There are many misconceptions about Vietnam. There is much more to Vietnam than we have been told on the evening network news or by Hollywood. For our soldiers, Vietnam was a frightening, mysterious place after the sun set. This book will show a very different Vietnam, from the perspective of schoolteachers who lived on a farm in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
One common misconception of Vietnam was that the Viet Cong were all Communists. In truth, the Viet Cong were not "one big happy family of Communists," but were in as much disarray as the Saigon government. Some were indeed Communist, but others were Capitalist, and considered themselves "Nationalists." Some wanted to see North and South Vietnam united, and some wanted simply to rid themselves of a corrupt and tyrannical Saigon regime. This fact comes into sharp focus when Viet Cong Finance and Justice Minister, Truong Nhu Tang contacts Nu and Jim.
The young school teacher hurried toward the open air market place. Her face showed the strain of worry about her tiny sister, sick with malaria. Perhaps some lime in her sister’s tea would help break the fever and give Tuc some relief. On her way to a stand that had limes, she picked up some basil and ginger root from another vendor. “This may help her appetite, and settle her stomach.” She picked up two limes, and prepared to cross the paved highway. “Nu! Lai, xin!” Nu turned and headed towards a group of students, to answer their question. It took just moments, and she headed across the road with the handful of groceries. It was only a four minute walk from the market to the home she shared with her sister and the elderly couple that hosted them in An Tuc. “Tuc is smiling,” said Aunt, as she fanned Tuc with a wicker hand-held fan. Uncle was washing Tuc’s naked body with a wet cloth. Nu smiled, relieved, and handed the produce to Aunt, as she took over the duties of fanning Tuc. “The lime may help bring her fever down. Put some in her tea, and we can give her thin slices with her pho. There is plenty for all of us.” Aunt turned and dropped some noodles in the broth that was already simmering. It would just take a couple of minutes for the noodles to cook. She then sliced the ginger root and dropped about twenty thin slices into the broth to flavor the noodles. She spread several bowls on the bed, with the basil, some mung sprouts, chilies, cilantro and julienne vegetables. By the time those were spread out, the noodles were cooked. Aunt passed a bowl of pho and chopsticks to Nu, Tuc and Uncle. She would fan them while they ate, then she would eat her pho. As Nu ate, she watched Tuc carefully, and conversed with Aunt and Uncle. Tuc was hungry, and looking much better than she had for the past week. The fever had done its work, killing a generation of the adult malaria parasite. Tuc would be all right until another generation of the parasite grew in her liver and attacked her bloodstream. They would all be able to sleep well tonight. “Drink more cha. Drink as much as you can, and put lime in it for your fever.” Tuc drank two cups, but then quickly moved toward the door. She had to urinate. Nu saw that she was still very unsure on her feet, so she rushed over to help Tuc across the flats to an area used for that purpose. Tuc squatted, but was glad to have Nu’s knees to hold onto. Nu also squatted, then pulled her black silk pants back up and put Tuc on her hip to carry back down to the house. For the last week, Tuc hadn’t been able to go to the flats, and had to urinate in the night chamber pot under the bed. By the time they got back, Aunt had already eaten, and was finishing the cleanup. Lunch was simple, and easy to both cook and clean up. Nu turned to Uncle. “Get some sleep. I will fan Tuc for a while, then take my nap.” Siesta was a part of life in rural Vietnam, because the sun was brutal in the afternoon.
Author was a freelance schoolteacher in An Tuc, Vietnam from October, 1967 to November, 1969. Traveled extensively throughout Vietnam and the Southeast Asia area, by motorcycle. Now retired, I own a successful pet-sitting service in the Littleton, Colorado area, and do volunteer work.