Thuong and Hoa take me to the Vietnam Women’s Museum. They link their arms in mine, one on either side, and lead me between the exhibits. Thuong has printed out a spiel about the museum which she reads from in the official voice of a tour guide and flat intonation. They giggle with hands over their mouths over the “Marriage” and “Birth” exhibits.
We stay longer at the exhibit on women’s contributions to the American War, as it’s called here. “I think Vietnam woman is…very brave!” Hoa says almost reverently. I agree. I didn’t know that many Vietnamese women fought in guerilla forces, organized resistance movements, made risky journeys to bring food and supplies to soldiers. “You know,” Thuong says almost as an aside, “I used to hate Americans, because of the war. But I don’t anymore.” I decide not to tell her that my father joined the navy for that war, that he was stationed just outside Halang Bay, where I took a boat tour a few days ago.
I feel I should write something more about war, about meeting Abdullah in my hostel and talking about America’s war with Iraq, how his family had been refugees in the desert for years, about being in the American War exhibit with Thuong’s slender warm arm still linked firmly in mine, no explanation of why her feelings toward Americans had changed. It is hard to know what to say. To deal with a war, as an individual, is an impossibility…and yet it is necessary. It doesn’t have anything to do with me–I didn’t fight, for most I was not even born–and yet somehow it does.