Monday, September 8, 2008

1 Hoa Lo Street, Hanoi one of the addresses that Evil uses. This street name is interesting; Hoa Lo means "Hell Hole" or "Fiery Furnace" in Vietnamese because it is the street where stoves were sold. I am sure I have never visited any of the other truly evil spots in the world because the feeling when you are in one is unmistakable.
The French built "Maison Centrale" in the 1880's during the French occupation of Indochina. It was used for political prisoners who were freedom fighters for Viet Nam, many were women and they were forced to bring their children into the jail with them. They were able to communicate with each other and it is said that this is where the Vietnamese communist party was born. Conditions are as bad as you are able to imagine. A well used guillotine is a centerpiece, prisoners were shackled to benches at an angle that force blood into their heads. Rooms are dark and narrow. But really, nothing I can write can describe the atmosphere of this evil, sinister place.
In 1964 the first American POW's were interred there, nicknamed it the "Hanoi Hilton" and that's when things got really bad. A woman missionary named Monika Schwinn was a prisoner and on display is a letter from her to Ho Chi Min asking to please release her cat from the prison and send it home. We were told that prisoners could hear the city noises right outside the prison, a brutal reminder that life went on. John McCain was shot down in a very small lake right in the middle of the city and brought to Maison Centrale. There is a statue of his capture at the site on which it occurred and we were told that the North Vietnamese erected this as a symbol of their victory.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

They Won

Our niece,Leah, accompanied me on a trip to Hanoi. We stepped off the plane and into a world that I would describe as 'third'. Water buffalo compete with trucks for space on the highway. Viet Nam is an agricultural society and people are cultivating rice everywhere. Hanoi is a crowded, noisy city. There are few traffic signals and even when they are present they are ignored by the tens of thousands of motor bikes. Crossing the street is an art we mastered. The French occupied Viet Nam for about 100 years and that is evident in the architecture and the food. We bought french bread on the highway.