I clearly remember the fragrance of the eucalyptus trees

Music brings out memories. This song reminds me of my childhood in Vietnam where I was living between the years 1977 and 1979. Me and my family was living at a camp in a small village called Uong Bi. During these years my mom’s husband was working for Sida and my mom was busy being me and my brother’s schoolteacher .

We were several children at the camp. The school was in our homes, in the living room, and we studied on weekdays between 08.00 and 12.00. In the afternoon we often played in and around the pool placed in the middle of the camp or I’d go visit my Vietnamese friends, three sisters named Nga, Tang and En.

The sisters and their family lived in a small house just outside the camp down the hill. The house was made of cement blocks which the family made by themselves. Once, when I was about to help them carry one of the stones they had made I dropped it and it broke. I felt very bad, but my friends parents were sweet and understood I was just a kid. Every now and again I was invited in to their house where they had a special little table in a corner of the livingroom decorated with flowers and incenses, and on the wall hung a photo of Ho Chi Minh.

The fragrance of the eucalyptus trees…
I carrie pictures in my head of the red sand (laterite) and of the water buffaloes walking around freely and of the children often lying on the animals back while doing their homework.
Their school was located in the middle of the village, the kids wore school uniforms and sometimes when we walked by we could hear them sing an anthem dedicated to Ho Chi Minh.
I can still sing parts of the song, that I learned of my friends.

The white wall that surrounded the camp.
The time when one of the guards who walked around the camp at night scolded my Vietnamese friends. I have never forgotten. A memory from a child perspective.

We had been drawing pictures of pretty girls with charcoal on the white wall! A lot of pictures. Our paintings were really nice, we thought. But the guard did not.

Perhaps this was the first time I experienced that we were treated differently. Regardless, it became very clear that night. I was white and rich. My friends were Vietnamese and poor. My family was in the country to help. Rescuer and victim. My family lived inside the white wall, the sisters’ and their family lived outside. Nga, Tang and En got scolded for drawing pictures with charcoal on the white wall, I did not.
I felt embarrassed.
I knew it was wrong, I stood up for my friends and took my part of the responsibility.
That incident I have never forgotten.

The year was 1978. I was sitting in my room or maybe in the living room and probably I was listening to The Carpenters, Grease or Lynn Anderson while a gecko lizard ran past along the wall. At a camp surrounded by a white wall in a small village situated between the capital Hanoi and the coastal city of Haiphong in Vietnam. I was eight years old.

Maybe I decided to go out and play with the other children who lived at the camp. Or I was about to go visit my friends outside the white wall down the hill. Cause they could never come visit me. But like children often do, we found our on ways to get to play together. Despite what was separating us.

I must say my mom inspired me and my brother in such a fine way. She has never been afraid of differences and I´m thankful for the fact that she during my childhood in such a natural way spoke about a constant human worth, regardless of were we come from, religion, sexual preferences or the color of our skinn.

Beyond the barriers of language and strange adult rules me and my Vietnamese firends played with each other down at the hillside surrounded by the red sand and water buffaloes. Sometimes we went past their houses as far as in to the forest of the eucalyptus trees.

We were very cautious in order not to get bitten by snakes along the trail. We broke the cane along the way to munch on and maybe we sang. Yes, we probably did.

And some days the tropical rain would fall. Millions of tiny warm drops of water.
Afterwords the fragrance of the eucalyptus trees would spread even more than usual. Along with the trails, past my friends house down the hill up and over the white wall into the camp. The scent remains in my memory as a part of my childhood.

This is post #19 in #Blogg100




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