In 1965, the US officially bombed the North on a large scale. That summer, my class in 10th grade at my school, Chu Van An, had just graduated from high school (10-year system), was waiting to go to university or join the army, go to different jobs, we were moved to Bac Giang to participate in the construction of Ha Bac nitrogenous fertilizer factory. At that time, it seems that Bac Giang and Bac Ninh were one province, hence the name Ha Bac.
From Hanoi to Bac Giang, about 60 km or so, we sat on the Hanoi-Lang Son market train, everyone was excited. Since this is volunteer work, we were excited when we heard two words ‘volunteer’ and were ready to go.
The Ha Bac nitrogenous fertilizer plant, located quite close to the Kep military airport, was the focus of the bombing of American planes. Regardless, we have fun. Going to class is fun.
Volunteer labor, but the state feeds rice, three meals a day, that’s all, nothing else. Labor is very manual, digging tunnels under the factory floor. At that time, the factory only had the foundation. Specialized labor tools are hoe, shovel, pickaxe. Each day and night is divided into three shifts. Our young students are given priority to work the night shift, from 9pm to 5am. Work all night. Although, shift three is shift three, we don’t think, just accept the job, do it. It seems that back then, working the night shift didn’t get any training, we plowed all night, finished the shift at 5 am, went to the factory yard…played football. Then I know, youth is really happy. God gives free health, just use it. No need to sleep, play football bored, take a bath, have breakfast, then play many other games, because you can rest all day, go back to work at night.
During the three months of the crime, we did not know how Bac Giang’s eyebrows were. The Thuong River is known only in the poetry of Tu Luc Van Doan, it seems that he can bathe in the Thuong River once.
It was at the beginning of America’s destructive war, the situation was not too tense, so the nitrogen fertilizer factory floor was never bombed. We stayed in the camp, like real workers. The girls in the class, it seems that they also went to Bac Giang at first to join the labor force for a few meals, after the factory saw that their daughter worked in such an extreme shift, so they sent them back to Hanoi. Just us boys, keep it up, just keep your shorts off and top, kick the ball and then shower, that’s great.
Every month, we take turns to return to Hanoi for a few days, called “retirement”. Returning to Hanoi, despite the war, still happy. Until later, when I was evacuated to Dai Tu-Thai Nguyen at university, I still longed to return to Hanoi, even if it was only for a few days. Coming back to walk around the streets, drinking beer, watching the girls in blue military uniforms with soft hats, many pretty girls are pretty, that’s enough to satisfy.
At the Bac Giang nitrogen fertilizer factory under construction, to be honest, girls are as rare as wing noodles. It doesn’t matter, because we’re here to do volunteer work, not to flirt with girls. It was so bright that day.
Until later, when the peace was long, I still rarely passed through Bac Giang, let alone visit again. Unfortunately, just because Bac Giang and Hanoi are still “near the road, far from the alley”.
It wasn’t until 2012 or 2013 that I and a few friends had the opportunity to visit Bac Giang, when going from Cao Bang to Hanoi. Hong Son, my “social” brother, is working at Dung Quat oil refinery, a hometown in Bac Giang city. Son told me: “I’m going to Bac Giang to visit my mother, let me tell my brother to pick up the group to have lunch in Bac Giang city.” It is true that the first time I really knew Bac Giang city, was when this city was already in full bloom, the street was already clean. Suddenly I remember the Ha Bac nitrogenous fertilizer factory, where I used to volunteer nearly 50 years ago, there was Bac Giang city that day.
At noon, Mr. Minh – Hong Son’s biological brother, picked us up to visit Minh and Son’s mother, then led us to a very cool restaurant in the middle of the city. This is a restaurant with a special dish called “black pig under armpit”, processed into 5 or 7 dishes. All arranged in a big woven bamboo mat lined with fresh banana leaves, to adjust the center of the table. Always fragrant. It is true that this dish has a bit of a dish of the De Tham insurgent army, rich in Gypsy, but it is very delicious and very refreshing. I know more about Bac Giang than that. But it’s impressive. Unfortunately, I still have not had the opportunity to return to Yen The to visit the De Tham insurgent base, which is also the place where the great writer Nguyen Hong – who I admire very much, brought his whole family here to reclaim the wasteland for farming. , keeping the temperament of a worker’s writer, upright, chivalrous and indomitable.
Now, Bac Giang is suffering from a devastating covid epidemic. Although I am old and no longer healthy enough to join volunteer groups in Bac Giang to fight the epidemic, like in the past, I used to volunteer to work to build Ha Bac nitrogenous fertilizer factory, but in my heart, I suddenly miss The land I used to be attached to, but not much.
Bac Giang still has the Thuong River, which means that Vietnamese people, wherever they are, still love that land rich in love.