Jun 28, 2008

Too hot for mosquitos

And certainly too hot to be prowling the jungles of Vietnam to shoot green. I used to think I liked hot weather but I've never spent fourteen continuous hours sweating either. The jungle is beautiful to be sure, or at least that part of it that has been replanted and grown back enough after the effects of agent orange to be called jungle.

I'm shooting on Highway 49 between Hué and A Luoi, about 50 miles south of the (former) DMZ and 25 miles east of the border with Laos. Thanks to its proximity to those heavily contested areas, these hills were home to numerous US bases and airstrips during the American War, as it's called here. As a result the entire area was defoliated with Agent Orange to deny any cover to north Vietnamese camps or their anti-aircraft batteries. Agent Orange killed everything; it's hard to imagine this lush area as dead as the surface of the moon. And once dead, it takes almost a hundred years for the jungle to regrow. Fortunate the Vietnamese have done an amazing job cleaning up the mess we made by replanting thousands of square miles with trees and thus accelerating the recreation of a jungle ecosystem. And capitalistic as they are, the trees they chose (mostly eucalyptus) can be harvested for paper within eight years of planting.

I used to spend the endless days of summers as a kid playing in the woods and steams behind my house in search of creepy crawlers and enjoying the sounds and solitude of nature. Well the bugs are certainly here, just about five times as large and a lot meaner than in Pennsylvania. But there's something disquieting about the woods/jungle here. While any military equipment has long since been scavenged, the B-52 bomb craters, foxholes and tank roads give the place a subtle errie feeling. It's disquieting in a way that leaves me feeling nervous and buzzy, despite a horrifying lack of caffeine. I had to take a lot of pictures of myself to get even this one where I don't look like hell. This feels nothing like play.

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