Last weekend, my class had a trip to Nam Dinh. Literally, it is a so-called “graduation trip” to celebrate the occasion in which we are about to graduate from university, leaving these 4 years filled with beautiful memory for another period of my life. I am not certain about how my classmates thought about this trip or thought about any significant meaning underlying in the word “graduation”. To me, it is just the same as other trips we have taken during the last four years. Perhaps I have not got the feeling of being really kicked out from university. Perhaps we have lots of trips together and I do think that our friendship will be unchanged forever, every trip was, is, and will be always awesome and important; therefore, there is no need to attach this “graduation” before “trip”.
I decided to abandon everything in the hustle and bustle of Ha Noi, picking up my bag and going on the train to get to Nam Dinh, which is also the hometown of one classmate. It is not totally true to say “abandon everything”. At the night before the trip, I was still overwhelmed with more than 60 application forms of Yplatform and did not go to sleep until 1 am before waking up at 4 am to prepare for the trip. I try to lift out all thoughts of mine about future career, which has haunted me seriously for the last two years. Chain of continuous failures in hunting jobs makes me worn out, freak out for some times but gradually be accustomed to it and not scare anything anymore. However, I know a little enthusiastic spirit of the youth has been undermined as well.
During time on the train, instead of chatting with friends, I spent 2 hours looking at the outside of the window, seeing the landscape out there. I didn’t want to chat with friends as I was so tired due to lack of sleep in the previous day and I didn’t have enough strength to increase the volume of my voice over the noise made when the wheels of the train crashed on the railway. The landscape on the railway is not special, let alone it is boring and dirty. Houses built right beside the railway are often small, and old with the fading paint color. I feel sorry for these houses as they have to suffer from the noise from the train as well as the terrible smell when the train goes by. When the train goes by the countryside, the landscape was much better. It is summertime right now. I found myself attracted by the images of lotus ponds, of green paddy fields, of small ponds full of water. The image that makes me interested the most is the image of luffa flowers blooming on the dark green leaves beside the ponds. I have thought that I am intrigued with the idea of flying to faraway cities with concrete jungle like New York, Hong Kong… and have been no longer interested in the landscape of the countryside. I was wrong. On seeing beautiful and shining yellow luffa flowers, I recalled beautiful piece of writing written by Vu Tu Nam, a famous Vietnamese writer. This piece of writing has been put in the Reading book when I was at the 2nd grade and I believe that it has been embedded in the mind of many generations: “It is wonderful! Yellow flowers are like beautiful streaks of sunshine blooming brightly on the green leaves. The luffas mirroring on the pond makes the water shine brilliantly. Little fish swims around the luffas, not leaving for anywhere. Then, flowers continuously bloom. Then, luffa fruit comes out as big as finger, as mouse and … as a big fish. One day, my sisters and I picked a lot of luffa fruit. My grandma had me give these luffa fruits to my aunt, my uncle, each one apiece.” (Original passage: “Thật là tuyệt! Mấy bông hoa vàng tươi, như những đốm nắng, đã nở sáng trưng trên giàn mướp xanh mát. Cái giàn trên mặt ao soi bóng xuống làn nước lấp lánh hoa vàng. Mấy chú cá rô cứ lội quanh lội quẩn ở đó chẳng muốn đi đâu. Cứ thế, hoa nở tiếp hoa. Rồi quả thi nhau chòi ra… bằng ngón tay… bằng con chuột. Rồi bằng con cá chuối to. Có hôm chị em tôi hái không xuể. Bà tôi sai mang đi biếu cô tôi, dì tôi, cậu tôi, chú tôi, bác tôi, mỗi người một quả.”(Sorry for my lame translation)). It is difficult to express my feeling at that time. Everything which used to belong to my childhood suddenly came back and filled up my mind. I recalled blissful childhood without worries, beautiful pieces of writing in old reading books, the funny poem about the countryside written by 5-year-old me, and my mother, because she appeared in my childhood all the time.
The train arrived at Nam Dinh. I was not amazed at the small size and quiet atmosphere of a provincial railway station. Nam Dinh City is as small as a district of Ha Noi. I can hardly see any tall buildings in this city. The city is quiet with small houses and groceries on the streets and vehicles seem to play a slow and romantic dance, which is contrast to the hasty dance of vehicles in Ha Noi.
Nam Dinh people welcomed us warmly while the weather here greeted us with a long and heavy rain. Rain kept falling down during our two days there, ruining all of our plans of hanging around this small city. Instead of going around discovering Nam Dinh’s cuisine, we spent most of our time for in-house activities like karaoke, card playing, etc. We did not feel sad at all but enjoyed every moment there. I had good time with friends, had good time to be far away from Ha Noi, had time to free myself from work, from all the worries that haunted me for the last months. It is, however, not totally true to say we stayed in-house all the times. We also had a short visit to the sea. Hai Thinh Sea was far different from what we expected for a “real” sea. It, in fact, has no beach and the water is damn so impure. But I think it was also fine to spend two hours sitting on the edge of the sea and enjoyed this seaside atmosphere. It took such a long time for us to go back the city from Hai Thinh. The landscape as I see from the window is so simple. There were some places covered with water and water and hardly could I see any sign of people living there. You might also see a small house surrounded by water. If you are luckier, you could see some small villages by the way. Thing that make this land strange is that while there seems to be few people living there, there are still a lot of churches built here. Looking at the scenery, I thought much about people living there. I wonder about the destinies of people there, wonder if they were satisfied with their quiet life there. I wonder if they have ever thought of living in a crowded city like me living in Hanoi keeping thinking about chances of studying or working in New York or Hong Kong. The idea of leading a free life in the nature sounds beautiful. However, it is not beautiful anymore if people living there still have to struggle with their lives to make all ends meet.
Before coming back to Ha Noi, we had to wait the train for such a long time due to a delay caused by the bad weather. Standing beside the railway, a friend of mine suddenly said: “Do you feel that this station is so small and everything here is just ugly and boring? If I had to live here for my whole life, I would die of being bored.” I don’t answer her question as I don’t have an exact answer. I thought of the station staff, who spent most of their lives there. I don’t know about their feeling when they are the one who actively help other people realize the dream of traveling while they may not have many chances to travel. (It is somehow like me, organizing lots of events for students realizing their dreams of winning prizes while I have obtained little success as a contestant.)They may be satisfied with their life there and they have been accustomed to it. For them, it is enough. Or they may be worrying about earning enough money to feed their families and for them, it is no point caring about the ugliness or the boredom of this station. And does this ugliness and boredom matter? I came back to Ha Noi, continuing to fight for jobs, fighting for my dream of flying to faraway land. Goodbye Nam Dinh, see you again!