The nicest terrorist I ever met

Wet and green Hué
The ancient city-center, bombed out during the war and partly restored.

Yes, you do sometimes meet remarkable people while travelling. On the 20-hour train ride from Hanoi to Hué I shared a sleeping compartment with the Italian couple in the picture above. Of course, everybody stocks up on snacks, drinking water and booze before boarding, and it is one of the true joys of travelling to find other people in your compartment that you like sharing the stuff with, more specifically the booze, while talking away a good part of the night which for me would have been largely sleepless anyway.
Halfway down a bottle of Vietnamese whisky the girl was relaxing on the middle bunk while I was still standing in the compartment, so our faces were quite close together in the semi-dark - I'm sure such accidental details matter for what you tell each other.
She was quite girlishly attractive. For some reason I asked her how old she was, and she said thirty. I was surprised, because she looked twentyfive at most.
'Yes', she said with a melancholy smile. 'My usual answer when people say that is: 'I'm five years younger', and that is because I don't want to tell them I spent five years in jail. I was a member of the Brigati Rossi, and was arrested while carrying a gun. In Italy you get five years for that, whether you used it or not.'What are you doing with this gun?' all these policemen said, 'the gun is bigger than you'.'
As I didn't really know what to say next, I said: 'Where you involved in any kidnappings or killings?'
'No', she said, 'but friends of mine were, and at the time I supported their ideas. I don't know what I would have done if they had asked me to help with that. But I accepted the gun and always carried it with me. Although I don't know why. In any case, I didn't fight when I was caught.'
Her boyfriend, who was by now snoring in one of the upper bunks, was a dokter she had met after jail. They went travelling together to celebrate that she had finally gotten back her passport from the Italian authorities. Also, he planned to write a book about Vietnamese indigenous medicine, so they tried to find local shamans to tell them all about their secret herbs and therapies.
After leaving the train, we spent a few quiet days in Hué, visiting the monuments and doing nothing much in particular. Politics didn't come up, nor did I notice anything remotely resembling fanaticism in her. In fact, they were some of the most friendly, comfortable and trustworthy people I met while travelling. I guess the difference between joining Greenpeace, the student fraternity or an urban guerilla movement is less than most of us want to know.