People don't often bring up the war with America but sometimes stories are told. While at Huyen's uncle's house this past weekend two things were said. First, Huyen's 98-year-old great grandmother said to me, "The Americans left thirty or forty years ago. Why are you still here?"
When she asked the question everyone had a good laugh. I'm pretty sure she didn't intend to be rude and I didn't feel insulted in the least. I think she was generally curious why I was in Vietnam. In fact, Huyen's great grandmother actually really likes me and often holds my hand. She also told me this past weekend that I have a really nice smile.
The other mention of the war came from Huyen's grandmother. Her grandmother told us that during the war an American plane was shot down in her village (the village we were all gathered in). The pilot survived the crash and the villagers took him out of the cockpit. She said the injured pilot was too heavy to carry so they put him on a plow/cart, pulled by a water buffalo. She said that as they pulled him through the village all the children would run up to soldier and yank out his leg hair. The way she told it, the children weren't trying to be mean, they were just curious about this hairy person who had dropped from the sky.
I asked what happened to the soldier and she said they took him to a prison.
I think she told this story not because she wanted to talk about the war, but because she wanted to talk about hairy foreigners. I was wearing a t-shirt and my hairy forearms were on full display. Vietnamese, like most Asians, aren't exactly hairy. I'm a hairy beast out here and many times people have randomly felt my arm hair. I think Huyen's grandmother looked at my arms and it triggered the story.