Nose to Earth in the Here and Now


S. is finally feeling semi-human again and successfully navigating the chaos that is motorbike traffic in Ho Chi Minh City.  On Sunday she walked without incident from her hotel near Le Van Tam Park all the way east to the Saigon River–a distance of, perhaps, 30 blocks.  That she felt well enough to embark on such a hike indicates to me just how much better she’s feeling.  I’m relieved–especially since I haven’t heard her cough since Saturday.  I think we’re well on our way to healthier days.

Tomorrow S. leaves for a three day trip to the far south of Vietnam, where refugees from the Khmer Rouge regimie in Cambodia eek out a bleak existence, living off of garbage dumps in the Mekong delta.  Her NGO is undertaking a building project in the region that will help house these people.  If you recall, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in the 70’s, exterminating more than a million ethnic Muslim minorities and intellectual elite–many of whom fled into Thailand and Vietnam.  It is the current generation of this displaced group that needs housing now in the south of Vietnam.

S. will return to Saigon on Saturday, before leaving for Hanoi in the middle of the following week–a three or four day trip to visit with members of her staff who office there and with our friends Robin and Luyen.  I believe I may have mentioned before that Robin works for another international NGO and Luyen is a Vietnamese fashion designer.  They met and married while Robin was working in a Vietnamese refuge camp to which  Luyen had fled during the war.

Back in Lexington I am enjoying Spring Break, not so much for its freedom from work, but more for the freedom it allows me to do the work I need to–a rare luxury, actually.  So far I’ve done little more than grade student essays and run errands.  However, the weather today has been lovely–warm sunshine.  I sat outside  in it  this afternoon while grading.  The  dogs enjoyed their opportunity to lounge in the sun and sniff the yard.  Inch by inch and foot by foot, they circled the fence line looking for God knows what, navigating,  noses to  earth,  with seeming disregard for the eventual success or failure of their search. 

If only I could experience such satisfaction in the process, in the mere doing of anything, less concerned about the outcome and more engaged in the nose-to-earth navigation itself–there’s surely something about the smell of soil  that keeps us grounded, mindful of the place we’ve all been planted.

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