Thursday, June 15, 2006

Other than the vague grumblings of my American-born grandmother, my first awareness of Vietnam came with the movie Indochine which I saw in 1993, probably when I was too young to really understand it. I was captivated by the glamour of the period setting, the tangled romances and the political and sexual coming of age story. At the time I didn't know much of the history of Vietnam, but the film made a strong impression on me as the young Vietnamese woman eschews what is known and comfortable to pursue her convictions and fight for her country's independence.
Now that I am only a few weeks away from traveling to Vietnam, my research on the country keeps bringing me back to thinking of this character and how much Vietnam's history is centered around its struggles for independence.
Given this history I wonder now how I will be received as an obvious foreigner in the rural Mekong Delta community where I will be working. I wonder how Vietnam balances opening to the world (socially, economically) with maintaining its hard-won autonomy.
My head is in two places at once as I am contemplating these bigger questions while grappling with the mundane preparations also. I guess this is the experience of leaving your country!