Monday, September 20, 2004
Man called Uncle
Outside the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi. 12 September 2004
The line to the mausoleum encircled the entire building. People were arriving in busloads. School kids in their cute uniforms, local and foreign visitors standing in line under the sun, waiting for their turn to see and pay their respects to Uncle Ho. And wait we did. Counting the time spent depositing our bags and our cameras, we waited in line for maybe 30 minutes. At one point a woman behind us, a Vietnamese, became a bit impatient and voiced out a soft complaint. To which Queen, our Vietnamese companion and guide quickly retorted “we should be patient when seeing Ho Chi Minh.” After struggling to read aloud and pronounce correctly the message written on the big banner at the entrance that translates “Long Live the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” amid gentle laughter from the others in line, we finally had our chance to go inside and see the man everybody calls uncle. We were greeted at the entrance by a deafening silence; the chilling coldness of the room and the blank stares of the mausoleum guards. Inside, the remains of Viet Nam’s great leader lay still, flanked by two more guards, their crisp white and yellow uniforms complementing perfectly the blood-red majesty of their national flag.
Ho died on September 2, 1969- exactly ten days and 35 years ago. Yet, he remains a central figure in Vietnamese society today. A leader revered and remembered.