STEALING SWEET POTATOES
TUOI TRE NEWSPAPER'S WRITING COMPETITION
While pupils steal some simple things for fun, I did steal only sweet potatoes for 3 years at Bao Loc Agricultural High School.
From Can Tho I came there with a wish of becoming a forest ranger. Before leaving home, I had asked my old weak Mom to offer me what she coukd from selling sweet soup. At the age of puberty, in a cold climate, I needed some certain things especially what to eat at night. After a month of suffering from cold and hunger, I was asked to by one of my classmate if I would like to see his uncle 's farm and to get what and how much I needed. That was one of a lot of farm planting bananas and sweet potatoes. Feeling like amouse in a buckle of sticky rice . I was so glad that I could pull up the big roundest ones. I also carefully cut 2 pieces of banana punches. After puting everything in to 2 bags, tying carefully. Trọng and I carried them on our shoulder, steadily walking home as it was coming dark. Trọng broke into pleasant laughs whenever I sent my thanks to his kind uncle. Suđenly he shouted loud " stealing ". I ran off as if I had seen a ghost just for my first time wrong doing.
That night I stuffed a whole saucepan of boiled potatoes. The basalt soil in Bao Loc flourished the plants there. The potatoes I stole offered me good things to study at nights to go to school early in the morning to get full as lunches. I didn't intend to tell my Mum or reveal to anyone else. Instead, I wrote her that my schooling was rather good, I had enough to eat and i studied very well.
Every weekend in the evening, I brought a short knife, a bag, a jacket, sometimes a torch to steal potatoes. I got 10 kilos each time for me weekly food stuff. The farmers knew the losses but naybe they didn't take it seriously enough or it wasn't the right time to do anything.
After the furst successful year, in the next year, 1973, I became rather professional. My Mom was one more year older and her erarning was less than the previous. So she could only send me a little money every month for the rent. I had to eat potatoes as people had their own meals. I gad to steal as famers went to work. Sometimes after school, still dressed in uniform, after hiding note books in a bush, I went down hill with bare hands and empty stomach to get the ones I needed. That night my sweater became a bag. Some nights I did that in cold rain and some other night I did that in tears. There were times I broke into a banana gardens to steal a big punch and carried it straight to a fruiter in the market foe a small sum of money. In some cases, late at night when running out of potatoes or having some easy homework, I acted as a professional. When they placed traps with thorns or arrows, I wore boots with thick heels covered by a piece of thick tiles. When they had wire-netting, I wore leather gloves. Once I got lost in the dark in such a big garden that I had to climb on a big tree waiting until the crack of dawn to get back.
At a vocational high school, I was taught math, physics and chemistry very little. So every night after doing forestry home work, I had to prepare for my coming college entrance exam. At mid night, I had a break and it was time to boil potatoes to have my supper. Then I went out to get some tea leaves to make myself a pot of green tea to get through til 3 A.M. My rental room used to be a pig barn. Since prices went up, the raising pig was no longer profitable. My land lady made it into a room which I chose to rent. As the high land people did, I set up an oven at the center of the room. I made a racket over it to store the potatoes . No one knew how I lived what I ate. When it was cold, I smoked the potatoes to avoid cold water. When having little money, I got some oil to try it. Salt was used as the salty main dish and sometimes so was small dried fish . When I went stealing, I collected some potato leaves to have it as vegetables.
Winter came and went , as I got used to the way I had to be on , I always thought that if my Mom could stand the difficulties at home , why couldn’t I get over it there? Many people have done many different things to be able to go to school. I just did one thing- stealing potatoes, didn’t I ?
During 3 years at high school, I stole and consumed almost 3 tons of potatoes -an important part of my schooling which helped me feel full, graduate high school and pass the college entrance exam with the top score. I always remember my stealing times, the potatoes I ate. The farm owners will probably forgive me. The high school students will probably appreciate what they are given by their parents even what they steal .And my Mom , somewhere in the Heaven would probably cry like rain after reading what I am writing.
Jun 05 ,07
Luong Ngoc Thanh
Forestry 71-74 Student.
Bao Loc Agriculture HighSchool