Thursday, February 23, 2012
Tea With Cu and Niu Le
The most fabulous thing ever happened today, I had been searching and searching and searching for the big book exchange store I had seen when I first arrived to Hoi An... and had no such luck in the morning. Then, when I was riding my bike around town in the evening, I finally found it and screeched my bike to a stop! I walked inside the store and there were two older men sitting there drinking some tea (perhaps it was poppy tea?!)... but with how much they were laughing together and then joking with me... I asked them if they were drinking alcohol. I had yet to see the Vietnamese go crazy like that... it was amazing, these men had the happiest eyes and they were filled with joy. They offered me some tea, and I got to drink some tea and search through books at the same time.. how relaxing! Once I found a good book, I started chatting with the two jolly gentleman again and they invited me to sit down and drink some more!
Cu owned the bookstore, and he didn't speak too much English.. but he knew quite a few Korean words! And Niu Le's English was quite good.. although it should be, because he pulled out his license to prove he was 74 and it was from Washington state ( he lives in America permanently and is a citizen.. but comes to visit his extended family every now and then in Vietnam )!! So we had some lengthy discussions about the Vietnam War.. he was a pilot at the time and when the North won, he had to go to prison or aka 're-education camp' for 6 years. He said that it was the worst time of his life, and while he was there his mom died and life was horrible. When he left, the USA offered all of the Vietnamese who had been in the camps for a certain amount of years the option to move to America and become a citizen. After mentioning the word 'freedom' about 87.7 times within the 30 minute conversation... I hardly had to ask 'why' he wanted to move to the states.. and why he wouldn't want to stay in his homeland even though the war was over.. but I did!
I really really REALLY need to learn a lot more about the Vietnam War.. I feel like there is so much I don't understand, and every different thing I hear here vs. what I've read or what I remember learning in school is just confusing the heck out of me! So after I asked him why he didn't want to stay here, he said that if he stayed in Vietnam he probably wouldn't have a job.. if he moved his family to America he probably would have a job and FREEDOM. I realize now how much I take my 'freedom' for granted.. although I do still think that America uses the term far too often and I think there are many things that we aren't allowed to do which doesn't seem very 'free'... I fully understood his point. He continued this part of the conversation for about 15 minutes, about how in Vietnam the police tell you to go inside, you put your head down and go inside, the police tell you to go outside, you go outside... you tell no one you do not like the government, because even nowadays they'll put you in jail. I found this hard to believe, because besides all of the propaganda signs and the communist symbols you see everywhere.. it seems like quite a normal country. I don't feel like there is a crazy military/police presence here either.
But our conversation was just filled with laughs, and these guys were just so... JOLLY... I think they were jollier than St. Nick himself! I'm taking baby steps to the countryside I feel like.. I definitely think it's true that you don't really LOVE Vietnam until you're out in the middle of nowhere with the locals there (and I've heard that more than once!).