Peace Corps Writers
Christmas on the Mekong
(page 4)
Christmas on the Mekong
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     Tom talked the pilot into proceeding farther north before reversing course and heading back to My Tho. This took us over an area controlled by the Cao Dai, a religious sect that could call forth loyalty and disciplined behavior on the part of its members. Once again, we saw verdant pristine fields untouched by even a hint of the conflict raging on all sides. Since only members of the sect could live in the area, they needed only small arms to protect themselves. All in the brotherhood knew each other, and any infiltrating VC were shot. With no VC in the sect’s territory to worry about, the GVN and American gunners left the Cao Dai alone. Not surprisingly, the sect’s leadership routinely sold rice, vegetables and other agricultural products to both sides.
     While flying back over the contested area, Tom nudged me and pointed out of the open side of the chopper at a small grove of trees not too far below.
     “See those trees?”
     I nodded.
     “VC.” He moved his finger slightly and pointed to another grove of trees several hundred yards away, but well within the sight of the first grove. “GVN.”
     The loyalties of the people who controlled those two small pieces of real estate had been established early in the conflict and had not wavered for more than five years. The machines of war, the legions of soldiers, the money, the will and the political maneuvers had failed to produce a change of control in this tiny area. It seemed to simulate, on a small scale, the stalemate playing out at that time in the whole country.
  
As a Peace Corps Volunteer John Krauskopf taught English in the boys’ secondary schools in Ahwaz, the provincial capital of Khuzistan Province in Iran. In 1969, he returned to Iran for the in-country portion of that year’s Peace Corps training where he supervised a teacher-training summer school. After ten years of involvement in international student exchange with Experiment for International Living, he spent more than two decades as the foreign student adviser and director of the English as a Second Language Institute in Millbrae, California before retiring. He is now writing a book about his international experiences.
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