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Wabash in Vietnam: Day Three Blog

History professors Rick Warner and Sabrina Thomas are leading students on an immersion trip through Vietnam as part of the HIS 300 “Lessons and Legacies of War: Vietnam” class. The trip will take the group to all three sections of the country, beginning in Hanoi, then fly to Central Vietnam – Da Nang and Hoi An – and finishing the trip in Ho Chi Minh City in the South. Students thoughts are shared here.

SaVonne Bennette ’19

Temple of Literature.

I really enjoyed seeing the Temple of Literature here in Vietnam. The temple honors the scholar Confucius, and is still an important location for many Vietnamese students today. Almost 1,000 years after opening, Vietnamese students continue to go to the temple to give offerings, and pray for good luck on their exams. What I got from the trip to the temple was an appreciation for the timeless traditions that the Vietnamese people hold onto. The tradition of hard work and dedication to education has not changed.

Another aspect that was really eye opening was how the Temple honors a Chinese scholar. Because much of Vietnam’s history includes being

The Temple was founded by Confucians in the 11th Century.

controlled by other nations, a lot of their traditions are influenced. The stelaes, for example, are big stone slabs that contain the names of people who graduated from the school in simplified Chinese characters. I found this significant because it shows how the Vietnamese people appreciate ideas from other cultures. There may be tension between Vietnamese and Chinese people because of the Chinese occupation in Vietnam, but the Vietnamese people have embraced good ideas from other cultures to help their own people.

 

Water Puppet Home Performance: Jordan Hansen ’18

The totality of our visit with the Water Puppeteer was phenomenal. Beginning first with the fact that 1) the man himself, the main performer, is a seventh generation water puppeteer speaks volumes to the importance of the craft, not only to the family heritage, but also the country as a whole. It has become a popular phenomenon throughout; 2) the sense of loyalty to continue that line of work accentuates the loyalty and family-centric environment ingrained within Vietnamese culture. Upon seeing the show, I was enthralled to learn how much dedication, work, intricacy, and strategy go into it. Moreover, It is a showcase of the cultural significance and history that separates the country from many others; not only in proximity but globally. Lastly, this experience is yet another reminder that

Students attempt the art of water puppetry.

Vietnam is truly a forgotten and overlooked gem in the world. In coming to the home of this Water Puppet legend, hearing his story, and learning about this hidden piece Vietnamese history, we are able to see the narrative of Vietnamese culture come to life. Outside of what we are conditioned to believe about this country and the people, seeing in real-time debunks many of the false stereotypes. Allowing for the true expression and beauty of the culture and country to come to fruition.

 


Wabash in Vietnam: Day Two Blog

History professors Rick Warner and Sabrina Thomas are leading students on an immersion trip through Vietnam as part of the HIS 300 “Lessons and Legacies of War: Vietnam” class. The trip will take the group to all three sections of the country, beginning in Hanoi, then fly to Central Vietnam – Da Nang and Hoi An – and finishing the trip in Ho Chi Minh City in the South. Students thoughts are shared here.

 

William Kelly ‘18

Tuesday was filled with what felt like a traditional introduction to Vietnamese culture and its people. Immediately, our class was struck with the importance of Ho Chi Minh – his life, image, and memory – to Vietnam. His mausoleum is isolated yet accessible to all Vietnamese. Young and old Vietnamese were scattered throughout the line to the mausoleum, while thousands of visitors filled in the rest. We marched in a single-file line around Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, no pictures were allowed at all. The Vietnamese flag/symbol (a yellow star

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

stamped on a red background) was adjacent to the communist symbol. It was quiet in the dimly lit room. Four Vietnamese soldiers dressed in white military uniforms, and more soldiers supervised the behavior of the line. At first glance, a Westerner is understandably uncomfortable. But it is not because of the communist environment, or even the deification of the great uncle of the Vietnamese people (after all, one must also understand that we follow similar practices in the United States with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., etc.). Rather, it was the immense reverence with which the Vietnamese people hold Ho Chi Minh. It was both humbling and clarifying, as it shows the role Ho Chi Minh plays in Vietnamese history.

In addition to the mausoleum, another fascinating visit that pushed me out of my comfort zone as a Westerner was the Hoa Lo prison, better known to Americans as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Far from a luxury hotel, the Hanoi Hilton was regarded as one of, if not the worst prison camp for American soldiers during the Vietnam War. However, this prison was established by French colonialists in the early 20th century. While the prison was under colonial control, political prisoners and general criminals were incarcerated, and sometimes tortured, within the stone walls. As I walked into one of the cells – about five feet in width and eight feet in length with an untouchable shoebox-size window at the top of the cell wall – I touched the walls and listened to the inaudible history of tortured souls, both American and Vietnamese. Indeed, the Vietnamese narrative of the treatment of American prisoners was off-balanced and erroneous. However, this is to be expected when the state controls the narrative. As frustrating as it was, it also put me – a white, upper-middle class male from the United States – perhaps into the position of a Vietnamese individual who reads an American narrative of the Vietnam War. The point of the experience was not that the torture of Americans was glossed over (or even whitewashed and erased), but the fact that, for the first time, I was placed in the minority category of a culture. At the end, I wrote in the guestbook, which asked for reviews, to remember that memory extends beyond national boundaries. As frustrated I may have been, it was an indescribably invaluable experience.

 

 

 


Wabash in Vietnam: Day One Blog

History professors Rick Warner and Sabrina Thomas are leading students on an immersion trip through Vietnam as part of the HIS 300 “Lessons and Legacies of War: Vietnam” class. This class focused on the ways in which the Vietnam War has been remembered in the United States, the factors that have shaped that memory, the different groups involved (soldiers, veterans, antiwarriors, families, etc.) and the effects of that memory for the country.

Also discussed were the ways the Vietnamese experienced and remembered the war – both those in South Vietnam, U.S. allies, and the Viet Cong, allies of North Vietnam. Ultimately, students are considering what lessons have been learned from this war, what our memory has taught us and neglected, and why both are important to recognize.

There are modern day implications for these lessons from the ways we think about U.S. military power, veterans’ services, and current foreign policy tensions.

The trip will take the group to all three sections of the country, beginning in Hanoi, then fly to Central Vietnam – Da Nang and Hoi An – and finishing the trip in Ho Chi Minh City in the South. Student thoughts are shared here.

 

Tyler Downing ’18

A walking tour of Hanoi.

One day in and I can (almost) say with confidence that I have figured out how to not get hit by the litany of motor bikes rushing through the narrow streets in every direction. It’s sort of scary, sort of awesome. I was expecting to get barked and cursed at numerous times when I was in the way of honking motorists, as is the case when walking through the streets of Chicago. But eventually I realized that the honks were more like suggestions or notices from the biker, there was an ebb and flow to the entire walker/driver relationship unlike anything I have experienced in America. I’m fairly sure that Vietnamese drivers are much more precise than the speedy American, for there were numerous occasions where I was certain two bikers were going to crash, even into our own tour bus, only to narrowly skim on by and continue on as if the other biker or bus wasn’t even there.

My first day in Vietnam was unlike anything I have ever seen. As soon as we got off the plane, I noticed that there was a vast amount of farmland and buildings with French-influenced architecture. The walking tour of Hanoi that we went on later however was the true eye-opening experience for me. Motorbikes and cars flooded the streets and you have to be on alert at all times or else you will get hit. There were horns constantly honking and small shops filled the sidewalks with some owners persistently trying to get you to purchase one of their goods/items. The first day here was an incredible experience, I can’t wait to see what the following nine days have in store for our group.

 

Wabash students on the move in Vietnam.

Chandler Moore ’18

Our first day in Vietnam was awesome, but getting there was no feat.  After 27 total hours of traveling and not seeing daylight for nearly a whole day, we arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Hanoi

is a beautiful city that immediately took me by surprise.  It is crowded and bustling no matter what hour of the day it is.  On our walking tour we were able to take to the streets where we had to weave between the hundreds of motorbikes and citizens who each were busy at their own tasks. Finally, we were able to have dinner together at an amazing restaurant that offered us around 8 courses of food for the meager price of $12.  I think I could get used to this place!




Civil Rights Trip: Discovering the Unknown

Patrick Jahnke ’18 — Today was different. On most days of this trip, we have travelled to different museums or churches and talked with tour guides and people in the area. However, since today was Thanksgiving, the museums were closed, and the tour guides were off with their families. So instead, today we walked around Meridian and Jackson, Mississippi looking at different Civil Rights Movement and Blues/music markers. These markers taught me that there is a lot that I do not know.

As a black studies minor, I have spent the last two or so years mostly studying African American culture and history. There are subjects that I have learned over and over again and some that I learned for the first time, but I’ve tended to think that after two years, I knew a lot of the history. Today showed me that I was wrong. So much of African American history, especially the musical aspects of the history and the importance of music in the culture, is still foreign to me. No matter how much I continue to learn, there will always be more for me to discover.

I think that this shows the importance of the markers being up. Most of them that we have seen were installed within the last couple of years, which was surprising to most of us, but does make a little sense. Everyone learns about the Civil Rights Movement in schools, but the American education system seems to only teach the parts of the Movement that they want to show. We learn about Martin Luther King Jr and the importance of non-violence, but leave out other important leaders, such as Malcolm X. We learn about protests such as boycotts, sit-ins, and the Freedom Riders. But we don’t hear about the repercussions of those protests, such as the Freedom Riders being attacked multiple times and churches being bombed. These markers not only tell people that these things happened, but show them exactly where they happened. History, no matter how much a country wants to forget it, needs to never be forgotten. These markers are important because they teach people walking around about events that they have never heard about. These markers are important because they help people discover the unknown.


Civil Rights Trip: Shadwick

Elijah Shadwick ’20 — As we continued our journey through the Deep South into Thanksgiving Day, I was able to reflect on the economic aspect of the Civil Rights Movement and the effect it had on these small towns throughout our trip. Today, we stopped in Meridian, Mississippi and spent a half hour exploring the Civil Rights Trail present there. As one of my colleagues pointed out, Meridian was a “ghost town”, void of the city life present in some of our other visits like Birmingham and Montgomery. It seemed to me that many of the smaller towns we visited had, at one point, been extremely popular for their historical significance and the citizens of these towns used this popularity for self-profit. After Meridian, we left and visited Jackson, Mississippi where we walked through an area seemingly devoid of the vibrancy and life so evidently present in the 1960’s. This may be because it was Thanksgiving Day, but I doubt that the turnout was any different on any other day. This was a disappointment to me mainly because if we do not pay attention to history, it is destined to repeat itself. By leaving important artifacts and sites in dilapidated conditions we are allowing a terrible past to fade away, and this realization scares because although this trip has been informative and educational, I know that much blood was shed on the original trek and I do not wish for those sacrifices to be for nothing.


Civil Rights Trip: Frey

“Wandering between two worlds, one dead, / The other powerless to be born, / With nowhere yet to rest my head…”-Stanzas From the Grande Chartreuse, Matthew Arnold

Charles Frey ’19 — Walls are decaying and caved in. Windows are busted out, shards of jagged glass cover the sidewalk, and the bars in front of what used to be a door are locked tight. The words “No Trespassing” is seen on the side of the building, next to some green graffiti.

Walk two blocks toward the square. A grassy field in front of a law building. Bright white, tall, and imposing. Surrounding it on all sides are equally impressive buildings. On the other side of the street are brick businesses, closed for the holiday.

These were the two sides of Meridian, Mississippi I saw while following the town’s Civil Rights Trail. Both formed an emotion I’ve felt elsewhere along the journey south. It’s a feeling hard to put my finger on, but one I can only describe as “time-locked.” I don’t want to say regressive because to be regressive would imply falling back. I can’t say progressive because, while there are many signs of moving forward, historic sites are fading into obscurity.

Meridian is time-locked, unsure of how to move forward yet determined to extinguish its past. Yes, information plaques mark sites with facts about people, dates, and events, but the locations in which these events happened are disappearing. And Meridian isn’t the only place.

In Selma, Alabama we walked from the Brown Chapel A.M.E Church to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and along the way I witnessed similar scenes of poverty combined with progress. An informational kiosk about Civil Rights leaders had been vandalized and just recently was replaced. Even with the new replacement, the informational canvas was already beginning to fray.

In Anniston, Alabama we walked a different Civil Rights Trail, one that held a focus on the Freedom Riders. While interacting with local security in the courthouse, we asked for directions to the nearest plaque, to which the white security guard paused and asked his partner, “Those information things we got last year?”

In Monteagle, Tennessee our bus stopped briefly at the site where the Highlander Folk School stood—a location that trained many of the Civil Rights Movement’s prolific leaders such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Because of the school’s involvement with the CRM, it closed its doors and moved to Knoxville in 1961. It’s original site? An abandoned shell of a building surrounded by rural homes.

Over the years, there hasn’t been enough action taken to maintain these historic sites. Despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, attitudes in the South have hardly changed regarding the preservation of African American heritage. Yes, the nation has propelled past segregation, but ignorance has halted the progress of select southern towns—progress that should have happened 50 years ago.


Civil Rights Trip: Parks

Greyhound Bus Station Sign

Brian Parks ’18 — The today was a really interesting day. We took a walk through the downtowns of Jackson and Meridian downtowns. When we arrived in both cities the location seemed like a ghost town most likely because it was Thanksgiving Day.

We first started in Meridian and something I noticed that was really strange that they had a lot of horses made of stone throughout downtown. I assumed that the town really loved horses and were used abundantly in the past. However, I did research on the horse figures and I found they were used to promote community pride, spur tourism, instill an appreciation for art and to help the children that are orphans. I found this very fascinating about the city.

Trumpet Records

After the short trip in Meridian, we visited Jackson Mississippi which was very memorable. We first took a long walk throughout downtown and through a neighborhood. I quickly noticed how run down the city looked from an economic sense. Although it seemed like an underdeveloped environment we still saw monuments with a rich history. We walked by many music commemorations of Blues and learned the impact it had on the city. Some of these industries included Okey Records and Trumpet Records which are very prominent studios in during their respected times. After seeing the rich music history of Jackson our next stops were of very sad moments during the Civil Rights Movement.

We visited Jackson State University and Medgar Evers house where he was murdered. At both of these locations, you can see the sacrifices of people lives lead to the success of the Civil Rights Movements. This reminded me of the quote by Fredrick Douglas, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

This made me appreciate all those who paved the way for all minorities and myself. There are no words that can do justice to give the men and women gratitude and respect they deserve and who gave their lives to people then and generations to come.


Civil Rights Trip: Swift

Henry Swift ’18 — Today we woke up in Anniston Alabama and went on a walking tour of the town. We followed the “Anniston Civil Rights Trail”, which included the former bus station that the Freedom Riders stopped at. The protestors got off the bus here and were beaten up by a mob, the same bus was firebombed leaving town. We made a quick stop there to see the site of the firebombing, and after that we left for Birmingham where we saw the 16th St. Baptist church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. What stuck out to me the most from today was the difference between the white and black people that lived through the civil rights movement. We talked to a lady at our hotel this morning that was a local in Alabama. When we asked her about her experience during the sixties, she said that she did not really notice any change in her life, which struck me as a prime example of white privilege. I thought this because she was able to live through a time of monumental change and barely notice it. We later talked to a tour guide who met Dr. King and was active in the Birmingham Movement. He treasures his time with Dr. King and his involvement in Birmingham. It was heartwarming to see his eyes light up as he talked about his time with the famed reverend. Another site that really stuck with me was the Birmingham civil Rights Institute. The exhibit did an excellent job of showing the growth of Jim Crow from the 1960’s to present day. Part of the exhibit showed a white and a black classroom side by side, and I thought the contrast images was extremely important. The white classroom was modern and well appointed, whereas the black classroom was a one room cabin. The stark difference between the two was startling. That exhibit demonstrated again that segregated facilities were not and had never been ‘equal’. It showed that separate but equal was a myth and how bad the difference between white and black facilities was.