Today we truly entered Vietnam. After a day of the busy, jet-lagged, hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, we were all ready to get into the county to really see Vietnam. And we did. And it is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
We flew into Dong Hoi airport, located just off the coast in Central Vietnam in the Quang Binh province. This area was completely destroyed in the war but now is filled with new houses and landscaped boulevards.
We then took a harrowing bus trip two hours South on the Vietnamese version of an interstate which is really a bumpy yet paved 2 lane road where our drivers masterfully dodged motorcycles, bikes, trucks and vans. Along the way, we drank in the beauty of the Kelly green rice patties filled with plastic bag “scarecrows” and the egrets they were trying to scare. Homes built on soft sand and orca orange soil have the most magnificent family gardens filled with banana trees, peppercorn plants, watercress, and cava. A smattering of Water buffalo, chickens and Peking ducks complete the visual scene.
And then there are the beautiful characters. The Vietnamese have an infectious and glorious warm smile. After all they have been through and continue to struggle with, they are so genuinely happy.
Our bus tour concluded in Dong Ha in the Quang Tri providence. This area was the former home of a military airbase and fifty years ago was a gray landscape of stick trees and dead plants cleared of foliage by napalm and agent orange. Now it is green and lush and filled with activity.
We walked through the market drawing attention from everyone there who are still getting used to seeing tall, blonde Americans. Lots of warm smiles, “hellos”, and hesitant stares as we lingered over live chickens, fresh produce and woven baskets.
There were magical interactions between our group and the farmers and children. The kids were quick to follow us and laugh and try out their English which included hellos and some choice swear words delivered innocently and with joy and love. Bill Harper, Rector at Grace, even attempted to show a yo-yo trick to a child who was so in awe of him that neither one could really focus. It was beautiful, emotional and 100% real human interaction.
The day concluded with a fantastic meal with the Peace Trees Vietnam staff and Madam Thuy, President of the local Women’s Union. It has been a day filled with memories.