I’ve been out of the country for the past four weeks, traveling in Southeast Asia, and have been having a blast becoming acquainted with new cultures and places. There is something so exhilarating about being somewhere that I’ve never been before and having to use my cultural wits to navigate through situations that are completely foreign to me. Although I am familiar with other countries in SEAsia, I had never been to Vietnam or Cambodia until this past month.
Remarkably, throughout this whole trip, we haven’t had a single negative encounter with any of the local people that we’ve met. Everyone has been so gracious and accommodating, so eager to make sure that as guests in their country, our needs were being met to the best of their ability. Such a refreshing change.
Everywhere we went, people asked where we were from and when we disclosed, “the United States”, invariably their response was “oh, America”. Not one person made any reference to our historical presence and the devastation that we left in our wake.
In fact, we were somewhat perplexed that no one was even interested in discussing the past. There seems to be a kind of historical amnesia – an attitude that while the American war caused a lot of pain and destruction, that was in the past and the people have moved on.
So, I guess, this is about my changing perception of how we are viewed by other countries around the world. I think I thought that I would feel recrimination from the Vietnamese and Cambodians for our actions during the the 60’s. But, no, the past is the past, and the Vietnamese and Cambodian people are singlemindedly intent on becoming strong, economic competitors with everyone at the global table.