Sunday, August 17, 2014

While Walking in Vietnam.

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Tourism in HCMC Take 1: Reunification Palace.

I look across the street at what is considered to be the catalyst for the architectural revolution throughout Saigon. 
 The peak in Saigonese modernism. 
 The Reunification Palace {known until 1975 as the Presidential Palace}.

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Separating me from this building is the same thing that separates me from every other place in my new city of residence: a sea of motorbikes and taxicabs.

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Aside from the busy streets which are not typically adorned with {respected} traffic lights, the intense heat and high humidity levels make getting around in this city a difficult adjustment. The air sort of sticks to my skin; it curls my hair in ways that I never knew were possible, and it causes sweat to pour from every pore on my body. It is uncomfortable to say the least.

People say I'll get used to both the heat and to the streets. I am already excited for that day to arrive.
But I cannot wait around for that joyous moment; there is too much to do in my new city and so, so much to learn.

So, here I stand {sweating}, outside the Reunification Palace, built by Roman Grand Prize winner, Ngo Viet Thu in 1962. 

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 It served as the headquarters and home of South Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu until April 1975, when North Vietnamese Army tanks crashed through the palace's gates marking the fall of Saigon and the creation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Though the tanks are parked on the front lawn, the completely rebuilt gates offer no evidence of the turning point in Vietnamese history.

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Wandering through the palace, I am surprised to realize it is less a reminder of war and more just a fancy tourist attraction – it almost feels as though I am walking through a James Bond movie set – especially when looking at the escape chopper stationed on the roof.  Rooms are set up as they were when it was in use and very little information is given about the war years. When the war is referred to, it is called the American War.

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The basement bunker displays original war maps and the president's combat duty bedroom. A small room displays a few seemingly random photographs of different events held at the palace throughout the post-war decades. The photo room also offered a small air-conditioner which I took extreme advantage of before exiting back into the suffocating heat of HCMC.  

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For the Traveler.

For the Traveler Every time you leave home, Another road takes you Into a world you were never in. New strangers on other paths await. New places that have never seen you Will startle a little at your entry. Old places that know you well Will pretend nothing Changed since your last visit. When you travel, you find yourself Alone in a different way, More attentive now To the self you bring along, Your more subtle eye watching You abroad; and how what meets you Touches that part of the heart That lies low at home: How you unexpectedly attune To the timbre in some voice, Opening in conversation You want to take in To where your longing Has pressed hard enough Inward, on some unsaid dark, To create a crystal of insight You could not have known You needed To illuminate Your way. When you travel, A new silence Goes with you, And if you listen, You will hear What your heart would Love to say. A journey can become a sacred thing: Make sure, before you go, To take the time To bless your going forth, To free your heart of ballast So that the compass of your soul Might direct you toward The territories of spirit Where you will discover More of your hidden life, And the urgencies That deserve to claim you. May you travel in an awakened way, Gathered wisely into your inner ground; That you may not waste the invitations Which wait along the way to transform you. May you travel safely, arrive refreshed, And live your time away to its fullest; Return home more enriched, and free To balance the gift of days which call you. ~ John O’Donohue ~