Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Back to Vietnam

17/6 - Waiting in KL for the HCMC flight and being a clever lad, I left my Malaysian money in the bag I checked in. "Wally" springs to mind, but I have a big bar of dark chocolate I picked up in NZ, so I wont waste away and there was plenty of grub on the flight.
Into HCMC and my bag turned up. I wasn't convinced it would, I shouldn't be so sceptical. Out into the madding crowd, back in Asia. There are hundreds of people milling around, so I couldn't spot Dung, even though she is tall for a Vietnamese. Her brothers girlfriend spotted me, which I thought was very clever, as we hadn't met before. I'd forgotten how hot it gets here, but was reminded when I started to melt, I don't hold out much hope for the chocolate I have left.
Dung has invited me to go to her parents. How could I say no, but I didn't want to. They have come on 2 motos, one borrowed from Dung's auntie Ut, so I hopped on with Luan, her brother and he put my rucksack in front of him, no problem. We had quite a natter on the way to Duc Hoa, their home, which was good considering the traffic in HCMC is like a death ride. Luan speaks better English than Dung, we had a good natter about all sorts, football being a big hit. Dung's village is about 20Km from HCMC, so it took us about 45 minutes from the airport. Along the way the 2 motos were often side by side and everyone nattering. Riding motos is 2nd nature to the Vietnamese. Dung's home is down a track off the main road, about 1Km. Dung told me they are poor and the house certainly backs that up, but it's like going to my Mam's, everyone if very friendly and welcoming. I got the traditional tea and the introductions are made, then we are off to the kitchen for some lunch. 2 of Dung's uncles are here too, giving me the once over I guess. I was given beer and the rest passed the ruou around, rice wine. There is lots of Yo going on, the same as Cheers and drink up. It is a proper family meal, just like in the Grumpy Old Man's days and food is constantly dropped into my bowl, the custom. Everyone is making a big fuss of me, which is not how I like it, but it is good of everyone. After lunch we go to visit Dung's Grandad and Grandma. They live with her uncle, as he is the youngest and tradition dictates that is usually the norm. He is the youngest of 9 and gets a lot of land from his father for the trouble of looking after him. It looks like Dung's Grandad has had a stroke and he told me, via Dung, that he has been in bed for 2 years, but he still manages to smile. He wanted me to lie down and nap with him, but I managed to put it off until the next visit. There are about 10 others here, checking me out, Dung is good, fussing over her Grandad, in fact she makes a fuss of everyone and it seems very proud of me. Her Uncle Hiep tried to get me to go fishing with him, but there is too much going on at the moment. Dung fielded the barrage of questions and everyone is smiling and laughing, I don't know what she is telling them. Dung managed to move us on, back to her house for a nap, the girl is flagging a bit and so am I, but it is not easy to sleep with all the excitement around. I don't get too hot, as everywhere I go, someone appears to plug in a fan. It's like I have one tied to my leg.
Dinner is lots of food again. I can't eat like the Vietnamese, but am constantly encouraged to do so. There's squid, pork, fish, veg and Luan tells me to eat quicker. The rice wine is flowing, but I stick to a beer. Everywhere we go we get tea, but not always the time to drink it before I am moved on. Dung's Mam, Nu, is drifting around in the background doing most of the work, much like Khien's Grandma. She is watching me like a hawk. Understandable.
Next stop, Tu's, Luan's girlfriends. Her house is attached to a Buddhist temple, her Grandma founded after being released from American custody at the end of the war. She seems to have been a bit of a heroine and Tu's Great Grandad is famous throughout Vietnam for standing up to the French. I had better not cause any bother here!! The temple acts as a temporary shelter for poor people and there is a lot of faith healing going on, while I sit around watching. It looks very dramatic, lots of incense smoke and people flopping into monks arms. There is lots of fruit being dished out and I got offered loads. We stayed in the temple, sat on a bench/table/bed, it acted as all 3. Everyone is very curious and friendly with the whitey from Blighty.
Back to Dung's to settle for the night. It is poorer than I expected. There is not a lot of privacy. No need to shout "Goodnight John Boy" here, if you whisper it the house next door will probably reply. There's no upstairs in these houses, no walls to the ceiling and no doors, but it is very homely. The Dutch have a good word to describe it, "Gezellig".
Good night John Boy, time to kip.


pitmanswife said...

I have followed youor travels with great interest and enthusiasm, being a fellow northerner.

Good luck on your return -please keep posting.


Leila Daniel said...

Gil and Dung sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the golden carriage!!

hehehe how u doing my friend..