Nostalgia

Nguyễn Hữu Lý



On a fertile far-flung land of Quang DA in Central Vietnam, he started his first cry into life. As time went on, he gradually grew-up under his good-hearted mother’s hip and he lived harmoniously. He had a calm and simple-mannered concern for his fellow-citizens. What a picturesque countryside was his lovely homeland in peace time! IT was infused with the fragrant smell of the ripe corn spreading over the morning air, by the melodious tunes played on the flute by the shepherds as they rode the slow grazing buffalo, and by the high-flying kite’s howling over the windy evening sky. These were the elements that enhanced his homeland’s love.
How could he forget the river that beautifully and peacefully serpentine his native land! Its fresh and generous body spread over its banks by verdant mulberry trees and rice-fields. If his memory serves him well, the Thu Bon River symbolizes the love of the land by its current that flows from generation in these rhymes:
“The Thu Bon River
Enclosing with a myriad of verdant mulberries
Transparent and limpid,
Its water is still living-up for eternity.”
Origionating its source at Mount Ngoc Linh of the Que Son district, the Thu Bon River flows quietly through so many steep and rocky gorges in the western mountains. Young local poets found a perennial source of inspiration in beauties of nature, and expressed their admiration in these immortal verses with great pathos for this home river:
“Uphills and downhales,
The Thu Bon River leads through
Just the same a sweet singing
In a native soil abounding in rhythm of folksongs,
Freshly and affably such like its calm current.”
With its additional strong flow, the Thu Bon River makes its way thorugh the hills and the rocky gorges of Mounts Hon Kem and Da Dung that seem to try to stop the current of the river. But here the water forces its way through the thick rocks and it continues to run quietly through gorges lined with strange formations hidden by foliage. In this natural setting, the river mountains are partly covered by the mist, and the void is filled with the sounds of creatures. An unknown poet improvised a verse to imply their unsurpassed beauty and a human sense of homesickness and love:
“Looking up at Hon Kem and Da Dung
My heart links with homesickness and love for my parents.
You can return to see your parents again
But never do so for the love of the nature of your birthplace.”
For generations, the Thu Bon River has also been closely linked to the development of this homeland, bringing an evergreen color of prosperity and well-being to local denizens. It carries silt for the gardens of Que Son, and for the corn and mulberry fields of Dai Loc and Duy Xuyen, and for almost the whole farming area of Dien Ban. Here, Nature, seeming to sympathize with the local people will and desires, has endowed with favorable weather and fertile land. Various songs, often romantic and melodious, were sung when the boats are traveling up and down the river. They can be heard everywhere:
“There is no boat on my river
How can I catch the winds from the sea?
I feel pity for myself
Never abandon the small village and wander about in the busy city.”
Along the current to Duy Xuyen, tourists can contmeplate the ancient constructions established in the most prosperous period of the Champa Kingdom from the 6th to the 12th centuries, especially at the Holy land of My Son belonging to the Cau tribe. They worshipped the God-King Bhadresvara who was born in the 4th century.
After running through the fertile Go Noi area of Dien Ban the Thu Bon river rejoins the Ba Ren, then meets up with the Truong Giang to flow through Hoi An, the ancient town that once knew the feet of all merchants from every part of the world since the 15th century. It was a good land for settlers. Finally, the Thu Bon current pours out to the Dai Estuary into the South China Sea.
As for the native land of Quang Da, its local poets concentrated their thoughts romanticizing the rural life. This tendency is charming as these fine lines of poetry. According to them there is no place like home, be it ever so humble:

“As graceful as a ballet
Overflowing with generous vigor of living
In listening to undulating rice whistlings
One’s heart is filled with agitation.”

Besides these numerous beauties of Nature dilated upon the happiness of life worthy of remembrance, many memories came to his mind. Often they reminded him that Quang Da was well-known, not only as a place of numberless splendid landscapes but also as the cradle of learning men and scholars. Five candidates who were born at Quan Da all passed the same examination session to obtain the “doctorate” degree at the Capital Hue in 1898. To honor their extraordinary accomplishment, a royal edit was granted by Emperor Thanh Thai which promoted them with the title, “Ngu Phung Te Phi” (The Five Phoenixes Fly Together). Consequently, this writer tried to follow their example to preserve and develop the traditional local culture.
In addition, during his youth, he had witnessed so many vicissitudes and upheavals of the nation. Nearly a hundred years under the ambitious Colonialists’ and Facists’ yoke, by the assistance of feudal Kings and mandarins, his compatriots were robbed of all but their bones, and burdened high taxes. Miserably lacking in food and clothing, millions of Vietnamese were died of starvation in the 1940s. The ground was strewn with mortal remains to illustrate a never-yet-seen and heart-gripping tragedy in his people’s history. So Quang Da produced a great number of local patriotic revolutionaries who heroically sacrificed their lives to fight tyranny and oppression.
Taking advantage of the Vietnamese people’s patriotism, the communists forced a nine-year struggle against the French aggression, until 1954. This conflict causes numberless ravaging spectacles. The innocents’ blood poured out in rivers, and their bones heaped up into mountains during this long war. After that his country suffered from an ideological fighting against Communism, within less a quarter of century.
A ‘bitter’ event occurred in April 1975. The nationalist government collapsed, the army disintegrated, and communism began to take its toll. Vietnam became hell upon earth, with haunting nightmares of terror. Millions of boat refugees desperately tried to escape out of the country. They chose to face pirates and storms at sea in a fight for freedom. Thousands and thousands of other people died during their adventurous sea travels or during their unbearable imprisonment in communist concentration camps. Quang Da, as well as the whole nation, sank down the drain to drown in an ocean of misery.
Time hangs heavy and heals all sorrows. Living abroad, he longs to return to his homeland. His beautiful land has survived numerous challenges. He longs to see his relatives and friends, and to contemplate the former rustic landscapes with the voluptuous romance, as well as the natural beauty of the Thu Bon home river. His heart is overwhelmed with love and nostalgia after this long period of separation.