Yesterday was a long day trip to a neighboring province. We were supposed to leave at 6 a.m., so Jon and I were up a little after 5 and found rice and coffee for breakfast shortly before 6. Then we loaded what must’ve been a hundred students onto two huge buses and headed northwest.
We weren’t really out of Long Xuyen before we were on a ferry. I was a little nervous because we crammed the two large buses on there and the boat went down in the water considerably when the buses drove on. But it was a lovely cool morning on the Mekong and the sun was just coming up over the water. We climbed on the roof of the ferry and saw the fog being burned off the water by the rising sun. The next part of the journey was through cool countryside air which felt wonderful, better than air conditioning (there wasn’t any on the bus anyway). At this point I tried to doze off but the bumps in the road and the pretty consistent blasts from the bus’ air horn kept that from happening.
Then there was another ferry, which was even smaller than the first and I was even more nervous when the two buses were on with only inches to spare between them. However, right after the ferry was Dong Thap University, our destination for the day.
Our first activity was some sort of a get-together type thing where there were a few speeches, and then everything dissolved into songs and dancing. Jon and I sang our two standards from the Spring Festival, “Lost Highway” and “Freight Train Blues,” but then there was more time to kill and they asked us to sing some more. We ran outside and started talking. “What songs do we know all the chords to?” And, “What are all the words?” Eventually (we under a time constraint all this while) we picked “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll fly away.” While we were up there singing in our twangy voices and most of the people were laughing and smiling, a student ran onstage and shoved tissue-paper roses into our shirt pockets. After all the songs had been sung we took a brief tour of campus and then it was off to lunch.
At lunch I began to realize that this was shaping up to be a really hot afternoon. However, after lunch we went to the memorial of Ho Chi Minh’s father, who was from Dong Thap province. It was very interesting, but the heat was creeping up on us. It seemed as though a lot of the time spent around there was simply sitting and resting in the shade.
However, the day wasn’t over yet. It was a very warm day indeed at this point, and it was apparently time to play volleyball and football. I politely said that I was no good at either of those sports and sent a text message to Julie, who had just arrived to teach for a few days. Julie came and found the volleyball game and I went over to her air-conditioned room where a friend was resting. We laid there and watched boxing at Caesar’s Palace dubbed in Vietnamese. I nearly dozed off at this point. Eventually Danielle came up to rest as well, and she and I started talking and reminiscing about baseball and the foods that went along with it. Then it was all about foods that we missed from America. We decided that a Ruben would really hit the spot right now.
I decided that I should go and see what was up with the sporting events at this point. They were playing soccer under the 3:30 sun. I stayed for most of the game, which was a tie.
Finally, it was time to climb on the buses and head back to Long Xuyen. First there was the ferry and I witnessed a beautiful sunset over the Mekong river. I noticed the red sun actually getting lower on the horizon as the ferry putted its way across the brown water.
The drivers took a different route on the way back. We were zooming through the countryside with all the windows of the bus open and the farmers were out harvesting rice. Some people say that the sense of smell is the strongest sense in humans. It was the smell of freshly cut crops that was getting to me. If I shut my eyes and blocked out the sound of the air horn, I could almost imagine that I was riding in the back of our truck at home, bouncing over dusty Ohio country roads, with the smell of freshly cut hay in the fields and the cool evening air flowing over my skin.
But still the day wasn’t over. We had movie night to come back to. Jack had already started the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and we saw mostly the latter half with a decent showing of students there too.
Finally, after what seemed like ages and a gallon of sweat, we went back to the guesthouse. We laughed about the day and watched clips of Conan O’Brian on the internet, but I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.