FANTASTIC FEELINGS IN LIBBY

Tuesday was the second day of another fresh week with fieldtrips and inspiring lectures. Time flies so fast, reminding the YSEALI delegates that we could be just "SI-LI" as the way we are for more or less 3 weeks.

Breakfast today was served at Red Lion-Kalispell hotel where we stayed the night comfortably in a very large bed. As fast as we could, we grasped some food and fruits to fill up energy for the morning full of productivity upon realizing that it might take around 2 hours of driving to reach Libby where we would learn about the natural resource and public health. I was accompanied with the dearest fellows: Kanhchany, Salai, Nyan, and Alex. "Dear future husband" suggested to be played made us all awake and thrilled in the car.

Our first appointment was at the CARD, understood as the Center for Asbestos Related Diseases. Throughout this session, we had deeper understandings of how vermiculite mining affected the local residents of Libby. Before being realized as a deadly toxicity, vermiculite was applied for various purposes in industry and agriculture as well as recreation since the huge benefits without untold it could make. Thanks to the development of technology along with communication measures, scientists first found out the rationales that triggered fatal diseases in Libby, and then raised the public awareness and the Government to clean up this mess, including treatment patients of asbestos related diseases as well as making Libby a better place to live.

Figure 1: A group photo with two inspiring speakers at the CARD

In order to gain more practical experience on how the EPA (the US Environment Protection Agency) has been dealing with such issue, we came to the next appointment. We met Mr. Cirian who escorted the group on the land-sites where contaminated soils had been removed and replaced.

​Figure 2: Mr. Cirian was talking about a "magic fence" that would not let any contaminant get out of the protected zone

The biggest lesson that I withdrew from this morning is that human rights, once again, are asserted to be amongst the top priorities in the US. Local community had the right to fight in every mean for their health or the Government took care with the massive “superfund”. While, in some developing countries, human rights are still considered as a shortage.

Kootenai Falls Park, one of the largest free-flowing waterfalls in the northwest, was our last stop where we found lots of visitors coming. With all the excitement, the large group approached the forest trails leading to the two most amazing sites, the Kootenai waterfall and the swinging bridge. We once again kept our eyes open wide in front of a breath-taking scenery belonging to the mighty nature. Montana is not only famous for its big sky land with high mountains or immense forests but also, as what we witnessed, the rapid water. This Kootenai River enters a canyon and flows over Kootenai Falls where the YSEALI-ers ceaselessly snapped great photos of the crystal blue river.

Figure 3: Human beings seem to be very small in comparison to the enormous strong flows of Kootenai river

Probably, the most significant experience in the park would be the moment when we were on the swinging bridge that crosses the wild river. As true as its name, each step could swing me from one side to another. It seemed to be nervous since we started walking, looking down in a group of 5 people. Contrasting to its vulnerable appearance, it is completely safe for tourists.

Figure 4: The bridge leads to a mysterious forest or can-called the lost Jurassic world

Everyone seemed to keep on discussing the gift of nature where such spectacular views locate as well as sharing photos taken while enjoying an ice-cream cone at the check-out point.

Figure 5: Each ice-cream costs $1.5. Feeling super fresh after one simple lick, isn’t it?

We came back to the hotel at 6.30pm. After a short rest, some went to a mall, some went to Thai restaurant but I chose to end the day by going to the opposite site of the hotel where a band played a beautiful list of country music songs, along with having dinner mixed between American and Asean cuisine.

What another fruitful day of every aspect!

Khuong Le

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