Vê quê 2007
Well, not really về quê. I feel as if it is. It is probably the
last time I can go. I am old enough that I should probably not stray far from American Medicine. My plane leaves in two weeks. I
will meet con gáy út (my youngest daughter) in Atlanta and we
will proceed from there to Incheon and thence to Sài Gòn. Nguyệt's father and sister will meet us at Tân Sơn Nhứt and we will hang around the city for a couple of days then go, probably by train, to Nha Trang. I Think I would prefer to ride the bus- I love the long distance buses in Việt Nam- but I am not sure con gáy is up to the pit stops. She will adapt once we are there and I will send her with Nguyệt to do some sight-seeing around the country.
Nguyệt is the reason, or rather the excuse, for me to go back again. She is my protegé in Cam Đức. I met her there in 2003 the first day I was in the village. One of the sisters in the small convent/school I visited ran across the street to Nguyệt's family's house to get her because she could nói tiếng như Ông Mỹ (speak like the American) and was the only person in the village who could. Nguyệt was 14 and very impressive. She spoke odd but very understandable English that she had taught herself. All students are required to study English but in the smaller places the English teachers do not themselves know the language so the children learn to say "Hello meeta Meycan! How a you!" and not much more. In our conversation over the next three weeks whatever we talked about, Nguyệt wanted to know how many, what are the dimensions and what is the capacity and how fast, etc. I realized that she had the brain of an engineer.
Near when it was time for me to go down to Sài Gòn to get on the plane to go back to Florida, I asked her how she liked school and what did she want to do with her education. She told me that she had just quit school that year because she mới lên 14 tuổi (reached age 14) and it was time to go to work to help out her family. I was stunned but realized, of course! this is not Florida. Her father makes his living di theo con bò- he would be called a sharecropper in Mississippi. It is a financial drain to keep children in school up even to 8th grade. I asked her if she would stay in school if it were possible. She said that would be a Heavenly gift because there is so much to learn.
I made a deal with Ông Thông to send money to pay for Nguyệt's school fees and enough more to cover the value of her services to the family or income she might earn working. We went to market and bought a uniform to replace the one she had grown out of and we bought notebooks and supplies for a year.
Then Nguyệt said she would need to buy school lunches. So we went to the school and, finding the office open, went in and I paid for a year's school lunches, about twenty dollars.
Nguyệt has sent me her test completion certificates and scholastic awards these last three and a half years and I have them on my wall. She has received nothing but the best marks and has taken extra classes at night after school and through the summers. She starts at the University in Sài Gòn in the fall in the Math Department. I expect that in a few years she will take her place with others, like Thiên Trang, to xây Việt Nam mới- build a new Việt Nam.
Bäy gi© sáng mai Ông MÏ cùng v§'i con út lên máy bay b¡t ÇÀu vŠ qua ViŒt Nam. Tôi rÃt cäm Ön Chúa và MË Maria vì tôi ÇÜ®c vŠ núi ÇÃt cách NÜóc Trời ít thôi.