Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Party, 11/2

Before we look at some of the crazy costumes the students came up with, I want to revisit something from the beginning of the term. The first week the students were here we went to the War Remnants museum. The picture to the right appeared in the blog for that visit, with the text of the plaque Tom is reading. It says "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," with the attribution below saying (U.S. Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4, 1776). I added that Ho Chi Minh had included this passage in his Declaration of Independence for Vietnam speech that he gave on 2 September,1945, but without attribution. When we went back to discuss Ho Chi Minh's Selected Writings, I realized that Uncle Ho had not quoted the passage word for word, and he did attribute its source. This also leads into another interesting story.
Ho left out the first part about truths being self-evident. The rest had all the same key words, but he modernized the structure. He went on to say "This immortal statement appeared in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, it means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, and to be happy and free."
Ho Chi Minh had good reason to try to reach out to the U.S. through this speech, which was probably the most important of his long career. During the latter stages of WWII the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was our precursor to the CIA, had contacted the Viet Minh in their Viet Bac sanctuary and given them aid and advice to help fight the Japanese occupiers. Prominent members of the OSS can be seen in photographs taken during the speech. Ho felt there was a good chance that the U.S. would recognize his fledgling government as the legitimate government of an independent Vietnam. If Franklin Roosevelt had lived, it might possibly have turned out that way, but Harry Truman was an ardent anti-Communist, and the "Cold War" mentality had set in. Also the U.S. wanted to keep France as an ally in Europe, so was hesitant to resist their desires to reestablish their colonial relationships. Thus, Vietnam was once again left out in the cold.
That brings up another interesting parallel with 1963. A number of historians believe that President Kennedy saw through the haze of Vietnam, and would have balked at continuing to support corrupt regimes. If he had lived it is possible that we would have disengaged from Vietnam before the conflict really got started.
Back to the present though, and the Halloween party. The rain continued through the weekend. Although we haven't been directly affected, there has been some severe flooding in parts of Hanoi, and south and west of here. Reports put the rainfall since Friday at 420mm for Hanoi, and 627mm for Ha Dong City, which is about 20 km southwest of Hanoi. That is 16.5 inches and 24.7 inches! Sunday saw some breaks of blue sky, so word went out that the party was on. However, by the start time the rains had started again, so we ended up partying in the open-air hallways in front of the student rooms. It didn't dampen the spirits though.
We had four superheros in attendance,

as well as a "cereal" killer.

A princess and a ninja.

A spy hiding behind the ninja, and the law.

Princess meets Viking woman, and also Wilma Rubble.

Two Hollywood starlets, and Katie and Sarah as ?

Pam's sister was visiting.

Ngoc (Ruby) as a bumble bee.

Long wining at beer pong again.

Some unidentifiable skeleton creature.

Molly's Aunt and Uncle were visiting. A sliver of Pam's Mother can be seen in the right background.

Superman and Wilma hit it off.

The spy came in from the cold, and the starlets played beer pong.

This superman guy gets around! Below, four comrades.

Wilma meets Hollywood.

Everyone had a good time, and were up and ready for the Director's Seminar Monday morning.

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