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as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

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~CJ/Todd Dierdorff



Friday, July 12, 2013

Vietnam, The Return (Part 3), by Jesse Gump



             
Vietnam: Forty-five Years Later 

What Are The Odds?

(Part 3 of 3)



Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. Forty-five years is a long time. I know I have changed from a handsome young soldier into an ugly old man.

Perhaps she wouldn’t recognize me. Perhaps I wouldn’t recognize her either. Perhaps she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. Maybe this would be the wrong person altogether. I didn’t know what to expect.
 
My driver led the way onto the front porch and shouted something in Vietnamese. I assumed he was saying hello and asking if anyone was home.

In a moment, a short slender woman appeared at the door. Her eyes flicked from the driver to me several times as if wondering what a foreigner was doing on her front porch. 

The driver handed her one of my flyers. I thought the woman would faint on the spot as recognition lit her face. She and the driver spoke in Vietnamese. I didn’t understand a single word. 

Finally she smiled and said to me, “You said you would come back.” During our encounter, those would be the only English words I would hear her say. Her name is Bah.

My driver pointed to the other girl on the flyer, apparently asking Bah if she knew her. This led to a long conversation and a lot of pointing down the street. 

After a minute my driver indicated that he and Bah would go and bring the other woman to see me. 

While they were gone, Bah’s husband chopped the top off of coconuts and poured glasses of juice. I was reluctant to drink raw coconut juice not knowing what effect it might have on my stomach, but out of politeness I accepted the glass and drank anyway.

By now I had attracted the attention of neighbors and there was a constant stream of people going up and down the road. Their eyes were all on me. 

A few stopped in and talked to Bah’s husband. I assume they were close friends or relatives but I don’t know that for a fact. I don’t think I have ever been pointed at so much in my life as I was that day. Twenty minutes later Bah returned with my other friend. Her name is Tay.

Neither Bah nor Tay could speak more than a few words of English, and what little Vietnamese I once knew had long since been forgotten. 

Our reunion was joyful, awkward, and frustrating at the same time. Smiles, touching, and gestures were our only way of communicating. There were many things I wanted to say and questions I wanted to ask, but I couldn’t. Perhaps my old friends felt the same. I regret not having a driver with better English skills. I took a few pictures for my memories, said my goodbyes, and headed back to Nha Trang. 

I need to add that I had my wonderful wife and grandson with me on this adventure. They got to share my reunion with my Vietnamese friends. I wrote this travelogue from my point of view because for an hour or two I was alone with my memories. I felt like I was in some sort of time warp between yesterday and today. 

Even now the entire trip back in time seems like a fantasy. I mean, what are the chances of finding someone half a world away after forty-five years? It was an experience I will never be able to recreate. 

You can read more about Tay and Bah when we were all much younger in my short story book, “Blame It On Bangkok”, which can be downloaded for free from the internet. 

You might also enjoy my novels based on my years of working on a long term project in Pattaya, Thailand. You can find them on Amazon in paperback, or as eBooks from Bangkok Book House. Thank you.

Copyright: J. F. Gump 2013


J.F. (Jesse) Gump's Profile and Books


“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale



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