Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Who is taking care of you?" - Saigon

Children ask the most direct and important questions. I spent the bus ride to the Cu Chi tunnels - just outside of Saigon - being quizzed by an eight and ten-year-old from the UK. I quickly regretted telling them that they could ask me anything they wanted when they started into questions about my love life. "Who was your last boyfriend?" "Why did your first relationship end?" "Who broke your heart?" "Why did it break?" "How many boyfriends have you had?" I forgot how honest and direct children can be. They really don't hold back and ask some fairly complex questions. It was refreshing and scary that they don't understand the idea of small talk. If only adults were so uncensored.

I was worried they were soon going to ask about my sex life the way the conversation was heading, so I was happy when they began asking about my trip. Hearing that I was traveling on my own for several months and that I don't have a home, the 8-year-old looked at me and said with great concern, "But who is taking care of you?" This made me laugh.

We started the day out visiting the home of Cao Daism, a relatively new religion here in Vietnam that is a combination of Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Confuscianism. Strangely enough, they also worship Victor Hugo as one of their saints. Yeah, I don't get it either, but within the first year of the religion being created, 26,000 people had signed up.

The people were eerily friendly and smiley - always a prerequisite for a new cult - and the main Cao Dai temple was a massive fluorescent yellow, pink and blue structure featuring creepy "divine eyes" everywhere. Walking around, I was immediately accosted by Cao Dai women, all dressed in white, who shreiked when they saw me and grabbed my arm. At first I thought they were trying to convert me, but I quickly learned that, like the Thai and Japanese men, they just wanted a photo with me. I can only imagine how many people around Asia now have photos of me in their family albums. After watching their ceremony inside the ornate temple, which was beautiful, we left for the Cu Chi tunnels.

The famous Cu Chi tunnels, used by the VC during the Vietnam war, afforded me the opportunity to crawl underground sweating in the dark for 30 meters while people behind me took photos of my ass (look for those in a future post). Being slightly clausterphobic, I cannot tell you how happy I was when I came up for air, and the tunnels have been enlarged twice the size for tourists! The tunnels also featured a black and white Vietnamese propaganda film that I could not understand, a sampling of booby traps used by the VC (all of which involve sharp rusty spikes that impale the enemy but fail to kill them) and a shooting range where tourists pay to shoot AK-47s. I passed on this opportunity because it seemed so strange knowing that the war will feature so prominently in so much of my travel through Vietnam.

Besides, with no one to take care of me, what would I if I accidentally shot myself?


Blogger mom said...

Glad to hear you will soon be posting photos. Would love to see a picture of your smiling face not you back end in a VC tunnel.

5:39 PM  
Blogger DaveHooper said...

Cu Chi tunnels? sounds...nevermind. Anyways, did you not think the Japanese were lacking in the small talk? People I talk to have no problem telling me I am fat within 15 minutes of meeting me. So off-the-cuff. Oh, and that they are scared of foreigners cuz we are violent criminals. All of us. Anyways, sounds like you are having a blast. Keep writing, im entertained. YOure missing a fantastic Japanese spring, just starting. Hopefully youll be back soon! See ya!

5:20 AM  

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