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In the Newsroom

January 16, 2009
Scenes from “Roman Holiday” play out in Vietnam

Vietnamese weather the flooding in Hanoi.

Producer Ara Ayer reported on Worldfocus’ signature series on Vietnam’s economy, perception of Americans and legacies of war. Two stories show the devastating effects of Agent Orange and unexploded munitions, which still maim and kill Vietnamese to this day. Though some of the topics were difficult to cover, Ara explains why Vietnam represents so much more than a bygone war.

When I compare my reporting experience in Vietnam to other countries, a scene from the movie “Roman Holiday” comes to mind. I digress, but when the protagonist played by Audrey Hepburn is asked to name her favorite city, she hesitates then proudly proclaims, “Rome!” I have no such hesitation. Vietnam by far is the country I want to return to and report from again.

Vietnam isn’t the prettiest, most welcoming or modern country. But it wins your respect and, if you are fortunate enough to spend some time there, your heart. Some go for “the war,” the architectural and cultural remnants of its French colonial past or the kitsch of communism. I’d return for the people –- the real geography of any nation.

Proud, defiant, traditional yet progressive: The Vietnamese are a force. From city streets to hamlet huts, everyone seems busy at work or at play. It isn’t an X-box video game culture engaged in “Second Life” pursuits or reality programming.

Vietnam is about family, tradition, hard work and a grace of daily living that challenges and rewards. Some countries are blessed with great resources: Oil, minerals, agriculture. Vietnam has some of these — but I contend its real riches lay in the “can-do,” “never-say-die” attitude of its citizens. This undaunted quality was very much on display during the Hanoi floods this past November.

Downtown Hanoi’s flood waters reminded me of the seasonal deluge I used to cover as a beginning T.V. reporter in Missouri. Vietnamese trudged through chest-deep water, commuted on makeshift rafts and sandbagged the foyers of their homes. Much like hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Hanoi’s infrastructure failed. The government response could not keep pace with the rising water, and dozens died.

Where the government failed, fellow Vietnamese citizens came to the rescue. Neighbor saved neighbor. My admiration for the Vietnamese grew as I watched one act of kindness after another. Maybe it’s just human nature to want to help your fellow man – yet I found that sensibility fully expressed in deeds among the Vietnamese.

– Ara Ayer

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I really believe free market will lead to a democratic society and that is what vietnam and many asia-pacific country are experiencing. The next Asian Tigers are these little countries that is meddling with the idea of free market.


your piece on the legacy of Agent Orange was absolutely devastating


Vietnam is a wonderful country. Do you know how they cultivate wet rice?

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