Hanoi recently (2010) celebrated its one thousand year anniversary as a City so going to see Hanoi made us feel very young indeed. Of course there have been organized “civilizations” for many thousands of years before the birth of Hanoi as a city. Like on our own continent these were tribal peoples or clans that had their own identity and culture reflecting their relationship to the world around them and many of those cultures still function here and are usually recognized by the Vietnamese government.
|At the VGCL in Hanoi|
|Presenting at the VTU University|
|Discussion at ULSA|
When we weren't busy preparing our presentations (and getting GREAT support from translators!), we got to visit the VGCL headquarters and meet with representatives from the international section and policy/legal sections. The VGCL discussion was really inspiring – one of the union brothers (and his daughter) later took us to the War Museum and talked with us over delicious coffee next to the Hanoi Opera House. We also met with a representative of the VCCI – the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce – which seems to play a different role here in Vietnam from what we experience in USA. We also got to meet with two Australian labor activists who are doing amazing work with VGCL – we hope to connect further with them and their work. They were two impressive women! We spent a moving evening with a leader of the Vietnamese Agent Orange Victims Association VAVA who not only shared his own story of involvement but also a history of VAVA. The reach and depth of this organization throughout Vietnam is incredible as is their ongoing battle for justice for the now fourth generation of children and families living with the poison of such toxics.
|That's Orchids for a special Women's Day|
|A great statue honoring women!|
Perhaps the most moving Hanoi experience was our visit to the Ho Chi Minh Museum – which brought Leanna and Hollis to tears several times. The museum is an amazing collection of historical artifacts about his life and the Vietnamese revolution but also art which so effectively depicts and illustrates the culture, world history, people, economic and technological events that shaped Uncle Ho's life and thinking. While there were plenty of tourists, the museum was full of Vietnamese, especially families with children. We walked around the exterior of the mausoleum where there is a big open park. One of the Australian women had described to us how when she observed the flag ceremony at night at the mausoleum she thinks of Vietnam putting Uncle Ho to bed. One of the Vietnamese women we got to know in Hanoi had another comment about the open space/park at the mausoleum – when she sees all the children and families playing and relaxing there she imagines that Uncle Ho enjoys hearing the laughter and happiness of today's Vietnamese children. Now you know why Leanna gets teary-eyed.
|Having a good time in Hanoi|
With all the incredible work we learned about and gracious, committed people we met during just 5 short days, one thing we definitely learned is our trip to Hanoi was way too short of a visit. We are so grateful to everyone who shared their Hanoi with us – and we sure as hell hope to be able to spend more time in Hanoi before returning to USA.
Unfortunately Hollis' photos somehow disappeared, so one of our Hanoi friends shared some his great photos – thanks to Tuyen!