A typical day at the MINUSCA
Every day, the clock alarm goes off at 5:30 when it is still dark outside. Today, Major Dinh Duc Long is “on lodging duty”, which means he is to cook breakfast, prepare lunch boxes for others in the lodge to carry to work. At 7:20, after breakfast, everyone takes their backpacks and lunch boxes and walks to work. Walking from home to the mission’s HQs may be one of their most interesting periods of time of the day. A long the way, all local people they meet greet them. The children not only greet, but also run up to them to shake hands. Welcoming them at the gate of the UN mission are the greetings in the Sango language of the guards. They happily greet, “Good morning the Vietnamese people!”
|Buying stuff in preparation for the special day|
There are three Vietnamese officers working in Bangui (the capital city of the Central African Republic). They are Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son, Major Dinh Duc Long and Captain Ho Tien Hung. They also live in the same lodging. Major Tran Van Giang and Captain Nguyen Quoc Khanh are living and working about 1,000km from the capital. Every day, they perform their typically-assigned tasks. Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son is a staff and operation officer at the Military Operations Center. Every day, he updates information about military activities across the Central African Republic, processes and synthesizes information into reports, updates the map of troop deployments, including information about troop strengths and troop stations, etc. for more than 11,000 UN troops in the Central African Republic. Major Dinh Duc Long is a staff and training officer. His job is to give advice on military training at the mission; coordinate with others to prepare, implement and monitor weekly, monthly and quarterly training plans; organize training courses to help new troops to the mission familiarize with the situation. Captain Ho Tien Hung is a logistics officer, so he often travels to units stationed outside the mission’s HQ. He is responsible for making inspection plans, maintaining contact with units, implementing the plans and solving problems related to the units he is in charge of. He also makes monthly updates on the equipment status of units to report to the UN equipment management system. In the Eastern Division, Major Tran Van Giang works as a liaison officer and Captain Nguyen Quoc Khanh works in the Western Division.
In Bangui, a typical working day ends at 17:15 and UN buses will take the staffs back to their lodgings. On the way back, Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son will get off the bus when it is about half a kilometer from the lodging to teach his special class. The classroom consists of a small table and four stools placed in the corner of the yard, no blackboard, no chalk, no textbooks, and just a few notebooks and pens. The teacher is Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son; he teaches mathematics, and the learners are four Central African students. The students speak French, while the teacher speaks English. Despite language differences, the students still understand what the teacher says. The “class” ends when it gets dark and both the teacher and students can no longer see the text. From the “class”, Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son walked to the lodging, where dinner is waiting. Dinners are often simple, but always warm with comradeship. A typical day of the Vietnamese military officers at the MINUSCA usually starts and ends like that, with a lot of energy and activities and full of warmth of humanity and comradeship.
After dinner, as a routine, the Vietnamese officers exchange notes about the work during the day. However, today they talked about another topic. They discussed the preparation for the celebration of a special day of Vietnam at the MINUSCA. From the discussion, an overall plan with all details came into being.
At 17:00 on Thursday, December 12, 2017, the five Vietnamese officers got into a Nissan Patrol seven-seater vehicle borrowed from the UN mission to go to the “PK0” market. Major Tran Van Giang and Captain Nguyen Quoc Khanh came to Bangui just in time for the preparation of the celebration. The market is the busiest area of the Central African Republic and it is also a little insecure. On approaching the market, Captain Hung guarded in the car while others bought the necessary things.
After 18:00, the officers returned to the lodge, seeing Annie and Grace – mothers of Lieutenant Colonel Son’s students and the four students already waiting. Aunt Laura, who once worked for the World Food Program in Vietnam, just arrived. They were special guests, who were looking forward to learning more about the culinary culture of Vietnam. They were also helpful assistants who would help the officers prepare for the special event the next day. The officers then guided them to prepare beans, lotus seeds, vermicelli, cloud ear fungus, etc., which the officers had brought there from Vietnam. Annie helped prepare beef while Aunt Laura interpreted from French into English. Then in a happy atmosphere full of fun, they prepared “nem” (spring roll). An hour later, Major Long parboiled beef, fresh onion, and made each one a bowl of “pho” (Vietnamese beef noodle). Everyone nibbled on “pho” and “nem” when enjoying the two dishes for the first time.
The special day
On the morning of the next day, Friday, December 22, 2017, the Vietnamese military officers got up earlier than usual. Right at 5 o’clock, they quickly started preparing for the celebration of an important day at the MINUSCA. At 7:30, more than 50 military officers from various countries in the mission gathered at the briefing room for the morning briefing under the chair of Lieutenant General Balla Keita, Force Commander of the MINUSCA.
|Officers at the MINUSCA in a joint photo with Vietnamese officers|
At 9:00 o’clock, the briefing ended. On the big screen in the room, the Vietnamese flag appeared on the left. In the middle was the UN flag and on the right was the flag of the Central African Republic. Below were the words “The 73rd founding anniversary of the Vietnam People’s Army.” On behalf of the Vietnamese officers working at the MINUSCA, Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son gave a brief introduction of the establishment, development and some major military campaigns of the Vietnam People’s Army. Son also highlighted the participation of Vietnam in the UN peacekeeping operations and especially the establishment of the Vietnam Peacekeeping Center (now Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations) and Vietnam’s sending 19 officers to UN peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. He also informed international friends about the first Vietnamese female officer working at the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. At present, Vietnam is implementing pre-deployment training for its level-two field hospital and engineer companies, ready to be deployed to a UN peacekeeping mission soon.
After the introduction, on behalf of the Vietnamese officers working at the MINUSCA, Lieutenant Colonel Le Ngoc Son expressed his thanks to the mission’s commander and colleagues for their support for the Vietnamese officers to fulfill their assigned tasks. Lieutenant General Balla Keita, on behalf of the mission, thanked Vietnam for sending officers to the mission. He also thanked the Vietnamese officers for giving him the opportunity to have a better understanding of the Vietnam People’s Army, President Ho Chi Minh and military legend General Vo Nguyen Giap. Deputy-Force Commander, Major General Sidiki Daniel Traore said, “I have read a lot about the Vietnam People’s Army, the life and career of President Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap. I reserve my great respect for them and see General Vo Nguyen Giap as a great teacher.”
At the end of the celebration, everyone gathered in the canteen, where the Vietnamese officers had shipped the food they had prepared the previous day. “Pho” and “nem” were the main dishes, and also the main topic of discussion about Vietnamese cuisine. The party took place in a warm atmosphere, just like in Vietnam. A Kenyan officer said, “I like Vietnamese ‘pho’ and ‘nem.’ However, the dishes today are very special. Very delicious! I will forever remember the tastes of the dishes and the friendliness of the Vietnamese troops. Thank you very much!”
The celebration of the 73rd founding anniversary of the Vietnam People’s Army in the Central African Republic ended in the warmth of the local people and staff of the MINUSCA. For the officers of the Vietnam People’s Army, perhaps each day in the MINUSCA is already a special day, as they are helping international friends further understand the virtue of Uncle Ho’s soldiers and the cultural identities of Vietnam. For them, teaching or introducing Vietnamese culture to locals and international friends is also the way to preserve peace.
Written by Le Son (from the Central African Republic)
Translated by Huu Duong
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