The lotus revolution



November 3, 2017. On the eve of the official commemoration of the centenary of the communist revolution, the British journalist Radko visits Vietnam. The turmoil in the country is rising. Beside the contested construction of a wastewater treatment plant next to the Thai Ha monastery, the center of the resistance against the regime in Hanoi, increases the Chinese threat on the Vietnamese islands in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.
Radko meets in Thai Ha Father Phung and Le Quan, a leading dissident. They’re confronted with the intruding Secret Service and the ambitious general Dang Hung with his golden dragon ring, who wants to seize power. A clash seems inevitable …
Will the peaceful protesters, who are distributing the new Vietnamese flag – a white lotus on a yellow field – succeed to march to Ba Dinh Square, the historical center of the country? And liberate the country a few days before the celebration of the centenary of Communism?  


The book has eight chapters.
For more information: see on this website Koenraad De Wolf à Books


Lucky you!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport. The local time is 12.30 am and the temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. For your safety and comfort, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the Captain turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign. On behalf of Qatar Airlines and the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board again in the near future. Have a nice day.
   Radko gazes without any emotion at the woman next to him. Since their dispute after the layover in Doha he hasn’t said one word. She also looks in front of her.

‘What are you doing?’
   Radko looked up. ‘Working.’
   ‘On what matter?’
   ‘Mm, business.’
   ‘Writing reports which nobody reads, is boring.’
   When Radko noticed that the lady was secretly looking at his files, he launched a counter attack. From his aversion for curious people, he gave her tit for tat. ‘And what are you doing?’
   Although the headings of the documents on her small table don‘t lie, the lady hesitates. ‘I’m the director … of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.’
   ‘Interesting’, Radko remarked. ‘Visited Doha?’
   She nods.
   ‘I can’t imagine what you’re visiting in Qatar. Apart from the sand.’
   ‘Qatar will be organizing the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Also Vietnam as well wants to organize big international sports events. They’ve got a huge impact on the development of tourism.’
   ‘Qatar is an interesting case.’
   ‘What do you mean?’
   ‘In terms of how you can influence an allocation procedure by corruption. Learned a lot?’
   The lady turned white with fury, and looked straight ahead. Radko chuckled. Putting his nose in malodorous affairs: that’s the core business of his job.
   ‘Every disadvantage has an advantage’, he murmured.
   Now he had put that lady on her place, he could quietly do what he wanted. After a sleep he took his file again and made notes on his tablet. He still didn’t understand David’s obsession with that Thai Ha monastery. Moreover his boss had nothing in common with religion. And in the pictures these buildings resembled only any other old-fashioned religious construction.

He looks at his watch. 17 hours and 25 minutes ago he left Heathrow. As always he pays a lot of attention to these kind of details and puts his watch seven hours ahead. That’s the time difference with London. He thinks of his wife Sonja. Soon she has to wake up. She must go to work at the hospital. Being a nurse is donkey work. But does he have a better job?
   When the plane halts, he stands up. He still has to wait for a while before leaving and opens his bag. He caresses his Canon camera which endured the storms he had witnessed the past decades. Even though he thinks he takes the world’s best pictures, he only ranked third in the Spot News section of the World Press Photo contest in 1989. He can see those events clearly before his mind’s eye. It was a Thursday evening, November 9th, almost exactly 28 years ago. From his vantage point on the square nearby the Brandenburg Gate in the center of former West-Berlin, he witnessed a young man balancing on the Wall, supported by a cheering crowd, while an East-Berlin water cannon was aiming at him.
   This apparatus will retire with him, anonymous, like he will disappear from the scene. Yet after one day nobody will remember his name. He has yet reconciled a long time with the idea that’s his lifelong efforts will leave no traces.
   Standing he smiles at his fellow travelers: his electric toothbrush, fresh underwear, two singlets, red trouser – the first he had seen in his wardrobe –, a pajamas and rucksack. In a bundle of papers he finds his very first press card with a photo from the old box. His eyes fall on a letter Sonja had put inside his pajamas.

I hope you’ll enjoy your last great trip. ‘I’m looking forward to the moment we can spend
            more time together at last, and make the Asian tour we have been dreaming of for so
            many years. With love.

   Living together won’t be easy after their separated professional lives. How often had she had to work when he returned after the umpteenth task abroad? Moreover she seems obsessed by her stamp collection. Albeit that hobby makes choosing a present quite simple. There’s first the filling up of some gaps in her collection. She’s looking yet all her life at the stamps of queen Victoria, without a pendant, in green and yellow from the 1950s. Beyond new series of unserrated stamps make her as happy as a child. No country is missing.
   His thoughts go the couple of empty sheets in his hip pocket on which he – in a flash of inspiration and in rhyme - spontaneously writes Instant Poems. Hundreds of sheets like these are buried in a box in his archive. Even his wife doesn’t know about that little secret. Through a feeling of shame? He knows that this is third-rate poetry.
   He dreams yet for years to publish these when he will be retired. An extra attachment in The World Inside, as a coronation of his lifetime hard work for the newspaper. The title is yet engraved in his memory. From the first row. Instant poetry. But he hadn’t spoken so far with anyone on his plan. He’s realistic enough to see that with his present boss nothing will come of it.
   There is the muse again. He takes quickly his ballpoint pen.

            Soon I’m retired,
            and no longer admired,
            nor desired.

Nothing to get inquired
or to be wired.
No more need to be inspired
cause that’s no longer required.

Languished I feel so tired,
as my mind is yet expired.

   He nods. ‘Not bad.’
   ‘Will you take my luggage’, asks the lady next to him when he wants to leave the plane. She’s still not amused.
   Radko consents with a smile. ‘You’ll get my support.’
   ‘What for?’
   ‘The organization of the World Cup 2026 in Vietnam.’
   She reacts cynical. ‘And I’ll make sure to help you.’
   Radko hasn’t any idea what she’s talking about. He sets a step aside and bows. ‘Ladies first.’
   Without looking back she leaves.

Radko is pleasantly surprised when he enters the brand new airport terminal. He couldn’t recognize it since his last visit: eleven years ago, when he followed the APEC conference, attended by the former U.S. President George W. Bush jr. He remembers the limited waiting space. Due to the delay of his plane he had to stand right for hours.
   Several bi posters and the uniforms of the personnel that passes by refer to the many international airlines that are operating here. The catering facilities and shops with clothing, jewelry and perfumes are the same he has seen all over the world. There’s only one difference. All the personnel bear a red pin with the number hundred and the joined pictures of Marx, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh. And a huge signboard shows the slogan Communism is the past and the future, surrounded by the dates December 7 and 1917-2017. Brilliant posters on the wall show the touristic headlines: the Temple of Literature, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Water Puppet Theatre and Halong Bay.
    Queuing at customs, he gets fascinated by the pureness and the beauty of these mysterious green covered rocks in the midst of a deep blue sea.
   The customs officer takes his passport absent-mindedly and puts the front page on his scanner. His phone rings. This grouser has a long conversation in Vietnamese. Putting down his phone, he looks negligent at his screen.
   ‘Fan of Vietnam?’
   ‘History freak.’
   ‘Two years ago in Ho Chi Minh City?’
   ‘You mean Saigon?’ Teasing boring officials is one of his favorite hobbies. But the man can’t appreciate his humor, because no official dares to speak out the name of the former South-Vietnamese capital.

November 2015. Thu Thiem in Saigon. One hour after his arrival he stood in the pouring rain in the midst of the turmoil. While bulldozers demolished the whole district, thousands of people formed a living chain to stop the demolition of a school. A spontaneous vigil united Christians and Buddhist monks in their yellow clothes. They were praying, singing and tried above all to prevent the extinguishment of their candles.
   ‘The churches, schools and temples in Thu Thiem will not disappear’, said their spokesman firmly on CNN.
   These protesters put unexpectedly high pressure on the construction of a mega business center in that strategically located district, near the Saigon river. That had to radiate the international power and status of the government.
   The foreign television crew, photographers and journalists prevented the intervention of the massively mobilized police force. Fearing a loss of international prestige and economic damage, the authorities became powerless against the mass movements growing up from down under.
   That night he slept in the Ky Dong Redemptorist monastery in Saigon and witnessed how the combative, numerous and touting church took the lead in a peaceful fight against injustice, corruption and social shabbiness of a wild capitalist within a communist coat.

‘Your intention?’ asks the customs officer.
   ‘Discovering the country piece by piece.’
   ‘You only stay six days?’
   ‘I return Wednesday, November 8. The day after the celebration. I’m a fan of mass events’, he lies. ‘And that’s going to be a special one.’ A wide smile appears on his face.
   The customs officer noisily stamps the passport, and gives it back without one word, while his other hand demands the passport of the impatient man next in line. As a rule Radko would have greeted that impolite grumbler, but not today. He follows the sings Way out where he finds himself in a swarm of more than one hundred banners and huge flags with the pictures of the historical leaders on a red background, combined with the yellow star of the Vietnamese flag. The number hundred appears twice. The meaning seems clear: another centenary of Communism is coming up.
   People welcome each other with a warm hug or a cool kiss.
   ‘Taxi, sir?’
   ‘Do you want nice girl?’
   Because he is alone, Radko attracts a lot of attention from drivers and merchandisers. They surround him and shout louder and louder. Suddenly an older man in a uniform intervenes. He stretches his left hand and cries some words in Vietnamese. The scared bystanders leave drop by drop.
   ‘Welcome to Vietnam!’ The man greets him ceremoniously with a straight back. ‘Nguyen Dang Hung. Tourist Police Department.’ The man pretentiously puts his left hand on his breast, showing the golden ring at his finger with a striking ornament. That detail doesn’t escape Radko. Is that a dragon? And the Tourist Police Department. Hasn’t he read an article in which the government has dropped the plan to set up a special police force, under pressure of the Public Security Ministry? Apparently she has changed their mind.
   ‘We want to prevent that tourists are handled aggressively. But as you can see there’s still some work to do. Can I help?’
   ‘My savior’, reacts Radko, relieved. He tells that he’s going to exchange money and then take a taxi to his hotel.
   ‘Which one?’
   Radko isn’t amused, but stays polite. ‘I’ve to look in my papers.’
   ‘I reserve a taxi?’
   With these merchandisers aside, he accepts the offer. He remembers from his last visit that the green taxis are the most trusted, orders one and stands in the queue at the Exchange Office. The rate for one British pound is 34.046 Dong, two thousand Dong more than last time. For two hundred pounds he gets a packet of notes. He looks millionaire! Temporarily.
   On his way out he notices a box with souvenirs of the centenary. Curious to see what kind of trash they’re selling, he enters.
   ‘Welcome, sir.’ A nice young lady uses all her talents to sell her goods. ‘All prices are tax free.’
   Radko looks at the coins.
   ‘Three types of gold and two silver coins issued by the People’s Bank of Vietnam commemorate the anniversary. The face values vary from 500,000 till five million Dong. All copies are legally tendered.’
   Then his attention goes to the stamps.
   ‘You collect them?’
   ‘My wife.’
   ‘The Philatelic Corporation issued three collections. We celebrate a centenary only once in one hundred years.’
   The lady perceives that he likes that kind of humor.
   ‘They’re priced at 50.000, 80.000 and 150.000 Dong.’
   ‘I just arrived’, Radko tries to withhold her.
   ‘Then you’ve already found a unique typically Vietnamese present that will make her happy. I have no doubt. The pictorial design is submitted by the winner of an international competition.’ The lady knows how to bewitch him. ‘Abroad There’s a huge demand for this unique collector’s item. But we sell it only in Vietnam. And when you take the three collections, I’ll give you a ten percent discount. And I’ll pack it in our special wrapping paper.’
   ‘On my return’, he promises.
   ‘That offer is only valid till November 7. The remaining copies will be sold on an international stamp fair.’
   Convinced at last, Radko takes his wallet.

When he leaves, the man of the Tourist Police Department awaits him. Radko is content that the merchandisers in the background don’t intervene.
   ‘My guardian angel!’
   ‘The green taxi, as requested’, bows the man. He takes off his hat. Only now does he see the four golden stars on his shoulder strap. How is it possible that this had escaped his attention? So this is a high ranking official.
   The man opens the back door and presents his left hand with a shiny golden ring in order to receive a tip.
   Radko feels uncomfortable, but hasn’t any other choice. With dislike he takes the smallest note of 10.000 Dong. The general caresses his revolver and insignia. According to his rang is the tip too little.
   With disgust the journalist gives another 20.000 Dong. Now the man greets politely. Radko shakes his head. The tip, that’s what it’s all about.
   ‘Hanoi Apple Hotel. How much?’
   The driver in a red T-shirt points at his odometer.
   ‘Eh, your first trip to the city center?’ Radko challenges him.
   ‘Normally I only operate for multinationals. But during the celebration of the centenary more visitors arrive at the airport. My boss asked to stand in because of my knowledge of English.’
   ‘How much?’ repeats Radko.
   Once again he points at the odometer. ‘I prefer dollars.’
   ‘That’s not my question!’
   ‘We shall see’, the driver says starting the car . ‘My name is Sam.’ When the man turns his shoulder Radko sees that he is wearing a red skirt with the logo of the centenary.
   They drive on the brand new highway that apparently goes directly to the city center.
   ‘How long?’
   ‘About 45 minutes. It depends on the traffic.’
   Endless rows of gleaming luxury cars are standing in the parking areas and the industrial sites in the neighborhood, rising out of the ground like mushrooms.
   ‘First time in Vietnam?’
   ‘Fourth or fifth time.’
   He takes hold of the sheet of paper in his hip pocket, because another Instant Poem is coming up.

            One more tip
            for the man with his pistol grip,
            who wants to radiate leadership,
            for naïve tourists looking for trusteeship.
            But he’s only an assistant of a corrupt dictatorship,
            a bad actor in a ridiculous comic strip.

He has to think at David, who came a few weeks ago with a surprise.
   ‘The new pin of The World Inside’, beamed his chief-editor.
   ‘What’s the aim? We have to bear this?’
   David nodded. ‘And I would you like to go.’
   ‘Yet not to Vietnam.’
   ‘Nobody knows the situation in South-East Asia better than you.’
   ‘Don’t exaggerate.’
   ‘Tension is rising again. In a few weeks there will be the celebration of the centenary of the communist revolution. Russia doesn’t get an official commemoration. That’s not useful for Putin, who’s only interested in the expansion of his territory. Most interesting are the celebrations in Vietnam, because China keeps a low profile. No foreign delegations are invited.’
   ‘They seemingly follow another agenda’, agreed Radko. ‘It’s no hazard they’ve constructed an airport on one of the new artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.’
   David nodded. ‘Their ambition is the exploitation of the billion tons of gas and oil in the subsoil.’ David put his hand under his skin. That was the sign for a new statement. ‘Bet that a confrontation with Vietnam is coming up before November 7? The Chinese who’ll act both resolutely and accurately.’
   ‘And buried under criticism.’
   ‘But their display of power at the military parade in Beijing will silence everybody.’
   ‘That’s your area of expertise of course.’
   ‘No-one talks openly about the annual increase of their military budget.’
   ‘I’m sure they’ll spare no expense.’
   ‘In what way?’
   ‘They’ll show the previously announced Dong Feng DF-21D. The world's first anti-ship ballistic missile should be able to attack moving ships at sea. And the brand new DF-5B should have an 15,000-km-range, which is unseen. Also their newest land and naval models, belong to the most advanced high-tech systems in the world.’
   ‘On the diplomatic front their veto power in the United Nations Security Council will prevent an international condemnation’, explained Radko.
   David nodded again. ‘Do you see why we ought to be first? Vietnam becomes the place to be. First go to Thai Ha, that catholic parish.’
   ‘It’s still a mean center of the opposition in the capital. Protest raises again against the construction of a wastewater treatment plant next to the church. I was there during the former uprising in 2011.’
   ‘At that time I was in Iraq, after president Obama’s decision to draw back the American troops.’ Radko browsed David’s file. He still wasn’t enthusiastic.
   ‘Deeply human stories is what we need. People love to read them. Interview a couple of monks and parishioners.’
   ‘In what language?’
   ‘Most of them speak at least a little English. But Le Quan is our man. You’ve written an article on his release.’
   ‘That lawyer?’
   ‘According to Le Nouvel Observateur he’s one of the fifty people who will change the world in the next generation. We ought to be first to interview him. And I’ll ask him to write a column too.’
   ‘If he wants.’
   David took a letter from his watch pocket. ‘Your secret weapon. A letter from the president of Lawyers4Lawyers. For many years that organization has been taking action in favor of him.’
   ‘Where can I find him?’
   ‘Are you a journalist?’
    A cynical smile creased David’s cheeks. Lecturing his fellow workers, as a perfectionist that is his greatest pleasure.
   ‘We’ll use your nickname, R.J.S Brown, as two years ago. That’s against our ethical rules. But you can only enter the country without difficulties with a tourist visa. Ask the embassy the emergency procedure. These costs a lot, but happens only once. Your flight departs on November 2, 5 pm.’
   Radko reacted sourly. Brown. That byname was given to him by his friends when he was a young boy. His hair had become gray since many years. The initials R.J.S. stand for Radko, John and Stephen, the names on his passport.
   Basically he hated his boss with his know-it-all mentality. He felt like he’s still in kindergarten and this guy was only half his age. Furthermore he had taught him the lightness of the job when he came in service.
   Radko moaned. ‘Don’t I get too old? I’m already 61.’
   ‘Come on.’
   ‘Isn’t this the perfect occasion to introduce a younger colleague?’
   ‘Next time.’
   ‘Sonja won’t be pleased.’
   Neither argument convinced his boss.
   ‘What would Odile say if you’d have to leave for the ninth time this year, just like me?’
   ‘We are getting paid to act professionally. There is no room for private affairs here. I, for that matter, have never even done so much as call my wife from the office. I just wish all editors would do the same.’
   ‘Are you talking about me?’
   ‘Did I mention your name?’ he said angrily. ‘Listen. Vietnam will dominate the international news the next couple of months. And for that I need my most experienced man.’
   Radko put another argument on the table. ‘Who’s interested in that country? The BBC and Radio France International stopped their broadcasting in Vietnamese.’
   ‘The World Inside! No other newspaper has a nose for the breaking news that’s coming up. Okay, I’ll make a concession. This will to be your last big assignment before you retire.’
   ‘It’s Sonja’s birthday next week.’
   ‘You can send her a card.’
   Radko looked sour.
   ‘If it takes too long, we’ll send Jim, our correspondent in Beijing. Be careful. As you know every Vietnamese is under surveillance’, underlined David. ‘The 1,2 million employees of the Secret Service are everywhere. Even each and every phone call is recorded.’

In the meantime they’ve left the highway. The traffic slows down. Radko’s attention goes to the gathering soldiers at the crossroad.
   ‘What’s happening?’
   ‘Preparations for the glorious centenary of Communism.’
   ‘Why the mobilization of the police ans even the army?’
   ‘They’re in a heightened state of readiness, because 3,000 guests from all over the world are expected. State leaders and Heads of Governments included.’
   Radko eyes fall on the endless lines of red flowers at both sides of the broad boulevard.
   The driver reads his thoughts. ‘Ten million potted flowers decorate Hanoi’s streets. I didn’t count them, but allegedly there are two million along this boulevard whose name has been changed into Avenue of the Communist Revolution.’
   Radko bites his tongue. ‘Very original.’
   The driver points out a building at the right hand side. ‘Brand new: the Media Center Hotel. It takes care of the catering for the estimated 2,500 journalists from 85 countries.’
   Following a silence the driver changes the subject.
   ‘What do you prefer? Nature or city life?’
   ‘People say that nature in the north of is really beautiful.’
   The man nods. ‘Any plans? Maybe I can help.’
   ‘It depends on the weather.’
   ‘Around thirty degrees the next days. Lucky you! Fall is the most charming season with its warm sunlight, cool breeze and dry atmosphere.’ The man who - much to Radko’s surprise - speaks fluently English becomes even lyric. ‘Do you want to see the leaves change color? Enjoy some local autumn specialties such as young green rice? Or do you prefer a boat trip in Halong Bay? I’ll show you the best places.’
   Radko doesn’t react immediately.
   ‘I see’, Sam continues. ‘You’re a townie.’
   ‘It depends.’
   ‘Gay? Hanoi isn’t so popular as Bangkok. We’ve got a small but very nice gay scene. I can introduce you.’
   ‘I’m not interested.’
   ‘A nice female companion?’
   ‘I’m married.’
   ‘Vietnamese women are the most beautiful of Asia. Many Chinese come in search of a woman.’
   ‘Only women?’ 
   The driver reacts surprised.
   ‘Are there women on the Spratly archipelago in the South-Chinese-Sea?’
   The man looks sour. ‘I’ve full confidence in our party and government. They’re doing the very best for our country.’
   ‘I’m not interested in politics’, answers Radko who picks up the driver’s nervousness.
   Although he feels the desire to drive him into the curtains, his instincts tell him to fawn. Of course that man wants to gain as much money as possible, but in the case nothing happens, he needs someone to trust. Staying in his hotel room can’t be an option. Besides he hates mass events. If he could temper the man’s rapaciousness, he’s maybe well placed to help him discovering the country.
   ‘Halong Bay looks amazing.’
   ‘It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth’, the driver beams. ‘More than one thousand islands and islets. This location is on the list of Unesco World Heritage.’
   ‘Are these islands inhabited?’
   ‘Of course not. I don’t know if you’ll have eyes enough to see the craggy mountainous limestone peaks, the tropical forests and the caves and the unique waterfalls as well.’
   The enlightenment of the driving promotor of Vietnamese tourism ensures that Radko gets more appetite to visit Halong Bay. ‘Any suggestions?’
   ‘I can arrange that boat cruise. Or do you prefer the untouched Cat Ba island with sublime sandy beaches? This place lends itself to hiking, biking, sailing and rock climbing. And there’s also Quan Lan Island.’ He looks in his rear-view mirror. ‘I don’t think you’re a pioneering traveler.’
   ‘A boat cruise would be nice.’
   ‘No so quickly!’
   ‘I advise a stay for one night on a boat, where the sunset is an unforgettable experience. Certainly in female company.’
   ‘I’ve told already ....’
   ‘Come on’, interrupts Sam. ‘That’s a little secret between you and me. If I was in your place ...’ He makes a challenging gesture.
   Radko is considering it. Every once in a while, he likes to live life to the fullest, but he has always made sure his little escapades never saw the light of day. On the one hand he is thinking of his wife and their determination to revive their relationship. On the other hand he realizes this is the very last time he’s traveling alone.
   ‘Vietnamese women are the hottest on earth. Or you’re impotent?’ plies the driver on the weak point of every man.
   Radko feels the ground subsiding. ‘I’ll think on it.’
   ‘Enjoy the good things.’
   Radko’s thoughts drift away from the Chinese threat and the Thai Ha dissidents. Halong Bay is haunting his mind. He nods thrifty. ‘I don’t know when. It depends.’
   ‘On what?’
   ‘Eh … how much?’
   ‘I’ll guarantee you the best price.’
   ‘Which means?’
   ‘Don’t you trust me?’
   ‘Answer my question.’
   ‘I’ve to inform. Give me your phone number.’
   Radko still hesitates if he can trust this man. He seems him too sharp-tongued. But at the same time his doubts are growing. While his desire has been instigated, he realizes that he’s going to play a dangerous game.
   ‘And the precautions?’
   ‘Is durex okay? A packet is included in the price.’
   Radko writes down his number and hands over that piece of paper.
   ‘Tomorrow, 8 am.’
   ‘I don’t make any promise.’
   ‘We’ll keep in touch.’ The driver radiates. ‘Do you want something else?’
   ‘No, thanks.’
   ‘Marihuana, cocaine, LSD? Visit Hanoi by night? In the underground scene I can show you everything you just dream of. With a VIP arrangement of course.’
   ‘Don’t want any trouble.’
    The man starts laughing. ‘The bribe for the police is always included in my price. In Vietnam the right people in the right place can arrange everything. And I’m one of them. Lucky you!’
   ‘I’ve other plans.’
   ‘I’ll drive you?’
   Radko remains silent.
   ‘Tell me my friend, where?’
   Radko was thinking at David’s good advice. ‘When you’re confronted with people of the Secret Service, just laugh at them. They can’t react.’
   ‘I didn’t know’, Radko reacted cynically.
   ‘Where?’ repeats the driver.
   ‘You know how every Vietnamese joke starts?’ Radko takes over.
   The driver lifts his shoulders.
   ‘By looking over your shoulder.’
   The man is visibly touched.
   ‘Hoan Kiem Lake’, he soberly indicates a few minutes later .
   Couples are strolling around the lake while others are doing Tai Chi exercises. Radko remembers how he a long time ago had started that meditation technique with Sonja. But after one lesson he got enough of it.
   The car drives past some imposing mansions lining the leafy boulevards of the former French colonial Quarter.
   ‘The Opera House.’
   That building seems modeled after the example in Paris, the ivory-toned columns, ornate balustrades and neo-gothic dome included. Creating a small Paris. Chauvinism was one of the characteristics of the colonial rulers. The exquisite French architecture in the capital of the former Indochina is well preserved.
   ‘Interested in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum?’
   ‘Why not.’
   At Ba Dinh Square thousands of people construct a huge podium with on top the joined portrait of Marx, Lenin and Ho Chi Minh. The driver puts his car aside on a parking spot for busses. Radko looks at impressive signboard of the centenary with a message in Vietnamese, surrounded by the number hundred.
   ‘Correct me?’ he challenges the driver. ‘Communism is the past and the future.’
   ‘That’s absolutely true’, he smiles. ‘I’ve never met a westerner who can read Vietnamese.’
   ‘Me neither’, jokes Radko.
   Unsolicited he starts giving more detailed information. ‘Next Tuesday the military parade, the greatest commemoration worldwide, will involve 10,000 troops and display our high-tech weapons. These will be followed by an unseen civilian parade with 100,000 participants. All regions and sections of the communist movement are bringing a tribute to our historical leaders and their successors. Our beloved Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and our president, general Tran Dai Quang will secure the communist legacy.’
    Radko is barely interested in the explanation of this know-it-all. The mausoleum attracts his attention. The Soviet architects seemingly never heard of the golden ratio which marks the beauty of architecture since Ancient Greece. This degenerated copy of Lenin’s tomb in Moscow is Asians most ugly building. He saw the original in 1990 during the collapse of the Soviet empire. The concert on the Red Square comes to his mind. The Scorpions was the first pop band ever to perform in a communist country. Hundred thousands of people sang enthusiastic their world hit, The wind of change:

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change

   Radko hums this chorus when his eyes fall on the huge pillars all over the Square. ‘Their meaning?’
   ‘Symbolize the national unity.’
   ‘In what way?’
   ‘These 54 pillars represent the ethnic groups.’
   ‘I thought they’re still being persecuted.’
   The driver looks angry. ‘Quite the contrary! The government just helps to protect their identity. Every pillar is decorated with their typical colors and symbols. And one thousand representatives of each group, in their traditional costumes, will entertain the celebration. Furthermore these pillars contain the fireworks for the night event.’
   ‘How many people are expected?’
   ‘One and a half million is the maximum capacity. 300,000 volunteers will lead the event on the right track. From the back country people are yet on their way. The brilliant light of Communism still incites the heart of the people. And another centenary with great achievements is coming up.’
   Radko gets almost dizzy from these numbers, and looks at the people waiting at the mausoleum, that will re-open its doors very soon. ‘What are they doing?’ Radko asks the driver, although he knows the answer.
   ‘Waiting to greet the embalmed body of the founder of the Communist Party.’ When Sam talks on his masters, he goes in overdrive. ‘Honoring from their heart the man who gave his life for our independence and freedom. Their visit witnesses of the deeply rooted communist ideals: humility, respect and historical conscience.’ Sam takes a beautiful edited leaflet on the centenary out of his car.
   ‘To fresh up your historical knowledge’, he beams. ‘The five highlights of the centenary!’
   To be polite, browses Radko through the text in English and Vietnamese. The content is one hundred percent predictable. Next to the Declaration of Independency follow the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in ’54, the victory in the American War in ’75 and the establishment of the Doi Moi or the capitalist policy in ‘81. Last but not least is the present generation of leaders ready to “solve the problems our society is confronted with in a determent way by communist means.”
   He shakes his head. That leaflet is an example of the sophisticated propaganda machine that conducts the society. To what that leads, Radko sees right in front of him. Groups of uniformed schoolchildren stand straight in the row, followed by veterans with their green uniforms and red epaulettes. His long-focus lens captures how some walk, bent ahead through the weight of their medals. Next a long row of tourists joins the line. Everybody bears the commemoration pin, distributed by two ladies in a red uniform at the entrance.
   The guards require an iron discipline. ‘Silence!’ and ‘Stand in the row!’ He hears them shout from hundreds of meters distance.
   ‘Do you want to express your admiration towards the common father of the Vietnamese as well?’ teases Sam him.
   He gives him tit for tat. ‘I thought the people hated Ho Chi Minh!’
   ‘What are you saying?’ the driver reacts upset. He didn’t expect that his boomerang should explode in his own face. ‘All of us love him with all our heart.’
   ‘Wasn’t he hanoiing?’ Radko burst out laughing. As always he laughs most with his own jokes. ‘Don’t you understand the point: annoying has the same pronunciation as hanoiing.’
   Now the driver gets furious. ‘He was a holy man!’
   ‘Calm down’, comforts Radko. He realizes that he went one step too far. ‘Humor softens morality.’
   Sam nervously takes a cigarette, while Radko looks at the surroundings. This is the place where the Declaration of Independence was read in 1945. He takes Sam’s leaflet. Ho Chi Minh stands on a balcony while reading the text. His oration is published literally. He shakes his head. ‘Are they doing this intentionally? When you change the word “French” by “Communists” in that diatribe you’ve get a destructive judgement of the ruling of the past seven decades.’
    He overviews musing the immense open plain. ‘Wouldn’t this historical place be the perfect location to make a new start when the communist system comes to an end one day?’
   The static Presidential Palace on the right side is the former residence of the governor-general of French Indochina. Next to that are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the brand new National Assembly.
   ‘Uncle Ho declined to live in that palace’, tells Sam, who is reading Radko’s thoughts still with a sad face. ‘He preferred the electrician’s hut. In the bomb shelter behind it he hid for the American bombings who wanted to eliminate him. There he died in 1969 in peace.’
   Radko takes the paper out of his hip pocket for another Instant Poem.

Is Ho Chi Minh holy?
Wholly holy,

a man so lowly,
when he hold his oration
for the liberation of the nation.
He got a standing ovation.
Afterwards followed his glorification
and even his canonization.

But did he bring emancipation

and an amelioration of the situation?
The intimidation, humiliation and indoctrination
led only to more discrimination, brutalization
of all opponents and their cruel incarceration.
Communism is nothing more than a falsification
based on a systematic misinformation

of the population.

Now Ho Chi Minh, so called holy

is lying in his mausoleum so lonely
as a popular tourist attraction
to the governments satisfaction,
who’s afraid of a spontaneous action
and an indomitable interaction

that supports the dormant demand for liberty
for the first time in the country’s history.
Many people hope that this desire will lead
on Ba Dinh Square to the final victory

Vietnams real destiny.

   He beams. Seldom before ran a poem so fluently out of his pen.
   ‘What are you doing?’
   ‘Writing down some thoughts. Ho Chin Ming is an inspiring person’, he answers apparently seriously.
   The police arrives.
   ‘I’m not allowed to park here.’
   Sam asks him to step in. Radko flushes when the driver takes a picture of him with his mobile without asking.
   ‘What happens?’
‘So your girlfriend will recognize you.’
   ‘Or for my file at the Secret Service?’
   ‘I don’t know what you mean’, murmurs Sam when he drives away.

Into the bustling Old Quarter of Hanoi with his narrow streets, lots of banners and flags recall the centenary. Sam looks in the rear-view mirror. He also doesn’t want to blow up all bridges now he can earn a lot of money, since his client’s promised to make the Halong Bay trip. His voice becomes businesslike again when they pass by the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre.
   ‘Unique traditional Vietnamese art. The puppeteers stand waist-deep in the water to make the puppets talk, laugh and even dance on the surface of the water. Their technical skills are outstanding. Presumably you’ve got to make reservations in advance.’
   The man’s commercial feeling comes up again.
   ‘I can arrange this. Maybe after returning from Halong Bay?’
   ‘It depends.’
   The car stops in the traffic jam. Radko looks at the nearly succumbing stakes of the weight of the jumbling electricity and telephone wires.
   ‘Bach Ma-temple’, says Sam. ‘Eldest of the city.’
   Groups of visitors go in and out this pagoda through old wooden doors. From far away Radko sees a glimpse of a statue of a white horse, and the red-lacquered funeral palanquin his guide is depicting.
   ‘Always so buzzy?’
   ‘That’s a part of living in old Hanoi. You like it?’
   Due to the noise Radko doesn’t understand him clearly. ‘Did you say like or love?’
   Sam doesn’t understand what he means.
   Radko quickly takes his pen and a sheet of paper. He writes down a Double Instant Poem. That’s the only way to bring the chaos around him to life.

Telephone wires here,
            electricity wires there.
                                                           crying, raving and swearing
            Threads jumbled together,
                                                           on the rhythm of music and beats
            make stakes groan under the weight.
                                                           wrenches everyone through the narrow streets.
            Despite that maze,
                                                           Always faster they float,
            there’s light everywhere.
                                                           everyone takes his own road
            Chaos functions.
                                                           to find his final destination.

                   Living as a chased wild cat, makes no-one mad
                                    Or does it precisely?
                      Because one by one we unhook naturally
                         till we languish in silence everlastingly

                                      Chaos eats us up

‘The Dong Xuan Market.’
   Radko is just finishing his text. ‘What?’
   ‘Visit Dong Xuan Market?’ repeats Sam. ‘It’s the largest in Hanoi with fashion, apparel and souvenirs at the best prices.’
   There goes Hanoi’s best tourist adviser again.
   ‘Later maybe. It’s too busy over here.’
   Much to his relief he sees the signboard Apple Hanoi Hotel. A bus is just leaving when a porter opens the door.
   ‘500.000 Dong. 25 dollar’, says Sam.
   Radko looks up.
   ‘That’s what my odometer says. We made a detour to Ba Dinh Square.’
   He gives reluctantly the money, takes his bag and steps out.
   ‘Halong Bay will be an unforgettable experience.’
   ‘We’ll see.’
   ‘I’ll call you this evening. Or shall I wait?’
   Now Radko has had enough of it. ‘No, thanks.’

In the lobby it’s busy.
   ‘Butlers will bring the luggage to your room’, says the guide of a group of Canadian tourists. Radko recognizes them from their maple leaf in the national colors red and white on their suitcases. ‘For those who don’t participate in the city tour this afternoon, let’s meet at 8 pm in the lobby for the welcome meal. The contribution is ten American dollars per person, without beverage.’
   Radko stands in the queue behind an agitated old lady.
   ‘Where’s my privacy! I’ve paid extra for a single room and now I’ve to share it.’
   The guide, who also speaks Vietnamese, negotiates with the receptionist, called Quy. His name is marked on his vest. The man bears - as the personnel does - the centenary pin. He consults his computer and shakes his head.
   ‘All single rooms are occupied’, repeats the guide. ‘That’s force majeure. But after our Halong Bay trip you’ll get the single room.’
   Quy confirms. ‘Please accept our apologies. The hotel offers you a bottle of champagne as compensation.’
   ‘I don’t drink’, reacts the lady bitter.
   ‘I do’, intervenes Radko with a big smile, but her eyes spit fire.
   The lady leaves disappointed. The guide and the receptionist are relieved.
   ‘Hi Quy. Wonderful pin’, jokes Radko. ‘Here’s my reservation.’
   The man isn’t amused with the remark. He makes a print and takes the key. ‘1.6 million Dong for six nights. Visa?’
   Radko looks surprised. ‘The letter mentions 200.000 Dong a night.’
   Quy looks at the paper. ‘You’ve a room with two beds.’
   ‘Can only sleep in one of them.’
   He sighs. ‘We’re full. It’s high season.’
   ‘Is not my problem. I …’
   ‘For this price you have the best quality in town’, says Quy impassive. ‘We can also cancel your reservation. That lady who stood before you will be content. Good luck finding a cheaper room.’
   Now Radko doesn’t know how to react.
   ‘Room 502. Fifth floor. The lift is in the corner. Excuse me, one moment.’
   The man goes to the office behind and returns with a pin. He gives Radko a wink.
   ‘A souvenir.’
   Quy opens it at the back side.
   Surprised by this unexpected gesture, Radko accepts. Putting this pin on his vest he says: ‘One more question.’
   ‘Yes, please.’
   ‘Contact information of the Thai Ha monastery? I couldn’t find it on the internet.’
   ‘What’s that name?’
   ‘Thai Ha.’
   The man makes a brief search and phones. ‘Sorry … that so called Thai Ha … doesn’t exist anymore.’
   ‘That’s impossible.’
   ‘Why you want to know?’
   Radko reacts without hesitation. ‘Isn’t there a hospital nearby?’
   The man looks at his screen. ‘Indeed. What are you going to do?’
   ‘Visit a friend’, lies Radko.
   ‘That’s a Vietnamese hospital.’
   Radko keeps a level head. Does this man really think that he can been taken for a ride?
   ‘A Vietnamese friend’, he answers promptly.
   ‘I’ve to control that number. I’ll call you back on your room.’
   Radko switches to his emergency plan he had conceived in the meantime, because he doesn’t want to await Goddot.
   ‘And the telephone number of the catholic archdiocese?’
   ‘That’s easy.’ Quy takes a piece of paper and writes down the number.

Something smells wet in the corridor. Inside the room there’s a small bathroom, a fridge, a television, a fruit basket, bottled water, coffee, tea and a safety box in the wardrobe. He’s pleasantly surprised by the red petals on the beds. But the free Wifi doesn’t work. Nor does the room have a window, only air-conditioning. He calls to the archdiocese.
   ‘What’s your intention?’ asks a lady.
   ‘Giving a packet’, he lies once more.
   Sweat pearls on his forehead.
   ‘A friend’s task.’
   The lady talks in Vietnamese.
   A man takes over the phone.
   ‘Who’s calling please?’
   ‘Father John … St Mary's Redemptorist Monastery in London’, he invents. He feels uncomfortable, because he was never good at lying. That monastery is located in the surroundings where he lives. As a young man he used to attend mass.
   Radko writes down two numbers. ‘Thanks. God bless you.’
   ‘God bless you too.’
   He’s relieved. He couldn’t imagine what to say when that man should have asked one further question. He visited St Mary's monastery for the last time twenty years ago. He takes once again the phone, but to his frustration none of these numbers work. The underlying strategy comes to his mind. The website of Thai Ha is blocked. And everybody, the archdiocese included, gets the assignment to keep unwanted visitors at a distance.
   He clenches his fists. ‘They haven’t seen the real Radko here yet!’
   With the years passing by, his enthusiasm was slowly expiring. But deep inside him he kept the holy fire burning and one spark was enough to revive the passionate journalist. He stands up and looks in the mirror in front.
   ‘Nobody will stop me’, he says warlike. ‘I’ll go directly to Thai Ha.’
   Suddenly he notices a spot in his trouser. He takes the rad backup trousers from his bag. ‘These match perfectly together with his pin’, he smiles.
   The reality brings him with his two feet back to earth. Where’s Thai Ha? On a closer look isn’t that name mentioned on the street map he took along at the reception. He puts the camera and tablet inside the rucksack and returns to the lobby.
   Radko looks at the plate on the vest of the woman behind the parapet. ‘Nhung’, he says. ‘My  savior.’
   ‘Can I help?’
   He shows the street map. ‘Dong Da Hospital?’
   She looks anxiously at Quy, who leaves to the office behind.
   ‘You mean the Thai Ha parish?’ she reacts.
   Radko flinches. ‘How do you know?’
   ‘Not too loud’, she whispers. ‘I’ve heard your conversation with Quy. The place you’re looking at is located in the Dong Da district.’ She circumscribes that name at the bottom of on the map. ‘Continue along the boulevard Ton Duc Thang.’ She draws an arrow. ‘Off the map, two or three streets further at the right side. But be careful. There are some rumors ...’
   ‘What then?’
   Nhung changes her tone. ‘Have a nice day!’
   Besides, Radko notices someone in his back. ‘See you next Tuesday at the parade?’ he asks aloud when Quy enters again. He visibly caresses his pin.
   ‘Sorry, I’ve to work’, answers Nhung.
   Radko gives a wink and leaves while she secretly makes the sign of the cross. The porter opens the door.

On the street Radko beckons a green taxi. An elderly man sits behind the wheel.
   ‘Dong Da Hospital’, he demands.
   By the main entrance of the Temple of Literature the slowing traffic stops. A huge signboard announces the centenary. Through the window he sees four tall pillars in front of the Great Gate. They’ve two stelae on either side with horsemen. The gate opens into three pathways which continues through the complex.
   Because the taxi is still standing still, he gets out and takes his guide. ‘In the gatehouse there’s a big bronze bell and the center path was reserved for the monarch. From 1170 the temple has been hosting hosted the Imperial Academy, Vietnam's first university, and is dedicated to Confucius.’
   ‘There’s a roadblock beyond’, the driver informs Radko.
   ‘What’s happening?’
   The man gets out too. ‘No idea. Apparently they’re parking bulldozers. The hospital is nearby. Apparently they’re going to use the great means.’ Then he continues whispering: ‘to suppress an uprising I’ve heard.’
   ‘Of discontent patients?’ Radko jokes.
   The driver shakes his head. ‘I guess they’re going to destroy that militant church beside the hospital.’
   ‘What?’ The adrenaline streams through Radko’s body. ‘How far is that church?’
   ‘Five, six hundred meters. On the roundabout straight on and then on the right hand side.’
   Next to the yellow bulldozer Radko reads Zhengzhou Changli Machinery Manufacturing Company. Made in China. He’s in the midst of a big adventure. His boss David has a sixth sense indeed. In the UK this kind of exceptional transport, guided by the police, always takes place at night. But in Vietnam it’s business as usual. With great difficulty the traffic searches a way beside the bulldozer via the footpath, while a few hundred joking policemen are monitoring the scene.
   The memory of what he experienced a quarter of a century ago comes to the surface again. At that time bulldozers teared down the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. He thinks back at the man who walked on the Wall. Once again the song Wind of change sounds in his ears. He sings half loud the chorus:

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change

   To his surprise a police officer is standing next to him. Although the man looks polite, Radko gets scared. He hasn’t the best memories with officials. Is this uniformed man also a secret agent? He looks albeit more agreeable than his predecessors. The man looks at his pin.
   ‘Got in the hotel’, he apologizes.
   ‘Van Tien’, the official presents himself.
   ‘Radko, a jou .. a tourist from the UK.’
   ‘Don’t be afraid’, he assures.
   Something in his attitude radiates confidence, but Radko remains vigilant. He has learned his lesson well. The man could be a wolf, hidden in the skin of a sheep.
   ‘You know this song?’
   ‘I’m a fan of The Scorpions’, whispers the policeman while he looks around.
   Radko can hardly believe his ears. ‘You speak English.’
   Van Tien thanks him for the compliment and says that he hasn’t spoken English for a long time. In the places where he lives and works, there are no foreigners. Tourists only visit the well prepared headlines and hardly leave their hotels.
   ‘Where did you learn English?’
   ‘In the camp where I worked as head guard. From a prisoner, Le Quan.’
   Radko falls from one astonishment into another.
   ‘You know him?’
   ‘Eh, heard his name.’
   The man looks once more behind him. ‘I shook his hand when he left the camp. My career has made a change since.’
   ‘Mister Quan is a nice guy. I’ve learned a lot from him’, the man whispers. ‘When he left the camp I carried the guitar with his hidden notes, poems and the songs of another prisoner.’
   Also Radko remembers that picture. ‘Did I hear it correctly that you made a promotion?’
   ‘You know: it wasn’t a real advancement. I only exchanged the jungle for my native city. Despite the control my superiors couldn’t make any remark. I followed the regularizations and Quan also respected the rules. No law forbids to shake someone’s hand. But I’ll never make a career. That privilege is reserved for the family members of the establishment.’
   Radko listens with growing amazement to the story that reveals a widespread nepotism. He remembers an article in David’s file on Nguyen Thanh Nghi, the son of the former prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the new Secretary of the Communist Party in Hoang Giang province.
   ‘For the moment the climate is explosive’, continues that well-educated man whispering. ‘I can advise you to stop singing if you don’t want to have any problems. In the present context it sounds as a revolutionary song.’
   ‘It dates from quarter of a century ago in Europe!’
   The man looks again around. ‘ The winds are changing. But wounded beasts are always dangerous.’
   Radko still stands nailed at the ground. ‘I can’t understand you talk so openly?’
   ‘But don’t worry. No member of my division understands one word of English’, he continues with a soft voice. ‘Mister Quan convinced me of the perfidy of Communism. Within the higher police executives many secretly share that opinion.’
   ‘But what are you doing here?’
   ‘I’m reclaimed by my division. We’re responsible for the public law enforcement in a district in the north of the city. But there’s been a misunderstanding. We’re much too early. But with this traffic it isn’t worth to go back to our barracks.’
   ‘What’s happening?’
   Van Tien looks anxiously back. ‘I don’t know the details. We have to manage the demolition of some old buildings for the construction of a plant.’
   ‘For that kind of job you need bulldozers. Why all these policemen?’
   ‘They’re expecting local protest.’
   ‘So numerous?’
   ‘The protesters seem aggressive people. The authorities don’t want to take any risk. But what are you doing here?’ asks Van Tien on his turn. ‘Lost your way? The Temple of Literature is in the opposite direction.’
   ‘Eh, visiting a Vietnamese friend in the hospital.’
   ‘That plant is destined for that hospital around the corner.’
   ‘In that case I’ve to go’, says Rado hasty. ‘Before that uprising is coming up.’
   ‘Will you make of picture of my division?’
   Van Tien takes his whistle and collects his forces. Radko feels overpowered when they all pose in high spirits with their gun.
   Suddenly a limousine stops. A high ranking official steps out. Radko can’t believe his eyes. The man from the tip! He immediately bows in order not to be seen.
   Van Tien looks surprised.
   Radko feels busted. He can’t play hide-and-seek any longer. ‘Honestly, between you and me, I’m a journalist, but nobody knows. Who’s that guy?’
   ‘General Dang Hung, my former boss of the camp.’
   ‘What is he doing here?’
   ‘Apparently leading the operation.’  
   ‘I met him at the airport. I thought he was from the Tourist Police Department.’
   Van Tien starts laughing. ‘Did he say so?’
   Radko nods.
   ‘He was one of the guys who let sink that project. As a high ranking official of the Secret Service, he feared an undermining of his position. His office is at the airport. Beside the screening of the foreigners who visit the country with the intention to undermine the regime, he’s in charge with the persistent Vietnamese dissidents. Viet Pot is his nickname.’
   ‘Family of Pol Pot, the former leader the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia?’
   Van Tien puts his shoulders up. ‘He’s the son of Dang Xuan Khu, the former Party ideologue and the right hand, or you can choose, the left hand of Ho Chi Minh. Viet Pot is a leading figure of the pro-Chinese wing in the Party and an admirer of Pol Pot.’
   ‘In the 1970s that guy was responsible for one of the most violent experiments in the history of humanity. How many people died in the killing fields in Cambodia?’
   ‘Cynicism and sadism are unfortunately the most important characteristic of general Dang Hung.’

Exited Radko continues his way. He doesn’t bother the constant horning of the drivers on their motorbikes. He wants to cancel that boat trip, but he doesn’t have the phone number of the taxi driver. Fortunately he didn’t make any commitment. He passes the Hang Bot church at his right hand side. The arrow on the map proves that he’s going in the right direction.
   After he turned to a small street the noise dims. A shop at the right hand side sells flowers. The hospital must be nearby. Two people wait at a mobile kitchen. A handy young lady prepares food in situ. She has all belongings at hand. The smell makes him hungry. The man before him orders a bowl of “pho” soup with a baguette stuffed with ham, cheese, canned sardines and pickled carrot.
   Radko orders the same meal with gestures . Leaning against the wall around Thai Ha monastery he sees the bell tower through the fence.
   He clenches his fists. ‘What are these agents of the Secret Service thinking? They haven’t seen the real Radko here yet! Nobody will stop me’, he says warlike.
   Right in front he sees a bar. ‘First something to flush’, he smiles by entering.

He orders a Tiger Beer. Looking at the change he feels cheated, but can’t react because he doesn’t speak Vietnamese.
   This isn’t a common bar, he realizes after a few minutes. Are these people inside warders in civil cloths? The entrance is in front of the gate of the monastery. He finds himself in the lion’s den without realizing. He thinks at the audacious acting of James Bond, but trembles inside. In order not to show his nerves, he feigned interest in an unknown game two thirty-somethings are playing. They alternately put black and white stones on the vacant intersections of a rectangular board. The objective seems to surround a larger total area of the board with one's stones faster than the opponent. The men, who’re standing around the game, give loud advise. The leader, who sits in front on a bar stool, pays attention to the people that enter and leave Thai Ha. Drivers put their motor off and push their motorbike inside. This looks like a nasty experience for some small and skinny women. Apparently silence reigns inside. Radko feels eyes burning in his back. At the end of the game they invite him to play, but he refuses and slides step by step, like an accomplished detective, into the direction of the window to overview the situation. Inside the monastery he sees accumulated seats, bleached by the sun. That plastic colored wall obstructs the view on the courtyard.
   When two photographers and a man with a camera silently take the staircase to the first floor he’s sure. This is a covered head quarter of the Secret Service. He remembers that after the last uprising people have been sentenced on the basis of pictures and films. Now he understands why so many enter Thai Ha with covered faces.
   Without asking he gets another beer form the local chief. Tiger beer says the man, putting his bottle in the air. But Radko doesn’t look him in the eyes. The other men toast pleased. When Radko feels some movement in his back, he turns around. Pictures of him are made without the slightest noise. Now he starts to feel uncomfortable. He gives the chief a ransom of 50.000 Dong and leaves.

Entering Thai Ha isn’t an option. He passes on the left hand side by the hospital. Is he followed? He peeps secretly around the corner and sees that two guys are following him. One carries a camera. Hastily he runs ten meters further, sits down on a bench and instinctively picks up his camera. The men take the other side and also sit down.
   Radko takes some pictures, also from his persecutors. His trembling fingers prove that entering that bar wasn’t the best idea. Two yelling little girls are promoting their brand new toys. This was the battlefield of the 2008 uprising.

Only on his return he sees the pond in the corner of the hospital’s front yard: the disputed place for the construction of the wastewater treatment plant! The antique border and the fountain in the middle, which doesn’t work, date from the 1930s. He doesn’t count them, but within flourish almost one hundred white and pink lotuses. This pond is only separated from the church by a tall wall and a narrow street that leads to the heart of Thai Ha village.
   He passes by a lot of houses and a lowbrow land. On the way back, his pursuers also turn around. Now they don’t see him for a while, he decides to follow a young woman who enters the monastery by a side gateway. She bows at Mary’s statue in the cave and kneels in the church in front of the statue of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the church. This site, run by the Redemptorists, is similar to the Ky Dong monastery in Saigon. But Thai Ha is smaller and more intimate. He takes care to step as silently as possible, in order not to disturb the kneeling worshippers. Their repetitive prayer calms him down. The sacred atmosphere reminds him of his youth in St Mary's Monastery in London and experiences, like in Ky Dong, this cradle of the catholic resistance as a powerful bastion.

After leaving the church by the back door, he goes behind the plastic wall to the main building. Announcements of the church services and the activities of the societies, linked to the parish, are hanging on the wall. But the news bulletins of the independent news agency UCAN get most attention. He recognizes the logo. The Union of Catholic Asian News covers beside religious topics also human right issues. People meet and greet with joy and cheerfulness, but still whispering, in order to respect silence. He tries to talk to several people, but no-one speaks English. And when he takes his camera they abscond immediately.
   ‘I am a friend’, he tries to comfort them, but they don’t trust him. Here too everyone keeps an eye on this alien intruder. Social control is part of the daily life in Vietnam. Sitting down on a banc against wall he takes his sheet of paper. Another Instant Poem is coming up in his mind. But contrary to his former attempts he hardly finds the rhymes. Normally he stops his efforts when he can’t reach the intended purpose within a few minutes. But this case is different, because this inspiring place touches his heart. Only after several efforts he succeeds.

Beyond Thai Ha’s gate
blurs the city roar.
Riders shut their engine off
while chattering woman stop,
and let silence dominate.

They cover their faces
for secret agents, cameras and films
that silently are recording everything.
Only behind a tall wall
of sun-bleached plastic seats
expels a smile the tightness
and look people to each other with cheerfulness.

By a deep bow at the cave
and Mary’s statue surrounded by candela
only modest whispering fits in Thai Ha,
not to disturb the sacred atmosphere.

Thousands refresh at this invisible fountain
and find the strength to maintain
to stand up for freedom and righteousness.

All share without words the same dream
that one day, hand in hand,
freed from the Chinese supremacy
and the communist beam
they’ll walk for the very first time in liberty
to a new, promised land.

A old monk sits next to him and scares Radko. ‘Can I help?’
   ‘Are you looking for someone?’
   ‘The one in charge here?’
   Phung still watches him suspiciously. ‘Why?’
   ‘Can I trust you?’
   The monk doesn’t feel at ease. ‘It depends.’
   The continued feeling of mistrust makes Radko uncomfortable. The looks he’s getting from the other people in the yard are making it very clear as well that they still think him a potential threat. If he wants to earn their trust, he’ll have to take the first step.
   ‘I am a journalist from The World Inside. I’m from the UK and I’m reporting on the Thai Ha.’
   ‘That sure sounds interesting.’
   ‘Can we talk?’
   The man hesitates briefly and takes off his giant glasses. ‘Father Phung.’
    ‘But I know you!’ Radko exclaims.
   The man looks surprised. ‘I’m afraid I’ve never met you.’
   ‘I know you from all those newspaper articles.’
   By now the ice is broken. Both men shake hands, but Radko senses the other’s stress and dread. Even his lower lip is trembling with nerves. In his eyes the journalist can read fear and doubt, even though he is hiding it all behind an eternal smile.
   ‘My savior!’
   The monk puts his index finger against his lips.
   ‘You were a protagonist during the previous uprisings!’
   ‘A protagonist?’ Phung blinks. ‘I merely did my duty.’
   ‘Are you still in charge here?’
   ‘It’s the prior who’s in charge. I only serve the parish,’ Phung says humbly.
   He has always played the part of the hard worker with a great sense of perseverance who’s  acting loyally and dutifully behind the scenes.
   Radko is relieved. That’s the man he was looking for. And he speaks English rather well.
   ‘It wasn’t easy to come over here.’
   ‘I know. The authorities sabotage us continuously. With all means they keep people from aboard at a distance. We have been living in great uncertainty for years. The future seems dark as well. But as long as we live, everyone will be welcome here.’
   ‘The archdiocese gave me telephone numbers that don’t work.’
   ‘What do you want? The archbishop is appointed by the government.’
   ‘Monseigneur Kiet?’ asks Radko full of unbelief.
   ‘He was obliged to resign. I’m talking of his successor, Monseigneur Nguyen Van Nhon. He benefits all kind of privileges, but has to obey. Who finds him bread and cheese, it is to his tune he dances.’
   ‘Doesn’t he support you?’
   Phung smiles. ‘What do you think? Not heartily. Only when there’s no other possibility. That’s what they call religious freedom in Vietnam.’
   ‘I’m also looking for Le Quan, your lawyer?
   Again, he smiles sourly. ‘I didn’t know we had one. I has been a long time since he last pleaded. Although he was successful. He gave the juridical consultancy for the development projects of the ADB, the Swedish International Development Agency and the resident office of the World Bank in Hanoi. And his law firm The Le Brothers even opened an office in Saigon. But since 2009 a professional ban is applied.’
   ‘Can you contact him?’
   ‘I think he’s home right now. His children always go home for lunch. But I doubt he’ll be willing to come here. He has taken so many bullets the last couple of years, he’s keeping rather low profile these days.’
   ‘I didn’t know.’
   ‘However, he would be of great help to us. There aren’t too many competent people who would break their neck to support a good cause. The mill of Communism is consuming all its opponents, both people and institutions. It will also be the fate of our parish.’  He readjusts his glasses. ‘From a humane perspective, I understand that Quan is putting his family first now.’
   Radko doesn’t know what to say. What a letdown! The defeatism he’s perceiving is quite contrary to the fierceness and enthusiasm he had read in the articles on Thai Ha. The remains of the ‘holy fire’ of resistance are disappointing. It seems his visit will have been for naught.
   ‘Would you… please try to contact him anyway?’ Radko repeats.
   The monk sighs again. ‘He’ll refuse.’
   Radko plays his final card: a letter from Lawyers4Lawyers. Even Radko has to admit that David is a genius. Without this letter he would be stuck.
   ‘I’ll call,’ Phung gives in reluctantly. ‘But I would get your hopes up.’
   ‘Thanks.’ Radko is relieved.
   ‘You can thank your lucky stars.’
   ‘Normally I had to accompany the prior on his visits the parishes we’re serving in the neighborhood. But he asked me to stay. “You’re the most experienced”, he said.’
   These words sound familiar in Radko’s ears. ‘In what?’ he asks startled. But his sense of humor goes to waste.

Can you design me a lotus?

Accompanied by his children, Le Quan arrives home. He has picked them up at school, like every noon. The two youngest ones sit on his motorbike and his eldest daughter, the fifteen year old An, rides her bicycle.
   ‘That pin’, he demands. ‘I can’t stand that my children make propaganda for Communism.’
   ‘It’s obligatory’, reacts An. ‘The teacher has said so.’
   Thai and Viet nod.
   ‘No law obliges that.’
   ‘And when he …’
   ‘Tell him that I’m at his service for an explanation’, interrupts Quan.
   He spots a car of the Secret Service in front of the apartment which wasn’t there half an hour ago. Normally they only safeguard his home when something serious happens. What is more, he knows these agents for years. They’re eating, which means they’re going to stay. Quan waves, as always. 
   ‘Why?’ reacts his second daughter, Thai, apprehensive.
   ‘Always be polite, even to your enemies.’
   ‘I don’t trust them.’
   ‘Don’t be afraid, little girl. Now our safety is secured.’
   ‘That’s not funny, Dad’, An intervenes. ‘You’ve told that yoke so many times already. They’re bad people.’
   Thai starts weeping. ‘Will they be taking you away again?’
   ‘That won’t happen anymore, darling. But laughing at the defenders of Communism is the only right attitude.’
   Thai stretches her arms and jumps on his hip.
   He caresses her. ‘You’re my special one. Your mum got scared so often when she was pregnant with you during the uprising in Thai parish. That’s why we gave you that name. We’ll help you overcome that anxiety.’
   The five year old Viet hangs at his leg when they enter the building. ‘You’re a big girl’, comforts Quan. ‘An, can you take her?’
   Quan pushes the button of the lift.
   ‘I take the staircase’, announces An who starts running. ‘I’ll be first.’
   ‘I don’t think so.’ Quan quickly opens the elevator and his two daughters step in hastily .

At the fifth floor An is tapping on the door when Quan opens it.
   ‘First’, she shouts proudly.
   ‘Not too loud. We’re in the corridor.’
   The neighbor opens her door, as always.
   ‘What do you say to lady Linh?’
   ‘Good afternoon, they answer in unison.
   ‘They are becoming so tall and wise’, she says admiring.
   ‘When they sleep at night’, Quan smiles.
   He’s used to bullying her because she works for the Secret Service. And her so called cousins, all of them have the same inseparable briefcase, have been monitoring all his conversations since his release. Why., That’s a mystery to him. All phone calls, even An’s mobile, are being monitored already.
   ‘Read Nhan Dan?’
   ‘Where do you get the Party newspaper?’ the woman reacts.
   ‘On the internet. It’s one of the rare uncensored sites.’
   ‘What then?’
   ‘The rationalization of the Secret Service’, he whispers seriously. ‘On top of the 50.000 agents the TCV had recruited last year, another 100.000 will have joined service by 2017. And in return they’ll fire everyone above seventy. Without a pension.’
   ‘You …’
   He quickly goes inside. Only An stays in the corridor.
   ‘Thai and Viet! What have I told you a thousand times already?’ he calls after them. ‘Put on your slippers .’
   They return to do what is ordered. Like every day Thai salutes the portrait of Barrack Obama on the wall.
   ‘Don’t you greet him?’
   ‘Who?’ answers Viet, the youngest girl capriciously.
   ‘The outgoing American president. What is written under his face?’
   ‘I don’t know.’
   ‘You only start reading next year of course.
   She lifts her shoulders.
   ‘Hope. And that’s a magical word.’
   ‘Why is he here?’
   ‘That’s a long story. Dad was looking at a book about Obama in a store, when an accident took place. Because nobody paid attention to the wounded woman, I accompanied her to the hospital. On my return, the shop owner gave me that book. Obama’s words, change we can believe in, strengthens my hope that also Vietnam can make a change.’
   The little girl doesn’t listen anymore. When she drops her jacket on the floor he demands her to pick it up. He shakes his head. For two hours he has been cleaning the apartment and the kids hardly show respect.
   Meanwhile An enters. ‘I gave lady Linh a present.’
   ‘She’s always so nice.’
   ‘What then?’
   ‘A key ring with a plastic lotus. I got two of them for my birthday.’
   ‘That’s very kind.’ He caresses her long hair. ‘Your name says it all, my peaceful river. The lotus is a powerful symbol. Nothing reflects the Vietnamese soul more than that flower does.’
   ‘Why don’t you like lady Linh?’
   He hums on the kind of work she’s doing. ‘But I appreciate your being nice to her. I think you’re the only sunshine in the life of that mysterious old and lonely woman.’
   ‘She has changed recently, Dad. Now she’s always nice.’
   ‘I didn’t realize that, my clever girl.’
   ‘Do you remember that limousine last month?’
   ‘Mum said that a new Mercedes had been standing on the sidewalk for hours. Did you see that car from nearby?’
   ‘When I went shopping.’
   ‘Did you see its license plate?’
   ‘Am I a detective?’
   ‘How did the plate look like?’
   ‘That car belonged to a high ranking member of the government!’
   ‘A kind elderly lady stepped out. I was with her in the elevator. She visited lady Linh. At that moment she was alone. ’
   ‘And you ’re only telling me this right now!’
   ‘Mum knows that.’
   ‘What did she look like?’
   ‘Well dressed and polite. She has black hair and wore sun glasses.’
   ‘Tran Nguyet Thu: Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s wife.’
   An shrugs.
   ‘What she was doing here?’
   ‘How would I know? And why you ask?’
   ‘Don’t you think that’s a strange story?’
   An hesitates. ‘Dad, does she really hear everything we say?’
   ‘We only say the truth.’

Quan feels a pat on his shoulder. For the umpteenth time he didn’t hear his wife coming in. She’s modest by nature.
   ‘You’ve become the perfect housekeeper. Dad is worth ten out of ten’, she praises him, while greeting the girls.
   ‘Don’t mock me.’
   ‘I shouldn’t dare, darling.’
   He knows she always listens to the current events of the kids first. Quan admires the glittering in her eyes. Her looks haven’t changed since he met her for the very first time twenty years ago.
   ‘Food will be ready in five minutes.’
   Huyen sneaks a peek in the cooking pots in the kitchen, curious to see what he has prepared.
   ‘How was work?’ he asks, finishing the dessert.
   ‘Money. People are only obsessed with money. I hate this crazy world, but we don’t have another choice.’ She sighs. ‘I ought to be back at the office by 1.30 pm. A loan for one of our biggest clients.’
   She nods. ‘Another factory will arise in the mining and mineral industries.’
   ‘That Chinese invasion goes on.’
   ‘According to The Economist three quarters of the Vietnamese import comes from China.’
   Quan shakes his head. ‘We’ve become their lap dog.’
   ‘For the first time we use for most of international transactions the Yuan, the red banknote, instead of the greenback, the U.S. dollar, which was common so far. It’s no hazard that the Dong follows the devaluations of the Yuan. In the meantime the growth scenario continues. According to the latest forecasts we’ll reach the estimated 6.7 per cent by the end of the year. You know that would be the biggest growth of the ASEAN countries? That still seems half a miracle to me.’
   Quan agrees. ‘All the more so when you consider the bad quality of the Vietnamese products. And the expansion of the tourist sector is fake too. No visitor ever comes back, and the multinationals get the profits. In the meantime rise both taxes and prices. Gasoline costs as much as in the US, but our average income is one third. No wonder the people get discontent. Without the foreign investments and the annual money transfer of 11 billion dollar from Vietnamese citizens abroad , the economy would collapse. Who will be bold enough to rid us of this illusion?’
   ‘Don’t go too fast.’ Huyen, who is a born mediator, is less straightforward than he. Although she basically agrees with his point of view, she can’t reveal her opinion businesslike because she’s constantly being supervised.
   ‘The barometer for Vietnam in the Country Risk Report of the AMB-bank stands on “red” or “high” for the economic and political risks, and “purple” or “very high” for the financial risks for the very first time.’
   Putting the forks, knives and spoons on the table, Huyen changes the subject. ‘Any plans for this afternoon?’
   ‘Write a column.’
   ‘I beg your pardon?’
   ‘Got an offer from The World Inside.’
   Huyen doesn’t look amused. ‘That international newspaper, spread worldwide?’
   ‘I can’t refuse, darling. And it‘s well paid.’
   He knows what she’s going to say.
   ‘I’m glad, but be careful. You know you are being watched. Please do not offend them regarding these Chinese-Vietnamese associations. You know…’
   Quan interrupts. ‘You expect me to write about the weather? The total solar eclipse? The World Games is Wroclaw? Or the aftermath of the putsch at the quinquennial congress of the Communist Party last year?’
   Huyen realizes she will never change her stubborn mule, but she is always trying to move him to a more moderate point of view. Thanks to her approach, she knows, she is able to soften his rough edges.
   ‘Be careful’, she repeats. When the tension rises she always looks straight in his eyes to underline her apprehension. Usually, her approach serves to restrain him.
   ‘My provoking days are over’, he assures her. ‘I’ll accuse the government’s inadequacy in a covered way, like my father did. People will read my point of view on the current events between the lines.’
   Huyen still isn’t convinced. Not many have the talent to do so. I know you. Your urge to provoke is much stronger than you are.’ Tears well up in her eyes. Crying has always been the next step in her plan. If there is something Quan dislikes, it is her sensitivity. Under no circumstances does he want to hurt his wife.
   ‘The thirty months you spent in prison come into my mind’, she says with her soft voice. ‘Working full time and shopping, washing, ironing, cleaning and ensuring that the kids have a normal life. And with Viet who was constantly ill.’ Tears are rolling over her cheeks now. ‘Going to sleep alone ... No strong shoulder to hold on to.’
   ‘You’re so strong’, he comforts her.
   ‘But the hardest fight was to support you.’ Huyen regains her strength. ‘These accusations of tax evasion were a shame. Even my mother, who’s a devoted communist, refused to hang out the Vietnamese flag at the official occasions. I’ll never forget the first ten months when I wasn’t allowed to see you, because you made an appeal.’
   ‘The purpose of the authorities was to break you, but they didn’t succeed’, Quan replies inveterate. ‘But without your support I had already given up my fight.’
   ‘I’ll always support you because what you do is right’, she reacts convinced. ‘I’ve seen hell, but that experience made me stronger.’
   ‘This perverse regime uses sophisticated means to break everyone. Only who’s twice as strong can survive.’
   ‘Yet I hope this never happens again.’ She grabs him by the collar. It is Huyen’s last resort in persuading him. ‘I’m scared, darling. I’ve got a feeling that … The rising tension in Thai Ha. And there’s the Chinese menace on the Spratly islands. Something will happen’ She looks over her shoulder, but the children are in their room. ‘Never show your worries.’
   ‘Don’t worry. My family is my priority now.’

‘An!’ Huyen interrupts the girls. ‘Why are you quarreling?’
   ‘Viet took my puppet.’
   ‘Give it back’, orders Huyen.
   The youngest daughter who can’t sit down for one second takes her own puppet.
   ’I want a room for myself, Dad’, begs An. ‘She takes my things all the time.’
   ‘Be happy that this apartment has two bedrooms. Previously we lived in a studio of 28 square meters.’
   ‘But in Washington DC I had my own bedroom!’
   ‘Sure?’ laughs Huyen.
   ‘That’s what Dad always says.’
   ‘Don’t you know him yet? Always think twice when he’s telling you a story. That room was even smaller than our studio. And he made you a bedroom indeed: in the wardrobe!’
   An looks bemused, while her parents are having great fun.
   ‘I know that our living space is limited’, he continues seriously. ‘But we can’t afford a bigger apartment. You know that I’m no longer allowed to work.’
   In the meantime Viet crawls on Huyen’s lap.
   ‘Have you taken your medicine yet?’
   She shakes her head.
   ‘If you want to grow healthy again, you’ve to take these pills three times a day.’
   ‘Food is ready’, announces Quan.
   He puts bowls with rice, meat, fish, pickled, steamed and fresh vegetables and sausages for dipping in the middle of the table. After a prayer Huyen serves the steamed long-grain white rice on the dishes. Viet picks up a piece of fish.
   ‘Ask first!’
   ‘Come on’, says Quan. ‘She’s hungry.’
   ‘How did you prepare the fish sauce?’
   ‘Like my prison mate Nguyen Thai Binh preferred it. I added garlic, pepper, chili, ginger and lime juice. A good taste?’
   ‘Where does this recipe come from?’ smiles An.
   ‘My secret prison diary.’
   The girl starts laughing aloud. ‘These milk cartons?’
   ‘Don’t laugh. For years I’ve been denied even a pen and paper. I had only the aluminum inside of these cartons to scribble down. With a glass shard.’
   ‘We know that story’, smiles Huyen. ‘Finished?’
   Thai nods.
   ‘What is it?’
   ‘Homemade, young lady’, says Quan. ‘And garnished it with the coconut crème you like so much.’
   ‘Aunt Cam’s chè is better.’
   ‘Thanks for the compliment.’
   ‘I don’t want to hurt you, Dad. It’s Thursday. After school we’re going with aunt Cam, don’t we?’
   ‘You’re right.’

When the children finish clearing the table, Quan looks at Huyen.
   ‘Do you know more about the visit of that high ranked woman to lady Linh?’
   ‘Not much. I didn’t see her.’
   ‘When I heard An’s description, I’m quite sure it was the Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s wife.’
   ‘That’s a strange story indeed. Do you remember when we moved here?’
   ‘Nine years ago?’
   ‘How did our other neighbors, you know, that old couple, call lady Linh?’
   Huyen nods. ‘And they bowed steadily.’
   ‘I taught it was to mock her.’
   ‘I’m not so sure.’
   ‘They couldn’t stand her.’
   ‘But when I look at her polite manners and her ring.’
   ‘What ring?’
   ‘She always wears a plaster on her ring finger. I’m sure there’s a ring underneath.’
   ‘Why could she be hiding it?’
   ‘How could I know? It seems to me it ought to be a very precious piece.’
   ‘Do you think she’s the offspring of a noble family. Or the former imperial clan?’
   ‘I’ve my doubts. Her apartment was very poorly decorated. You remember: when we were invited after Thai’s birth? Her present was second hand.’
   ‘We were there only once, I can’t remember any valuable object or memory of the past.’ Quan hesitates. ‘My God. Do you remember that photo of the former president Diem as a young man! I hardly recognized him.’
   ‘On her sideboard! Now I remember. There was a crape hanging above it.’
   ‘A daughter of Diem?’
   ‘He wasn’t married.’
   ‘A child born out of wedlock?’
   ‘He was very devoted, a true man of principles. Some people say he was in two minds about entering in Thai Ha monastery.’
   ‘That’s precisely why.’
   ‘When you look at lady Linh’s age, it could be true, maybe. But I hardly believe it.’
   ‘In any case, she is hiding something.’
   ‘Her eternal soundless smile is an inseparable part of this apartment. Why are you so determent!’
   ‘Last week I stood in the elevator with her. She wanted to tell me something, but couldn’t utter one word.’
   ‘Probably, there are electronic listening devices there as well.’
   ‘I saw a feeling of relief in her eyes I had never seen there before. Anyway: she doesn’t have any worries.’
   Quan looks up to Huyen’s gaze. ‘Now I can’t follow you. What are you thinking of?’
   ‘Yesterday evening.’
   ‘What then?’
   ‘I had such a strange feeling in Thai Ha parish. The courtyard was crowded, but the number of policemen had also doubled. My intuition …’
   ‘It won’t escalate that quickly’, he interrupts.
   ‘I’ve predicted the previous uprisings.’
   ‘You’ve a strong intuition indeed.’
   Huyen looks straight in his eyes. ‘What are you going to do when they call?’
   ‘I got hardly media attention since my release.’
   ‘Answer my question.’
   ‘I don’t have a plan, darling.’
   ‘Keep it that way’, she says severe. ‘Then the government will return your passport and work permit. That should be high time. Life is so expensive and the changeover to that semi private school costs a lot of money. Now the kids are getting older …’
   Quan interrupts. ‘The authorities will never do me that favor. Although I’m no longer active, they’ll distrust me the rest of my life. You know the Rule of the Three Generations? They’ll continue to affect our future and those of my mother and my children. We ought to be happy they’re not banished from school or denied the access to basic health care.’
   An shoves on to the table. He wraps his arm around her shoulder.
   ‘Can my girlfriend come playing after school?’
   ‘Only this weekend.’
   ‘This evening, please!’
   ‘You should know we’re saving the evenings in the week for explanations on school lessons and the history of our country. And you must be in bed by 10 pm at the latest.’
   ‘You and your history’, she reacts sourly.
   ‘You ought to know what really happened in the past. The school books are full of lies. Do you remember yesterday’s lesson?’
   ‘Of course’, confirms An.

Carefully Quan took an old newspaper of the Viet Ming. The front page showed a picture of the communist leader Ho Chi Minh on a balcony at Ba Dinh Square. There, on September 2, 1945, he read the declaration of independency.
   ‘A precious souvenir from my granddad.’
   An and Thai looked attentive while Viet played with his feet. Quan stood up as a soldier with his breast ahead. When he made a bow the girls laughed.
   ‘Listen to what he said.’
   He raised his voice:
All men are created equal. They’re endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice. Politically, they’ve deprived our people of every democratic liberty. They’ve enforced inhuman laws. They’ve built more prisons than schools. They’ve mercilessly massacred our patriots. They’ve drowned our uprisings in seas of blood. They’ve fettered public opinion and practiced obscurantism. They’ve weakened our race with opium and alcohol. In the field of economics, they’ve sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution and devastated our land. They’ve robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests and our raw materials. They’ve monopolized the issuing of bank­notes and the import and export trade.
A people who have courageously opposed French enslavement and resolutely sided with the Allies against the Japanese fascists, such a people has the right to enjoy freedom and independence.

   At the end of his speech he bowed again. The girls applauded.
   ‘What do you think?’
   ‘What he says is right’, confirmed An.
   Quan agreed. ‘There’s only one problem. The gap between what Ho Chi Minh said and what the Communists brought into practice, is wider than that between earth and heaven.’
   Thai looked up to the sky and Viet followed her example. ‘That’s very big!’
   ‘The Communists did even worse things than the French. What are the leaders and their families doing? They rob the country and put everybody who doesn’t agree with their point of view in prison. There are drugs everywhere, nature is being destroyed and the Chinese steal our raw materials. Look out. I’m going to use almost the same words as Ho Chi Minh: don’t you think that the courageous men and women who oppose the communist enslavement, have the right to enjoy freedom and independence?’
   They nodded.
   Quan looked them right in the eyes. ‘I continue my fight to assure that you’ll live in a free country.’
   Also Huyen, who just finished laundry, sat down quietly.
   He sighed. Since his return from prison he isn’t sure anymore to obtain his aim. Is the communist regime, despite his strong will, getting him to his knees?
   ‘Bedtime’, Huyen said. ‘But first our prayer.’

‘And my girlfriend?’ repeats An.
   ‘And your French examination?’
   ‘I’m first in vocabulary and grammar. Only the pronunciation causes problems.’
   ‘Learning French is important’, reacts Huyen.
   ‘People in France say “Les languent se paient cash.” The knowledge of languages makes it easier to find a job. You’ve to develop all your talents, because you’ll never receive any present, unlike the family members of the establishment.’
   Quan looks at Huyen. ‘Do you remember Nguyen Thanh Nghi, the eldest son of the former Prime Minister Tan Dung?

   ‘That modest guy with his fatty cheeks and small glasses we met in Washington DC?’
   ‘He also visited on Sunday often Lincoln Memorial.’ The mythical place where Martin Luther King had given his memorable speech I have a dream in 1963, was engraved in Quan’s memory. He closed every time his eyes when he recalled his dream for his beloved compatriots. ‘At the age of forty he’s one of the most powerful people in the country. Last year he was elected as the youngest member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.’
   ‘I hate that French pronunciation!’ repeats An.
   ‘Can uncle Tung help?’ asks Huyen.
   Quan shakes his head. ‘You need practice.’ He takes a CD from beside the CD player. ‘Bonjour Vietnam. A nice disc in French, song by Pham Quynh Anh and dedicated to the Vietnamese orphans. You’ll love her nice voice.’
   An looks interested.
   ‘You still have half an hour before you should return to school.’ He puts the disc in the CD player.
Raconte-moi ce nom étrange et difficile à prononcer
Que je porte depuis que je suis née
Raconte-moi le vieil empire et le trait de mes yeux bridés
Qui disent mieux que moi ce que tu n'oses dire
Je ne sais de toi que des images de la guerre
Un film de Coppola, des hélicoptères en colère

Un jour, j'irai là-bas
Un jour, dire bonjour à ton âme
Un jour, j'irai là-bas
Te dire bonjour, Vietnam

Raconte-moi ma couleur, mes cheveux et mes petits pieds
Qui me portent depuis que je suis née
Raconte-moi ta maison, ta rue, raconte-moi cet inconnu
Les marchés flottants et les sampans de bois …

The telephone rings.
   ‘An, your headphones’, orders Huyen before answering the phone.
   ‘It’s Lam.’
   ‘Vietnam’s best composer’, Quan greets him.
   ‘You’re talking about an unknown guy who’s creations are banned for more than a decade!’
   ‘I’ve one of the most talented students of the Hanoi National Conservatory of Music in mind’, he teases, ‘whose masterpiece Friendship was performed by the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra.’
   ‘But cancelled after the premiere and who spent five years behind bars because the violin solos didn’t reflect the spirit of the Socialist Realism.’
   ‘It wasn’t a very clever move to tell a western journalist the libretto can be read in an alternative way as well. Luckily you didn’t give away the true story, we could have ended up behind bars.’
   ‘I know’, he sighs. ‘Listen, there’s a lot of news. Good, but also bad news.’
   ‘First the good news then.’
   ‘I’ve a surprise.’
   ‘What now?’
   Lam knows very well how to play on Quan’s weakness. ‘But now that I’m thinking on it, maybe it’s better to keep these for myself.’
   ‘I’ve always known you’re a bastard!’
   Lam burst out laughing. ‘That’s the word I was waiting for! Listen, you haven’t heard from me the last couple of months because I was finishing my new album at last.’
   ‘Congratulations! Great plans?’
   ‘Don’t worry, I’m under no illusion whatsoever. Hopefully we’ll find a music label and performers abroad who’re interested.’
   ‘Have you thought of a title already?’
   ‘From hell to heaven.’
   ‘The fifteen songs are based on my personal experiences in the camps and on your poems and letters.’
   ‘Without my permission?’ he smiles. ‘For purposes like these I shall have to appeal to the censorship committee. By your the intellectual theft, I don’t have any other choice than to accuse you.’
   ‘Can you please clarify your intentions, so I can inform my lawyer?’ says Lam who is playing along nicely indeed.
   ‘1.2 billion Dong and we don’t talk about it anymore.’
   ‘Don’t laugh at it.’
   ‘Come on’, brushes Quan his remark aside. ‘There are better poems to set to music I’m sure.’
   ‘Me too of course!’ Lam teases him. ‘But don’t be too modest’, he continues earnestly. ‘Your poems radiate so much inner power and transcend the horror and the pain. Between the lines there’s always hope, trust, love and peace readable. I’ve tried to express all this in my music. That’s exactly what our people need most, certainly today.’
   ‘I feel honored.’
   Lam starts singing:
Amidst this world’s clamor of violence
I meditate my will and mind in silence
I hear a peace that shatters each fiber in my body
Flooding my being with love and compassion

   ‘That sounds nice. I like the changing of the rhythm and the intonation on “love and compassion”. Well done!’
   ‘I’m glad you like it. Here’s another one: the more intimate Thinking of Mother this Spring.’
   ‘I’ll put you on speaker, so Huyen can hear you too.’
   ‘Here we go!’
Mother, this Spring I can’t ring
In the new year with my wife and children
Inside the four walls, cold at night
My heart breaking with the pain of homesickness

Another spring, my head turns more silver
Angry that I have not fulfilled my filial duty
Mother don’t be sad; I am crying
For our country’s spring

   ‘Impressive, Lam’, Huyen reacts emotionally. ‘You’re so talented. These words sound twice as strong when you sing them.’
   ‘Beyond there’s the song based on your dream of the new Vietnam. You know that protest song we secretly sang at the university? Day ma di – Get up and walk.
   ‘With that immersive melody?’
   Lam sings ‘Day ma di …’
   Some patches still hang in my ears.’
   ‘I’ve written a new arrangement for it.’
   ‘Where does that idea come from? That’s old fashioned.’
   ‘That’s what you’re thinking. I’ve heard that song the past months several times already. Among young people it’s popular. Because the versions differ, I’ve streamlined the melody.’
   ‘What are you waiting for?’
   ‘You’ve got already a first and a second finger ant now you want to take my hand. It doesn’t work that way. Patience is a beautiful virtue.’
   ‘I’m curious for the enactment. Come on.’
   ‘Maybe … I don’t know if that’s a good idea right now. You know …’
   ‘Why are you hesitating?’ Quan interrupts. ‘And you sound so nervous.’
   ‘There’s also bad news.’
   ‘What then?’
   ‘The Chinese of course. But first it is my moral duty as a friend to come back on a personal matter …’
   ‘Still racking your brains on that 1.2 billion penalty I received at my last sentence? The best thing we can do, is to wait. Thanks to the devaluation of the Dong the amount expressed in American dollars diminishes. In a while it doesn’t cost me anything.’
   ‘Don’t laugh’, Lam says worried. ‘You‘ve already received a second warning. They’re able to sell your apartment.’
   ‘That’s pure and utter intimidation. Their umpteenth attempt to break me by ruining me.’
   ‘Listen, I can lend you half of the amount, without interest.’
   ‘Many thanks. I’ll keep your offer in mind, but I still don’t have the intention to pay. By the way: how can I ever pay you back?’
   He hears his own voice trembling. Once again he realizes that his firm talking doesn’t correspond with what’s really going on in his mind.
   ‘Can’t your brothers and sisters help?’
   ‘We meet each other every Sunday, but never discuss money affairs. They have their own worries.’
   ‘And your family in law?’
   ‘I’ve got a good relationship with Huyen’s sister. Nguyen Tri Hoa is a Member of Parliament and my brother in law, Nguyen Van Cuong is a high ranking official in the army. I guess you can imagine the heated discussions during family reunions. But I don’t expect anything from full blood communists.’
   ‘Use their connections!
   Once again his voice trembles. ‘That … I should ask for… a favor?’
   ‘What’s wrong with you?’ changer his friend from subject. ‘I thought we were to meet yesterday evening, but you left Thai Ha parish after the service.’
   Quan looks at Huyen. ‘I wasn’t in the mood.’ He tells that his only desire is to withdraw within his cocoon, with his wife and kids.
   ‘We can use your help!’ Lam replies disgruntledly.
   ‘I’m not too keen on it. By the way: I’m under house arrest. I don’t know why, but secret agents are standing in front of my apartment. Wand once more: why you sound so nervous?’
   ‘Yesterday evening my brother gave me a copy of the new masterplan for Thai Ha. The church and monastery are to disappear for an administrative center and 25 houses.’
   ‘This information is strictly confidential. A prominent member of the Communist Party saw my brother taking copies. Should they leak out, not only my brother, but I as well will end up behind bars.’
   ‘I won’t say a word, I promise.’ He sighs.
   ‘Well, you’ve hardly heard it all.’
   ‘What do you mean?’
   ‘Didn’t you hear the news?’
   ‘Didn’t you hear the news then?’
   ‘Mm, no.’
   ‘The Chinese are taking Storm Island.’
   ‘I beg your pardon!’
   A television broadcast on the opening of a primary school on that tiny island of barely fifteen hectares on the Spratly archipelago comes to his mind. The government had already invested in the construction of a clinic, a cultural house, a radio tower and even a Buddhist pagoda for the two hundred islanders. They’re cultivating vegetables, herbs and fruit and take care of their chickens, ducks and geese, hardly realizing that they’re pawns on an international chess set. Their presence strengthens the government’s territorial claims towards China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei for the control over the natural richness of the soil.
   ‘They’ve taken control by air force’, continues Lam.
   ‘Why haven’t you told me earlier?’
   ‘I tried from the beginning, but you never listen!’
   ‘When did that happen?’
   ‘An hour ago.’
   ‘I’ll call you back.’
   ‘Promised? Because it’s extremely important to point out our strategy for Thai Ha parish.’
   ‘I’ll talk to you shortly.’
Quan opens stringent his computer.
   ‘Don’t worry the kids’, Huyen whispers.
   The Vietnamese state television, the masters in manipulation, isn’t an option, but the entrance to is blocked. He switches to the breaking news on CNN Chanel Asia News and takes his headphones.
   ‘The events are nearly predictable’, he murmurs. ‘As soon the Vietnamese undertake action, the Chinese war vessels will respond. History repeats itself. In ‘74 the Chinese invaded the Paracel Islands. Since then their flag has been hoisted.’
   ‘Keep quiet!’ Huyen tries to calm down her husband when he takes off his headphones .
   ‘This is the chronicle of an announced conflict’, he whispers. ‘Laos and Cambodia are Chinese vassal states already. And the Chinese are now trying to get their two thousand years old predominance over Vietnam back. Unfortunately the pro-Chinese wing is very influential within the Vietnamese Communist Party. That’s why they’ve brutally suppressed the protest against the polluting bauxite exploitation by Chinese enterprises in the Central Highlands. And what do our ministers do?’
   ‘You can read it yourself’, Huyen whispers. ‘The government asked a diplomatic mission of ASEAN, of which both countries are members.’
   ‘The Chinese refused such a mission in 2011. They impose their will without asking anybody’s opinion. Who dares to contradict the superpowers? Russia assumed Crimea unilaterally. And the Chinese dragon follows that example.’
   ‘And the National Assembly?’
   ‘Sorry for your sister, darling. That puppet show has indeed passed a law demarcating Vietnamese sea borders to include the Spratly and the occupied Paracel Islands. But what does that piece of paper mean? The Chinese will blow it away. What counts is the presence on the field.’
   ‘And the Vietnamese army?’
   ‘What did our brother in law, Nguyen Van Cuong confirm during the last family reunion? The Chinese army is one hundred times more powerful than the Vietnamese. Their annual defense budget of 250 billion dollar is bigger than the one of all the ASEAN countries combined. Open your eyes, Huyen. For five years the Chinese have been in control of all ships in the South China Sea.’
   The conversation stops when the kids enter. While the eldest and the youngest are quarreling again, sits Thai on Quan’s knee.
   ‘My teddy bear’, he caresses her. His thoughts go back to their stay in that public school, where the kids were bullied constantly . The teacher called him a “criminal” and an “enemy of the country” for all to hear.
   ‘How are things going in class?’
   She puts three fingers in the air. ‘I’ve already three girlfriends.’
   ‘Do you also think Dad is a bad guy?’
   She shakes her head.
   ‘I’ll eat you anyhow.’
   She has great fun when Quan puts his mouth on her belly and blows. When he stops, she asks: ‘One more time.’
   Catching her breath again, Thai looks at his bulgy wallet.
   ‘What do those dirty pieces of torn paper mean?’
   ‘My most precious possession.’
   He helps her to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
   ‘Be careful!’
   ‘Their meaning?’
   ‘One side is a letter from Mum from twenty years ago.’
   ‘Will you read it?’
   He shakes his head. ‘Later you’ll understand.’
   Quan is, as always, seized with emotion when he sees that text again in Huyen’s fluent handwriting.

Dear Quan. At our first meeting in the corridor at the university, we looked each other straight in the eyes. That moment seemed to last forever.
You looked so strong and determined. Your breath exhaled kindness, love, inner peace and a great heart. Your temperament betrayed an sense of justice, correctness and freedom. I knew at once that you were the man of my life. Despite our different backgrounds, and despite the fact that living together would not be easy, my love for you is bigger than the shadows that fall across my path and any mountain. But with God’s help we’ll overcome all problems, discouragement, fears, and pain.
I ache for Christmas when we’re united again. I ache for the day that we can make our own nest and for the moment we’ll wake up in the free country we’re dreaming of.

Whatever may happen, I’ll always support you.
The good will overcome the evil. Always.
With love. Your Huyen.

   Only now does he realize the prophetic character of these last words from 1995.
   That letter went through extremely difficult situations. During his first arrest, he hid him in his shoes. Later he tore it to pieces, coiled them up and secreted them in his mouth.
   ‘What’s on the back side?’ asks Thai.
   ‘The Profession of Faith. I prayed this every day during my arrest.’
   ‘These words gave me strength. This text has a special meaning.’
   ‘What then?’
   ‘Do you remember my grandma?
   ‘Is her photo is on the sideboard?’
   He nods. ‘I never knew her either. She was executed by the Communists.’
   ‘Shot down?’ Nervously Thai put her arms around Quan’s head. ‘Why?’
   ‘She was a victim of unfairness by brainwashed people.’
   ‘How they’re doing?’ she reacts scared.
   ‘By telling you during months and years the same things. At the end people believe what they’ve been told. So they’re losing their mind and are able to do horrible things.’
   ‘Tell me!’
   ‘Later on, when you’re a big girl. I’ve shown you her grave when we visited in February, at the occasion of the Tet festival, my native village. You remember?’
   Thai blushes.
   Grandma was very courageous. Being blindfolded she continued to pray loudly until they killed her.’
I believe in one God, The Father Almighty,
               Maker of heaven and earth,
               and of all things visible and invisible.
               And in one Lord, Jesus Christ …

   Tears are rolling over Thai’s cheeks. ‘I know this.’
   ‘Of course you do. We pray every week in the church.’
   ‘You never told me what had happened to your grandmother’, intervenes An who stands next to him.
   Quan sighs . ‘That’s a sad story from a long time ago.’ He hesitates for a moment. ‘Horrible events left deep wounds, like in every family.’
   ‘Although I want to hear them.’
   ‘More than sixty years ago diceded four out of six children of Pepe Le, my great-grandfather, to move to South-Vietnam. Chua Bi, the village where my family used to live, was located in North-Vietnam, the territory that should come under the rule of Ho Chi Minh’s Communist Party. The family members who were leaving, tried to convince Pepe Le at least. But Pepe Le refused.’
   ‘Why?’ asks An.
   ‘He said: “Never transplant an old tree. I’m 65. We’ve survived the French colonial yoke and the Japanese occupation during the war. We’ll also survive Communism.” The family members asked also my grandfather, Le Dinh Hoa: “You have heard the stories of the concentration camps in the regions occupied by the Communists.” He reacted: “I’ve never seen proof.’ His brother, Le Van Tinh, insisted: “Be aware of the Communists. These people wear the same clothes, have the same ideas, speak the same language and resemble one another even bodily. You’ll never be one of them.” But grandfather was a mule.’
   ‘As you?’ intervenes Thai.
   ‘You have to talk!’
   ‘Shed up, sister’ insists An. ‘Continue.’
   ‘Grandfather’s first concern was to take care of his parent who got older. And as the president of the Chua Bi’s People’s Committee he got a visit of high ranking officials of the Communist Party. They were talking on a land reform and the elimination of the big landowners. “Fortunately we don’t have any problems here”, grandfather argued. The president, a nephew of Dang Xuan Khu – behind Ho Chi Minh the number two of the Communist regime – told that a People’s Tribunal should make an investigation. “And all inhabitants decide”, said the man. But that reunion was also attended by ten young revolutionaries in a blue uniform from the Youth League. The president started to distribute sweets to the boys and girls.’
   ‘He wasn’t that bad’, An says.
   ‘But the man wanted to hear from the children what their parents had told at home on the government. His real intention was to eliminate the adversaries of the Communists. My father, Hoa, who was eight years old, told that grandfather wanted to become member of the Communist Party.’
   ‘That was a lie to trick the Communists of course. But a jealous neighbor accused falsely my grandmother. The youngsters of the Youth League forced everybody to declare her guilty. And she was sentenced to be shot by gunfire. When grandfather protested, he was send to a concentration camp.’
   The girls react shocked.
   ‘What happened to your father’, asks An. ‘I’ve never known him.’
   ‘He got a difficult youth, but received a lot of support from the villagers. He was an excellent student. At the age of eighteen, he studied at the Physics Department of the University in Hanoi. But he had to serve in the North-Vietnamese army. He deserted, but was, as a punishment, forced to work in an agricultural cooperation in a remoted New Economic Zone. Only in the 1980’s he got the permission to teach.’
   Thai trembles and starts weeping. ‘When they take you away … will you also be shot down?’
   ‘First: why should they arrest me? I’m here, in my home, with you on my sheet. Second: they don’t kill people any more. They let us suffer lifelong.’ He caresses her. ‘Never be afraid.’
   But Thai starts weeping.
   He sees everything back before his eyes. December 27, 2012. As is was yesterday.

‘Take him’, ordered an officer.
   Six uniformed policemen attacked him at the entrance of the school. An started crying, but Thai, who sat on his arm embraced him as hard as she could. And he held his daughter. Some bystanders looked scared, while the teacher reacted pleased.
   Several beatings with bludgeons weakened Quan’s grip. Two agents took Thai was wildly striking around.
   ‘Dad’, she cried, but she was handed over to her teacher.
   ‘Thai’, he screamed, but he got beaten more severely and was dragged to a police car nearby.
   The operation took less than one minute. Some bystanders applauded, while others started booing and whistling.
   The officer wasn’t impressed. ‘Law and order will be respected: always and everywhere’, he shouted.
   ‘The law of the jungle?’ someone in his back asked.
   He turned around. ‘Who said this?’ he reacted furiously. But to his frustration he couldn’t identify the perpetrator. He randomly took one bystander by his collar.
   ‘Was that you?’
   Anxiously shaked the man his head.
   ‘Another candidate to accompany us?’ he cried. ‘There’s place enough to put all adversaries in secured preservation.’
   Spontaneously people started to hum.
   ‘Let’s go’, the man ordered.

What he had heard afterwards from Thai, cut as a knife in his heart.
‘Enough!’ Thai’s teacher cried on the playground when they had left with him. He lifted her by her two ears from the ground. ‘Never follow the footsteps of your father, silly girl.’
   In the classroom she had to sit in the first row. ‘So I can keep an eye on you permanently.’
   The man learned them Who loves Uncle Ho Chi Minh as much as the children? Everybody had to know that text by heart.’
   The man took his synthesizer and played the intro. ‘We stand up out of respect for the founding father of our country. And don’t forget to wave when Ho Chi Minh’s name is mentioned.’
   Everybody sang:

Who loves Uncle Ho Chi Minh as much as the children?
Who loves Uncle Ho Chi Minh as much as the children of Vietnam?

Our Uncle has a tall figure and a likable disposition.
Our Uncle has eyes like stars and a longish beard.
Our Uncle has brown skin weathered by fog and wind.
Our Uncle has resolutely vowed to avenge his homeland.

Beloved Ho Chi Minh, we children will love you all our lives.
Beloved Ho Chi Minh, uncle, you have ventured abroad for your people.

   ‘First verse: Thai!’ he had ordered her.
   All her classmates started to chuckle. How often she had told that later on? She blushed and sang with her soft voice:

Uncle, though now you are older,
Older and yet jovial and active.
Every day we children dream,
Wishing that you can live forever to guide us to maturity and rebuild the nation through You.

   Among her teacher she didn’t sing enthusiastic enough. He had to feel the revolutionary fire in her voice! The man repeated the last sentence with great passion.

Wishing that you can live forever to guide us to maturity and rebuild the nation through You.

   He stood still at Thai’s desk. ‘Sorry, your poor performance deserves one point out of ten. I have asked you several times before to repeat at home, but apparently your family prefers  decadent western music.’
   Her classmates started laughing.
   ‘Take your diary’, he ordered. Trembling, she obeyed. ‘Write down: fifty times the text of Who loves Uncle Ho Chi Minh as much as the children? And tomorrow you’ll perform the song without textbook. This exercise will be repeated till you succeed.’
   The teacher walked back and forth. ‘Marxism-Leninism and the teachings of Ho Chi Minh are the leading guidance of education. I warn those who might have another opinion.’ He looked pretentiously at Thai. ‘No other ideas will make their appearance.’
   Everyone in the room was as quiet as a mouse.
   ‘Close your eyes’, he continued. ‘Think of your family members who gave their life for our freedom.’ A short silence followed. ‘Now all of us will repeat the first verse of Who loves Uncle Ho Chi Minh as much as the children? in a way that will please the leaders of our beloved country.’

Uncle, though now you are older,
Older and yet jovial and active.
Every day we children dream,
Wishing that you can live forever to guide us to maturity and rebuild the nation through You.

He awakes from his musing and remarks that Thai is weeping on his sheet.
   ‘No more tears, my sweetheart.’
   ‘I want to have you with me all the time, Dad.’
   ‘Me too.’
   ‘You’ll help me?’
   ‘What for.’
   ‘Design a lotus.’
   ‘When do you need this?’
   ‘There’s plenty of time this evening, for now, you’ve to return to school in five minutes.’
   ‘I want to do it right now!’ She crosses her elbows.
   Quan shakes his head. ‘The apple doesn’t fall far away from the tree.’
   ‘What do I have to do with an apple? And a tree?’
   He starts laughing. ‘You’re as stubborn as your father.’
   ‘And my lotus?’ she insists.
   ‘You know how they bloom?’
   ‘We’ve learned that at school’, she says proudly. ‘At night the lotus closes its leaves and goes under the water surface to sleep. And it opens its leaves again when the sun rises in the morning.’
   ‘Brilliant! Dad loves the lotus also very much.’
   ‘They smell so good, although they grow in dark, muddy and stinking water. Bah…’ He squeezes his nose.
   Thai smiles.
   ‘The flower I’ve in mind, lives in the midst of the communist mud. That really stinks.’ He squeezes his nose again.
   Now his daughter bursts out of laughing.
   He rubs two of his fingers over her legs. You know: my grandfather told the story of the real meaning of the lotus. But don’t tell it at school.’
   ‘Promised’, she says like an adult. ‘Do I have to swear?’
   Quan starts laughing ‘Better close your eyes.’
   The girl does as he says.
   ‘My lotus has seven leaves who’re strongly woven in each other. The outer circle has four of them. You see these?’
   Thai nods.
   ‘The first leaf symbolizes the wisdom to handle correctly. The second stands for justice. The money you’ve collected with you classmates at the Santa Claus fest, was divided in exactly the same parts. Right?’
   ‘260.000 Dong’, she beams.
   ‘And the third leaf refers to moderation. If Dad would buy ten kilo of sweets, you would  eat them all … and then I would have to take you to the hospital.’
   ‘Ten kilo?’ Thai looks up. ‘When are you going to buy so many sweets?’
   Quan realizes that he chose a bad example. ‘One sweet tastes wonderful, but when you eat too much of them, you’ll find them repellent . Remind me, you’ll get a sweet in a minute when you go to school. The fourth leaf is courage. Your father still has the courage to realize my dreams even though they’ve beaten, threatened and imprisoned me.’
   Huyen comes to the writing-desk with the two other girls who’re ready to leave.
   ‘I’m just finishing my story’, he says. ‘The inner circle of the lotus, on the other hand, has three leaves: our strong belief, the hope that our country will soon be free, and love and charity. Finally a heart that radiates warmth, light and happiness burns in the middle .’
   ‘The communists will destroy your lotus’, intervenes An.
   ‘Maybe. But new lotuses will rise out of the mud everywhere.’
   Huyen applauds and the kids follow her lead. ‘Now it’s high time to leave. I ought to be in time at the office.’
   But Thai remains stubborn. ‘And my lotus?’
   ‘Mark my words, I promise you a huge surprise when you come back from school.’
   ‘What then?’
   ‘Trust me.’ He puts his hands in the air. ‘You’ll be astonished.’
   Thai still isn’t satisfied. ‘And you’ve promised me a sweet.’
   ‘I’ll take one. They’re up in the cupboard. Otherwise I fear they would get feet.’
   ‘Hurry up, little girl’, says Huyen. ‘Your jacquet. See you this evening, darling.’ She taps on his shoulder. ‘Be careful.’
   Quan scares.
   She looks straight in his eyes. ‘When you’ll get the children ... I’ll pray for you.’ She puts her thumb up. That has been the sign of their mutual and unconditional support since he had had to flee her student room in 1990 because of a police raid .

Quan catches sight of another car of the Secret Service on the street. It’s obvious they don’t want him to go out. On Chanel 2, the Vietnamese emission of Radio Free Asia, he hears the last part of an interview with a correspondent in Beijing. Still there is no announcement from the Chinese government. The speaker announces Wind of change by The Scorpions, a song which makes Quan’s hair stand on end.

I follow the Moskva
Down to Gorky Park
Listening to the wind of change
An August summer night
Soldiers passing by
Listening to the wind of change

The world is closing in
Did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future's in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change

Take me to the magic of the moment
On a glory night
Where the children of tomorrow dream away
in the wind of change

   So many memories come to mind. Upon hearing a few sentences of this song on
Radio France International in 1990, he was touched at once. These three words, Wind of change,
became his objective. When, later on, he got access to the internet, the music video with
pictures of the 1980s fascinated him. He still knows that song by heart. Against his habit, he
turns the music up quite loudly.
   Lady Linh bangs the wall softly. Why? Normally she reacts much more strongly, because
isolation isn’t of the best quality of this building. He turns the volume down again. To his
surprise she knocks again. He doesn’t understand. Does she want to play the music louder? He
does so and his guess is confirmed immediately. ‘Does Linh like The Scorpions? What she’s
hiding altogether?’
   Adrenaline streams through his body. The song marked the end of the Cold War and the
Soviet dominancy in Vietnam. And now the end of the communist supremacy is coming up.
   He searches the copy of this cd. The wedding present of his friend Lam. Where has he put it?
The cd wasn’t confiscated during the investigations of the police and the Secret Service
Because no official understands the meaning.
   In the archive box, in the cupboard in the bedroom, lie on the top some family pictures.
His grandparents and parents come to his mind. Then he finds his notes from the
courses International Right and the love letters to his wife. To his great pleasure he finds the cd –
apart from some cards and letters with blessings – at the bottom of the cupboard in an envelope
which bears the words Marriage 1998.
   Passing by the girl’s room he remembers his promise to Thai. That has priority. Once more he
opens the big cupboard in the bedroom, takes a chair and looks at a heap of textiles. He takes a
beautiful yellow cloth of silk. It’s the same yellow tint of the former South-Vietnamese flag. The
cloth measures three by two meters, which is far too big, but Huyen can make it shorter.
   Furthermore he finds the remaining part of a white linen cloth. Quan designs a big lotus,
humming the chorus of Wind of change.
   He is satisfied with the result and takes his scissors. With a needle and a thread from Huyen’s sewing cabinet, he sews the design in the middle of the cloth. He smiles. Should they see him fulfilling this task, the employees of the Secret Service would think he’d become crazy. Living up to what he promised his daughter while his beloved country is on fire! He lays the spread on her bed when his mobile starts ringing.
   ‘Father Phung. What can I do for you?’
   ‘I’m not sure you can help me. There is an unexpected visitor here at Thai Ha, a journalist from The World Inside. His name is Radko and he wants to talk to you.’
   The name rings a bell, but Quan never met the man.
   ‘I am writing a column for that newspaper, isn’t that enough?’
   ‘He wants to see you.’
   He quickly peeks from behind the curtains through the window.
   ‘My house is surrounded by agents of the Secret Service.’
   ‘I thought so, yes.’
   On the other end of the line, Quan hears some rustling.
   ‘The man wants me to read a letter to you. From the president from Lawyers4Lawyers’, Phung whispers.
   ‘Can you say that again please?’
   Quan isn’t worried. None of Linh’s cousins that are eavesdropping, know what he’s talking about. He cannot just ignore this, he realizes. That organization has done so much for him. He reflects on his words. ‘I don’t have much time.’
   He lays down his phone.
   Lady Linh softly knocks on the wall of the bedroom. He knocks back and she replies. It’s clear that she wants to warn him. But what for? Carefully he looks through the eye in the glass of the front door. To his surprise two man in civil clothes are waiting in the corridor. Without any doubt agents of the Secret Service. Is there a raid in his apartment coming up? His arrest?
   He returns to the bedroom and whispers ‘thanks’.
   For the third time in only one hour, he goes to the bathroom. When the tension rises, his bladder gives in.
  If he wants to leave the house, he’ll have to enact Plan B, a procedure conceived of many years before, but never really put into practice. He thinks about the words he’s going to use, because his telephone is monitored.
   ‘Hi, Tung. At home?’
   ‘Speak up, my friend.’
   ‘Bi-bi. I’ve company now. I’m going to wash my hands. You too? We need fresh air.’
   The man only needs half a word. ‘A good idea.’
   In the bathroom climbs Quan through the window. It's just wide enough. Outside he uses the bricks for support and is able to distinguish between floors thanks to their different colors. He’s agile enough to do this maneuver, but realizes that one wrong step should be enough to land fifteen meters lower.
   In front of him watches Tung him speechlessly. He looks at a point behind him. Quan looks back and sees lady Linh in the opening of her bathroom window. He always thought that his Plan B was watertight, but forgot about the omnipresent factor ‘Linh’. He clinches to the iron bars on the side wall. One word to her ‘nieces’ inside should be enough to betray him. He breathes quietly because he has the inner feeling that she won’t do it. Otherwise she had already raised the alarm. To his relief lady Linh puts her index finger on her lips. For the first time he sees a glittering golden ring at her ring finger. Beside it he spots An’s key ring with the white lotus in plastic. Now it’s clear. Lady Linh feels that the wind of change is coming up as well. Without her special relationship with An, she would never have done so, he realizes. He gives a wink in return.
   ‘Won’t you help me?’
   Tung, who’s still perplexed, comes around. He was thinking of the undoubtable accusation of complicity that should be his fate had the authorities discovered them. He takes Quan’s hand and draws him inside. They both fall on the ground.
   Tung who makes a painful grimace, while his wife Cam regards concerned. He has hurt his hip.
   ‘I’ve never done this before.’
   ‘You could apply in a circus.’
   ‘What circus?’ Quan asks.
   Tung appreciates that kind of humor. However, that talented man could never develop his capacities. Although half of his family died in the American War, the Communists didn’t trust him as a result of a banal incident. After he got wounded by an American bomb after the Tet Offensive in ’68 he started teaching. When shortly afterwards Ho Chi Minh died, two of his pupils who were ill were allowed not to attend his funeral. Since then an aura of suspicion has hung around Tung. He stayed in the same class in the same primary school for the rest of his career, because the Communists only collaborate with people they trust for one hundred per cent.
   Since the death of his own dad, Quan considers his neighbor as his spiritual father and advisor. His wife, aunt Cam, is a small woman who worked in a textile factory her whole life. Both didn’t have children out of principle. They didn’t want to put any more slaves on the surface of the earth, but they consider Quan’s and Huyen’s children as theirs and they also love them with all their heart, especially for the sweets they get.
   ‘Fresh chè?’
   ‘For my sweethearts’, beams Cam.
   ‘You cherish them too much.’
   ‘Not true.’
   ‘Oh no? They even prefer you chè above mine.’
   ‘That’s not my fault. I’ll give you my recipe.’
   ‘Is your bike in the cellar?’
   Tung nods.
   ‘Be careful’, emphasizes Cam.
   ‘I will be back in one hour.’
   ‘I’ve got to pick up the children.’
   Both men go to the cellar. On the street Tung gives a sign and Quan leaves the garage with a thundering speed .

To his surprise he spots the bulldozers and hundreds of policemen on the boulevard Ton Duc Thang. He gets worried. They’re destined for the conflict in Thai Ha. But due to the traffic jam he has to stop.
   He can’t believe his ears. The former head guard of the camp he was incarcerated.
   ‘Van Tien! What are you doing here?’

‘All in one line!’ shouted the infamous camp leader, general Dang Hung.
   The prisoners obeyed.
   ‘From now on Mister Van Tien is responsible for keeping law and order. I’ll keep an eye on a higher level. Be under no illusion, the rules will still be strictly applied.’
   ‘At least he’ll get more time to court the “horny wenches” he’s talking of all the time’, whispered Quan to his neighbor. ‘Bet that a new load of sex slaves is on its way.’
   ‘Sex slaves?’
   ‘Lowering the males’ testosterone level in the camp is the main function of the female guards in the midst of the jungle.’
   Quan intuitively feeled he has much in common with the new security chief. He spoke to that benign man the very first evening. He remained outside alone, while all the prisoners were watching TV.
   ‘Not interested?’
   ‘All that rubbish keep the people as stupid as possible.’

That was their first meeting. The first in a long row. He taught him the basic principles of English. After a few weeks they only spoke the most widespread language of the world. This way of handling made their conversations incomprehensible for potential eavesdroppers. By the way: nobody in the camp even understood one word of English. He learned Van Tien how to read between the lines and convinced him of the malice of Communism.
   ‘I’m not your enemy, but your companion and even your friend. Both of us love our country and share the same dream: to live as brothers together in a free Vietnam.’

One and a half year later, they are standing – much to their surprise – face to face again and they still understand each other without words.
   ‘I got promoted’, whispers Van Tien.
   ‘Congratulations. But what are you doing here?’
   ‘Called up as reinforcement for an uprising that’s coming up.’
   ‘I’ve to execute the orders.’
   ‘An uprising? Quite the contrary’, Quan reacts. ‘Who’s leading this action?’
   ‘You know him. General Dang Hung.’
   ‘Viet Pot? You can’t mean this! Dang Xuan Khu’s corrupted son is making a second career?’
   ‘Apparently. Slavish loyalty and brutality, but above all family relations still are the keys to success’, whispers Van Tien. ‘Nobody really understands what’s happening, but he’s once more the rising star within the pro-Chinese wing in the Communist Party and has great ambitions.’
   ‘Oh, my God. I daren’t think of what might happen when that monster takes charge. He’s the most cynical guy I ever met. Are they looking for bloodshed?’
   ‘You know how to manage him.’

General Dang Hung or Viet Pot. The man with a pimple on his left cheek had visibly feasted at the benefits reserved for the apparatchiks. His father, Party ideologue Dang Xuan Khu had been the strong man behind the scenes for decades and was president of Vietnam in the 1980s. Although he was pursuing absolute power, he never succeeded to achieve that objective.
   Power was the only goal of his voracious son too. He could climb the ladder rather quickly thanks to the protection of his father and advanced into Minister of Transport: a key function within the government and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. This was traditionally the lever into the Politburo, the real center of power. But the man became the victim of his own gluttony. In the run-up to the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party in 2007 a corruption scandal erupted. Dang Hung had been abducting millions of Euros from development aid to gamble on football matches in Spain and England and to buy luxury cars. He was arrested for the duration of the Congress, but got a second chance. And after ten years of penitence, his rehabilitation was coming up. And how!
   In the concentration camps, he was notorious for his sadism and unorthodox methods of interrogation. Conducting psychological terror was his speciality. He took over the “heavy cases”, his colleagues couldn’t manage.

Chained at his hands and feet Quan entered Dang Hung’s office. He detested his cynical smile, while a drool almost ran from his mouth. He sliped the fingers of his right hand one over the other, staring his umpteenth victim right in the eyes. Quan shivered because of the irritating, repetitive noise, but looked as normal as possible. Dang Hung doubles that sound by slipping the fingers of both hands. His golden ring glittered in Quan’s eyes.
   ‘So far I’ve broken everybody’, he boasted. His laugh echoed in the narrow room. He put his left hand high. ‘Look at my ring’, he ordered. ‘Do you see the dragon? She spits fire. It means that I’ve got absolute power over you.’ He took Quan by his collar. ‘I’ll destroy you!’
   Quan thought of his prayer with the statue of Our Mother of Perpetual Help of Thai Ha parish. Minutes were passing by and he felt that his persistent silence made Viet Pot nervous. He started pacing up and down, shouted in his ears, lifted him by his collar and let him fall on the ground. He kicked in his stomach, but none of these actions provoked Quan.
   ‘Still a frozen tongue?’ he shouted.
   Quan found the way to intimidate his challenger. When Viet Pot smashed in his face, his nose started to bleed. After the third hit he got furious. ‘Who do you think you are?’ He kicked him again. Quan put his teeth on each other in order not to cry out from pain.
   ‘Guards’, he shouted.
   Two men came inside and bowed. They got scared too when he was furious.
   ‘A little problem with this scoundrel. Loosen his tongue.’
   Quan nearly lost conscience.
   ‘Solitary confinement in the dungeon!’ the general ordered. ‘We just need more time to break him.’
   In his dark and tiny cell Quan couldn’t swallow the muck in the rusty bowl. He started his hunger strike. The next day Dang Hung came to greet him.
   ’Isn’t our friend still hungry? What a pity to waste good food.’ He grined. ‘Beware of the rats at night. They’re fond of human flesh. You wouldn’t be the first to ... Mm, guard what’s on the menu tomorrow? Rat meat? Ha, ha ha.’
   Rats were running around. But he didn’t let Hung intimidate him. Almost mad with loneliness and suffering from the perpetual silence, he struggled through these hard days and weeks. Only prayer kept him going.
   After a week the general appeared again.
   ’Still on diet?’
   He didn’t adjourn.
   ‘And your solitude? You like it?’
   Again he didn’t move.
   ‘A man is not made to live alone.’ He laughed aloud. ’I’ll arrange some cosy company.’
   Quan realized that a new round of harassment was coming up. He was transported to cell with vigorous criminals.
   ‘I’ll be free when I kill you’, said the cellmate who boasted the highest word.
   ‘No, I’ll be free when I kill you’, intervened his neighbour. The other cellmates tittered and nodded.
   ‘And you believe that?’
   Quan kept on talking for hours and when the night felt, he wasn’t sure whether he should wake up. In the morning, however, when he opened his eyes, he was sure to survive this ordeal as well.

‘How do you cope with your conscience when you follow the orders of that monster?’ Quan challenges Van Tien.
   ‘I’ve … to obey.’ His voice is trembling while he anxiously looks back. ‘Dang Hung is indeed going to use the great means.’
   ‘As far as I can see, he only has a revolver. And what’s the country’s interest at this moment?’ Quan is perfectly aware of Van Tien’s soft spot. ‘You should think of that as a commander.’
   The man is touched by heart. ‘Are you … one of them?’
   ‘The roots of my commitment are in Thai Ha .’ He sees the growing doubt in the eyes of his interlocutor. ‘Think of the meaning of the Year of the Rooster, the prophecies of Nguyen Binh Khiem and the Fatima predictions!’

Van Tien sat next to Quan. Although it was 9 pm, temperature was still above thirty degrees. Silence reigned over the concentration camp.
   ‘Are you betraying me?’ he whispered.
   ‘Not at all. You believe in the horoscope?’
   ‘Everybody does.’
   ‘What year were you born in?’
   ‘Lunar year?’
   ‘The Rooster.’
   ‘Which lunar year are we celebrating in 2017?’
   ‘Again the year of the Rooster. Why you’re asking?’
   ‘All the important events in our history took then place.’
   Van Tien looked up.
   ‘How many examples do you want?’
   ‘I’m curious! But don’t talk too loudly.’
   ‘First the rebellion of the noble Trung sisters, two thousand years ago. In our recent history the French troops, who took the citadel of Hanoi in 1873, forced Emperor Tu Duc to sign the Second Treaty of Saigon. It subscribed to French sovereignty over the south of Vietnam. Twelve years later, in 1885, when the whole country was under the French rule, the Can Vuong rebellion started.’
   Quan noticed the growing amazement in the eyes of his chief guard.
   ‘Can I go on?’
   He nodded.
   ‘In 1945 lead the proclamation of the independence by Ho Chi Minh, here on Ba Dinh Square, to the end of colonization. The American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, started his secret meetings with North Vietnam to end the American war in ‘69. And the years 1981 and 2005 marked the second phase of the transition to a socialist society in the communist ideology, after which a classless society should be achieved. These years weren’t chosen by hazard. The Communists used history to legitimize their regime. This means that if the regime doesn’t collapse before the start of the Year of the Dog, on February 4, 2018, we’ve to wait another twelve years.’
   ‘You’re a walking encyclopedia’, reacted Van Tien. He’d never looked at history that way.
   ‘Why did all these key moments take place in the Year of the Rooster?’ Quan challenged him.
   ‘I’m not … specialized.’
   ‘Look at the negative capabilities of your zodiac. You know them: vain, selfishness and blind egoism.’
   Van Tien, who was confronted with the real meaning of the zodiac, wasn’t comfortable. ‘I recognize … what you’re saying’, he stuttered.
   ‘You know the label times of the day in the zodiac, with correspond with a two-hour period?’
   He nodded.
   ‘When does the Rooster Hour take place?’
   ‘Between 5 and 7 pm.’
   ‘In 2017 or in 2029 something serious will happen at that time.’
   Van Tien was sill speechless, while Quan looked inside the barrack. His fellow prisoners were still watching TV. The quiz was very popular, also with the guards. In whom were they most interested: the pretty girls in the panel? Or the banal questions?
   ‘You know Nguyen Binh Khiem’s prophecies?’ The lawyer incited his chief guard once more.
   ‘I’ve his book … Predicts of Trang at home.’
   Quan looked straight in his eyes. ‘A disciple of the Cao Dai?’
   He soberly nodded. That was the missing link. Quan finally understood why he felt so related to his chief guard, and vice versa. They both had a deep connection with religion.
   The syncretistic, monotheistic religious movement Cao Dai, who has two million adherents, was founded in the 1920s. It crystallizes an ideal religion on the basic elements of Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and animism. The followers try to break the eternal circle of reincarnation by living a life of austerity and introspection, which includes elements of spiritualism and ancestor worship. Mediums bring the faithful in touch with the supreme God and the world of the spirits. Nguyen Binh Khiem is one of their most important prophets.
   ‘You believe his prophecies?’
   ‘He predicts also big changes in 2017.’
   ‘I don’t know the details.’ The chief guard was filled with a feeling of shame because the man in front of him knew more than he about his own religion. ‘Since my arrival here, I didn’t go to a temple’, he apologized. ‘When I took service I had to claim that I’m an atheist and since the computers in the camp are constantly being monitored, I can’t look at relevant websites.’ He sighed. ‘How do you know Binh Khiem?’
   ‘I’ve read some texts.’
   ‘You like them?’
   ‘His approach is too suggestive.’
   ‘These were written more than five hundred years ago!’
   ‘To be honest: they’re not my style.’
   ‘Now I don’t agree. His mysterious way of writing just attracts me.’
   Despite their different opinions, they both realized that they were brothers in soul.
   ‘There’s still one more point I can’t withhold from you’, continued Quan.
   ‘Your prediction of the end of Communism?’
   ‘When the Virgin Mary appeared in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal, to three shepherds, she predicted not only the communist revolution in Russia, but also predicted the end of communist atheism one hundred years later. That’s the reason why our rulers consider the Catholic church as counterrevolutionary due to which a harsh persecution of Christians that is coming up.’
   The door of the barrack swung open. After three hours of entertainment the prisoners walked in the courtyard, before going to bed.
   ‘Open your eyes’, Quan whispered. ‘Or do you think the zodiac, the Binh Khiem’s prophecies and the Fatima predictions are a coincidence?’
   He went away but was beaming inside. That last sentence was a bull’s eye. His attempt to talk a conscience into his chief guard didn’t miss its target.
   Seemingly uninterested Van Tien joined his colleagues. ‘Anybody seen the weather forecast?’

‘They want revenge?’
   Quan wakes Van Tien up from his daydream.
   ‘Today is the sixth anniversary of the 2011 uprising, in which the authorities were thrown back. Now they want to coerce their plans before the arrival of the foreign guests for the celebration of the centenary. They’re accomplished chess players.’
   Van Tien trembles and looks scared. ‘They’re indeed … eager … to succeed.’
  ‘Not that symbolic plant, but the future of our country is at stake! Look at the occupation of Storm Island! The Chinese are even better chess players.’
   When Viet Pot shouts, Van Tien has to return. Quan still trembles when he hears his fatty voice in the distance. 
   ‘Take good care’, advises Van Tien.
   ‘We’ll take care of our weapons: a rosary and prayer.’
   A woman, selling lotus flowers, passes by.
   Again, it makes Quan’s hair stand on end. ‘That’s what you and all of us need.’
   Van Tien quickly returns to his division.
   ‘20.000 Dong.’
   Reaching for his hip pocket, he realizes that he’s forgotten his wallet. ‘My God, but you just gave me an excellent idea!’ he cries ecstatic.
   The woman doesn’t understand what he means, while Quan spots two secret agents coming in his direction. How often did he escape yet? Mostly he’s too quick for them. A few months ago he jumped before their eyes in a taxi when they wanted to interrogate him. They won’t get me, he makes out a case for them. He takes Tung’s bike and returns home as fast as he can.

He parks the bike at the big placard of the centenary, that announces the military and civil parade of November 7, next to the entrance of the apartment of his neighbor. Abruptly a car with the two secret agents on board he’s seen before stops.
   He flees into the apartment, closes the door and strides into the fifth floor.
   Tung and Cam are surprised.
   ‘Forgotten something important.’
   In the bathroom he climbs through the narrow window and returns to his apartment. Inside he puts the new bedspread in a rucksack and writes a note for his daughter. ’I’m using your surprise. You’ll get it back asap. Dad’.
   The cd of The Scorpions lies on the table in the living room and he puts the pieces of Huyen’s letter from ’95 in his wallet. His father’s last words are written on a picture of him hanging on the wall: As I have loved you, you must love one another. The Gospel of evangelist John, chapter 13, line 34, has also been Quan’s catchphrase ever since his death.
   ‘I need your help, Dad.’ He directs his eyes to heaven. ‘The wind of change is coming up. Your old dream will be accomplished.’ He taps on the picture. ‘I won’t put to shame the confidence Granddad and you’ve put in me.’
   He hears some noise in the corridor and looks through the eye in the front door. The door of the elevator open. Reinforcement is coming up. The two men jump up. At once he locks the door with a bolt. The agents react surprised and knock.
   ‘Open. Police!’
   As fast as his feet can bear him, Quan runs to the bathroom, but with the rucksack he can’t get through the narrow window. He returns, takes the sack in his hand and clambers through the window.
   Tung and Cam look anxiously through the window of their bathroom, when there’s also a knocking at their door.
   Quan realizes that he’s caught in the middle. There’s only one way out. He looks at the roof, three stages higher.
   He breathes through his nose. But when he turns, a brick for support breaks and noisily falls on the floor down.
   To his relief Tung is still holding his arm.
   ‘You’ve … saved my life’, he stutters.
   In the meantime the police knocks again. ‘Open the door!’
   ‘Come with your bike to the newspaper vendor at the corner.’
   Tung nods.
   Skillfully he takes the iron bars and climbs on the roof.
   Quan is nearly at the top when he shouts: ‘Cam!’
   The woman anxiously puts her head through the window.
   ‘Will you pick up the children from school? I’ll be late.’
   She puts her thumb up.
   Once on the roof he looks back. An agent puts his head through the window of his bathroom.
   When the man notices Quan, he takes his whistle. The lawyer descends two buildings further through the emergency staircase and runs to the agreed place where he takes Tung’s bike.
   ‘You’re my hero!’
   Taking only byroads he rides to Thai Ha parish.

Thai Ha is a magical place

Father Phung takes Radko by the arm. ‘Caution is the mother of all wisdom. We’d better go inside.’
   The journalist follows the tall man with his big glasses. They enter a building from the 1940s or 1950s. The interior decoration with its abundance of Christian symbols and even the smell, a mix of foot odor, urine and sauerkraut, reminds him of his time at boarding school half a century ago. He doesn’t have the best memories of that period.
   They take the staircase to the first floor and enter the reception room with a view on the courtyard.
   ‘A cup of tea?’
   ‘Thanks. Just finished my meal.’
   ‘I’m expecting the prior. He’ll be a much better help.’
   ‘Aren’t you afraid, with the confrontation coming up?’
   ‘Afraid? What’s afraid? His lower lip trembles again. ‘We’ve been through so much already.’
   Phung isn’t too keen on having his picture taken. But Radko insists, and after a while the old man poses obediently.
   Suddenly his mobile rings. ‘Hi, boss. I’m arrived at my destination safely.’
   ‘It’s high time’, reacts David shortly.
   Doesn’t he show any interest or concern?
   ‘Do you have something to write?’ he orders.
   ‘So nervous?’
   ‘Don’t you know what’s happening?’
   He lifts his voice. ‘An uprising in Thai Ha is coming up.’
   ‘The Chinese invasion in the Spratly archipelago, dummy.’
   ‘Military planes are landing on Storm Island.’
   ‘Only just arrived. I didn’t hear the news.’
   The monk stands up. ‘What’s happening?’
   Radko tries to reassure him. ‘A Chinese invasion in the South Chinese Sea’, he whispers. Phung shakes his head.
   ‘Contact Le Quan’, continues David. ‘We’ll make an opener on the front page. And a big interview inside. I got the confirmation that he’s going to write a column. Ask him not to speak to any other newspaper. Since most leading dissidents stay behind bars, recently including lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, this unique opportunity can put The World Inside in the midst of the world’s attention.’
   Radko beams. ‘Quan is on his way to Thai Ha.’ He looks at Phung. ‘We’re expecting him within five or ten minutes.’ The monk nods.
   ‘Take that interview first. I presume you’ve prepared his biography on the plane.’
   ‘You know me.’
   The journalist is still waiting for a word of appreciation, but knows this is useless. His stoic boss continues persistently.
   ‘Secondly. Background article on the Chinese threat. I suppose you’ve wrote down yet the big lines.’
   ‘Thirdly. First impression on Thai Ha with an overview of the historical precedents. I’ve made a text for our website already: “Uprising in Vietnam is coming up. Our reporter in the midst of the turmoil”.’
   Radko doesn’t answer. He knows that this slave-driver he has to obey never takes his opinion into account. He recalls that unfortunate experience with the taxi driver. The more he thinks about it, the more he’s convinced that something is wrong with that guy.
   ‘Are you using my name?’
   ‘What’s wrong? Your nickname R.J.S. Brown of course.’
   ‘Contact me when something happens. We’ll send messages by Facebook and Twitter accordingly.’
   Radko hears another phone call coming in through the landline telephone and recognizes the ringtone, which is identical to the one at his desk.
   ‘One moment’, says David nervously.
   Far away, he can hear the usual hustle and bustle of the editing company. Everybody always is on their toes when something grave happens. The whole building stands stiff with adrenaline. As a young journalist he adored that kind of ambience: having to work under extreme pressure and with strict deadlines. But now he’s glad not to be there. He realizes that he is getting older. But at the same time he’s conscious of his responsibility. Suddenly David is back.
   ‘11.500 characters for the interview with Le Quan. The emphasis should be on his experiences with Communism. Describe his personal misfortune extensively, the more details, the better. People want to know them. 3.500 characters for his biography. And 5.500 for the global situation in the country and another 3.500 for Thai Ha. Don’t forget the portrait of Le Quan. Take pictures of the general mood inside the courtyard. Since you’ll probably be the only foreign journalist in situ, we can make money with your pictures and articles.’
   ‘Is that it?’ responds Radko cynical.
   ‘Is it too heavy a task?’ he reacts. ‘We‘ve to forge the iron when it’s hot. Be aware that the whole world is following you. See if we can talk through Skype. That’s more comfortable and cheaper. And when an uprising should take place, we will bring it live on our website. Act accurately and precisely. Check the battery of your computer. And make sure nothing happens to your mobile.’ As always David treats him like a rookie. ‘I’ll call you back in one hour … Good luck.’
   Radko sighs when he puts down his phone. Al least he got two words of encouragement from that eternal perfectionist. An Instant Poem comes in a flash in his mind. He notes in the margin some words.

You don’t impress with your huge interest in the human process.
Writing articles isn’t a work in progress, nevertheless.
Do you hear the printing press?
Make progress,

and even excess.
Only when you live under stress,
you’ll get success!

Phung is looking at the half a page of notes the journalist took. Radko scares and goes through the tasks he has to fulfill.
   ‘Do you have Skype?
   ‘A program to talk with people everywhere over the internet for free.’
   Flabbergasted the man looks at the sky. ‘Everywhere? I never heard of the thing you’re talking about. What’s next?’
   ‘And internet?’
   ‘The prior has. But I’ve told you yet’, he reacts nervous. ‘He’s coming.’
   Radko tries to make a connection with his computer. ‘Need a code.’
   Unfortunately, the monk doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. ‘I’ll ask the prior.’
   Radko hears the bells ringing and looks at his watch: 3 pm. He reads his preparations in anticipation of the arrival of Quan. ‘I need more details on the history of the monastery.’
   ‘Let’s catch our breath for a while first?’ Phung offers. ‘We’ve been under enough pressure as it is. I can ask one of our students to bring a cup of tea?’
   ‘There’s no time to lose.’
   When the monk looks straight in his eyes, he agrees. When his boss goes in overdrive, there is absolutely no reason as to why he should too. And experience has taught him that pressure doesn’t necessarily result in good articles. And isn’t quality the trademark of The World Inside? He realizes that a short break, before getting back into action, would do him good.
   ‘What tea?’
   ‘I can recommend our lotus tea.’
   ‘Never heard of it.’
   ‘You know the flower?’
   He nods. ‘But how do they make tea of it?’
   ‘By putting green tea leaves within the lotus flowers. But I prefer the mix of lotus petals and green tea leaves.’
   The monk places his order by the fixed phone and then reverts his attention back to Radko
   ‘I’m listening’, he says thoughtful, but tensed. His lower lip trembles again.
   Radko looks at his notes. ‘Canadian Redemptorists came to Hanoi in 1926 and bought this parcel of 6.1 hectares two years later. What was this land used for?’
   ‘It was given to a high ranking mandarin by the Vietnamese emperor. The man always welcomed poor people in particular. And we took over that part. The village became part of Hanoi in 1945. The monks built on this territory a small and later a bigger monastery and at the mean time also a church.’
   ‘What does that name mean?’
   ‘”Thai” stands for peaceful and “Ha” means river or sunset.’
   ‘How do you explain the attractiveness of Thai Ha?’
As the conversation continues, Phung starts to relax.
   ‘This is an inspiring place. When I first came here, I was taken by heart. And when I got my vocation, I didn’t hesitate for one second. Furthermore Thai Ha has always been an intellectual center. Ngo Dinh Diem, who was to become the president of South-Vietnam, stayed here in 1942.’
   Radko looks at his papers. Of course he knows the country’s history. After the military defeat of the French colonizer against the Viet Minh, Vietnam was divided in two states by the Geneva conference in ’54. The north got a communist regime under Ho Chi Minh. And South-Vietnam stayed within the western ambit. Both states were separated by a demilitarised zone at the 17th parallel. More than one million Catholics fled to the south.
   ‘Am I right that only five monks stayed in Thai Ha?’
   He nods. ‘The fear of the Communists was deeply rooted. I left too.’ His lower lip trembles.
   Someone knocks on the door. A young man enters with a can of hot water, tea, a vacuum flask and three cups.
   ‘I haven’t put the tea in the water yet’, he clarifies.
   ‘Wonderful,’ says Phung whose suspicion is gradually crumbling down. ‘I’m wondering how you will like it. Since the lotus tea is very strong, it shouldn’t be submerged for longer than 2 minutes. Every minute longer will give the tea a bitter taste, which is nevertheless preferred by some tea lovers.’
   But Radko is more interested in the young man. ‘A seminarian?’
   ‘Son. One of our twenty students who’re preparing for the seminar training.’
   ‘Can we talk?’ Instinctively, Radko reaches for his camera, but the man jolts.
   ‘We have had a bad experience’, explains Phung. ‘A colleague of yours interviewed two students. But soon after the interview they were sent away from the university and the high school. One of them should have graduated a few months later. That’s another good example of what they call “religious freedom” in Vietnam. Sorry, but we won’t endanger their future.’
   ‘A nickname’, Radko proposes. ‘That happens occasionally.’
   Son, who still isn’t feeling at ease, hesitatingly stays that he’s a final-year student in Tourism. It’s hard not to succumb to the psychological pressure . In the evening he’s also engaged in social activities: he’s counseling a few hundred students and forty pregnant woman who want to keep their babies.
   ‘Do you want to become a priest?’
   ‘I’m too young. First I want to work and experience everyday life.’
   ‘Does the Secret Service know you’re staying here?’
   The timid guy shakes his head. ‘They can’t monitor every student. I keep a low profile and cover my face when entering and leaving the back door. Our presence doesn’t attract attention because people come and go all day long.’
   Son bows. He wants to leave.
   ‘One moment’, asks Phung. He goes out with the young man.
   ‘Well, that’s sorted out too then’, murmurs the monk at his return. He smells at the tea. ‘Ready.’ Phung serves two cups and puts the leftover in the vacuum flask.
   Radko tries it. ‘A surprising taste.’ He takes some sugar. ‘I’ve a sweet tooth’, and looks at his laptop. ‘Where were we?’
   ‘The division of the country.’
   ‘Two French monks were expelled and two were arrested, including Nguyen Tan Van. And Father Joseph Vu managed the parish alone till the 1990s.’
   ‘You know our history better than I do.’ Phung points at a picture of Tan Van at the wall. ‘He was a holy man.’
   ‘You’ve known him?’
   ‘Sure. I entered in ‘53.’
   ‘What do you remember?’
   ‘His consistent peaceful thinking and acting. The Communists sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor. After suffering torture and brainwashing for years, he died in a re-education camp.'
   ‘What made him special?’
   ‘The word “compromise” wasn’t in his dictionary. Although we never made a deal with the Communists in his wake, they’ve occupied most of our land by now.’
   Two knocks on the door are followed by the arrival of Quan. He looks skinnier than on the pictures Radko had seen on the internet. His cordial greeting with the Father shows their close relationship. Quan, who rubs off the sweat on his forehead, seems nervous. But his host sees to him.
   ‘A cup of thee will cheer you up.’
   He smells the tea. ‘Father prepares the best lotus tea in Vietnam.’
   ‘We talked about Brother Van.’
   ‘Oh, he’s still a very inspiring person.’
   ‘What have you learned from him?’
   ‘When you keep fighting for the truth, you’ve to pay a huge price. But I hope the present conflict will be settled in a more civilized way.’
   The man looks concerned. Radko realizes that he too must have seen the bulldozers.
   ‘And that in the end the truth will prevail’, the lawyer adds.
   Self-determent, eloquent and straightforward in his thoughts, the image that Radko had in mind of the character of his interlocutor corresponds with the truth completely.
   ‘In what way were you first introduced to Thai Ha?’
   ‘It was in ’89. By chance, I heard a conversation between two policemen on their plans to take land and to build a house. “That old man in his black dress and sandals will object, but don’t pay any attention to him.” They laughed. “You simple have to take the land.” I was shocked that people were building houses without permission. I met Father Vu. The mass he celebrated every Saturday at 12 am was mostly heard by people from the rural areas. At that time most of them lived in Hanoi illegally.’
   ‘What does Thai Ha mean to you?’
   ‘It is a magic site. The most spiritual place of all Hanoi. Here I find inner peace.’
   Radko takes notes on his computer zealously.
   ‘The essence of the conflict with the authorities is juridical: the return of confiscated church land. How strong are your arguments?’
   ‘The Redemptorists legally own 6.1 hectares. That they only possess less than five percent of it by now proves how utterly they have been robbed. Besides, there are some juridical aspects. The Vietnamese constitution guarantees the freedom of belief and of religion and all religions are equal before the law. According to Directive 379 places of worship, borrowed by the authorities, must be returned. Decree 26 and Ordinance 21, 2004, protect the legal property of places of religious belief.’ He sighs. ‘The government doesn’t put its own constitution into practice. Even more: they continue to take land from the church.’
   ‘On what grounds?’
   ‘That all land belongs to the state. Individuals and organizations should only have the right to use land. And the People's Committee studies the need of the church to use land. But juridically that approach doesn’t make any sense.’

Radko hears a repetitive sound in the background. Someone is reciting a text, which is being repeated much louder.
   ‘What’s happening?’
   ‘They are praying the rosary.’
   They look through the window. Since Radko’s arrival a lot more people have gathered around the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. He takes a series of pictures and Quan poses in the open window. Radko’s eyes fall on the entrance gate and the bar in front. A man with a T-shirt of the centenary enters. Is that Sam, the taxi driver?
   ‘Okay?’ asks the lawyer.
   Radko scares and looks at his camera. ‘The photos are brilliant.’
   He collects the pictures he had taken and sends them through We Transfer to the redaction.
   The repetitive prayer him of the services in the boarding school he attended in his youth.
   ‘That payer’, he says. ‘It’s …’
   Quan interrupts him. ‘Prayer gives us the strength not to surrender to the claims of the authorities.’
   ‘Eh, when did the conflict start?’
   ‘In 2008.’
   ‘The end of 2007’, corrects Phung. ‘The details are in my diary. I’ll take it.’
   Quan smiles. ‘I fear that tidiness and order, which leads to God according to the proverb, doesn’t match with him.’
   ‘You know the roots of the conflict by heart, don’t you?’
   ‘The first wave of discontent was related to the Vatican ambassador's residence next to Hanoi’s cathedral. When repeated demands of archbishop Kiet for the return remained unanswered, worshippers spontaneously carried flowers and candles to the fence around the building and a daily prayer vigil took place. On Christmas Eve 5,000 believers attended a peaceful demonstration.’
   Phung, who re-entered with his notebook and the Bible, starts laughing. ‘Not long after that the former Prime Minister Tan Dung visited our archbishop. When he left, I applauded. Others followed that example. Dung waved with a big smile, but didn’t realize that we were mocking him.’
   The government’s ultimatum to stop the vigils led to a round-the-clock prayer. A Muong woman, in her traditional clothes, who climbed over the fence to put down flowers at the replica of Michelangelo's Pieta next to the building, was struck.
   ‘Because I wouldn’t let it happen, I ran over to help’, continues Quan. ‘But was attacked in my turn.’
   ‘How would you describe you first confrontation with the repression device?’
   ‘They hit me in my stomach and against my hip and I was beaten in my face. My glasses were broken and my face was bleeding.’
   The crowd broke through the fence, planted an iron cross and erected tents to maintain the vigil. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, mediated. The authorities promised to return the site if the vigils ceased, but six months later he decided to create a park and a playground.
   ‘We knew that this could happen’, reacts Quan who starts laughing.
   ‘What’s so funny?’
   ‘That way of handling shows how Communism works. I experienced that already in ’81. I was ten years old when I visited Hanoi with my father. At that time everybody had to queue for food, petrol and all kind of supplies. Father liked to drink a beer, which you could only get in two places. After waiting for hours in a temperature of more than forty degrees my father was looking forward to two beers. When it was our turn at last, I didn’t get one because I was too young. And my father’s beer was warm because the fridge didn’t work. “Now you see the real face of Communism”, my father taught me. “You’re expecting something good, but at the end it’s bad.”’
   When the vigil prayers started again, bulldozers and construction workers demolished the ambassador's residence and started the construction of the park. In a response to the persistent demonstration thugs in the blue shirts of the Communist Youth League destroyed the interior of the cathedral. Surveillance cameras and monitoring equipment captured all activities and conversations in the surroundings.
   ‘One second’, intervenes Radko who’s writing down everything on his laptop with the speed of light. Even Phung is laughing because the journalist types with one finger. ‘Let’s continue’, insists Radko who looks at his watch. ‘How did the protest wave drift to Thai Ha?’
   ‘When we got a copy of the approved masterplan’, continues Quan. ‘On the site of a former textile factory, established in the 1950s on land of the monks, a building for the district administration and 65 new houses were to be constructed. Because of the rapid increase of land prices, the authorities would earn billions of Dong. On August 15, 2008, we made a hole in the wall around the factory.’
   ‘An emotional moment’, remembers the monk with a frog in his throat. His lower lip trembles. ‘I was being catapulted back in time half a century when I saw the still original saint statues and the altars.’
   The security forces didn’t react at first.
   ‘My wife and I were very concerned when An, our six years daughter, was waving with the Vatican flag, surrounded by policemen.’
   ‘I read an article on the miracle of the spontaneously collapsing wall.’
   Phung and Quan start laughing.
   ‘After days of incessant rain the badly constructed wall became so weak that we only had to push to bowl it over’, witnesses the monk. ‘Many attendees cried, as the symbolic meaning of that act was huge.’
   ‘And the authorities let them get away with it?’ Radko asks.
   ‘The revenge came two weeks later. Supported by the riot police thugs dumped in the church used motor oil on Mary’s statue and the altar and attacked worshippers with electric batons.’
   ‘My wife, who was pregnant at that time, was in shock’, continues Quan. ‘Four people were arrested. When we appealed for their release at the police headquarters, three more people were arrested. I could barely escape.’
   This incident marked the beginning of a wave of violence. A procession in the courtyard caused a total chaos after throwing smoke grenades and spraying tear gas. Twenty people had to be taken to the hospital. And when thugs attacked the Saint Gerardo Chapel, Phung used his secret weapon for the first time.
   ‘I barricaded the door to the tower and rang the bells. ‘Thousands of worshippers gathered to try and stop the gangs.’
   A double beep sounds. Phung gets a message on his mobile.
   ‘The prior’, he beams. ‘I’ve the code … Mm, nice … Guess?’
   ‘Thai’, says Radko.
   ‘Nice try.’
   ‘2017freeVietnam’, tries Quan.
   ‘Almost … Think of a flower.’
   ‘Lotus’, say Quan and Radko in choir.
   Phung sounds relieved. ‘LotusFreeVietnam. And there’s more good news’, het continues. ‘The prior is on his way home. I’m expecting him in one hour.’
   Quan feels that his intuition is right with that lotus.
   ‘I’d like another cup of tea?’ asks Radko.
   ‘Has the effect of the previous one worn out already?’ jokes Phung.
   ‘It’s so hot, with the sun shining on the windows.’
   The monk starts the ventilator, takes the vacuum flask.
   ‘Was the establishing of the park a compromise?’
   ‘Negotiations on the highest level led to that neutral solution indeed.’
   ‘I attended the inauguration’, remembers Phung. ‘Most attendees were veterans and activists of the Communist Youth League who had also carried out the raids. I think the government wanted to thank them for the raids on us.’ Once again, the monk smiles. I recognized the man who sprayed the tear gas. Next to him stood a Party official who was interviewed by Vietnamese state TV in priests’ cloths. “Ordained by the government?” I laughed at him. But a high police officer intervened. “We’ll question everybody who can be identified on the pictures and films while undertaking illegal activities. Heard the news yet? Two arrestees showed repentance. Many others will follow.” The battle axe wasn’t buried yet.’
   ‘When eight parishioners were condemned we got support from all over the country’, adds the lawyer. ‘A new heartwarming ideological bond was forged. Thousands of people favored our non-violent fight for fairness and justice. And people in charge from all over the country called upon my knowledge regarding new conflicts about confiscated church land. I was most engaged in the Vinh diocese in the Nghe An province, my native region.’
   ‘That news got less attention.’
   ‘I’m not quite sure. I always used my contacts abroad to make the cases I was involved in public..’
   ‘Such as?’
   ‘The conservation of the tower of the former Tam Toa cathedral in Dong Hoi. Following the arrest of eleven protesters, half a million people demonstrated in 2009 in the streets of Vinh. That was by far the largest religious protest in the history of Vietnam. The perseverant worshippers in that diocese don’t fear a confrontation. They regularly block National Highway 1, the only connection between the north and the south of the country that passes by the center of Vinh.’

Quan’s telephone rings. ‘Lam! Glad to hear you.’
   ‘I thought you promised to phone me back. We’ve to talk urgently. Where are you?’
   ‘In Thai Ha.’
   ‘Oh yeah!’ The man sounds relieved. ‘I’m glad you’ve changed your mind.’
   ‘Come asap and be careful with the bulldozers.’
   Father Phung, who just received a new message on his mobile, reacts offended. ‘Bulldozers! You didn’t say anything!’
   Quan has never seen the father so distressed. ‘One moment’, he says at the phone. The lawyer soothes the monk. ‘Sorry, I thought you knew already.’
   ‘That’s the end of Thai Ha!’
   ‘Don’t panic, it’s no use.’
   ‘And the prior isn’t here!’
   ‘He’s on his way.’
   ‘That’s the point. I just got the message that his car is being held by the police. He’s not allowed to return. Now I’m the only person in charge here. Do you know what that means?’
   ‘How many times have they threatened the monastery. And in the end none of their plans have been realized. Don’t fall for their tricks! That’s only intimidation.’
   Phung takes fir the first time off his glasses. Also his hands are trembling. ‘Do you realize: that’s the end of Thai Ha!’ he repeats.
   ‘What have you taught us always in the heat of the fight? Don’t give in to their provocations, answer their row with silence and restrain ourselves, even when they attack us. And never use violence. Stillness, prayer and peacefulness have given us an inner strength that makes us stronger than they are with all their arms.’
   He shakes his head. ‘Whom can I rely on?’
   Even Quan, who is still holding the phone, is touched by those words.
   ‘Yesterday evening I was all alone a few minutes after mass,’ the monk continues emotionally. ‘The police officers were mocking me when I closed the gate. “There won’t be no gate tomorrow”.’
   ‘Ever since my release, my commitment  to the cause hasn’t been the same,’ Quan confesses. ‘But I’m here now and I’m planning to stay,’ he sounds determined. ‘And that is exactly what all those people in the yard are going to do as well. Many are still on their way, just like Lam, who’s on the phone right now.’
   Desperately, the monk touches his head with his right hand. ‘I don’t mind getting older, being old is the worst. I feel completely worn out.’
   ‘What makes you think that?’
   ‘My health is decreasing rapidly. Especially those spontaneous nosebleeds worry me.’
   ‘Blame your blood pressure for the nosebleeds.’
   Phung shakes his head. ‘My grandfather had them too. He died shortly after.’
   ‘Come on! We’re facing this challenge together and we will succeed together.’
   ‘Hello?’ says Lam who’s still at the phone.
   ‘Sorry, but everybody is getting nervous.’
   ‘You’re not the only one.’
   ‘What do you mean?’
   ‘Just got a call of my brother in Saigon. Protesters at the Chinese embassy were ruthlessly beaten by the bludgeoning police forces. They’ve arrested nearly everyone. He could barely escape.’
   ‘The armed forces support the Chinese?’
   ‘He also heard other rumors. Two people were killed in a fight between Vietnamese and Chinese workers and people are plundering Chinatown. Thousands of Chinese people are fleeing to the airport in an attempt to leave the country. But the pilots are on strike. There’s chaos everywhere.’
   ‘Where are you?’ asks Quan.
   ‘On my way. But the Ton Duc Thang Boulevard seems completely blocked.’
   ‘The sideway is still open. Return to the Kim Ma bus station and take the parallel street Ngo Bai.’
   Quan consults his iPhone. ‘I’ve already found pictures yet of that demonstration in Saigon. Look at these slogans. He enlarges them on his screen. Let’s unite to smash the plot of invasion of China, Return Storm island to Vietnam, Light up the way for patriots, and The Trung Sisters stood up to fight enemy in the old days.’
   The Trung Sisters! He remembers his father’s history lessons.

Teaching was his mission in the last fifteen years of his life. The applying of the Doi Moi policy, or the introduction of a capitalist economy, the authorities allowed him to start a school in 1986. The family house in Chua Bi was transformed into the Le Dinh Hoang Learning Center. He died in 2002, at the age of 57 in his classroom.
   The cornerstone of Hoang’s educational approach was critical thinking and he was a master in transmitting his ideas in a covered way. The history books emphasized the leading role of the Communist Party, Ho Chi Minh and the Soviet Union. But Hoang got the aptitude to tell the real history in a fascinating way. Attracted by his passion and enthusiasm all the students hung at his lips.
   ‘The Chinese always come back’ was the common thread throughout all his stories. Every attentive student could conclude that the Chinese had never respected the Vietnamese sovereignty, culture nor people.
   The occupation under the Tang dynasty was by far the darkest page in history. When the country was freed, the Vietnamese rulers assured the independence by the annual payment of tribute to the Chinese emperors. In the 13th century the army of the Mongol emperor was expelled three times by the use of guerrilla tactics. The soldiers deserted the cities, avoided direct confrontation with the numerically stronger Mongols, but attacked with their superior knowledge of the terrain, until they won in a final attack.
   But Hoang’s greatest heroes were the noble Trung Sisters.

‘Manual, Page 14.’
   As always, Le Dinh Hoang who appears serious, lets his students decide. ‘Are we reading this text? Or would you prefer to hear the story behind it?’
   Everybody cheers for the second option.
   ‘And our history book?’ asks someone.
   ‘Write down in your diary: “Lecture History Book page 14-16.” That’s perfect bedtime reading’, he added with a smile. This way he avoided criticism by the Ministry of Education.
   ‘Once upon a time …’ All his history lessons started with the same magical words. ‘Once upon a time commander established an independent Vietnamese kingdom. But the Chinese assumed our country. They introduced Confucianism; the Chinese culture, literature and calligraphy; and forced labor on the fields and in the mines. The construction of roads, ports, dams and canals facilitated the agriculture regarding the export. And the conscription forced the Vietnamese men to serve in the Chinese army. The comparison with the Chinese who acted like dragons, dissembled his prune hard criticism. ‘ ‘They never had enough.’
   Under the lead of the Trung Sisters the flames of insurrection spread in 40 AD. They liberated with an army, consisting of mostly women, the country and resisted several attacks, till an expeditionary force restored the Chinese rule.
   ‘What happened to them?’ asks someone.
   ‘Now we enter in the world of the legends. According to some they were killed. Others reported that they died during the fight after fellow rebels had deserted . Some claimed they vanished in the sky, or took their own lives by jumping into a river.’
   ‘What can we believe of all this?’ smiled a student.
   Hoang stood up with his finger in the air. ‘Indulge these legends! They’re an unbreakable part of our identity.’
   ‘What happened in reality?’
   ‘What I do know is that they’ve never surrendered! A Vietnamese will never surrender to the Chinese. To nobody!’

In case of arrest, you have to brag

Attracted by a wave of whispering and shouting the three men look through the window. A man tries to run away and there’s clamor at the entrance.
   ‘The unmasking of agents of the Secret Service’, says Quan.
   ‘They’re wearing civil clothes’, states Radko. ‘How do people recognize them?’
   ‘They intuitively feel when someone isn’t a believer by the way he’s walking and looking around.’
   ‘I’ve never seen are so many agents on the courtyard since we’ve installed our camera’s’, adds the monk.
   ‘The authorities get afraid indeed, and now with that Chinese invasion added to it’, analyses Quan.
   ‘Most of them are carrying a rucksack’, notices Radko. ‘Why?’
   ‘With food. They’re determined to stay.’
   The camera of another unmasked secret agent is being seized. When some attendees attack him, guys with fluorescent yellow vests intervene.
   ‘Our students’, beams Phung. ‘One word was enough to organize an intern security unit. They’re doing such a great job, taking into account the growing number of attendees and the rising tension.’
   ‘Everyone seems allergic to picture taking around here.’
   Phung points the bar just beyond the main gate. ‘That bar in front of the main gate is their headquarter. Shifts of ten agents or more ensure permanence. And the first floor houses the control room of the camera’s placed everywhere around.’
   ‘Not everywhere’, remarks the lawyer.
   ‘You’re right. They never paid attention to our secret back door’, the monk corrects himself. ‘It came in handy on several occasions.’
   ‘The problem of the Secret Service is that their number of employees is inversely proportional to the weight of their brains.’
   Radko reddens, but doesn’t react. The lawyer, however, sees his nervousness.
   ‘Everything all right?’
   ‘Sure ... My index finger gets older from typing.’
   Quan looks at his iPhone again. ‘Oh, my God’, he exclaims. ‘A woman burnt herself to death at the entrance gate of Reunification Palace in Saigon.’
   Phung is seized with emotion. ‘History repeats himself. June ’63, downtown Saigon ... in front of the Cambodian embassy.’
   ‘What happened?’ interrupts Radko.
   ‘Hundreds of Buddhist monks and nuns demonstrated with protest banners, when a car stopped in front of me. Three monks stepped while the other monks surrounded them in a protective circle. One of them sat on a cushion in the lotus position, took his wooden holy beads and chanted a prayer. Behind him his colleague took a petrol can and doused him. Another monk lit a match. His body was slowly withering and shriveled in the furnace, his head blackening and charring. In the air I could smell human flesh. I was too shocked to cry. As he burned the man didn’t move a muscle or utter a sound. After ten minutes the monks covered his smoldering body in yellow robes and placed his corpse inside a wooden coffin. A woman next to me fainted. The pictures of that spontaneous ignition were published worldwide. This event marked the end of president Diem’s regime. And what’s happening today will imply the end of Communism. The government spent a fortune in the megalomaniac celebration of one hundred years of Communism. But will that centenary actually take place?’
   ‘You’re right’, underlines Quan. ‘I get more and more convinced that the regime will collapse before November 7.’
   ‘So self-assured?’, reacts Radko. ‘History teaches us that even rotten structures can be standing for a long time.’
   ‘Ever heard of the Fatima prophecies?’
   ‘Heard, yes.
   ‘Do you believe them?’
   ‘Oh, no! Who does?’
   ‘So far all prophecies have come true.’
   ‘What do you mean?’ asks Radko.
   ‘The third prophecy involved the 20th century persecution of Christians. Do you remember the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in ‘81?’
   ‘I was in Rome at that time.’
   ‘That took place on May 13, the 64th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima.’
   Radko reddens. ‘I think you’re right.’
  ‘The Virgin Mary predicted the atheist revolution in Russia, and the end of atheist Communism, one hundred years later.’
    ‘I’ve never heard this before.’ He hesitates. ‘No, I don’t believe you.’
   Quan and Phung nod affirmatively.
    ‘Does it say so in that text?’
    ‘This is a literary text, which you’ve to read with the eyes of a believer.’
   The journalist’s ringtone of his mobile interrupts the conversation.
   ‘Hi boss, the interview will be great. I’ve a lot of interesting background information.’
   But David gives him a very businesslike, cold shower: ‘Don’t spit too deep. Only facts and speed count.’ Then he changes the subject. ‘Did the government yet react? Or you’ve details on the events in the countryside?’
   ‘Not yet.’
   ‘Pick up some firsthand information.’
   ‘Apart from the slogan of the centenary, I don’t speak Vietnamese.’ His sense of humor gets as always only little appreciation.
   ‘Still awake?’ With two words his boss puts him with his feet back on the ground.
   ‘Here in Thai Ha people are prepared for a perennial confrontation.’
   ‘Is that your earthshaking news? The news other media can’t gather: that’s the main trump of The World Inside. I thought you knew this.’
   Sometimes David is merciless. Now he has knocked his contributor unconscious, he emphasizes his own contribution. ‘Well, do you agree now that my intuition was right? Just got Jim in Beijing on the phone. There’s a demonstration in favor of the government. The Chinese regime still succeeds gathering a lot of people. The American press agency United Press reports that Chinese reinforcements are on their way to the Spratly archipelago. But that information hasn’t been confirmed yet. And I’ll ask the broadcasting companies to see whether they’re interested in a live report in their newsflash.’
   Another call comes in. ‘We’ll keep in touch.’
   ‘I wish you a very nice day anyway.’ But David has already put down the phone . He smiles. “Way” rhymes with “day”. Speaking in spontaneous Instant Poems is his ultimate goal.
   ‘Thanks. No more tea.’ He anticipates Phung’s question. ‘We haven’t talked about the 2011 uprising yet.’
   ‘Peace never really returned. The arrest of fifteen worshippers of Thai Ha and Ky Dong caused a new flare of harsh repression.’
   ‘The way the Communists act, is predictable’, states Quan.
   ‘What happened precisely?’
   ‘When we were acquainted with the construction of a plant for the treatment of wastewater for the hospital, we disagreed as the legal owners’, says Phung. ‘But a furious functionary lectured me. “Your duty is to obey the orders and to respect our leaders. Our only concern is to ameliorate the public health service.” I replied: “The only thing we ask, is that you return our occupied land.” Every evening worshippers gathered for a vigil prayer. But on November 3, at least hundreds of policemen and soldiers attacked the monastery. They were accompanied by dogs and thugs. I fled to the bell tower once again to ring the bells. The thug members who uselessly tried to open up the door of the tower, subsided their fury on the parishioners who emerged from all sides. Because of their increasing number, the armed forces finally withdrew. One night started the authorities with the construction of a sewage reservoir. But the activities didn’t progress as planned. The supply of the materials was hampered by the lastingly presence of worshippers in the narrow streets around Thai Ha. In an attempt to stop the successive attacks of the security forces, we submitted with 150 parishioners a petition to the headquarters of the district People's Committee. The chief administrator received a small delegation, even though it was greatly against his will. “We simply carry out renovations”, he said. “Liar!” I reacted strongly. “These are preparations for the construction of a new plant. We’ve seen the plans!” He reacted: “That’s … impossible.” I replied: “Your only purpose is to destroy the church, the parish, all of us.” Outside, hundreds of police and security guards waited to arrest us. At first they endorsed me, but most succeeded to escape in the turmoil. The spreading of  horrible pictures on the internet and films on YouTube lead to an international condemnation and the arrival of even more journalist from abroad. The authorities announced that a better solution for the water management of the hospital required further thought.’
   ‘Where did this turn of events come from?’ asks Radko.
   ‘The fear of loss of international prestige’, knows Quan. ‘At that moment the scandal of the Vinashin shipyard was harming the government a great deal. The mismanagement of that state company led to a mountain of $ 4.4 billion of debts. What is more, the affair had been covered up after an intervention by the former Prime Minister Tan Dung.’
   ‘The past years the authorities have been continuing their greediness unshakably’, assents Phung. ‘Despite massive protests the Ba Giang lake was filled in 2014. That was located in the heart of the former Thai Ha village. And now the revenge for the 2011 defeat is coming up.’
   ‘What learns a comparison with the present situation?’
   ‘We’re much stronger. The number of parishioners has multiplied to 2.500. During the weekend at least ten thousand people attend mass and during the heyday’s it’s even double. Hundreds of children attend the Bible classes on Sundays.’
   ‘Thai Ha is the most important center of the resistance against the regime in the capital’, adds Quan. ‘Buddhists, other believers and even nonbelievers gather here.’
   Phung looks concerned through the window. ‘I expect more people.’ There’s a sound of despair in his voice. ‘What’s keeping our worshippers? I can’t imagine they’ll allow them to touch Thai Ha.’
   ‘Don’t panic’, comforts Quan. ‘Many are still at work.’
   ‘Is the threat bigger now?’ wants Radko to know.
   ‘The Communists want to teach us a lesson before the centenary’, states Quan. ‘That victory over Catholicism will exalt the prestige of Communism.’
   When the nose of Phung spontaneously starts bleeding, Radko notices once more the growing uncertainty and even fear in his eyes. He also looks tired. The man takes his handkerchief and a pill out of the box in his pocket.

‘The similarities with the events I experienced in ’89 in former East Germany are striking’, activates Radko the conversation.
   ‘In what way?’
   ‘During the celebration of the 40th birthday of the GDR, Party leader Erich Honecker stated: “We’ll solve our problems ourselves with socialist means”. But in the meantime thousands of citizens fled through the gaps in the Iron Curtain to western Europe. Guest of honor, the Soviet leader Mikhaïl Gorbachev, warned him: “Life punishes those who come too late.” That same evening I saw how the security forces attacked peaceful demonstrators. 500 of them were arrested. Honecker was forced to step down and East Germany disappeared. It is very likely that history will repeat itself.’
   Quan protests: ‘Except that Vietnam should disappear!’
   Everybody laughs.

They startle when someone knocks on the door swiftly. To Quan’s relief it’s the composer Lam who enters.
   ‘You know there are a thousand armed agents in the boulevard?’ he sighs. ‘Fortunately the back door was open. He looks through the window. In any case, they’re more numerous than our people.’
   ‘What have I just said?’, confirms Phung with a trembling voice. ‘‘I’m sure, we won’t make it this time.’
   ‘We ought to mobilize!’
   ‘In what way?’ There’s anxiety on Phung’s face.
   ‘Using Facebook and Twitter.’
   Phung looks up. ‘What are you talking about?’
   Lam starts laughing. ‘Free social networking sites. With Facebook allows us to send messages to as many friends, family and colleagues all over the world as possible. And we can even upload photos and videos.’
   Phung doesn’t understand. ‘To whom do you send these messages?’
   ‘My friends.’
   ‘How many? Five? Ten? All these efforts for such a small number!’
   ‘And I’ve 560 contacts’, adds Quan.
   ‘Unbelievable!’ The monk shakes his head. ‘How can anybody have 926 friends? I’ve two friends. And I know people whose only friend is their dog or cat.’
   ‘Most of them I just know by name’, confirms Lam. ‘But now we can use the internet to its best advantage and reach almost 1,500 people within seconds. And when we’ll ask them to contact all their friends, we are dealing with ten thousands of people.’
   ‘I’m curious’, states Phung with his eyes full of disbelief. ‘By the way: how can people from abroad or who live outside Hanoi be useful?’
    Lam isn’t puzzled. ‘Maybe they’ve acquaintances we don’t know.’ He takes his iPhone: ‘I write down: “Violence at Thai Ha. Need help now! Please share”. And I attach some picture of the bulldozers and the police force. So they can see that my plea isn’t fake.’
   He has only just uttered the words when Quan’s receives the message. ‘Now I’m going to foreword this to my 560 contacts. We’ll see the result very soon.’
   Phung looks bewildered.
   ‘Now Twitter’, Lam continues.
   ‘Do you expect me to chirp? What’s next? At my age …’
   ‘Yet you could learn it’, comforts Lam. ‘It’s easy. An estimated two billion people are on Facebook worldwide and half a billion have Twitter. Why shouldn’t you take part?’
   ‘I’m not smart. By the way: I don’t see the difference between both.’
   ‘Twitter is used for short messages of maximum 140 characters.’
   ‘You’ve to count?’
   Now everybody laughs. ‘Once the maximum is reached, you can’t continue typing. Twitter reaches another kind of people. 291 people share my messages and many of them don’t Facebook.’ Lam types “Need your help. #Thai Ha in great #danger. Please #RT.” It’s just as simple as that.’
   The monk shakes his head. ‘Does this mean that you are receiving messages from thousands of people all day long?’
   Lam nods.
  ‘I pity you. What do these people write? That their cat is pregnant? Or that the sun is shining?’ The monk adjusts the glasses on his nose. ‘That I can still see with my own eyes.’
   Lam and Quan receive one message after the other.
   ‘Don’t those endless beeps drive you crazy ? How can you keep your head at peace?’
   ‘You get used to it.’
   Lam looks at his Facebook profile. ‘43 reactions within a minute. And number 44 and 45 have just arrived.’
   ‘What are they writing?’
   Lam scrolls to the beginning. ‘The first wrote: “We come immediately.” And the second: “I’ve contacted all my friends”. Convinced at least?’ he challenges the monk.
   The man shakes his head. ‘If I can count well, there are still six billion people who don’t have your Face … book. How many can’t afford these toys? I prefer the old fashioned way of handling, like ringing the bells. Then I’m sure to reach everyone.’
   ‘And the deaf?’
   Also Phung has to smile.
   ‘I prefer my old fashioned mobile’, says Radko. ‘The past six years he never betrayed me once.’ He puts him in the air with a smile. But to his surprise he starts ringing. Radko looks at the screen. An unknown number and it’s not from the UK.
   ‘Sam, the taxi driver.’
   ‘One moment.’ He goes to the corridor.
   ‘I’ve a unique proposal for your Halong Bay trip of tomorrow.’
   ‘To … morrow?’ he murmurs.
   ‘8 am in the hotel. Your company will be onboard. I arranged a stop to buy a present. That’s usual. You know that women adore being beautiful and smelling nice. And they’ve jewelry and perfumes in abundance.’
   Radko is overwhelmed by the waterfall of words. ‘I … ‘, he stutters.
   ‘There isn’t any problem’, the taxi-driver comforts. ‘You can pay with your Visa card. At 11 am you’ll get on board. I reserved a cabin at the luxury White Dolphin Cruise. It’s going to be an unforgettable trip.’
   Now he has to react. He didn’t make any promise at all. By the way – given the present circumstances – that trip is out of the question. But how can he brush aside that arrogant guy whose only intention is to plunder his wallet? Suddenly he sees a way out.
   ‘You didn’t say anything about the price.’
   ‘Don’t worry’, Sam soothes.
   ‘How much?’
   ‘After hard negotiations I made a super price of 400 dollars for the boat trip, the meals included. You only have to pay for the drinks.’
   ‘I’m …’
   ‘They even have French champagne’, Sam interrupts. ‘And the cost of the top class lady is 200 dollars. You won’t regret it.’
   ‘600 dollars? And without extras ?’
   ‘For this quality you won’t find a better offer in town.’
   Radko thinks of Quy in the lobby of the hotel. He used the exact same words. Do they learn these at school?
   ‘I make hardly any money’, tries Sam to convince him. ‘That’s is a best friends’ price.’
   ‘Too much’, says Radko resolute. ‘And tomorrow is impossible.’
   ‘The day after then. And I’m going to negotiate once more on the price, but for less than 550 it will be impossible.’
   ‘I’m not going to accept. By the way, I’ve another appointment now.’
   ‘With whom?’ interrupts Sam impertinently.
   ‘None of your business.’
   ‘You’d better accept my offer if you don’t want any problems.’
   Radko is taken aback. Who does this guy think he is? But the tone of his voice worries him. He feels that something is wrong. ‘What … do you mean?’
   ‘We know who you are, mister Radko. Or do you prefer Brown, your nickname? You’re not a naïve tourist, but a journalist from The World Inside. We’ve recognized you on the pictures, taken two years ago in Ho Chi Minh City. And there is proof in your luggage. Your identification papers as a journalist need another picture. I could hardly recognize you. And your wife is very talented. Such sweet words for an adulterous husband.’
   Radko can’t believe his ears. He had been naïve indeed. ‘I’m …’
   ‘We can arrange a lot’, interrupts Sam. ‘But as you know, everything has its price. What we want, is a token of your good will. So it should be wise to accept my offer. And then we’ll see further.’
   He is aware that he’s fallen in the hands of an intriguer of the Secret Service who’s going to plunder his wallet, but reacts for the time being self-confident: ‘I know your kind of people. Take other pictures of me. Compromise me further. Let me pay more and more. My counterproposal is to conclude this case at once.’
   ‘Not so quickly. You’ve a visa card?’
   ‘Favors cost a lot of money.’
   ‘Desperately he looks for a way out. I’ve to hang up now.’
   ‘One moment. It doesn’t work that way. The customs have been informed yet not to let you out and we’re distributing your portrait in Hanoi. My boss, general Dang Hung, from the Tourist Police Department, is already congratulating me Don’t you know him? You’ve met him at the airport. But where are you now?’
   ‘With a friend.’
   Radko feels him driven to the wall. ‘I don’t know where exactly …’
   ‘I can imagine you’ve lost your way. Hanoi is a big city. But we can trace you. A mobile is handy. Shall we pick you up? Right now or in half an hour?’
  Radko switches off his phone and curses. ‘This way he can’t find me!’ His whole body trembles. Still impressed he goes back inside the reception room.

‘What’s going on?’ asks Quan who also remarks he’s blushing.
   ‘Problems with the Secret Service.’ His hands are still trembling. ‘My taxi driver, a secret agent … offered me a trip to Halong Bay … but recognized me … I was such a fool to give him my phone number.’
   ‘Don’t panic. Put your mobile off.’
   ‘I’ve already done that.’
   ‘They’re just bragging.’
   ‘But they’ve traced me’, reacts Radko emotionally. ‘They know who I am. My picture is being spread everywhere. How can I ever leave this country?’
   ‘You just arrived …’
   His eyes are filled with tears. ‘That’s not funny.’
   ‘I’ve been in more difficult situations than this one’, comforts Quan. ‘Use my phone from now on. And contact  your wife first.’
   ‘My wife?’
   ‘Is there something wrong?’
   ‘No, no, no ... I don’t want to alarm her. We never get in touch when I’m abroad . No news is good news. The most important thing is to keep in touch with David, my chief editor. Dammed! Now, he can’t reach me anymore.’
   ‘What did I say?’ repeats Quan. ‘Use my phone. Contact him. And ask him to contact your Secretary of State.’
   ‘A good idea.’
   ‘Our government is aware of any diplomatic incident. In case of arrest, you’ve to brag.’
   Radko calls David. ‘Hi boss.’ His voice trembles.
   ‘I hope you’ve great news!’
   ‘I’m … calling with Le Quan’s mobile.’
   ‘What happened?’ he reacts angry.
   ‘The Secret Service … unmasked me.’
   ‘Are you naïve or just stupid?’ he cries. ‘How could that happen?’
   ‘I can explain ….’
   ‘I’m not interested in your mister Bean’s whimsy!’
   Radko feels down and small, but doesn’t show it. ‘I’ll give you mister Quan’s number …’
   ‘I’ve written it down already.’ David doesn’t fail to add insult to the injury. ‘A journalist, dear colleague, is always accurate, thinks ahead, is to the point and never gets surprised. Ever!’
   ‘Will you … contact Secretary of State Philip Hammond?
   ‘Fortunately I know him.’
   But the apparatus at the other side has been thrown down already. Radko sits perplexed.
   ‘Just keep one thing in mind’, soothes Quan. ‘In Vietnam there’s a huge difference between the things people say, and what they do.’
   ‘I hope so.’
   ‘The whole system is corrupted. Psychological terror is the only remaining instrument to oppress the people. Their approach is sometimes sophisticated. What you need is mental strength.’

Once again someone knocks on the door. Seminarian Son enters.
   ‘People are expecting an initiative, Father’, he announces with his soft voice. ‘Many are getting impatient. A few minutes ago arrived Le Cong Cau, the head of the Buddhist Youth Movement, with a group of young monks.
   ‘You’re right. Inform my colleagues and make all preparations.’ He looks at his watch. ‘We’ll celebrate mass at 5 pm. The liturgical color will be red.’
   Radko looks up.
   ‘We wear these chasubles during the Feasts of the Passion of the Lord and the Martyrs.’
   Phung takes his Bible that lies on the table.
   ‘Can you manage?’ Quan sounds concerned.
   ‘I have to, I don’t have a choice. We cannot abandon those people outside.’
   ‘If there’s anything we can do, just tell us!’
   ‘After 64 years of living in a monastery, I know my duty.’ Phung clearly is determined. ‘I’ve already selected the citations. Now I’m thinking of the sermon.’
   ‘I’ve chosen the citations already. And now I’m ordering my thoughts for the preaching.’ The monk is clearly struggling to get his thoughts on paper.
   Lam encourages Quan. ‘I propose that you talk first to the people.’
   ‘About what?’
   ‘The country is on fire and the destruction of Thai Ha is coming up, and now you schouldn’t know wat to say?’
   ‘You’re right.’
   Radko interrupts them. ‘Silence please! I’m concentrating on writing my articles. You sir’, he points at Lam. ‘Will you do me a favor?’
   He nods.
   ‘Screen Vietnamese websites to see what’s happening elsewhere in the country.’
   The man looks at his iPhone. A strange silence fills the meeting room, while on the courtyard the vigil prayer still is going on. The appeal, launched by Facebook and Twitter, proves to have been a great success. The court gets full.

 Suddenly a loud whistling, produced by a stereo system makes everyone jump.
   ‘They’ve never done this before’, reacts Phung surprised. ‘I was …’
   But his voice gets drowned by the music that sounds through the high-power speakers which are apparently installed all around Thai Ha.
   ‘Unbelievable!’ says Quan. Who loves Uncle Ho Chi Minh as much as the children?

Our Uncle has a tall figure and a likable disposition.
Our Uncle has eyes like stars and a longish beard.
Our Uncle has brown skin weathered by fog and wind.
Our Uncle has resolutely vowed to avenge his homeland.

Beloved Ho Chi Minh, we children will love you all our lives.
Beloved Ho Chi Minh, uncle, you have ventured abroad for your people.

    When Ho Chi Minh’s name is mentioned, Quan waves his hands. Everybody bursts out laughing.
   ‘My children ought to know this by heart. Do you know him?’ he teases Radko.
   ‘Sorry. Who are you talking about?’
   ‘Ho Chi Minh.’
   Radko utters spontaneously some sentences of his Instant Poem:

You mean that guy so lowly,
who’s called holy
and is lying in his mausoleum so lonely?

   ‘We’ve a second poet in our midst!’ exclaims Lam.
   Radko fails, but Quan intervenes. ‘I’m writing only third-rate poetry.’
    ‘What are you saying?’ reacts Lam. ‘Go on, my friend. I’m curious for the continuation!’
    ‘Really?’ He takes the paper from his hip pocket and decodes his own writings. ‘Where was I? I’ve written this on Ba Dinh Square.’

When he held his oration
for the liberation of the nation.
He got a standing ovation.
Afterwards followed his glorification
and even his canonization.

But did he bring emancipation
and an amelioration of the situation?
The intimidation, humiliation and indoctrination
led only to more discrimination, brutalization
of all opponents and their cruel incarceration.
Communism is nothing more than a falsification
based on a systematic misinformation

of the population.

   ‘Great,’ cries Lam while the others burst out laughing.
   ‘Are you mocking me?’
   ‘His canonization! That’s the best joke I’ve heard in a long time’, chuckle’s  Quan.
   ‘Your description is nothing but the truth’, nods Phung.
   ‘I would love to put that piece to music. It seems perfect.’
   ‘What makes you think so?’
   ‘I’m a composer.’
   Radko startles. ‘I didn’t know.’
   ‘I’m looking for exceptional, contemporary texts. Have you written more of those poems?’
   ‘Hundreds, a whole box. But nothing too worthwhile. For the last forty years, I’ve been writing every single one of them in a few minutes. It didn’t matter where I was on this planet, when I felt inspired by important events or when some detail grabbed my attention, I wrote a poem like this.
   ‘Don’t be too modest! They are a gold mine!’ Lam is almost glowing.
   Delighted and curious, Radko asks: ‘What kind of music do you make?’ Maybe this is his change for undying fame.
   ‘Contemporary, expressionistic. Arnold Schoenberg is my model.’
   ‘Do you know him?’
   ‘I’m a Second Viennese School adept and report on Schoenberg, Webern and Berg in our newspaper.’
   ‘What are your favorite compositions?’
   ‘I prefer his post-war pieces: A Survivor from Warsaw, Prelude to Genesis Suite and his final work Psalm 130. De Profundis.’
   Lam nods: ‘Good choice.’
   ‘I’m surprised the Austrian composer is known in Vietnam.’
   ‘Father Phung’s fault.’
   The man lifts his head in amazement . ‘I think there is a misunderstanding.’
   ‘Do you remember the 1990s? I was still a student when you gave me a Schoenberg CD.’
   Phung confirms. ‘It was a present for me.’
   ‘Didn’t you like music?’ Quan teases.
   ‘We didn’t own a CD player.’
   ‘That CD still is my most precious possessions,’ Lam continues, ‘also because it contains the most beautiful performance of his work with Robert Craft as its conductor.’
   ‘Do you know I once did an interview with Craft?’ Radko replies. ‘What do you like about his music?’
   ‘At the Conservatory of Music we had to compose Red Music in the spirit of Socialist Realism. It were cheerful melodies that had to inspire the people to realize the revolutionary ideals more enthusiastically. I had had enough of this show without substance for a long time when I first discovered Schoenberg’s atonal music. His twelve-tone music worked as an eye opener and gave me the answer to what I was looking for. Only atonal music can truly express my inner feelings, conflicts, tension and fear.  My compositions were a way of rebellion against the authorities and their false standards.’
   ‘Were you allowed to do that?’
   ‘Some teachers at the Conservatory were open to it on the condition that the content corresponded with the Communist ideals. For example, my first opera, Friendship, tells the story of Neyuh, a volunteer of the Viet Cong who was imprisoned during the Tet Offensive in  1968. She became friends with her guard, Nuaq, and convinced him of the malice of both the South-Vietnamese government of marionettes and American Imperialism.’ He laughs. ‘That’s the government’s jargon. Nuaq helped her escape and on April 30th 1975 they celebrated the collapse of South-Vietnam together in the streets of Saigon.’
   ‘Sounds moving, but I would like to hear the unofficial version,’ Radko interferes.
   ‘You can tell him,’ Quan confirms.
   ‘It’s simple: everything is upside down. Neyuh and Nuaq are Huyen and Quan. He was the one to convince her of the system’s malice and after the liberation from the communist yoke, they marched to Ba Dinh.’
   ‘Wonderful,’ Radko agrees. ‘In a way, this music has even been prophetic.’
   ‘In ’97 it was performed for the first time during the celebration of eighty years of Communism. Unfortunately, it was never performed again.’ The composer smiles. ‘I’m incredibly curious to read your poems, but first it seems to me you owe us the last lines of your Ho Chi Minh poem.’
   ‘One moment,’ Radko beams. He hesitates. ‘On one condition.’
   ‘And that is?’
   ‘That you don’t laugh.’

            Now Ho Chi Minh, so called holy
is lying in his mausoleum so lonely
as a popular tourist attraction
to the governments satisfaction,
who’s afraid of a spontaneous action
and an indomitable interaction

that supports the dormant demand for liberty
for the first time in the country’s history.
Many people hope that this desire will lead
on Ba Dinh Square to the final victory

Vietnams real destiny.

   To Radko’s surprise is everybody seized with emotion. He even sees a tear rolling over Phung’s cheek.
   ‘I’m perplexed’, reacts Quan stirred. ‘Even though you’re a foreigner, you perfectly feel what has to happen. I have been convinced for many years that when the wind of change will come up, it will happen on Ba Dinh Square. But where do you get that idea?’
   ‘My intuition. And my experience. In 1989 German people came in very large numbers to the Brandenburger Gate. At that place the Berlin Wall had been preventing people walking from one side to the other for decades. The reopening had for all Germans a huge symbolic meaning. Since then the commemoration of the fall of the Iron Curtain always takes place at Brandenburger Gate.’
   ‘But how does that concern the situation in Vietnam?’
   ‘People from all over the world have, without realizing it, a great need for symbolic places to unite them. And for Vietnam that’s Ba Dinh Square, isn’t it?.’

‘Announcement of the authorities.’ A female voice echoes again through the speakers. ‘Your attention please for a message of general Nguyen Dang Hung.’
   ‘That monster with his pimple!’ curses Quan.
   A whistling echoes around. ‘One. Two. Okay?’ There’s some thump in the background. ‘This is your executive officer speaking.’
   ‘I bet drool is running from his mouth right now’, says Quan.
    The man lifts his voice. ‘The government has decided to construct a wastewater treatment plant for the Dong Da hospital. Decree No: 84/2017/ND-CP, dated November 2, 2017, states that an odorous pond is the source of microbes and is spreading a nasty smell . The elimination of a potential danger for the public health requires an immediate implementation. In order to guarantee the public security orders the government will evacuate the surrounding buildings for the duration of the construction. These will take place on November 3, 2017, at 6 pm. The work will start at 8 pm. The curfew will be applied to all the Dong Da district.’
   A wave of emotions goes through the courtyard. Some laugh, others start to cry or become furious.
   ‘Mm.’ The general continues. ‘This Decree, signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, will be stringently followed. Law enforcement officials will enter the monastery at 6 pm and guide the people to the surrounding streets, from where everybody ought to go home directly in application of the curfew. I count on your collaboration. Those who don’t obey, will be arrested.’
   Many attendees are whistling and booing.
   The female voice echoes again through the speakers. ‘In preparation of the glorious celebration of the centenary of Communism, let’s sing the national anthem as a sign of respect for all those who have given their lives for our freedom. Our beloved country under the Communist rule is strong eternal!’

Soldiers of Vietnam, we go forward,
With the one will to save our Fatherland
Our hurried steps are sounding on the long and arduous road
Our flag, red with the blood of victory, bears the spirit of our country
The distant rumbling of the guns mingles with our marching song.
The path to glory passes over the bodies of our foes.
Overcoming all hardships, together we build our resistance bases.
Ceaselessly for the people's cause we struggle,
Hastening to the battle field!
Forward! All together advancing!
Our Vietnam is strong eternal.

Soldiers of Vietnam, we go forward,
The gold star of our flag in the wind
Leading our people, our native land, out of misery and suffering
Let us join our efforts in the fight for the building of a new life.
Let us stand up and break our chains.
For too long have we swallowed our hatred
Let us keep ready for all sacrifices and our life will be radiant.
Ceaselessly for the people's cause we struggle,
Hastening to the battlefield!
Forward! All together advancing!
Our Vietnam is strong eternal.

   Radko sees through the window that despite the many signs of disapproval some people take off their headdress. The national anthem still is a sensible matter.
   ‘Now we’ve to act, adjusts Quan.
   ‘I’ll go downstairs’, nods Phung. ‘We can’t risk to lose control.’ He looks ahead. ‘Without help from above we can’t succeed.’
   The lawyer takes his arm. ‘We go together.’
   ‘Good luck, he says to Lam and Radko.
   ‘You guys will need that most.’ Lam puts his thumb up.


We need a symbol that surmounts all opinions


 ‘I’ve read your interview with Le Quan’, David says during the Skype session. ‘I’ve only changed the title.’
   Radko is used to getting remarks. Only his boss doesn’t stand that someone changes one letter to his articles. ‘What then?’
   ‘Communists lecture Catholics before centenary.
   Radko adjudges his boss this small victory, but don’t let him break down. ‘I’ve a lot of breaking news.’ Thanks to Lam’s connections and knowledge, he has a lot of scoops.
   Davis smiles. ‘Our investment proves to be worthwhile.’
   What a bulldog! Even now money seems his only concern.
   ‘You make me curious.’
   ‘There’s an uprising of religions all over Vietnam.’
   ‘I’ve heard some rumors indeed.’
   ‘Do you even require any further explanation?’ he provokes his boss. He don’t let him humiliate any more. ‘Apparently, you know everything already.’
   ‘Details, please.’
   ‘The police is systematically arresting all leading dissidents. We’ve got the confirmation of the custody of the pro-democracy activists Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi. But many others escaped and some are in Thai Ha. Heard the news on the protest mars from the Cao Dai?’
   ‘Tell me.’
   ‘Exclusively for The Word Inside, I just skyped with a participant.’ He waits a few seconds. ‘At this very moment I’m receiving pictures in my mailbox. They march from their Holy See in Tay Ninh on the National Route 22B to Saigon, led by their leaders in their red, blue and yellow clothes.’
   ‘Brilliant. How did you manage?’
   ‘I’ve my connections’, answers Radko apparently negligent. But inside he triumphs. Lecturring his boss in a subtle way: that doesn’t happen every day.
    ‘Forward the pictures, he orders.
    ‘Already thought about the copyright? And how much gets the mediator? A bribe of thirty percent is usual in Vietnam.’
   David doesn’t react.
   ‘Just a joke!’ He laughed a merry laugh. ’You’ll get them for free.’ What a victory! His revenge for the previous humiliations tastes sweet.
   Radko opens his mailbox. ‘Nice pictures. The Cao Dai leaders with the Devine Eye on their hat, followed by thousands of white-robed worshippers. Their number increases by the minute. Some people park their car aside to accompany them. My informant estimates there are about 5,000 participants. That number will increase tenfold within the next hours and even hundredfold at their arrival in Saigon.’
   ‘Aren’t you exaggerating?’
   ‘The Cao Dai is a small, but militant religious sect. Their adherents have always stood in the frontline during the tumultuous past century. They’re also occupying Phu Quoc islands port, in front of Cambodia.’
   ‘Have they used violence?’
   ‘Where’s your basic knowledge about Vietnamese society?’ with pleasure Radko puts another knife in the back of his all-knowing boss. ‘Basic principles of the Cao Dai are not to kill and even not to sin by words.’
   Radko hears that David is deliberating with one of his colleagues. He recognizes the voice of the deputy chief editor.
   ‘Eh, boss? Still online?’
   ‘We’re recording this conversation with our speech technology and are browsing your emails. Within five minutes all the information will be online. But what is happening within the Buddhist community?’ David tries, as a slippery eel, to save his face. “They’re by far the largest group.’
   ‘As you probably know, the Buddhists haven’t been the most active group during the resistance. Only since some high muckamuck is spreading critical comments, a religious revival is perceptible in their Buddhist Temples .’
   But David doesn’t let him off the hook. ‘There’s no place for ponderings.’
   Radko curses inside. ‘It’s no coincidence that the 89 year old Thích Quang Do gets most attention’, he continues. ‘Hundreds of armed policemen blocked in Saigon the neighborhood, from fear that the public appearance of the patriarch of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church could provoke an uprising.’
   ‘Where is he?’
   Once more he perceives David’s defective knowledge. ‘He has been living under house arrest in the Than Minh Zen Temple for fifteen years . Two years ago, I vainly tried to talk …’
   ‘Only facts!’ interrupts David.
   ‘On the streets thousands of monks are demonstrating for his release. There must be a total chaos. The temple is nearby one of the major roads.’
   ‘Our colleague from Reuters news agency has just posted pictures from a Buddhist demonstration in Hue. What’s happening in the former imperial capital?’
   ‘You’re better documented than I am!’ He gives his boss another subtle swipe. ‘But I’ve my spies everywhere.’ He looks hastily in his notes while Lam shows some pictures on his iPhone. ‘You mean that photo with the orange-robed monks who proudly display their flags?’
   ‘That’s him. How do you know?’
   Radko let it pass. ‘They’ve occupied the “forbidden” Purple City in the Imperial Citadel, which wasn’t very difficult.’
   ‘That’s a major tourist attraction. You see the great wheel drawn in the middle? That symbolizes the Dharma …’
   David lifts his voice. ‘What did I ask? The relevant news. You’ll get enough space to write down your comment. And the Catholics? I thought they’re the moral leaders of the resistance?’
   Now Radko gets angry. ‘I’m finishing my article on Thai Ha. And I’ve heard something on the events in Thu Thiem and Ky Dong monastery in Saigon. You’ve to look on the internet for more information.’  
   ‘Well done!’ soothes David.
   Radko is amazed. Did he hear a hint of appreciation?
  ‘Further breaking news?’
   Radko decodes his own notes quickly. ‘Chinese flags have been burned at the tower of the former Tam Toa cathedral in Dong Hoi.’
   ‘Any pictures?’
   ‘Not yet. And on their way to a planned mass demonstration in the city of Vinh, several groups blocked National Highway 1,that passes through the city center. The symbolic meaning is huge, because that’s the only connection between North and South Vietnam. Furthermore Nghe An province is the native region of Ho Chi Minh. I think that these actions are touching the regime at its very center.’
   ‘Doesn’t the army intervene?’
   ‘I’ve witnessed soldiers on the main crossroads in Hanoi and around Thai Ha thousands of security forces are concentrating .’
   ‘Aren’t you listening?’
   ‘What ?’
   ‘I mean in the country.’
   Radko looks at Lam. ‘Miser Le Quan’s best friend, who screens the local media, didn’t as far as I know find information on military interventions.’
   Lam nods.
   ‘The situation is confused. I guess the military in their casernes are awaiting the orders from their superiors.’
   ‘Where are the roots of this religious uprising?’
   ‘You know that the ultimate goal of Communism was to exterminate all religions. But religion is deeply rooted in the soul of the Asians. When the Communists realized after a few decades that their harsh repression had failed, they attempted to control them. Inspired by the Chinese Patriotic Church, an official Buddhist Church and a Catholic Committee for Solidarity, separate from Rome, were founded. But they are hardly getting any support.’
   ‘Is there a link with the attacks on the Chinese factories in the Central Highlands?’
  ‘No. These have to do with ethnic minorities. The Montagnards, the original inhabitants, are furious about the bauxite exploitation by the Chinese because they lead to a massive deforestation, pollution of the drinking water and the disappearance of the fish and wildlife.’
   ‘For the time being, it’s more than enough. We’ll digest everything. Say “thanks” to Le Quan’s friend.’
   The connection is broken.

Radko smiles at Lam ‘Unbelievable. You’re in his top drawer! Pronouncing that six letter word must cost him a lot of energy. Can you imagine how many muscles he has to use?’
   Lam tones down. ‘Everybody is walking on the top of their toes.’
   ‘How long have you known Quan?’
   ‘46 years. We’ve the same age and grew up together. He was like my brother. We lived next door in Chua Bi village. My home was right in front of his.’
   ‘So you know his family history then.’
   ‘Sure. They were poorly accommodated. As usual in Vietnam three generations lived under the same roof. Beside the six children also his grandfather Hoa lived in the house. His father, Hoang, who had to do forced labor was seldom at home.’
   ‘How did they survive?’
   ‘With the small salary Hoang earned, but above all by selling homemade cake and smuggling medicines to Hanoi.’
   ‘How was Quan in his youth?’
   ‘A special guy.’
   ‘In what sense?’
   ‘His birth name was Le Dinh Thang. But his grandfather changed it.’
   ‘He felt that this little boy had the talent to mean something for our country. The etymological meaning of Quan is not only a soldier or servant of the nation, but in Chinese there’s also a second meaning: a king.’
   ‘And how was he at school?’
   ‘An excellent but a critical student.’
   ‘And his dealing with the education system in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism?’
   ‘Challenging the teachers was his favorite sport. As a result he had to move from one school to another. The close catholic parish he belonged to was his only refuge. He hated most the obligatory HYPO-membership.’
   ‘What’s that?’
   ‘The Ho Chi Minh Young Pioneer Organization, which brought the Uncle Ho’s 5 teachings for children into practice. During the weekly brainwashing session the leaders taught us to love our Fatherland and the compatriot, to study well and to work hard, to practice solidarity and to follow strict discipline, to attach great importance to hygiene and to be modest, truthful and brave. We sang, danced, played, did sports, took care of our body and embroidered our white uniform with of course a red scarf and hat. And we adored the leaders of our country.’
   Lam starts laughing. ‘Thinking back at that period, I still can’t understand we were slavishly obedient.’
   ‘And Quan?’
   ‘He was tthe only exception was Quan of course.’
   ‘Tell me!’
   ‘Every year Quan terrorized the leaders with his critical remarks during the summer camp holidays. He always did the opposite of what we were doing while he played dumb .’
   Lam continues laughing.
   ‘What’s wrong?’
   ‘Did you know that I even made promotion at the HYPO? To my surprise I was selected for the annual Thousands of Good Deeds action for the common things I used to do: helping my neighbor with learning problems, visiting Quan’s grandfather Hoa and collecting old iron and paper. The latter we did to get a tip of course. I was, with seventy other nominees, invited on a national ceremony in Hanoi, attended by president Dang Xuan Khu. But I didn’t go.
   ‘Why not?’
   ‘Hoa, Quan’s grandfather was furious. During the land reform in the 1950s a family member of his  had ordered the execution of his wife. Out of respect for him, I called in sick. But I made the promotion anyhow. And thanks to that selection I could enter the Conservatory in Hanoi without any problem. But HYPO’s elevated social position was fake. When I seized forbidden alcoholic drinks on a school party, Quan and I brought them to the principal. I couldn’t carry them alone. The man encouraged Quan for the first time: “You’ve found the revolutionary path at last, and with a good deed on top! Continue that way!” When we left Quan gave me a sign to wait in the corridor. We saw how the principal drank a whole bottle in one turn and put the rest in his locked cupboard. “That’s the real face of Communism”, Quan taught me. “You’re expecting something good and in the end it’s bad.”’
   ‘Who inspired him?’
   ‘Nationalist leader Phan Chu Trinh.’
   ‘Never heard of.’
   ‘He died in the 1920s.’
   ‘Why he’s so important?’
   ‘His pleading for a non-violent approach. Chu Trinh pleaded for Vietnam’s independency by appealing to a parliamentary democracy, He was imprisoned and stayed under house arrest. Quan has been following his footsteps since one decade in demanding the replacement of the Communist power monopoly by a democracy with the participation of multiples parties to free elections. But so far he got the same fate.’
   Suddenly the landline telephone rings in the reception room. In the end takes Radko the receiver.
   ‘Thai … Ha’, he stammers.
   ‘Mister Radko?’
   ‘Who’s calling?’
   ‘Sam, the taxi driver.’
   Radko almost falls down from astonishment.
   ‘Nice to hear that you’re still at your destination.’
   ‘You don’t know anything. Furthermore …’
   ‘We know where you are’, he interrupts. ‘Isn’t it too hot upstairs?’
   ‘You’re just … boasting!’
   ‘Really? I’ve even seen you watch through the window. I still don’t need glasses.’
   ‘Where are you?’
   ‘Drinking a Tiger Beer in your favorite bar. May I invite you for another drink?’
   Sweat appears on his forehead. ‘I don’t … believe you.’
   ‘I’ll come outside, but only if you promise to wave.’
   Thunderstruck Radko looks to the window and sees the man.
   Lam gives him a sign. ‘I’ll register that call’, he whispers.
   ‘One … moment’, stammers Radko.
   ‘I’ve plenty of time’, laughs Sam. ‘Because I owe you some explanation.’
   Lam puts his mobile beside the earphone and puts his thumb up.
   ‘What … were you saying?’ continues Radko.
   ‘Were you aware that the lady next to you on the plane was a secret agent? General Nguyen Dang Hung’s wife is manager of the Vietnamese National Administration of Tourism. You were everything except nice at her. Shame on you! I thought people from the West always show respect to a lady. But apparently, I’ve to change my opinion. She was willing to report everything you did or said. Follow my good advice: always think twice.’
   Radko hardly notices that his opponent is also speaking in rhymes, because he’s trembling on his legs. ‘What … do you mean?’
   ‘Your information on Thai Ha’s church land in your article isn’t correct. Most of the land in Thai Ha was given away by the monks. May we expect a professional journalist of a quality newspaper to be objective? The reproduction of an opinion and the opposite voice are essential. You’ve learned that in the first lesson of Journalism at university. Isn’t it? Just reconsider it. The man at customs pushed a button, so we called him in order not to arouse suspicion. He led you on, so we could organize the scene with the merchandisers and I was mobilized as the so called taxi-driver. My big chief, general Nguyen Dang Hung, welcomed you in the entrance hall.’
   With Quan’s advice to in mind to brag, Radko takes his courage together. His voice trembles. ‘I’ve already contacted the private secretary of UK’s Secretary of State, Philip Hammond. He’s a personal friend. A diplomatic incident will come up when you arrest me. By the way: the Secretary will be arriving in Hanoi tomorrow. He represents the UK during the celebration of the centenary. With all these journalists walking around he could embarrass the regime .’
   Sam starts laughing. ‘A favorable wind has put drugs and pornographic material in your suitcase. Most interesting is the kiddy-porn. You think your Secretary of State will intervene on behalf of a criminal and a pedophile? The penalty for these facts is eight years for smuggling and thirty years for pedophilia. I’d like to inform you in advance’ he adds with a cynical smile, ‘so there can be no misunderstandings.’
   Radko don’t get breath any more. Also Lam, who has followed the conversation, is astonished.
   ‘But let me comfort you’, continues Sam. ‘You’ll be in excellent company in prison .’
   ‘We’ve just arrested Nhung, that young lady from the lobby of the Hanoi Apple Hotel. The ethical code for the personnel that has contact with people from abroad, is very strict. Those who give assistance to reactionary activities who undermine the sovereignty of the country, are guilty of high treason. And that means at least thirty years of imprisonment.’
   ‘The woman didn’t tell me anything.’
   ‘You think so?’
   ‘What do you mean?’
   ‘Our camera’s register every single word that has been said.’
   Radko grabs the table.
   ‘Not thirsty?’ continues Sam dry. ‘I won’t invite you a third time. A Tiger Beer still is the best thirst quencher. Or do you prefer to play Go?’
   ‘The game you were so interested in. Which stones do you prefer? Black or white?’
   Radko is blindly staring into space. The words ‘play a game’ echo through is mind. Even on this critical moment an Instant Poem comes to mind. But he doesn’t have the courage to write it down.

            Can I proclaim
we’re playing a game?
            Sam vs Brownie, you’ve a funny nickname.

Black or white? For me it’s the same.
But why sitting so tame?
You want to disclaim?
In that case I’ve to blame.
That should be a shame!
Cause for the winner, waits the hall of fame.

Tell me, what’s your aim?

   Lam takes the receiver and puts it down. The journalist is still confused. ‘My aim’, he stutters. ‘That’s the end.’ He looks at Lam. ‘He’ll break me down.’
   ’99 percent of the people who work for the Secret Service are losers. Most of them can’t read, nor write. But he’s an intriguer of a dimension I’ve never seen. In any case you’re safe here.’
   ‘For … how long?’ he stammers.
   ‘You can always escape through the back door, we’ve enough hiding places.’
   ‘But how do I get out of the country?’ he panicks.
   ‘Not via the Vietnamese-Chinese border’, he smiles. ‘But the two thousand kilometer frontier with Laos and Cambodia is like an open door. We’ll help you.’
   He can’t help it, but overwhelmed by emotions he starts crying.
   ‘Hey, you’re not in their hands yet! Except if you’re going to drink a Tigerbeer now.’
   ‘I’ll stay with you.’
   ‘And when we lose sight of each other in this turmoil, take a taxi to my address. Write down: Doc Ngu street, close to the Benh Vien hospital. I live in number 14. My brother in 16. He’ll help you when I’m not there. He’s a high placed functionary at the city administration and a member of the Communist Party.’
   ‘I beg your pardon?’
   ‘He secretly gave us the plans who led to the 2008 and 2011 uprisings. He can’t come here of course, but he is a cheerful adherent of Thai Ha.’
   Radko seems relieved.
   ‘Now you’ve to continue your job’, encourages Lam him. ‘Cheer up. Your task is to bring information on the events here to the world.’
   ‘You’re right.’
In the corridor they meet Quan, who comes quickly running upstairs.
   ‘I’ve to inform my wife. I don’t want her to panic.’
   Radko gives him back his phone . ‘Shall wait downstairs.’
   ‘Give me five minutes.’
   Quan enters the reception room and sighs. How can he report on what happened during the past hours? He couldn’t contact her earlier because he’s not allowed to disturb her at work. His heart is beating in his throat when he gets contact.
   ‘Darling … how was your meeting with the Chinese?’
   ‘Their flight from Beijing was cancelled. How’s the atmosphere at Thai Ha?’
   ‘You know …’
   ‘My intuition never deceives me’, she interrupts.
   ‘Father Phung called me …I couldn’t refuse … Lawyer4lawyers …’
   ‘I saw the yearning in your eyes when I left. But you ought to be there. Fortunately you escaped.’
   Quan is relieved. ‘At the very last minute. Is there a lot of damage?’
   ‘They’ve broken the front door, ransacked the whole house and broken Barrack Obama’s portrait.’
   ‘What were they looking for?’
   ‘You of course. According to lady Linh the high ranking official was a lunatic. He threw the agents who were waiting in the corridor down from the stairways and cooled down his fury on one of Linh’s so called nieces. The man who sat sleeping in the chair got arrested.’
   ‘Have they taken something?’
   ‘Papers, your computer.’
   ‘Fortunately I just made a backup. What else?’
   He hears her voice trembling. ‘My little jewelry and my father’s wedding ring.’
   ‘Gangsters they are. Where are you now?’
    ‘At home. With lady Linh. She told me her nearly unbelievable story. She’s a niece of the former president Diem. I’ll tell you later on.’
   ‘And the kids?’
   ‘Still with Uncle Tung and aunt Cam.’
   ‘How did they react?’
   ‘They don’t know anything. Linh is helping me to clean up the house and the locksmith will repair the door. Let’s hope that Thai doesn’t notice anything. But what about you?’
   ‘The evacuation is announced at 6 pm. But that’ll be impossible. The courtyard is bursting at his seams. I guess 3,000 to 4,000 people. And that number still increases by the minute. They’re our most important trump.’
   ‘And the atmosphere?’
   ‘Surprisingly serene. As you can hear, there’s still praying of the rosary. The attendees seem determent.’
   ‘What will happen next?’
   ‘Lam insisted that I should talk to the people.’
   Quan avoids her question. ‘A layman has to stand up. We can’t put all responsibility on Phung’s shoulders. I’m glad he’ll deliver the holy mass.’
   ‘With his health difficulties that isn’t wise either.’
   ‘Why can’t Lam speak?’ interrupts Huyen.
   ‘He never did before.’
   ‘That’s easy. And who do you think they’re going to arrest when the things get out of hand?’
   ‘You know that I’m not looking for this, but Lam is right. Many worshippers have demonstrated for my release. And several are still wearing the white t-shirts from that campaign. They’re expecting me to take my responsibility.’
   ‘What you’re going to tell them?’
   ‘Talk about the civil society, and I will call for good behavior.’
   ‘How you’re going to manage this?’
   ‘To prevent at all costs that these infiltrated fomenters of the government will incite riots.’
   ‘Be … careful.’ Her voice vibrates. ‘I’ll pick up the kids and I’ll stay with you in my thoughts and prayer during the forthcoming conflict.’
   ‘That will be necessary.’
   ‘We’re also assured of the prayer of lady Linh.’
   ‘She’s a devoted catholic, but hasn’t been able express her inner conviction since 1975.’
   Quan becomes emotional. ‘The rosary comes to its end.’
   ‘You remember what I said when I helped you to escape in 1990 from my student home?’ says Huyen with her soft voice.
   ‘Su … re.’
   ‘You’re still my hope, my future and my life. Whatever may happen, I’ll always support you.’ Huyen waits one moment. ‘Now even more than before.’
   ‘I’ve … to go now’, he says trembling. ‘Duty calls!’
   ‘God bless you!’
   ‘You too.’

Lam pushed Quan. ‘Daydreamer! We’re at the next page of this course of English already.’
   ‘The glittering in her eyes fascinates me’, he whispers.
   ‘That girl at the end of the row.’ Through the curved construction of the auditorium at the university they have a side view on her. ‘I can’t keep my eyes of her. And that feeling is reciprocal.’
   ‘Butterflies in the belly?’
   Quan pitches Lam’s foot.

After class, they met one another in the hallway. She seemed to study Russian. She had never seen him before because he didn’t attend often the lessons. Her parents were high officers of the ministry of Forestry and members of the Communist Party. Hesitantly he admitted not to a communist. Among her was nothing wrong with Communism. Her father had studied in the Soviet Union. And didn’t they have all services? Health care, youth movements and study for free. He had argued that they didn’t have any freedom, but that disadvantage didn’t among her outweigh the advantages.
   And then he told her on the land reform in the 1950s and the elimination of hundreds of thousands landowners and opponents of the regime. His grandmother had been executed.
   She was moved. Didn’t know anything about it. He had told her on the grinding poverty on the countryside. People with bended backs who worked like slaves to survive, while all their money was filling the pockets of party bosses. Police and Secret Services were monitoring the roads and stations to prevent laborers from secretly fleeing to the bigger cities.
   Huyen reddened. Even of the concentration camps she had never heard. He told her his father and uncle had been subjected to forced labor for years because they were Catholics.
   ‘Oops! Catholics.’
   ‘Is there anything wrong with that?’
   ‘At school we’ve been taught…’ she says hesitantly.
   ‘That we’re half crazy? Second rate citizens?’
   Huyen nods timidly.
   ‘Don’t worry. I’m not crazy and I won’t eat you.’
   Both laugh. Only now the ice is broken.
   ‘Being happy is the most important goal in life, isn’t it?’ He hesitates. ‘Are you happy?’
   ‘Of … course.’ She looks at the clock in the hallway. ‘Ten to six. I have to go back to the home, otherwise I’ll be late for dinner.’
   ‘I liked this,’ Quan says.
   ‘Unexpected, challenging, informative, but nice,’ Huyen mutters. ‘You’re not a second rate citizen to me,’ she declares. Undecidedly, she tries to leave.
   ‘Hm, can we meet… again?’ Quan asks blushingly.
   Huyen turns around and stares at her feet.
   ‘Tomorrow? The day after?’
   ‘I’ve an exam on Russian vocabulary on Saturday.’
   ‘How about Sunday?’
   Suddenly, Quan hesitates. ‘However, usually I go to Thai Binh on Sundays.’
   Huyen looks surprised.
   ‘I attend mass in the cathedral every week. Bishop Van Sang is a genius when it comes to hiding criticism on the regime between the lines of his sermons.’
   ‘He covers his traces more carefully than you do.’
   For a second, he is puzzled. ‘Maybe I won’t go this Sunday.’
   Huyen frowns at him.
   ‘Since people from all over the country are attracted to attend that mass, all busses were monitored last week. I was arrested for lack of residence permit, but I was released the same night.’ He smiles. ‘I told them I forgot it and was granted the benefit of the doubt.’
   ‘Don’t you have any legal documents?’
   ‘I studied chemistry in Saigon – I beg your pardon,’ he can hardly hide his smile, ‘the Communists don’t know it. I’m talking about Ho Chi Minh city. But chemistry wasn’t the right choice. After I had been wandering for a while, I ended up here with my friend Lam who is studying at the Conservatory.’
   ‘Just like hundreds of thousand other people.’
   ‘Excuse me?’
   ‘It’s the reality you don’t see on television or read about in the paper.’
   Huyen is blown off her feet.
   ‘How do you survive?’
   ‘I sleep on Lam’s floor and a bus is picking me up to go to work in the building industry. My wage is low, but illegals don’t have rights.
   ‘And what if the police arrest you?’
   ‘Too bad for me. The camps are big enough.’
   Huyen is touched. ‘If you ever get in trouble, come to my student home number three, room number 208.’
   Again the conversation ends. They can’t hide their glittering eyes.
   ‘Six o’clock already,’ Huyen is startled. ‘I’m late.’
   ‘So much for your freedom,’ Quan teases.
   She taps on his shoulder. ‘Sunday?’
   He nods.

Shortly after he was looking for shelter in her student home. Huyen is lost in her books when there is a short tap on her door.
   Quan sneaks in and locks the door.
   ‘The police wants to arrest me. This was my only way out.’
   Huyen is shaken.
   ‘Can I?’ He opens a window. ‘I’ll get away via the drain-pipe.’
   Huyen is scared. ‘What if you fall down?’
   ‘I’m lean enough.’
   ‘What are you going to do?’
   ‘Flee, what else?’
   ‘Flee where?’
   He shrugs. ‘I think I’ll have to vanish for a while.’
   The noise in the hallway increases.
   ‘They are probably searching every room.’
   Huyen takes him by the collar. ‘We’ve only known each other for three weeks, I don’t want to lose you.’
   ‘Me neither,’ he says emotionally.
   ‘You are my hope, my future and my life.’
   They are kissing when there is a knock on the door.
   ‘I’ll be back,’ he whispers, after which he disappears through the window.
   ‘One moment,’ he hears Huyen reply when the police knocks her door a second time.
   He has only just managed to hide behind some bushes when flashlights are searching the garden. Once the danger has been averted, Huyen looks through the window once again and they both put up their thumbs. She quickly wipes away a tear.

‘You’ll have some catching up to do if you want to return to class,’ Bang smiles.
   ‘Thanks for giving me shelter,’ Quan sighs. ‘I didn’t know where to go.’
   ‘Problems at home?’
   He shakes his head. ‘The police are probably awaiting me there.’
   ‘Done something wrong?’
   ‘They are looking for me. I don’t have a valid residence permit for Hanoi.’
   ‘Indeed, they are getting very strict. Only last week I got checked on the street twice. Stay as long as you want, but between these walls, life’s rather boring. Unless you want to study again.’
   Quan shakes his head. ‘I don’t have a taste for your chemical formulas.’
   ‘You who are so keen on your freedom, why don’t you go to Cambodia?’
   The recent events in the neighboring country fascinate him. In 1979 Vietnam has put an end to the regime of terror of Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge. In less than five years, thirty percent of the population has died of starvation, disease, deprivation, torture and exhaustion on the killing fields. After a civil war and a peace conference, the United Nation Peacekeeping Forces are organizing free elections. Not only is freedom – that magical word – very precious to him, he also knows the father of his great uncle, Le Van Tinh, who fled to South Vietnam in ’54, is living in Phnom Penh now.
  ‘That’s it!’ he beams.
   ‘Getting there is easy,’ Bang confirms. ‘Countless channels of the Mekong delta are never being monitored.’

In March 1990, a few days before his nineteenth birthday, Quan arrived in the capital of Cambodia. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get hold of his great uncle. At night he slept under a bench in Kandal park, nearby the National Museum and the Royal Palace.

‘Come here,’ Tran Van Cung, the bread seller, shouts. ‘Would you like a piece?’
   In only a few mouthfuls Quan consumes the bread. ‘Thank you, I almost fainted. I haven’t eaten in three days.’
   ‘Still no trace of your family member?’
   ‘Nobody has seen him.’
   ‘Where will you sleep tonight?’
   ‘Under that bench again.’
   ‘More than enough people have suffered recently. You can come with me. I have a spare bed at home.’
   ‘How can I ever thank you?’
   ‘If people would act more like people, rather than get caught in the nets of cruel ideologies, the world would be a completely different place. Another sandwich?’
   Quan nods eagerly.
   ‘What’s your plan?’
   ‘Look for my great uncle until I find him.’
   ‘You aren’t looking for a job?’
   ‘If it were possible, yes please. But I don’t have any papers.’
   ‘No problem. I know a restaurant manager around the corner. He is looking for a dishwasher.’
   ‘That would be wonderful.’
   ‘It’s hard work. Twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.’
   ‘No problem at all.’

He hardly made any money, lived in constant fear of being arrested and shipped back to Vietnam. One night he ended up in the midst of a chase for thieves. A policeman who thought that he was one of them, shot in his direction, but could escape. After seven months he had had enough of Phnom Penh. He craved his family and his girlfriend and returned home.
   In Chua Bi he secretly entered first the house of Lam’s parents and when the coast was clear he went to his parental home. To his relief he heard that the police wasn’t looking for him anymore.
   ‘What are you going to do?’ asks his father.
   ‘Return to Hanoi and study again.’
   ‘Chemistry?’ he teases.
   ‘No. Law Faculty.’
   ‘That’s a far better choice with your eloquence and sharp insight. We’ll support you, but our possibilities are limited. We can pay half of the costs at the most.’
   ‘I can give additional lessons in English. There’s a great demand for that. But will I be accepted at the university? The Secret Service controls the enrollment.’
   ‘Lam knows people who can do some inquiries.’

‘Lucky you!’ beamed his best friend. ‘The guy at the Secret Service who followed your case is retired. And the appointment of his successor can take many months or even years. His files are being distributed among his colleagues, but none of them will look at them. Fortunately inefficiency is the best characteristic of the Secret Service. The coast is clear, but no don’t challenge the fate if you want to become a lawyer.’
   ‘I want to see my girlfriend first.’
   ‘Mm, still in love?’ He takes his calendar. ‘When will the marriage take place?’
   ‘Bastard! I hadn’t had any contact in seven months.’
   When they met again that evening, their eyes showed the same glitter as during their first meeting. But their path wasn’t covered with roses. Huyen experienced a social pressure to stop the relationship. She got used to looking at the world with critical eyes and got interested in the life of the poor peasants and workers. She followed the lessons of catechesis in Thai Ha parish and got her baptized.
   After the fall of the Iron Curtain and with the implosion of the Soviet Union coming up, Huyen changed her studies from Russian into English. Quan participated secretly at underground activities. One night he helped spreading a leaflet with an appeal to the students to overthrow the regime. The Secret Service investigated the case. Also Quan was questioned, but no proof of his collaboration was found.
   When six months later a second leaflet was spread, there was barely no reaction. The disappearance of the Soviet Union led to a more open atmosphere.

Quan scares from his musing. He has to hurry up. Five minutes he had promised. He returns quickly to the entrance hall of the monastery and gives his phone back to Radko.
   ‘Ready to speech?’ asks Lam.
   He nods. ‘But I still need a symbol.’
   ‘In what way?’
   ‘Something common which all people can share. Something that surmounts all opinions and can bring us together.’
   ‘Couldn’t you say so a bit earlier’
   Quan looks sour. ‘Any ideas?’
   ‘Think of a tree … A fish … A person.’
   ‘Phan Chu Trinh, the nationalist leader. He’s your inspiration.’
   ‘Who still knows him? He died almost a century ago.’
   ‘Ho Chi Minh?’
   Quan hits him. ‘Bastard!’
   ‘Or a flower.’
   His eyes fall on a picture at the wall of blooming lotuses in a pond. ‘That’s it! he cries. He pats Lam on his shoulder. ‘You’re a genius!’
   Lam and Radko look incomprehensively at each other.
   ‘Why?’ asks Lam.
   ‘The thing I was looking for is in my rucksack.’ He takes the yellow linen cloth. The bedspread with the lotus motive he made for his daughter.
   ‘A bedspread?’
   ‘That becomes our new flag!’
   But when Quan spreads it out, the cd of The Scorpions falls on the ground.
   Radko takes it and looks surprised. ‘I’m a fan of them. I was …’
   Lam interrupts him. ‘My marriage present!’
   ‘Don’t you understand? The wind of change is coming up.’
   ‘Of course I do. But a flag isn’t enough!’
   ‘What do you mean, mister composer?’
   ‘Here you have a powerful symbol that all of us share. But we need a new anthem as well that enthusiastically expresses the wind of change that’s coming up. Inspiring words on enchanting music.’
   ‘ That song of The Scorpions’, suggests Radko.
   Lam and Quan look at each other.
   ‘Most people hardly speak one word of English.’
   ‘And you’re going to compose something right now? Isn’t that a bit late?’
   ‘It’s just an idea … But that’s it!’ interrupts Lam suddenly. ‘How can I be such a fool not to think of it!’
   ‘Now it’s too late, I’ve to go.’
   While Lam takes a sheet out of his bag, a seminarian opens the door and Quan disappears in the crowd.
   ‘That’s it!’ beams Lam.
   Radko also wants to go the courtyard. I’m going to record his speech. You come along?’
   ‘First I’ve something important to do’, Lam reacts. ‘Where can I make copies?’ he asks the seminarian.
   ‘The secretariat is on the first floor.’
   ‘Copies? What for?’ asks Radko.
   ‘You’ll see.’

With great difficulty, Quan succeeds to go ahead through the crowd. Many people greet him on his way and he recognizes some dissidents. At a distance also Radko searches his way ahead with Quan’s iPhone ready. To his surprise someone takes him by his collar.
   ‘A communist traitor’ shouts someone. ‘He has a pin of the centenary and is wearing a red pants!’
   ‘You spy!’ at once Radko gets a smash in his face. ‘That’s what you deserve!’
   ‘What? Are you filming?’ reacts his neighbor. ‘Give me your iPhone!’
   ‘There’s a misunderstanding. I’m a journalist from the UK. Hey Quan’, he cries, while he tries to escape from their grip.
   To his relief gives Quan a sign and the bystanders release him.
   Radko puts the pin in his pocket. An Instant Poem comes up in his mind.

The original sin
of the Communist gin
is that they’ve created a loony bin.
Their greatest quality is to grin.

But all this has been.
Now they’re making a tailspin,
the pain at my chin
and my blue skin
prove that’s a mortal sin
to bear a centenary pin.
But I’ve to put it wherein
this souvenir from preceding?
Within my pants it’s benign.

   The sentences float fluently out of his mouth. He utters them vaguely, but the words perish in the courtyard’s hustle.

Next to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes the seminarians have constructed a small podium. They’re testing the stereo installation, which is used for the masses in the weekend. Father Phung is trembling when he takes the microphone.
   ‘My dear friends.’
   Spontaneously he gets applause. He’s visibly pleased by that support.
   ‘At this moment I’m thinking of the words of the Apostle Petrus, who warns us always to be vigilant. And that’s what we’re going to do in the mass we’re celebrating. But first our friend Le Quan will direct some words to us. He’s a zealous pioneer in the peaceful fight for religious freedom, the return of the confiscated church land and the defense of our beloved Thai Ha parish.’
   Quan sets foot on the podium. ‘Thanks, father’ and bows. ‘No incense, please. This is our common fight. I want to tell some words on our common future.’

‘Announcement of the authorities.’ The female voice echoes once more through the loudspeakers. The volume claims all attention. ‘In application of the governments decree No: 84/2017/ND-CP, dated November 2, 2017, and the message of the general Nguyen Dang Hung, the law enforcement officials will enter the monastery at 6 pm. They’ll guide everybody to the surrounding streets, from where you ought to go home in application of the curfew. We count on your collaboration.’

‘Still one hour’, says Quan. He is shivering on the inside but laughing at Communism is the only right attitude. ‘We’ve still an eternity’, he continues.
   Some laugh, but most shiver. In the meantime he feels the wallet in his back pocket. Touching the love letter of his wife makes him twice as strong.
   ‘Today, many dissidents have been arrested’, he passes on. ‘But it’s a joy to state that many are in our midst. Welcome!’
   There’s an loud applause.
   ‘It’s also a joy to welcome a Buddhist delegation and many brothers in soul from other denominations.’
   Again applause resounds.
   ‘We’re engaged in the same peaceful fight, and all of us carry the same weapons: our prayer and our moral strength, which is much stronger than any firearm that is threatening us. The minister of Public Security …’, he proceeds.
   A spontaneous booing goes through the courtyard.
   ‘The minister announced in parliament that our country counts sixty subversive organizations and 350 seditious individuals. If anyone should doubt, I’m one of them.’
    Some smile.
   ‘The main question is: on what charge? Why are they constantly putting an eye on them? Why are these people treated like criminals? The answer is simple: for their non-violent demand for freedom and respect for the human rights. Unfortunately these rights are being respected less, while the repression device reaches an unseen seize. How many employees have this year joined the Secret Service? Their only goal is to oppress the people even more.’
   Most demonstrate their agreement.
   ‘It’s their task to intervene with the police and the army, their brothers in soul – sorry, their brothers in arms …’
   People laugh and applaud.
   ‘… to intervene everywhere in the country. We’ve seen in the surrounding streets to what kind of power display this leads. Our government still is convinced that she can manage the massive discontent by heightening the repression. The past decade were all the leaders of the movement Bloc 8406 and the political parties and social movements sentenced to long term imprisonment. Living within their ivory tower, our government still is convinced that the old resources will bring a solution. But she’s completely alienated from reality. Because what’s happening …’
   ‘We have to take the right into our own hands’, cries someone.
   ‘He’s right!’ responds another attendee.
   Quan puts up his hands to soothe. ‘What happens today … Silence please! What happens today is the rising of the civil society. Dozens of millions citizens have had enough of the communist yoke!’
   ‘Despite the intensified police controls remove young people every night hundreds of thousands red flowers and hundreds of flags who decorate Hanoi’s streets for the centenary. The social media prove they’re invaluable. On account of every arrest this afternoon within a few minutes dozens or even hundreds of people stood up to protest verbally. They publicly shouted their discontent. Who can stand the omnipresent injustice, inequity, corruption and nepotism any longer? I can’t. And none of us can.’
   The crowd react enthusiastically.
   ‘All of you discuss the current events in the places where you live: from Dao Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand to Lang Son at the Chinese border. And, which is most important, you also act! Informal networking leads to protests on hundreds of places at the same time: to boycott the Chinese products; to demonstrate against the environmental pollution, the towering fuel prices, the rising of the taxes and the cost of living. And last but not least against the cowardly Chinese attack on Storm Island.’
   Everyone agrees loudly.
   ‘These actions aren’t organized, but well up from down under, apparently out of nothing. And the ministry of Public Security can’t control them, even when, as in the former Soviet Union or East-Germany, one in three Vietnamese has to work for them. The miracle that happens today is the spontaneous linking of these networks and the growing brotherhood between people who were shortly before strangers for each other. History repeats himself. After the overthrow of the regime of president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 took in the Philippines, governed by the civil society, fundamental changes place. They permeated from down under the negative spiral by which the rich people steadily became richer and the poor people poorer. And this civil society is now standing up in Vietnam.’
   Again Quan is interrupted by a well of cries and applause.
   ‘Following the accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, our government promised to tolerate, for the very first time, free trade unions in exchange for the economic profits. Two years later that umpteenth promise still is an empty box. We’ve had enough of Communism. Enough is enough!’
   Now the attendees cry like crazy.
   ‘The wind of change is coming up and nobody can stop it. Nor you, Viet Pot.’
   Many worshippers jolt by hearing the name Pot.
   ‘Viet Pot, my friends, is the nickname general of Dang Hung, the chief commander of the armed forces outside. His inspiring example is the former Cambodian leader of the Red Khmer, Pol Pot.’
   A woman in front faints. Bystanders bring her to the church.
   ‘For one year and a half I’ve experienced the humiliations of Viet Pot in a concentration camp.’
   There’s a deafening booing.
   ‘I want to direct some words to that sadist monster. What’s happening here, isn’t a football match on which you can gamble with development aid. We all know your ambition: to fulfill the family’s dream to seize power, Your father, Dang Xuan Khu, who was responsible for the disastrous land reform in the 1950s, didn’t succeed. And now a new attempt is coming up with the planned elimination of our beloved Thai Ha parish. We’re not naïve. The bulldozers will also destroy the church and the monastery. We’ve seen the plans. On this location a administrative district center beside 25 plots for private houses will rise. The city will earn billions of Dong.’
   Quan looks back at Phung. The man gets lurid an the seminarians support him.
   ‘I had promised not to leak that top secret information. But that doesn’t make any sense any more. Everybody has to know the truth. From now on, we don’t have secrets anymore. All of you ought to know what’s really at stake.’
   ‘We’ve talked enough!’ shouts someone wrathful.
   ‘We’ve to act!’ agrees his neighbor.
   They gets spontaneous approbation.
   ‘When are we going to bury the hatchet?’ asks another man.
   ‘Please!’ Quan raises his hands in a new attempt to silence the people. ‘Viet Pot: I’ve bad news. You won’t succeed either!’
   There’s a loud applause.
   ‘Can I have your attention … because that’s crucial! Viet Pot will not succeed … only on one condition.’ Quan puts one finger straight in the air. ‘And that is that all of us stay icy calm. One kick, one push or one pull can provoke a wave of violence. But none of us will fall down in their trap. None of us will respond to their acts of intimidation, nor the violence they’re going to use. Even when they’ll shoot.’
   A shivering goes through the courtyard.
   ‘The past hours you’ve unmasked several traitors. Many others are still in our midst. And they have only one goal: to provoke riots which can justify an armed intervention by Viet Pot. But none of them will succeed. When you notice such a traitor in jour proximity, I give you, with the blessing of our Father, the permission to silence this person by covering their mouth with your hands and keep them under control. They must been counteracted by as less violence as possible.’
   The monk shifts.
   ‘At least’, shouts a bystander.
   ‘Please! When after the mass, the evacuation will come up. I won’t move one millimeter. And none of us will. We’ll stand like frozen statues, rooted in this sacred ground. That, my dear friends, is the only way in which we can achieve our goal. Today, none of us knows what the word freedom means. Our beloved country has never known one moment of freedom in her whole history. We’ve suffered for one thousand years under de Chinese yoke. We’ve sustained eighty years of the French colonial rule and have been enduring now for seventy years …’
   ‘Seventy two years’, cries someone in the public.
   ‘In any case that Communist governance has lasted far too long.’
   The public cries once more.
   ‘Eleven years ago, during my illegal stay in the United States, I had the opportunity to savor the unique taste of freedom. I’ve read a lot of books on freedom and the civil society at and spoke with people which were elected by the people in free elections.’
   Quan gasps for breath.
   ‘Freedom inspires all senses and fills you with an indescribable feeling of joy and happiness. Since my return from Washington DC, I was incessantly an object of persecution, intimidation and imprisonment. But the taste of freedom has never disappeared. I wish that all of you will savor that wonderful taste very soon.’
   Some attendees are seized with emotion, while a well of cries and applause rises.
   ‘Last but not least, we’ve to answer some crucial questions: What’s Vietman’s civil society standing for? What is our common ideal? Behind which symbol can all of us stand eagerly?’
   He waits some seconds.
   ‘This afternoon I accidentally , but I believe it’s providence rather than fate, found the answer.’
   He opens his rucksack and takes the yellow linen cloth.
   ‘Will some people help me?’
   Two seminarians open the cloth and put it up. Everybody reacts surprised.
   ‘No color is more linked to our history than yellow. The most luminous color of the spectrum symbolizes happiness, optimism, enlightenment, creativity, sunshine and the new spring that’s coming up. And no flower reflects the Vietnamese soul more than the lotus. Although she grows in the dark and stinking water, she’s so pure and smells so good when she comes at the surface.’
   He shows to the flag.
   ‘This lotus got up in the midst of the communist mud.’ Quan raises his voice. ‘From today on her light and the remarkable beauty will shine all over Vietnam, while the communists will disappear forever in the mud.’
   Now the public gets ecstatic. Quan is relieved that everybody welcomes his proposal in a positive way. There’s a general acclaim when the seminarians hang the bedspread on two flagpoles.
   ‘I invite all of you to stand behind this flag in the critical moments that are coming up. Let’s remember the rebellion of the noble Trung sisters two thousand years ago and follow their inspiring example. They’ve never surrendered to the Chinese dragon. On our term we’ll never surrender to the Chinese and their puppet, the Vietnamese government.’
   A deafening applause follows.
   ‘Let’s first be vigilant, like Father Phun has said, and deepen ourselves in prayer’, concludes Quan.
   Many attendees give free rein to their emotions.

Radko is happy that he recorded Quan’s speech. He hurries to the monastery in order to send that tape to his boss. When the seminarian, who safeguards the door, lets him in, Lam is running downstairs hastily. He talks with him in Vietnamese. Radko doesn’t understand one word, but feels that Lam is looking at someone who apparently has long hair and a moustache. In the end the young man goes outside and Lam looks at the door.
   Radko proudly calls David.
   ‘Got it? This is an unique historical document.’
   ‘One moment … We can clearly hear his voice … but why were you at such a great distance? With a close up you could also register his emotions and body language. That would have made his message more powerful.’
   ‘I beg your pardon?’ He could strangle that guy.
   ‘What you’ve done is okay of course. But The World Inside uses the highest qualitative standards.’
   ‘Next time you can come, and then will I judge you’re handlings critically. Know-it-all!’ He interrupts the connection.
   ‘Freedom is not always simple as it looks’, Lam says dry.
   ‘This hangman should make a career in the communist system.’
   ‘No, thanks. I think that isn’t a good idea.’
   Radko looks up.
   ‘We just want to get rid of Communism.’
   When Lam starts laughing, the journalist’s ice breaks too.
   ‘What we are craving is freedom. I’m jealous of your press freedom.’
   ‘Don’t get the wrong impression. In comparison to Vietnamese media, who are bluntly spreading the Communist ideology, western freedom of press sure looks appealing. The only freedom I experience, however, is to move within rigidly set boundaries. Honestly, I don’t think I am any freer than my Vietnamese colleagues.’
   ‘I’m shocked you would say so.’
   ‘Don’t be fooled by outer appearances and glitter and glamour. Even in western society press freedom is a rather empty box. There is hardly any room for criticism.’
   ‘What you say sounds incredibly disenchanting.’
   ‘Media manipulation has existed anywhere anytime.’
   ‘Let’s see.’ He scrolls through several big Asian news sites on his IPhone. ‘They are all telling the same story. The situation in the Spratly archipelago is escalating gradually.’
   Lam shows the screen of iPhone. ‘A further escalation in the Spratly archipelago is coming op.’
   ‘What happened?’
   ‘Chinese vessels have taken Southwest Cay, the strategic islet in the northwestern edge. And on Sin Cowe island only fifteen Vietnamese soldiers with artillery are still resisting. And Chinese reinforcements are coming up. A Chinese takeover seems inevitable. When they’ll plant their flag, all the other inhabited Vietnamese islets and reefs will come under the Chinese rule. That’s what happened in ’74 with the Paracel Islands. It is also what the Chinese tried to do on the mainland in 1979.’
   Lam gets emotional. ‘China destroyed the border town Lang Son which is my wife’s hometown. A large part of her family was murdered during the events. Seventeen days later, the Vietnam army defeated the Chinese thanks to Soviet support. China had failed in every way possible: tactically, strategically, logistically and even communicatively. I still remember the tense mood revolving around the exodus of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese people.’
   ‘The aversion against the Chinese is rooted deeply.’
   ‘For sure. When I was studying at the Conservatory in 1990, the anti-China tirade Fighting for Independence & Freedom still was the most popular student song. Maybe you’ve heard it?’
   Lam starts singing:

Gunfire echoes across the skies above the border
Calling all our people to enter battle anew.
The invading army advances brutally,
Tearing asunder the ground of the battlefront.
Fires have burned and blood has been spilled across the lengthy borderland.

A land of countless feats of war,
Still churns with a heroic fervor.
The Chi Langs, the Bạch Dangs, the Dong Das,
Demand their succession with further epic tales.

Oh Việt Nam. Oh our beloved Vietnamese homeland!
History has handed you a divine mission.
Though you still carry so many wounds,
You still proudly enter the battlefield,
For a loftier way of life for all the people,
Independence and freedom!

   ‘Well, those are powerful words.’

Radko’s phone rings. 
   ‘Your film is fantastic’, exclaims David. ‘50,000 people have seen it since we’ve put it on our website just minutes ago. The BBC, CNN and Fox News Chanel will broadcast fragments in their breaking news.’
   ‘I thought it served to nothing!’
   ‘I’ve never said that. Continue that way, but next time from the first row. That’s the place where The World Inside belongs. CNN will contact you to go direct on antenna. Don’t forget our pin. So we’ll get the free publicity.’
   ‘Which pin?’ He feels in his pocket the pin of the centenary.
   ‘Our pin, dummy.’
   ‘I didn’t know.’
   ‘Where is it?’
   ‘Oh, in my luggage in the hotel.’
   ‘Don’t tell me it’s true’, he reacts angry. ‘The World Inside is a hallmark. And as collaborator you’ve to promote it at any time and any place. Next time I’ll secure it to your vest with silicone. Otherwise there’s a risk that your cat or dog would be wearing it.’
   ‘Why don’t you oblige us to wear skirts with our logo on the waistband? And I’ve an even better idea. Why don’t you ask our designers to create logo which we can stick to our forehead?’