Paint a Picture When Lost in Nam

        Wake up at 6:30 in the morning in Pleiku, jumping out of bed to get my stuff together aka pack. Time begins to fly by and plop I’m sitting at breakfast with the gang eating an omelette. The language barrier in this country has been an or deal at times. For instance, when I went over to the cooking stand I tried way too hard explaining that I wanted three eggs (visually picked them up) and said egg whites to her. She picks up something that looks to be just that, no yolk, but somehow I find myself eating a regular omelette. Good Morning Vietnam!

        We depart the hotel in Pleiku after an, always too short night here and continue pushing North. Along the bus ride we are exposed to new sides of Vietnam. Climbing in altitude, the green rice paddies flood across the landscapes that we all can peer into from our windows. We drive into what feels like the outback of Vietnam, seeing natives live a much simpler life. Given the war devastation just fifty years ago it is hard to find traces of the war beyond the stories we hear of the aftermath. The mentality, I strongly believe to be confident in the people here is to trust that times will improve, no matter the horrors and all the gory sights that many Vietnamese, Americans, and anyone else who fought experienced. It is crazy to think that these people still walk their, no longer war beaten path now, all around us as we journey thru this beautiful country.The community in this country stood right back up, brushed the dirt off, and kept going.

        Today we spent a lot of time hopping around on the bus over potholes and what not. Our driver appeared amused as he looked back, smiling after what was one of the largest air time trips I’ve ever had riding on just about any form of transportation. Some of us even hit our heads. Thankfully he got the message, acted on it, and slowed down. Shifting it back to our surroundings, I note the exquisite easiness of the architecture today. A lot looked barely put together, even in shambles, but seemingly flawless in its colorful rays encomposing the seemingly boring and dull rest of structure. The houses, basically on chunks of wide range plotted land made me feel at home.

        It felt as tho we drove up and down this mighty ‘mountain’ for food, but I realized that it became a day of sightseeing on the bus. First we saw a ginormous Ho Chi Minh statue in a park. He is the same guy that started the Communist Party, lighting the match for the Vietnam War, and fun fact, is on every single currency bill for the country. Wow, when is enough enough for this man? Next, we pass by, Mike’s voice in our ears, a hospital in which the victims of battle wounds from the war were treated. I can only imagine the scars that still linger. He speaks up about how he was in the 25th infantry, number one pick, and how he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else..and make it out alive considering the possibilities.

        As we drizzle across some more landscapes, we see coffee plantations.  When the French came over to conquer they brought their coffee with them to be assimilated into Vietnam, now the number two seller of coffee in the entire world (Brazil #1). Skimmering my eyes across the countryside everything has a much greater sense of traditionalism: kids riding their bikes, locals sporting rice hats, working hard out in the fields, and a general closeness of one another. A simple life filled with care for one another.

         Moving on, we arrive at lunch place #1 to be (possibly jokingly) told that they ran out of food..on to #2, a quaint little joint nestled in one of the hearts of communist propaganda. Before hand we stop at a church for a moment of tranquility. Now back to the food: we eat rice, rice, and more rice! I’m just kidding, however rice, and while I’m at it pho, coffee, and coconuts are a big deal here. The people serving are friendly as I appreciate they make an effort trying to communicate with me. I don’t know who makes the talk more confusing, them with their accent, or me just being me. The food as always is glorious, filling my stomach like a blanket in the winter, nice and warm in the belly. Being in the presence of my fellow Gaels out here in a country none of us would venture to alone gives me such a burst if joy every meal. It’s a fun challenge to think that all of us will basically be sharing 60+ back-to-back meals together with Susie, our worldly professor and Mike, the war vet.

        After lunch we head towards our next overnight in Duc Pho. Along the way, another moment that shocked me about education here was that when Duke was discussing the education system here, he said that to get into college here, where you go is dependent upon the score you get on one test. It is as though I would go thru the K-12, and all it would come down to would be the SAT as the only say in where I went for college. That is too much pressure for a teenager to have on their shoulders. Also, it shocked me how Duke said people in Vietnam look at you as if you’re stupid if you do not go to college. This I found very offensive because everybody learns differently, and to put them all in a systamatic box would be like communism. Not everybody is meant for college and not everyone can go, so by default there is the‘frowned upon’ population.

        Crossing over railroad tracks we will later be going on, overnight, further North, we learn that Mike was stationed here for about 8-9 months. We pass Mount Montazuma where thousands of troops were stationed at for quite some time. We manage to get a shot of all of us in front of the mountain. Later we also stop and take a shot immersed in the rice paddies, with a team of workers behind us plowing away at the wet dirt eager for planting. Also, did I mention there were water buffalos? Yes, fully grown ones along with baby calfs, and little kids running around. It was such a lovely sight.

        A long, stimulating day’s worth of adventure’s closing in, I briefly reflect on our gang’s journey and how it has been a blessing in disguise. At times eager to fight in such close quarters, but none the less a blessing to continue onward for the rest of our time all together. Every single one of us has grown on me thru every outrageous story told. I see more now that we (the unofficial Breakfast Club) are all a lot more similar, or polygenic in how we think. Fascinating individuals to get to know in our present reality, Vietnam.

-Nicole Taylor

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