Overhearing some people talking about rain in Dalat, Vietnam‘s mountainous area, I thought back to a time and a place where innocence was shred like old skin. You see, growing up in Vietnam even in the midst of the war, was still something to be cherished. You might have neighbor’s funeral with flag draped over coffin, but you could also have free reign during Moon Festival. Lanterns and lighting, of all kinds.
Monsoon rain during the day and dry crisp air at night, formed a clear line of sight to chi Hang (Moon Lady). I imagined seeing the Moon man hanging on to the magic tree (per fairy tale). Later on, when Neil Armstrong (who has just died) stepped foot on it, as Curiosity Rover now roaming Mars, science was waging war on our hand-me-down heritage. Fable or fact? Fiction or non-fiction?
If you were to grow up during my time, you couldn’t have helped questioning everything: kids on the opposite side of the world were doing the same thing, asking if the “outsourced” war thousands miles away were worth the sacrifice. Meanwhile, computer geeks just coded their nights away in A/C- humming labs. If we can zoom the camera out , we will see dry and hot day in California and Seattle (where Bill Gates was taking a bus for computer timeshare) and the post-rainy Moon Festival night when I was skipping with lantern in hand. Got to have those cakes and candles.
Sweet tooth and sweet innocence. A whole festival dedicated to our young age group. Who said in Asia, only older people are respected. We (kids) ruled!
Then that innocence was shattered as reports about the unwinnable war got out with CBS dailies. Cronkite walked the ground of the US embassy and delivered a one-two punch in bullet-proof vest and helmet: it’s a stalemate.
Johnson knew then he wouldn’t have a chance to convince the public the other way, after all, “that’s the way it is”.
Truth and fiction, fairy tale vs glass-encased moon rock.
In full view, we knew something was going on, but “what it is, ain’t exactly clear”.
So I grew up hurriedly, burned my Moon Fest candles quickly and swallowed that sweet cake in one bite.
Fast forward to this day, again, hot in California, and rainy in Dalat, I smile to myself: it sure has been a wonderful childhood amidst of war. The intense fighting only made coming of age all the more precious.
Blood was shed to protect our playground.
I now realize why I keep coming back for more . I wish for other kids to feel what I felt: an appreciation for life, albeit amidst danger. Despite having threats from all sides, one could still do some self-validating, self-legitimizing and story-telling (to generation next). Now, that’s pre-computer-age coding and culture making. That’s buying time in a society on the verge of collapse. Now, we see children with I-pads in hands, but disrespectful and unappreciative. The age of Entitlement is overtaking the age of Enlightenment. And no one seems to “cry, my beloved country”. The Monsoon suddenly brought back sweet memories of MoonFest. Monsoon continues still, year after year, but not my MoonFest, which exists only in faint but never faded memory.