Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recovering a body

After visiting the cemetery and Dien Bien Phu Museum, Huyen and I went to A1 Hill where the French put up their last stand against the Vietnamese. While looking at the bunkers and the giant crater set off off by three Vietnamese martyrs, a procession started to pass in front of us. Huyen cried out, "They found a body." I actually thought they were having a picnic since they were carrying food and a giant jug of water. Well, I was wrong.

Immediately Huyen took off and joined the group and started to ask a man some questions. Trailing the group was an old woman who was carrying two bags. After Huyen talked to the man she learned that the family had just unearthed their relative after fifty nine years! As she started to tell me this, I saw the old woman struggling with her bags and asked if she wanted helped. Huyen and I took the bags of this woman who turned out to be the daughter of the unearthed soldier.

The story we were told is that the woman's father was killed at A1 hill in 1952. Only one member of his squad survived and he had told the family to go to the hill and they could find his body. First though, the family consulted a psychic (very common practice here) who communicated with the dead and told the family to find two trees and to walk seven meters forward from them and dig. They followed the psychic's orders and it turns out there were bones and teeth right there, under the ground.

The cynic in me says that you can probably dig up almost anywhere near this hill and find a body. However, on this day I truly wanted to believe that this was their family member especially after Huyen's emotional moment earlier in the morning. I think seeing this family find their loved one has given us more hope that one day we can find Huyen's uncle's body.

(PICTURE: The crater set off by three Vietnamese soldiers carrying a bomb into a French bunker.)