A land of crowded and vibrant streets

Near Da Nang, Vietnam. (Diana Nelson Jones/Post-Gazette)
Near Da Nang, Vietnam. (Diana Nelson Jones/Post-Gazette)

It has rained a lot in recent weeks and mud has pooled along the streets and on sidewalks. In town after town and also here in Hue, a city of about 400,000 people, the sidewalks are crowded with piles of bricks, bikes and scooters and wares — clothes, bunches of bananas, shoes, plastic bowls, tchotchkes.

In rural areas, there are also chickens pecking around, dogs whose tails don’t wag and little tables where people sit eating or drinking coffee.

The noticeable people are the elders, because there seem to be so few of them. More than 60 percent of the people were born after the departure of the American military.

“Hello!” people cry out to us. “Hello!”

Women try to lead you into a restaurant. Vendors call out, presenting their products.

This is a country in trajectory, with construction going on at a startling pace. Yet the vestiges of a developing country remain: Rusted corrugated roofing, water streaked pastel plaster walls, ceramic tiles covered with moss, makeshift housing and clothes trying to dry on lines in tiny breezeways.

The few old faces are etched, stuck in expressions of anguish. Until you smile at them. Then they smile in return.

— Diana Nelson Jones