Major Do worked at the headquarters of the UNMISS in Juba capital, which is responsible for supervising military operations in the East, West, South, North and Juba divisions and all units stationed in South Sudan. Though being busy at the UNMISS, life in South Sudan for Major Do was not simply work.

After the first time going together with Vibeke – her Norwegian colleague at the UNMISS, to civilian areas outside the headquarters to give charity gifts, helping most needy people, especially children and women, local people started to call her “Major Do.” Since then, charitable activities had become part of her life in Juba.

“Major Do” and children in Bentiu

Despite dangers (some colleagues even advised her not to go out of the headquarters), Major Do and Vibeke always called for donation from other colleagues working at the UNMISS when they met. Her colleagues then donated  clothing, school supplies, and other things that they wouldn’t need when finishing their terms in South Sudan.

Receiving the donated commodities, the two female UNMISS officers spent time at the weekend or during their lunch time going out to help needy local civilians. Major Do said, “I am about to finish my term in South Sudan. Therefore, it would be meaningful for me to do something that could bring joy to local people.”

This year, on finishing her duties in South Sudan, she’s come home just in time for celebrating  the Lunar New Year festival (Tet) in Vietnam. She still remembers the days one year before that time when she welcomed the festival alone in the country completely foreign to her.

At first, work at the UNMISS drove her away from other thoughts. Only when seeing her two Vietnamese colleagues, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Viet Hung and Captain Pham Van Hao, preparing to leave South Sudan for Vietnam to celebrate  Tet did she recognize that the time for the lunar New Year was drawing near. “At that time, I had to hide away for fear that my two Vietnamese colleagues would see my tears of nostalgia.”

That year, she had to send and receive New Year greetings to her beloved through the Internet. The Lunar New Year came without anything similar to all the Tet that she had observed in the homeland previously. She then had chance to welcome a late Tet when her Vietnamese colleagues got back to the UNMISS from leave. Only then could she taste Vietnamese traditional dishes (“gio” – Vietnamese traditional pork roll and “chung” cake) that her colleagues brought there.

Did she feel homesick and self-pitying? Yes, of course! However, the joy that she had when sharing with needy people in South Sudan – a tormented land in Africa, helped ease her nostalgia.

Then, on learning that Major Do was going to leave South Sudan, those children that she once helped made a small bag with string to play around the neck and drew a lot of pictures for her as souvenirs. The luggage she brought home from the African country felt so heavy, not because of things inside the suitcase, but the memories in her mind about that faraway land.

This year, she is welcoming Tet with her family, full of joy and happiness in Vietnam, rather than in that war-torn country. However, what she did and experienced in South Sudan still lives on in her mind. That good deed has helped further beautify the image of Uncle Ho’s soldiers and the land and people of Vietnam.

Translated by Huu Duong