Saturday, 2 May 2009

What a difference a little bit of education makes, 25 April 2009

I learnt about the Vietnam war for my GCSEs. Admittedly, a lot of that history was buried deep inside a dusty part of my brain, but it all came flooding back when confronted with it at the War Remnants Museum.

The first area told all the facts. The statistics. The numbers and figures that I learnt at school. But the museum was so much more than a topic in a history book. Here, the basic history I learnt back then was made 'real' by the stories and images that I had never seen before.

Moveing round the msueum was fasincating. There was a brilliant photo exhibition with photos taken by photographers who died in the war. Some of the photos were brilliant. They captured the absolute trauma of war with pictures of soldiers, civilians and bomb blasts. These pictures were incredible. It was sad to read stories which explained how a few minutes after taking a certain photo, the photographer had died. So many photographers saw it as their duty to be there, to photograph the realities of war, and many even said that they were willing to die in order to show the rest of the world just how bad the war really was.

Another exhibition detailed the stories of the people who suffered during the war. Individual tales of sadness and despair.

The most moving was the Agent Orange area in the museum. Photos of the victims lined the walls. There was even a deformed foetus on display. Some of the photos were from the war, there were others that were more recent showing the effects that Agent Orange still has on the country. One fact stood out as being horrendous. It would take 1tsp of Agent Orange (Napalm) to devestate a city, the Americans used hundreds of thousands of gallons in the war. (Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I can't find where I wrote this down and i think this is what i remember it to be).

With a day in the tunnels and the museum the history I learnt at school was really brought to life. I wasn't moved in the same way that I was in Cambodia, by having the facts in my mind already it was a lot easier to digest, and I found the personal stories really illuminated my understanding.

You don't have to wander far in Vietnam to see someone who is clearly a victim of Agent Orange or of a landmine. It is so sad that even after the war is over, even after the country is unified, independent and happy, that the horrors of the war still prevail and impact on the lives of the Vietnamese people.

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