A A A print this page

Concluding Thoughts

Dr. Bob McElvaine's 2010 Vietnam Journal


May 29, 2010
Clinton, Mississippi

What a trip!

I held up very well on the return flight. The 13-hour segment from Tokyo to Dallas didn't seem bad at all, and I think I may be getting used to this sort of thing.

On the other hand, Anne Waldop fell ill in Dallas, leaving only Mary Rebecca Martin with no apparent small injury/illness on the trip. I learned later, though, that M.R. also got ill that evening - as did I.

When we got home - something like 48 hours since I had last slept, apart from catnaps on planes, I told Anne I would shower and nap for an hour or two, after which I would get up so we could go to the going-away party for the Oertels. I couldn't make it. In fact, I slept for the next 25 hours!

The group at Bayon, Cambodia

The heat, exhaustion, and minor scrapes and bruises notwithstanding, everyone enjoyed the trip immensely and would do it again in a heartbeat. It was such a mixture of the beauties of nature and of people with the frequent reminders of the unspeakable things that have happened so recently in these countries. We all, I think, had several times on the trip when Col. Kurtz' dying whisper in Apocalypse Now intruded on our minds: "The horror ... the horror ..."

I'll give this last journal entry over to the students and their summary comments on what the trip meant to them:

As we are on our way home, I am sincere when I say I hope to return one day, and that this experience has definitely changed the way I look at the world and myself.

- George Holmes

I could write for days about how wonderful this trip was for me. It was a perfect seamless trip through and through. I've learned so much on this trip about the Vietnam War that I had never known before. I also learned so much about the culture of the Vietnamese and Cambodians ... I loved loved every place we went in both Vietnam and Cambodia, however there were some places that stuck out in mind more than others: Ha Long Bay (so beautiful and crazy I got to swim in it!). Another place was Hoi An ... My Lai was another, not that it was fun, but a very important experience I think every American should go see during their lifetime.

- Mary Rebecca Martin

What I learned on this trip was that Asia is a wonderful place. I have made some very good friends on this trip ... We bonded together through the things we carried. We did not all carry the same things ... but we all carried some common things ... We learned that 10 very different people can get along and that Millsaps is a very special place.

- James Bridgforth

How amazing this trip has been ... This trip was also wonderful because it gave me insights into a history and culture I had never known anything about before ... I really have enjoyed every minute of it and it really has been a life changing experience.

- Frances Tubb

In retrospect, I wasn't prepared for this trip in any sense. It was both a learning and growing experience for me. I am always shocked to figure out that there is more to learn. When you have never been to a place before, the vibrancy of the cultures is magnified tenfold. I know that it sounds silly, but it is true. I won't remember every experience or encounter during this trip. The memories will soon blur together, but it is the magnified sensations of new cultures that will be remembered. I will definitely go back to Vietnam some day and I will use what I learned there in my future endeavors.

- Sharon Yoo

I am having the time of my life on this experience of a lifetime ... So here we are, flying over the Pacific, headed to Dallas. The longest day of my life. Completely worth it.

- Dan Garza

For me, the mark of a great experience and trip lies within the after-shocks and reactions upon returning home. I left Indochina with not only a broader perspective of this vast world we live in, but also with a humbling perspective of my own country. I now carry with me the forgiveness of the Vietnamese in my heart, the hope of the Cambodians in my mind, and a call to action to utilize these emotions and experiences for the rest of my life.

I look forward to my return to Southeast Asia. This trip broke all boundaries of a class taken for credit; such experiential learning could never happen in desks or in front of chalkboards!

Above all, thanks to you, Dr. McElvaine, for this great opportunity and experience. Among other things, all of us would be less informed citizens of the world without you.

- Anne Rollings Waldrop

This trip was amazing! Not only did we brave the unexpected, all of us truly embraced it. Like Mary-Anne [in The Things They Carried], we entered as innocent students, but upon leaving we emerged from the jungle educated, and understanding of the "native" ways. I now have a newfound respect for the Vietnam War ... This trip will be a source of great happiness for years to come, and provide stories that can start with, "Well, when I was in 'Nam..."

- Heather Keenan

I've never been brought to question the past as much as I have on this trip ... More than a war, and connecting it to the present, we saw a basically alien nation. The culture of Vietnam and Cambodia is amazing: the ways that they worship, utilize nature, care for each other and survive are so different than the Western lifestyle.

This trip was so much more than a class - it was a full blown, non-stop experience. There were unbearable days of heat w/out water, and amazing days of sightseeing, but no matter what, I continually drank in my surroundings - the life, the people, the history - and I can already see myself returning to these countries to continue the experiences.

- Kate Sundell

"This trip was so much more than a class - it was a full blown, non-stop experience."

I like that. It seems the perfect way to sum it up and to close this journal.