Vietnam: 40 Years After Reunification

A man overlooks the crowd gathering to watch the Da Nang International Fireworks Competition on the Han River on April 29, 2015.
It's April 30, 2015, or 40 years to the day since the Vietnam war ended. If you didn't already know, you might not guess it walking the streets of Da Nang, Vietnam's central hub and quickly developing showcase city. Aside from the national flags lining the pavement and grainy war footage accompanying commemorative ceremonies on TV, it's not immediately obvious.

Da Nang's bi-annual International Fireworks Competition ended yesterday and many tourists have already left town. Still, the week remains rife with celebration. Between the Hung Kings Temple Festival, Reunification and the socialist holiday of International Workers' Day, there is almost an entire week off work, which seems to be the main reason for the excitement. 

Families are taking leisurely lunches in impromptu sidewalk dining rooms framed by red plastic furniture. Large plates of meat, noodles, fruit and assorted "special foods" are handed around. Buckets of ice stand ready to chill beer as it hits the glass. Streets swell with domestic tourists from north and south visiting one of their most beautiful cities. In these moments, it's especially clear that Vietnamese people are intently focused on enjoying the present and building the future.

When I first moved to Vietnam three years ago, I didn't know if being American would sour my interactions with Vietnamese people, especially because Da Nang hosted many American soldiers. Completely to the contrary, I am often asked about my country and enthusiastically invited to sit, eat, talk and have fun.  

My nationality turned out to be a non-issue. A combination of the fact that my age clearly exempts me from any direct involvement, American pop culture is prevalent and the war is old news made me acutely aware that Americans are no longer the enemy, despite our tendency to re-examine the past. 

It's incredible to me how far Vietnam has come in the last 40 years but looking around at the hard working Vietnamese shop owners who have opted to stay open and cater to visitors, it's no wonder how they got here.

About the author

Kari Derenzi

Kari is a Bay Area native, but a world traveler at heart. Her most recent travels abroad include a year in Southeast Asia, based in Vietnam. While there, she worked with underserved students, studied Vietnamese and explored microlending with Kiva. Kari returned to San Francisco to intern with Kiva's Community Support to educate fellow Kiva lenders about microfinance. Now Kari is eager to transition to borrower work with innovative Field Partners in Laos and Vietnam and rekindle her love affair with rice noodles.