Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy New Year!

Today is Tet, the first day of the new lunar year. Like on New Year's Eve in the US, fireworks were shot off at midnight. The noise of them woke me up, and I watched from the balcony of my hotel in Hue, which looks out across the river to the old imperial city, which is where the fireworks were being shot off. There was a thin layer of low cloud, through which I could still see the fireworks, but between that and the distance between me and them, the fireworks had a certain beautiful fragility to them. In the street beneath me, an old woman was burning paper offerings to her ancestors.

As beautiful as the moment was, it was not simply a moment of pure joy for me. I could not help but think that 40 years ago, waking up to the sound of explosions would have been a reason for fear, not for celebration. In fact, Hue suffered fairly heavy damage in the Tet Offensive in 1968. Thinking about this gave the moment a certain poignancy for me, and as I stood on my balcony, half asleep, full of a sense of amazement to find myself celebrating the new year in Vietnam and a sense of sorrow and regret for the past, a few tears slipped down my cheek.

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