Back to Saigon and the Mekong

October 5, 2019 § 2 Comments

I first went to the Mekong Delta with Habitat for Humanity Global two years ago to assist a family with building their new home. This October 17th, 2019 I will return to the Mekong Delta again to do the same activity with another family.  This will be my third trip to Vietnam.

I hope to record this trip differently through words, images and drawings of contemporary Saigon, the Mekong, my fellow team members and people I meet on the way.


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This photo was taken last year in a Muong community where we were building a home with the family. Here, my friend, Dan, a pediatrician who served time in prison as a young man for resisting the draft during the Vietnam war and one of the kids in the village.  Helping a family in need is one way that people together can bond after war to rebuild what was destroyed. 

It is never lost on me that a great part of my coming of age in the United States of America in the early 1960’s was influenced by the war in Vietnam. The books I have written reflect how  war in general has been crucial in forming my world view.

This year, especially, I am conscious of all the divisions in our world, both  internally in the United States of America and within the global family. The story of Vietnam and our country’s participation brought all of us such harm and division . Habitat For Humanity offers a study in how countries and former combatants can try to reconcile.

Today Vietnam is not at war. It is a very young country with the median age being 30.9 years of age. During that conflict, 2 million Vietnamese civilians were killed and 58, 000 Americans were killed in the war. One of the soldiers’ names etched on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. is a childhood friend. In the War Remnants Museum in Saigon I saw photos of other friends of mine who protested the war. In many ways,  all of our lives are still connected and our country remains divided by that war.

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Young students in Saigon who wanted to speak English, an impromptu class is a common occurrence if you are sitting and reading, writing on sketching in a park.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes where once fire rained down on villages and paddy fields. Vietnam is not a perfect, idyllic society but it is young and energetic and rebounding from a demoralizing and tragic time. I think there are lessons to be learned here for our own country. I do believe we must be warriors for peace and reconciliation as ardently as our country has called upon us in the past to be warriors for war. In that spirit, I hope to illustrate in subsequent blogs that I post some efforts toward that spirit of reconciliation.

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A tranquil paddy field we crossed in the Mekong in order to get to the building site two years ago. 

I will only be taking an iphone with me  to Vietnam so I hope I will be able to continue these postings without interruption.  However, I will publish one more entry before I leave on the 17th that tells the emerging story of a collaboration between the Peaks Island Elementary School on Peaks Island, Maine where I live and  Hoi Xuan Elementary School, a rural, elementary school on the Mekong.  This is a private venture in kids to kids communication through drawings that a few of us have undertaken beyond that of our Habitat for Humanity involvement.  The kids on Peaks Island live near the water on Casco Bay and the kids in Hoi Xuan live by the Mekong.  What are the similarities and what are the differences in these two global villages? The kids have begun to illustrate these differences by sharing drawings of their lives and sending the drawings back and forth to their home schools. The photo below is a teaser for the next blog entry I will post before departing for Vietnam.

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Getting ready in Hoi Xuan to draw the story of their lives to share with the kids on Peaks Island, Maine.

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