Saturday, March 18, 2017


My sister had just finished high school in a nearby city and returned home. We got along well even though I was six years her junior. We would work together in the fields, staying late to admire the sunset while guarding the ripening rice crop against the bad bad birds that would swoop down now and then to peck at the precious grains.

One day my mother came home with tears in her eyes and a piece of paper in her hand. The piece of paper was an order from the authorities for my sister to join the Young Volunteers Corps. This meant she would be sent to wild jungles and clear the land and turn it into plantations owned by the state.

There was no other way but to accept the inevitable. The number of days my sister could stay with us kept getting shorter; and on the day of parting, accompanied by my mother, she carried her small luggage to a big empty yard in front of the public meeting house. A fleet of buses was waiting there, and a somber crowd was gathering that comprised mostly young draftees and their anxious families.

Despite the pep talk delivered by a couple of communist party officials, a huge sound of collective wailing broke out when the buses began rolling.

And that's how the Young Volunteers got started in our village. It would be years before I saw my sister again.