My hopeful prediction came true! Earlier this week, the lockdown ended, barricades were removed, and people were out and about. Like flipping a switch, Hanoi was back in business! We’ve returned to the crazy traffic that is the old normal. This capital city of 5 million souls has a grand total of 4,452 reported COVID-19 cases since 23 January 2020, according to the Viet Nam Ministry of Health. Yesterday, there were five (5) more. To date, only 51 people have died of coronavirus-related causes.
The hectic, sun-drenched streets of the capital have fallen silent
In the middle of the day
The empty parks surrounded by yellow ribbons exclaim,
Shuttered stores and barricaded neighborhoods
Livelihoods diminished; plans put on hold; dreams deferred
Masked people shuffling around like otherworldly figures
Waiting impatiently but resolutely and with steely determination
Hints of autumn in the breeze
Intermingled with whiffs of fear and frustration,
And the mind-numbing, soul-crushing burden of tedium and uncertainty
Another season of life is approaching.
Is there a ray of light at the end of this inexorably long and painful tunnel?
The ushering in of an era of renewal?
Our collective redemption?
When will patience, dedication, hard work, and sacrifice be rewarded?
When will the legion of victims, the sick and the healthy, become whole again?
Hà Nội, City of Peace, you have faced far worse in your millennia-long history – famine, war, poverty.
Lead the way!
To the life we knew and fervently dream of in the stifling time of COVID
Noisy, bustling, communal, productive
Imperfect yet satisfyingly normal.
We must prevail.
Việt Nam. Will. Prevail.
Once again. As it always has.
Mark A. Ashwill, August 2021, Hà Nội