Met Binh Dinh-born people thanks to power cut
The SpratlyIslands town was pitch-dark in evening. A military Major, head of the main island said that the island used to have 25 solar towers, each of them was worth 16,000 USD but at that time, only 5 of them worked. The others had been already damaged by storms. The Major added that power was available round the clock at some places of the main island such as the headquarters of the town administration, the information office, the guest-house and the military medical facility.
We stayed with a section of naval soldiers in block of spacious buildings without power available. Knowing that I had problems with battery charge because of the power failure, the head of the mainland himself referred me to Doctor Lieutenant Nguyen Ha Ngoc, who was in charge of the medical care in the island. Doctor Ngoc was a Binh Dinh – born person like me.
Lieutenant Ngoc, 30, looked young with short-cut hair. He gave me a tight handshake after the introduction and a “test” of Binh Dinh typical dialect pronunciation. The doctor was born in Quy Nhon city. He had been working as a surgeon for 175 Military Hospital before being assigned to the task at the SpratlyIslands town within one year and a half. Under feeble lamplight, he charged the battery for me and then introduced his comrades to the visitor from afar.
The town reserved several blocks of small buildings only for the army doctors and nurses to take care health of the army officers, comprising an anesthetic room, a surgery room, a surgical diagnosis room, etc. They were small but the doctors and nurses were highly dutiful.
Ngoc bared his heart, “I had great passion for the medicine earlier. My father was a soldier. He expected me to succeed him as a soldier. That’s reason why I have been in the army service since then.” Living at the island, he suffered homesickness.He just entertained himself with a small cassette and a laptop computer that he brought with him to the island. The evening was hot. He and other people sat under canopy of Barringtonia asiatica trees, chatting together.
The army doctors said the town’s infirmary was the final medical service available in the SpratlyIslands district, Khanh Hoa central province. In case of being critically ill, patients would be transferred to the mainland. The infirmary had been fulfilled its duties very well. No patients had to be transferred to the mainland with hardship in season of whirlwind.
Unexpected “Chivas 21 wine” at such remote islands town
Next morning, Army Doctor Lieutenant Ngoc in his army uniform took me to meteorological station in the main island of the Spratly archipelago to meet another Binh Dinhs man, Mr. Dao Ba Cao, head of the station. On our way, Ngoc said between jest and earnest, “The town has two directors: one is director of the power service whom you met yesterday and the other is director of the weather service whom you are going to meet this morning”.
Cao looked much older than his age of 30 because he had been continuously exposed to weather to measure rainfall, cloud, etc. Knowing that the visitor was a Binh Dinh born reporter, he had already prepared 333 beer – which the islanders usually called “Chivas 21 wine” – to treat us. As my eyes and mouth were wide open in big surprise, “the weather service director” explained, “We often have wine available to enjoy in sipping manner. The beer was transported from the mainland. The precious drinking is more valuable if it is stored in fridge.
Over home-grown ripe papayas dish that went together with the “Chivas 21 wine”, Cao started to talk about reason why he had been in the island. “After graduating a meteorology junior college, I took job as a meteorologist at the island in 2000. Then, I was transferred to Hydro-meteorological Forecast Centre at Bong Son commune, Hoai Nhon district, Binh Dinh province. I got married and had 2 daughters in that place. I has just been moved to the island the second time as head of the station here,” said Cao.
Every day, he made climate and weather change monitoring reports the Southern Central Vietnam Hydro-meteorological Forecast Centre. His station comprised 6 individuals. All of them were young. Repress his homesickness at nightfall, Cao actively fulfilled his duties.
Returning the island several years later, Cao commented, “Thanks to attentive support of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Government, standard of living at the SpratlyIslands has considerably improved. Solar energy replaces the diesel power. Phone connection to the mainland is available now. Quality of life is secured”.
Cao used to make reports to the Southern Central Vietnam Hydro-meteorological Forecast Centre via Icoms before. In stormy season, the machines worked unstably, causing difficulties in communication. For the present, on the contrary, Cao just sat at one place, freely performed his task and even called his family every day.
“I am a dweller of the SpratlyIslands town”
Meeting the local residents of the SpratlyIslands town, I found that they were all proud of being Vietnamese citizens living at the inviolable islandish territory of Vietnam. Overcoming the most arduous hardship, they had been made the remote undetachable part of the motherland more prosperous as next generations kept on growing there.
At a block of spacious buildings which looked like newly-built modern houses in the mainland, suddenly appeared in front of me a family of 5 people – a couple and their 3 children. They were from Tay Son district. The husband was Vo Van Truong (1974) and the wife was Nguyen Thi Hanh (1973).
Truong had been a farmer before moving to the island in response to the call of claiming Vietnamese marine sovereign. He had 3 children – 2 sons and 1 daughter. The two elder sons at the time were pursuing their studying at the mainland. The youngest child stayed with them in the spacious government-granted house. Most of the couple’s neighbours were Binh Dinh-born people. They mutually cared together. Truong could remember exactly full name and birthday of each person and the children who were born and had been growing up in the islandish town.
Truong shown his warm hospitality and honestly asked his wife to slaughter a hen to treat me but I insistently refused his suggestion. He then asked his wife to bring Bau Da wine, a famous speciality of Binh Dinh locality, to treat me instead. He wanted to prolong my stay. I realized how treasure was the countrymanship.
Over small glasses of the strong wine, Truong confided, “Many relatives of mine and my wife are still living at Tay Son. We try to visit them or enjoy Tet Lunar Festival with them every couple of years. Living here, we are homesick very much but proud of partly contributing to protect the inviolable territory of the motherland.”
Sunlight was in high rise. The ship whistled resoundingly to remind its member of coming back to the dock, leaving the main island of the Spratly archipelago. The couple and their daughter saw me off at the dock. The wife Hanh whispered to my ear, “Could you please take me some photos and send them to me later?”
The female islanders dressed beautifully and femininely in Vietnamese traditional clothes of coloured ao dai to solemnly bid farewell to the delegation.
The leave-taking moment came with both tears and smiles. We were loath to part with together. The town with its friendly but unyielding citizens, its windmill-like solar towers gradually disappeared from view. The ship continued its voyage itinerary to other islets and reefs of the SpratlyIslands.
As a Binh Dinh-born person, I felt so proud of my countrymen who had been bravely coping with the extreme weather to protect the national waters, showing the upright spirit of people from the land of martial arts.
An – Hoa
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