We travel on Highway I. There are baby rice fields with scare crows blowing. Sometimes they are shirts with the arms wide on sticks. Sometimes the shirts or bags are shredded and the scarecrows ripple with streamers. Le Ly tells us a story of a time of filming “Heaven and Earth” when Oliver Stone met Le Ly’s mom who Le Ly calls MamaDu in her book. Oliver asked MamaDu, what is your happiness? She said, she was happy when she worked in the rice fields. She liked being with the earth and the snakes and all the living things.
One day we come to the home village of Le Ly’s mom. It’s not far off the highway from Danang. I think it’s Saturday which means you, my own daughter, are finishing up work on Friday night. I think. In my group, we are always asking each other, what day is this?
We walk through this village. We are learning the flora and birds. We learn that people often plant beetle nut in the the front of the house and banana trees in the back garden. They grow morning glories, okra, sweet potatoes. We are a week into the journey and I’m not sleeping and by this morning have been bleary eyed with sleeplessness and easy tears and missing my family and the pace of seeing so many things I needed to be with for a while, and now sorrow in this village of good people working in the gardens as we Americans pass through. Le Ly had told us why we’ve come to this village. She had told us so much. I knew we were coming to a memorial. And then we did. We’ve come to the upraised tombs of children near their school called Man Quang School. Then we see their tombstones. 45 children were killed in a bomb raid during the American war. We became very quiet. Le Ly led us in burning incense and placing the sticks on the memorial and on the stones.
It feels right to stay silent as we are in this space with the children.