Letter to My Daughter: It Takes a Village

Return to Viet Nam.3.

I have to start with the small Covid test panel to which I add three drops of the concoction I’d created.  I do this after a close exposure within my family.  So my C line lights up. OK.  But I have to give it 15 minutes. Then the T line shows really faint. But I know, I can’t go to Viet Nam.

“Mom,” you say, “that’s what everybody has to do. Everybody’s things get cancelled.” I sit with that.

I called Rebecca to tell her I had to teach my yoga class tonight on zoom, and I couldn’t go to Viet Nam. We solved the class issue, but about the journey, Rebecca said not so fast.  She pulled up the CDC calculator. When are you leaving? It was today you tested positive? The CDC site calculated I could end isolation on the day before my flight was scheduled.  Unless I get worse symptoms.

Wendy texted fluids, fluids, fluids. I see it takes a village to leave a home.  Part of the village are now the triage nurses at Kittery Family Practice who get me Paxlovid and you, Lizzie, picked it up because I’m isolated and sad.  And you brought me soup from Ceres.

A bit in limbo, I write this post about the many people who have been a part of my working to get on the plane. I’m determined to imagine.

My class of Red Cross workers in San Fransisco waiting to board the plane for Hawaii, then Saigon. I must have taken the photo. This was our dress uniform we never wore again.

Through Facebook, I’ve been in touch with a few other Red Cross workers. They are a part of the village. I re-met René Johnson who was in my training class in DC.  I have followed Penni Evans and Lane Query Stallings. I’ve read Ann Kelsey and Sandra Lockney Davis, who were Special Services.  René had recently traveled to Viet Nam. We talked by phone and she is the only Red Cross worker I’ve talked to in some depth about her experience.  She also told me the vaccines you really need if you go.  René introduced me to members of the American Red Cross Overseas Association.

A large group of English language learners are with me, people I’ve read stories with and many have written their own experiences. This very morning I met, on zoom, with students from Second Start Adult Education in Concord, NH. Their teachers said they are reading books about food and differences between cooking in the U.S. and their home countries.  In that vein, they’ve just read A Feast for Joseph about a small boy from Uganda and South Sudan. They sent me pictures of favorite foods they loved as children. Here are dishes a South Sudanese student sent. Thank you, my friends, at Second Start.

Another member of my village is Emma Spencer who interviewed me for her thesis project at Amherst College. It was a work of photojournalism called Vietnam War Veterans Now and Then and was another link to the country for me. Emma wrote that when she arrived at Amherst, she took a history course called “The Modern American Experience of War Through Literature and Film,” taught by Mark Jacobson which was a step in her inspiration for the project.

Katie, in my village, taught in Hanoi, and introduced me to The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, and this book travels with me. Maren wrote me a good luck charm which I need. She wrote: “You will not bring enough paper notebooks for the times you want to write something down and a computer is not present. You will find something about geography or tradition or music or art or storytelling you had forgotten and you will discover something amazingly new.”

You are all with me. And while I’m drinking  fluid, fluids fluids, I’m deep into Le Ly’s When Heaven and Earth Changed Places again.  I’ll always remember brother Sau Ban of Le Ly’s memories and wonder if I’ll meet young cousins in the family who look just like Sau Ban. Or Anh. Or Mama Du.

Le Ly and I began to work with folktales her Mama told her with the plan of sharing them in English.

Now I’ll sleep and be ready.    

6 Responses to “Letter to My Daughter: It Takes a Village”

  1. Pat Spalding

    Thanks for taking us along with you Terry. i want to look up some of these books.
    xo, Pat

  2. Maren C. Tirabassi

    I read this a few days late, Terry (after five months, Don got his diagnosis of RA and we’ve been scurrying. We knew it was coming but couldn’t do anything until someone official wrote it down.) I am hoping that in these days of Covid the water has washed away your poisons like the winter waves have washed our north Atlantic beaches and you can go to the place where you know that people instinctively understand village. How blessed we are to be your village here.

    • terryfarish

      The water did wash the poisons out and away.
      I am in Saigon seeing it in a most amazing way through multiple points of view.

  3. Mary Nolin

    Thank you for visiting our Second Start class last week Terry. Our Sudanese student really has come alive in discussion and activities and I attribute this to your book A Feast for Joseph. When we spoke with them today, they all said they loved meeting you and that you were such an interesting person. I am so sorry that COVID is causing difficulties for your travel plans to Viet Nam. I hope you are feeling better!


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