Such a fear-dreading name for such forgettable moments.
After only one week of school, hardly anyone is talking about NDE anymore. Was it that insignificant and trivial or was it a trip forced to forget that was filled with phobias and trepidations?
The initial sentiment was definitely so.
Remembering the period right before leaving for NDE, there was this picture circulating around the school, of the holy water faucet. Needless to say, panic ensued and VinUni was the number one consumer of water filters. People were packing essentials, really basic necessities for fear for their life: toilet paper, fans, even a bucket for who knows what. The night before VinUnians went to NDE, I don’t think anyone slept.
On the way to HUYE, the noble purpose of the training was once more reiterated. For Vietnam, for our country, for our people. Those patriotic words might have been our fiery motivators to psych ourselves up enough to not jump out of the bus and go back home. That or the fact that we won’t graduate without this.
Those 11 days flew by faster than expected; sure each countdown day constitutes a closer date back to “civilization”, but each day also brought about the intentionally ignored bit of happiness and comradery.
And that is just that. Everyone goes back to the same monotonous process and intense velocity of life. In about a month, no one will remember what it was like being in the midst of military training. Maybe long after we graduate, when we are successful or dissatisfied with life, happy or miserable, each of us reminisces about the time of the past. We would get together in our own little group, now feel so strange and new yet so familiar like meeting the same people in a deja vu, and to share the old old stories. How it was so terrifying and disgusting, one said, and how it was practically inhumane, another one commented.
I used to think it was cool to hate on the same thing together, desperately trying to make other people, even the ones whom I repulse, to validate my existence. Bandwagon effect, they call it. I call it bonding.
I don’t think the imagined versions of ourselves in the future denigrate National Defense Education in an attempt to exonerate their insecurities. Those futuristic adults with their complicated lives desperately try to cling to the past for the same sense of happiness, comradery, and of simply living without a single care within those years that will never again come. The world has been so brutal that they, miserable human beings with all their hearts and souls, “reluctantly" keep hanging onto the single vibrant image when they win the “Hoi Thao'', or when they sing and dance to the crackling sound of the campfire. They vilify the place to keep the priceless memory alive. They say they hate it because they love it.
Whilst still young and carefree, do what those nostalgic grown-ups can never do: it takes courage to step up and say: “I miss National Defense Education” amongst the sea of protestors. To finally admit and make peace with myself, that “I love that place because of the people I met and the experience I have fostered and the time spent exploring who I am.”
Because of …
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