January 19, 2003
A Gift From Kentucky
This morning, or sometime since I wrote last, we made our final tour of Saigon. We hit the Reunification (formerly Presidential) Palace first. The top floor offered a great view of the city in all directions, but the map rooms in the basement were a reminder of the military purposes the building used to serve.
Our final organized visit was to the War Remnants Museum, the most recent in a long line of names for a place dedicated to American war crimes in Vietnam. It was extremely hard to walk through room after room telling of the terrible things that happened in the war. It just made me feel so lucky that my father didnt have to witness all of that and so sad at the same time that anyones father had to witness such things. The highlight of the museum, however, was the exhibition of a collection of photographs taken by journalists who eventually died during the war. What was remarkable was that the collection originated here in Kentucky and was given to the museum as a gift from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I hope that was a firm step on the path to healing the wounds of war.
The afternoon was free time for us to grab some last-minute souvenirs and find a way to pack them all into our ever-fuller suitcases. Many of us headed to Cholon, the Chinese market street, and Binh Tay Market, a huge indoor market which was a nice escape from the afternoon sun.
The mood on the bus to the airport was mixed. I was very happy to be going home, to sleep and eat if nothing else, but at the same time was reluctant to leave a country I felt I had only just begun to understand. Part of me wished that I had more time to explore more deeply into the amazing culture evident in the country, but part of me knew that it would take much longer than another week or two to grasp even a superficial understanding of such an historically rich and complex society.