Cong Caphe is a Vietnamese coffeehouse that capitalizes on a wartime theme. Sure, it's a fun, hipster-driven motif. But sitting in an apparent base camp for the North Vietnamese fills this American's veins with ice and her heart with a strange, outdated fear.
When my daughters visit Danang, they experience tropical breezes, ocean waves, and a delightful little city full of bridges, motorbikes, and endless food.
But when I come to Vietnam, I see ghosts.
Ghosts of war.
A war that was fought when I was just a child. At the time, I thought I didn't understand what was happening in this mysterious, far-off land.
But now I see that I grasped the terror all too well.
Children dying unspeakable deaths.
Innocent men and women fleeing danger, desperate for a new home, a new village, a safe place to plant their rice and raise their chickens and pray that life could return to normal.
American soldiers dying for a war that their countrymen rarely understood and didn't support, fighting an enemy they didn't know how to fight.
A tiny Asian nation turned against itself in a proxy battle between the two Cold War super powers.
And a post-nuclear world that looked on in horror as the conflict edged closer and closer to the abyss.
* * * * *
This is what I think about when I come to Vietnam. And I worry how the people here will respond to a person like me, an American, who dares to come back and stir up those old memories.
But each time I visit, the gentle people of Danang wrap me in kindness and generosity and love, and I understand that we are all helping each other heal from those terrible ghosts of war.