From the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi, Viet Nam. This picture showcases the 54 ethnic groups that call Viet Nam their home.
Arria Hauldin is a 2021 – 2022 Gilman Alumni Ambassador. Hauldin spent the summer of 2019 in Vietnam as a Gilman Scholar.
Weaving through the crowded hallways of the War Remanents Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, I froze in front of a painting. I was fixated on the details. From the flags in the dove’s beak to the world monuments that decorated the background behind it, this image made me feel something. It made me think back to when I was applying for Gilman.
Truthfully, I did not know a lot about Vietnam prior to applying to Coins For Change (C4C), a Vietnamese non-profit focused on assisting marginalized women and children across the country. The most I knew about the country came from the pages of my history books. I knew the major events surrounding the Vietnam War, but knew very little about Vietnam post-1975. When looking for internships, I knew I wanted to explore a region of the world I did not have a lot of experience in. I wanted to fill in the pieces my history books left behind and truly understand modern-day Vietnam.
Capital of Vietnam, Ha Noi, located in the north of the country. Taken at the Lotte Center Hanoi, the third tallest building in the country.
My four months in Vietnam definitely showed me the layers of life being lived across the country. From the children running through the mountains of Ha Giang (Ha Zang) to the businesswoman in stilettos on her motorbike in Ha Noi, Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of human diversity that intermingles the old and new.
From wet markets to supermarkets, the town I taught in had it all. My students loved everything from Kpop to Hip-hop and desired to travel throughout their country and beyond. Across the street from my school was a karaoke club and across from that was a water buffalo restaurant. In my host family’s home, there was a Buddhist praying room across from a laundry room. Fruit-themed outfits were all the rage and silver chains decorated most of my student’s necks.
Vietnam is a country bursting with life that we do not hear a lot about back in the states. Vpop, Vietnamese pop, is not commonly heard in the U.S. (although it should be!) and Vietnamese shows are not commonly played in the U.S. A lot of Americans still think of Vietnam in the context of conflict or war, but the country has changed from the 70s – every country has. Once I returned to the United States, the biggest myth I wanted to dispel is that Vietnam and its neighbors existed in the past. When I was there, no one mentioned the American War (as it is called in Vietnam). The communities I worked alongside focused on the future. Yes, wars like the American War did impact the country and its people, but after 40 years, it is a disservice to think of the country as suspended in time. Vietnam is a part of the world today and has a lot to offer our ever-growing global community. Exploring Vietnam, whether through videos, shows, or music, serves as a confirmation of this truth. No country is untouched by time. It’s about time that the image of Vietnam is updated to reflect its modern reality.
An artistic interpretation of a futuristic Ho Chi Minh City showcased at the Artinus 3D Art Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.