Our drive takes us through more mountains, all of which are lovely, but impossible to capture against the morning sun.
Then we leave the mountains behind and drive past miles and miles of rice paddies. It is harvest season, but we see paddies in all stages of production: Awaiting harvest, partially harvested, and the idle land swathed in green (peanuts, which serve as a cover crop) replenishing the soil. Scattered throughout are bright blue tarps covered with rice drying in the sun.
Although we see a few mechanical harvesters, most of the fields are being harvested by hand.
It looks eternal and bucolic, as if time has moved slowly here.
After a while Chris has the bus pull off near one of the paddies and we walk back down a narrow lane along the field nearer to where workers are harvesting this season’s crop.
It is mid-morning now and the air is hot and heavy with humidity. A few insects buzz lazily and a bird occasionally calls, otherwise it is silent here. If the workers out in the field are talking or singing, their voices are too soft to carry to us.
To me it is a picture of perfect peace and timeless tranquility, so it is startling to overhear one of the members of our group mulling over the fact that the last time he saw a scene like this, there were people shooting at him.
It’s both sobering and thought-provoking.
I’m just young enough to not have any real memory of the Vietnam War, no connection to a place and a time that is indelibly etched into the lives of others in our group here. Periodically this gulf emerges and I wonder how the world looks through the eyes of those who remember Southeast Asia from that time, from a world where a peaceful rice paddy could be a deadly lie. It’s hard to bring those contrasting pieces together.