Meet yến phạm. The English department at Univ. of Hanoi runs an amazing and FREE tour service and she was my guide. We spent the day walking Hanoi and words cannot express my gratitude for the time spent with her. She took me to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, a memorial dedicated to Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam from 1951 to 1969. She spoke endearingly about the man and his love for his people. I peppered her with lots of political inquiries but she basically said that most Vietnamese give zero fucks about politics because there is only one party, that everyone in the government gets along (for the most part) and so the people have enough faith in their system to spend their time thinking about things that matter to them.
I couldn't argue with her.
From there we toured the Temple of Literature, a temple and large courtyard dedicated to Confucius. The tenants of its foundation are architecture, education, literature and poetry. yến told me that today students go there to pray for good luck on exams.
We walked on to Hỏa Lò Prison, a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for POW's during the War. I learned so much... But in the end, what stuck with me most was that beyond politics and beyond right and wrong, these were young men and women who were fighting and often dying. I couldn't help but think of my own father and so many of my friends fathers who traveled worlds away at such a young age to fight in this war and how scary and awful and eye opening it all must have been for them.
I could go on and on. But I won't. Afterwards yến took me to an insane vegetarian restaurant for lunch and over summer rolls and glass noodles we talked like old friends.
To end our day we walked around Hoan Kiem Lake, considered to be the heart of Hanoi. Much was happening here and I very much felt like an invisible observer getting a glimpse into the makings of the universe. Invisible until two little boys spotted me and looked at me like I was a fire-breathing dragon.
Which, at times, I've been known to be. Peace Out. ✌❤