Friday, February 29, 2008

Walking with Ghosts

Posted from Delhi, India

One story we haven't told yet is from over a month ago. When we were in Vietnam, we stopped in Hue for a few days. Although we had passed through the DMZ during the night, there wasn't much to see. Mostly because it was pitch black. Oh, and we were asleep. So while we were in Hue, we took a tour of the DMZ, and you know what? There's not a whole to see. Just rice paddies and farmers and lots of green. Pretty much what I imagined it looked like almost 40 years ago. In fact, I swear I could almost see American Marines in olive drab fatigues slogging through the rice paddies. But that may just be the ghosts playing tricks on my eyes. To say that there are ghosts roaming the paddy fields is an understatement. I believe in ghosts, and I have ever since I saw the irrefutable evidence in Ghostbusters. But there really are ghosts in those soggy fields. How can there not be? So many people died in such a small piece of land. Forty years after the fact, the scars are still there: our tour guide stated that farmers use the bomb craters to collect rain water for their cattle.

Speaking of bombs and their effects, did you know that after 40 years a bomb crater is still a giant hole in the ground? Sure, flowers now grow at the bottom of it and water buffalo chew on the tall grass around its rim, but the hole is still there. And did you know that even after 40 years you can tell the difference between a 500-lb bomb crater and a 2000-lb bomb crater? The crater from the bigger bomb is, well, bigger, but somehow it seems a little more than four times bigger.

In my short life, I've visited many battlefields. Most in the U.S., but those are hundreds of years old. The scars have healed, and nature has taken its course. Some in Europe, but even those are approaching their Medicare years, and many of them have been sanitized for our use. Moreover, the axes that were ground have been put away in their sheds. But to see these battlefields surrounded by farms and jungle, it is clear that nature is moving on, but it's taking its time; these scars are faded but by no means healed. And it makes me wonder about the battlefields I've had a hand in creating. What are they going to look like in 40 years?

bomb crater

Fittingly the weather on our day in the DMZ was cold, misty, and overcast. It matched our sadness; it was the only appropriate weather for our day with ghosts.

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