random parts of now and then that never had a happy ending. It was the reason that Dad screamed in his sleep.
I went there to bury that and to pay tribute to my Dad, who came back from that place and had a family and a career where he served his fellow man, protected the innocent and saved lives. I went to heal my own heart and to help some of the people of that country in whatever way I could.
There is a tradition there of burning gifts for ancestors. It's often fake paper money but sometimes it's cars or other kinds of property. These gifts are raised to heaven on the smoke which occupies the place between the material and the immaterial world. If there is any need of money in heaven, I think Dad's probably ok. He never had any trouble finding gainful employment and he liked to work for what he got. But I learned how to make origami lotus flowers by watching the kids at Blue Dragon. So I sent up about a half dozen of those the night before I left.
"Vietnam" is no longer a war for me. It's a country full of people that struggle under a corrupt government, but with endless energy, curiosity, ingenuity, and optimism. A place where shy, smiling children say hello to you just for walking down the street - full of friendly, young, amateur tour guides, and people who quickly become like family.
"Vietnam" was my home for a while, and It's a place where a part of my father's memory came to rest.
I Know, I Know...
5 years ago