Day on a farm

Cam Ranh Travel Blog

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Niece Oanh, Hoang, and sister Lien

Vern ran the control tower at my wartime helicopter base at Dong Ba Thin, located along Highway 1 between Cam Ranh and Nha Trang. He married Hoang who worked at one of the enlisted mans clubs there in 1971 and they have lived in Washington state ever since. She comes back to visit family in Cam Ranh quite regularly. Though we were at Dong Ba Thin at the same time, we never met then but it was fascinating to finally meet her right back here after all those years.

Vietnamese tend to have large families and hers was no exception. Of three sisters and two brothers, only Hoang was ever able to get out of the country since the war. One of the brothers maintains the family farm which is about five miles inland from Cam Ranh Bay.

Cracked house
Being a non-farming foreigner in a strange land, my initial fascination with the place - and probably the only common thing that we could all relate to - was the wartime damage to the house itself. In a failed attempt to bomb the small bridge a hundred yards upstream, a gaping hole was blown into the west wall. Fortunately Hoang's mother and none of the kids were injured. I made an attempt to apologize and stressed the fact that I was only a helicopter mechanic. The bulk of the damage had long been repaired but wide cracks in the structure remain.

The roughly five-acre farm straddles a small river and includes several rice paddies, dozens of coconut palms, banana, mango, and guava trees, and others that produce just about every type of tropical fruit found in the country.

Dredging sand from the river
Small gardens grow an assortment of vegetables. With a fattening hog, a young cow, and a dozen or more roaming chickens, the place seemed as self-contained as could be. While the so-called 'modern world' talks of 'going green' as if it were some kind of brilliant new scheme to save the planet, Hoang's family - and billions like them - have been there for countless generations.

Family members gather to help out with major projects. During my most recent visit they were busy dredging sand from the river. On start-up, black smoke belched from a floating pump and a pipeline of plastic 3-inch tubing spewed muddy water onto the riverbank. Run-off water trickled into the rice fields. The sand would eventually be hauled away to mix concrete at countless building sites taking place throughout the booming country.

Lan inspecting the rice fields

I waded across the river, following one of the boys in his search for just the right sized bamboo to mend a broken ladder. While another lad shimmied up a tree to harvest a few coconuts, I tagged along with Lan on her inspection of the rice paddies. She confirmed that harvest will be ready in about a month - the first of three annual crops. Several of the other women gathered bundles of unproductive grass for feeding the young ox. After a fine lunch of rice, vegetables, pork, and dried squid, I helped plant rows of corn by dropping two kernels into freshly dug holes then tamping them closed with my flip-flops.

But life on the farm was not all work. My hosts rolled out a round basket boat and I got to try paddling the awkward craft up and down the river. That skill will take much more practice and I look forward to more of that next month during the rice harvest. 

spocklogic says:
Interesting reading on a Vietnamese farming 'slice of life'. It is strange how the west talks of going green like technology has always been there. Your viewpoint is well taken and seeing it first hand is a perspective to be appreciated. I enjoyed the journal entry here.
Posted on: Mar 03, 2013
bigmac993 says:
Very interesting and enjoyable!
Posted on: Mar 02, 2013
sylviandavid says:
Really enjoyed this. Roger, You lead the good life... thanks so much for sharing your perspective. sylvia
Posted on: Jan 07, 2012
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Niece Oanh, Hoang, and sister Lien
Niece Oanh, Hoang, and sister Lien
Cracked house
Cracked house
Dredging sand from the river
Dredging sand from the river
Lan inspecting the rice fields
Lan inspecting the rice fields
Bridge that survived bombing attem…
Bridge that survived bombing atte…
Farm house
Farm house
Rice
Rice
Starting the pump
Starting the pump
Coconut harvest
Coconut harvest
Paddling a basket boat
Paddling a basket boat
Cam Ranh
photo by: rotorhead85