G Nỗi  Island 1970-2012


1970 w/ bombfinder kids                                                                            



 The Post-Revolutionary Village:                  

 Tradition and Modernity

  I am an anthropologist/educator and a former soldier. As a United   States Army Officer in the American War in Việt Nam. I was trained in civil affairs operations and was assigned to the Marine Corps as a refugee specialist. During my tour of duty in Vietnam I moved refugees from  militarily contested areas and provided subsistence assistance in order to meet basic human needs. I was also involved in resettlement operations in which the stated intention was to move agrarian refugees back to the land and start them toward economic self-sufficiency. One such operation was located on an inland island named "G Nỗi ", located in Quảng Nam Province about 15 kilometers south of the autonomous city of Đ Nẵng. This 1970 project with a goal of resettling 17,000 homeless refugees, was one of the most ambitious plans undertaken by the South Vietnamese government. It only managed to resettle 2500 people and most of the goals involved were never met under the American watch in that province. As one of the project officers, I often wondered what the final outcome of this venture was. In 2000 I returned to G Nỗi  Island. Thirty years of differences were obvious, but even more striking to my  Anthropological senses was that the structure of the village I had lived in and helped reconstruct had assumed a distinctly traditional Vietnamese identity that seems to facilitate its existence in the modern market economy. I would like to use my cultural anthropology training to research the mechanisms by which tradition and modernity have merged to enable the survival of the people, and the hamlet that a war had once destroyed.
Click on the Image for NPR's "Children at War"                                                                                                                                                                                                


A 1970 look at the island from our compound, notice the lack of foliage, the place has been carpet bombed for several months.

                       First village houses Phu Phong area


                                                                                                                    Ph Lộc or Village 1 from the air                
    and from the main road 

Việt Nam and G Nỗi ISLAND 2000

In the former Ph Lộc area

   Same place-Different kids


2010 From the town of Hội An and the

Hải Yến Hotel

    Việt Nam is undergoing rapid change and development, as are many countries of the former "third world". Highway projects, hospitals, and schools are really noticeable everywhere. In three short weeks I have crossed paths with forestry, water, agricultural, and demining volunteers from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Scandinavia. Besides  the development of  agriculture and natural resources, this country is still trying to deal with the massive ecological effects of  defoliation from the American War era. In this central area of the country a lot of outside assistance seems focused on this problem. Other groups at work here like The German Development Service work at such projects as the creation of buffer zones around newly created natural parks. Probably the most noticeable area of development to the outsider is the tourist industry. From the Delta to Sa-Pa, new hotels, restaurants, shops, beachfronts, and tour offices proclaim an easily accessible, tropical, and affordable destination for a burgeoning global trade. In the former port city of Hội An , 20 kilometers south of   Đ Nẵng,  approximately 50   new hotels since 2000 compete for the tour trade, the backpacker trade, and Vietnamese holiday groups from a newly developed middle class.
Hội An  is 7 kilometers by boat and about 15 by road from G Nỗi Island. G Nỗi is still one of the poorer areas of  Quảng Nam Province and a local economy unto itself. Even though it is no longer an island, because of the shift in rivers and the increasing sedimentation of the Thu Bon River, Go Noi is still classed by many people here as a separate definable region of the Province.  One of the really amazing things about the agent orange forced melt down of the mountains is the increase in arable land on the downstream side of the area. Sedimentation has deposited approximately 3-4 square kilometers of new cropland that has been divided into family plots of 500-1000 square meters. The constant flooding is both blessing and curse. A curse because many people lose some valuable crops every year, but blessing because the sedimentation constantly renews the soil and creates a newly fertilized base annually.

                                                  A whole new crop of kids ( and grandpa)
Thảo , interpretor and cultural consultant

thao2                       Phi, Thảo and Mimi
Teacher Tn, Cultural consultant, interviewer, and interpreter

This morning ,6-26, I interviewed Ms. Tien. She no longer lives in
G Nỗi  but is a settler in a mountainous area near here. She cooked some for my self and the Marines that were on G Nỗi  and ran a little stand where she sold Cokes and Bia 33.

1970 Go-Noi     
2004                                                                                                                                          2004 Go-Noi         


G Nỗi  is easily perceived by the outsider as the unchanging face of Vietnam, but under the idyllic traditional face of rural life, change is coming rapidly. New varieties of rice allow for 3 crops a year rather than the original 2 which in turn alters ceremonial life. Cotton, chili peppers, corn, and sugar cane, just to name a few, make up an increasing cash crop list that people sell through the village cooperative. Improved roads and a new bridge make outside employment accessible and most families seem to have some people working in areas outside G Nỗi .                                                          

  temple   The most noticeable things in
G Nỗi today are the new family temples being erected. In Điền Phong, a village area now encompassing the Eastern hamlets of the village including the former Ph Lộc Village, eight of the 12 family lineages represented in the village have built new family temples in the past 10 years. Wheras some urban people seem to be losing a sense of family identity, at least in the extended sense of the word, the investment of resources in these symbols of family structure and unity seems to reinforce a traditional (and possibly quite new) emphasis on the larger patrilineage as opposed to the former village. Considering the shifting nature of village boundaries and the incursion of outside influences into village life, these  temples may provide control over the outside environment for its members that the symbolic village hedge once did.

                                                                                                       me and phi
Someone has asked me about why I am not living in
G Nỗi.  There are a couple of good reasons for this, the first being that the government doesn't allow foreigners to live anywhere except in approved guest houses. The second, and most important to me is that I've paid my dues living in this place, and even though its more comfortable now than when I first lived here, I am 42 years more spoiled and value some western food and air conditioning. I am doing my best to blend in but its hard when countless people hollar "hello" and several dozen people show up anywhere I stop. There is no such thing as private space here and every house we visit is thronged by the curious, and I feel mobbed by the kids who pull the hair on my arms and want to check out all my stuff. Here is a picture of my friend Phi and myself, notice my clever Vietnamese diguise, it doesn't fool anyone (obviously) but you really need the mask on these roads.                                                                                                       
gendarmes      These are my friends in the local constabulary. They check on me occasionally to insure my safety and general well being. They are also concerned that I do not cause a major interruption to village life which is an actual problem. Tourists and Westerners are common along Route 1 and the cities, but not here. I feel like a one man freak show some days.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              




The new face of
Việt Nam are kids. 60% of the population is under 30.


What I call the 8th wonder of the world, the Vietnamese call it the "City of the Gods" (some call it the "City of the Dead").  More than 10 Square kilometers of elaborate tombs stretching as far as the eye can see along the beach in
Thừa Thin-Huế Province.


Mimi in 2009