Author: penguinfragger PM
A journal of my three weeks in an orphanage in Kontum, Vietnam. Contains observations, thoughts, and philosophy of life. Reviews are welcome.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Chapters: 2 - Words: 1,512 - Reviews: 2 - Updated: 06-26-08 - Published: 09-18-07 - id: 2416275
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One of the first things we noticed in Vietnam was the density of the population. By my Swiss standards it was blatant anyway. Vietnam has roughly 11.5 times the population of Switzerland, but only 8 times it's surface. The streets are packed day and night with a literally unending flow of motorbikes. Crossing a street is a real feat for that matter, as there are no lights, and you have to amble your way centimetre by centimetre through the hordes of motorbikes which immediately begin weaving their way all around you. The few street lights bring an all-or-nothing situation rather than real security: you're fine as long as it's your turn to cross, but if you get caught in the middle of the street at the turning of the light, you're toast.
Another striking element is of course the government. The first thing that hits the eye are the red flags flown at every street corner. Most of them are the Vietnamese national flag, which is a five-branched yellow star on a red background. On government buildings they also fly the hammer & sickle flags. In addition to that there are portraits of Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) all over the place (for notice, he was the guy who proclaimed the country's independence in 1945 and who successively kicked out the French and Japanese, and fought against the Americans). Another more subtle fact we noticed after a few hours was the sheer ratio of cops and government officials to civilians. Not all of them are in uniform though; there is an enormous number of policemen disguised as civilians. We began to notice, especially after our friction with the government due to the "Bahna village incident" (see the journal part) that everyone, everywhere, is under constant surveillance. Wherever we went, we could always spot within a few seconds several shady characters on motorbikes or in stores staring unblinkingly at us from across a street or crossroad. For the first few days we attributed this to our own paranoia or naïve prejudice against what we expected a police state to be, but after a week or so the persistence of things began to sink in. Living under such a regime for three weeks is one thing (never criticise the government or speak of politics at all, never go to a local's house even if you were invited, and so on…), but living there must be nearly unbearable. I call myself a socialist, and so was rather curious to see what a so-called socialist government would turn out to be like. Well it's just another despicable police-state, about as socialist as our fascist party back in Switzerland. The hammers and sickles might as well have been swastikas for all the blatant social and racial inequalities to be found.
Indeed, the seeds of racism could even be found, sadly, in Kontum town and all around. The thing is, the Vietnamese are not the original inhabitants of their actual country. Vietnam used to be composed of dozens of smaller kingdoms, and the Vietnamese are in fact a people that emigrated from China about a thousand years ago and colonized all the eastern coast of the Indochinese region. To this day, there are no less than 54 ethnic minorities in the country, mainly located in the highlands, and who compose 12 percent of the country's population. They are facing severe threats from the government, and due to its forced policy of "assimilation to the masses" they are slowly losing their culture and traditions. People from the minorities, or "highlanders", are often referred to by the Vietnamese as "Moï", which means savages. Furthermore they are being progressively dispossessed of their lands, for despite their obvious ancestral rights to them they have no written claims of ownership, and so the government is slowly pushing them further back and giving their lands to rich landowners (some form of communism eh?). This process already began decades ago when the country was cut in half and hundreds of thousands of refugees were descending from the north and settling in the highlands. The government claims to treat all citizens equally, and so would affirm the easily led, but aren't the highlanders citizens of their country as well? Just as the Native Americans, they are more Vietnamese than anyone. This led me to wonder who the true "mois" were.