“The merchants stepped into the modern era still carrying the weight of the yoke on their shoulders.”
That’s a line from the book Ru by Kim Thuy. I just finished reading her poetic and haunting novel about life in Vietnam and a family much like her own that immigrates to Canada. The book was a beautiful reminder of my own visit to Vietnam. Kim Thuy’s non-sequential narrative moves from one scene to another each describing a different time or event in her protagonist An Tinh’s life. Certain sentences in Ru seemed almost to have been written as captions for some of the photos I took in Vietnam.
“The women let the sadness grow in the chamber of their hearts. They were so weighed down by all their grief they couldn’t pull themselves up……bowed under the weight of their sorrow.”
“the little girl who was swallowed up by the sea after she lost her footing”
“I was born in the shadow of skies ………….. shot through with rockets and missles.”
“I was lucky enough to have parents who were able to hold their gaze steady”
“people are too preoccupied by their day-to-day survival to take the time to write their collective history”
“Aside from his mother’s teeth laquered black he had forgotten the faces of his parents.”
“He had slept in underground tunnels.”
“She mixed the pork with steaming rice in a blue and white bowl”
Hearing the Red River Valley in Hanoi
Sliding on the Sand
Filed under Books, vietnam
When we were in Vietnam we drove by a group of school boys who were sand sledding. I asked our driver to stop so we could get out of our van and watch them. The boys had these burlap bags and they were using them like sleds to slide down the sand hills by their school. The boys thought is was funny that I was so interested in what they were doing and when I started taking photos they offered to pose for me. I had Dave take a picture of me with some of them and while we were doing that the principal came out of the school and walked over to see what was going on. Our guide explained that I was a teacher from Canada and I was just interested in the children and the game they were playing. Some of the boys were wearing the uniform of the Young Pioneers a communist organization for young people. I loved the delight on the boys’ faces and the way they were having so much fun with something so simple.
Other posts about Vietnam…….
The Red River Valley in Hanoi
Dave having a calculator conversation with eager entrepreneurs in a Saigon market
We’ve done lots of traveling in non-English speaking countries and have learned the value of non-verbal communication. Bargaining for goods and services is one area where communication is vital despite language barriers. The common way to do this is with the calculator. Whether in Thailand, Mexico, Cambodia, Vietnam, China or Taiwan all you need to do is look a little interested in the product someone is selling and they will whip out their calculator to give you a suggested price. They punch in a number. You enter numbers reflecting a lower offer and the bargaining has begun. I am notoriously bad at this type of non verbal negotiating. My husband Dave is very good. He can make people laugh just by the way he smiles, gestures and punches in those numbers on the calculator. This softens up the seller and often earns him a good deal. I wish I had his calculator conversation savvy!!
Other pieces about conversations……
Just Say No
Let’s Talk About Our Parents
A Listening Love
Dave with our Vietnamese tour guide Mango
“From this valley they say you are going.” When we traveled in Vietnam I was surprised to hear our Vietnamese tour guide singing the Manitoba song Red River Valley. “How can someone in Vietnam know that tune?” I asked. Mango, our guide explained that during the Vietnam War his father worked as a translator at the Hanoi Hilton, a prison for American soldiers. Some captured pilots from North Dakota had taught Mango’s Dad The Red River Valley and he’d often sung it to his son. Mango had never forgotten it.
Note: The Red River also flows through North Dakota
Other posts about Vietnam…..
Filed under Music, vietnam
Two people are better off than one for they can help each other succeed.
On a kayaking trip in Vietnam’s Halong Bay I learned how valuable it can be for two people to work together. We put out to sea in a large boat. Every evening we returned to the boat after a day of kayaking. A great team of two people prepared and served our meals. One woman was our chef. She took live chickens out of crates in the hold, plucked their feathers and prepared them for our dinner. She grabbed swimming fish from the tanks on board, filleted them and grilled them to perfection. She cooked spicy rice and fresh vegetables for every meal. She arranged exotic fruits for our dessert. A waiter set the table with lovely china and cleverly folded napkins. He served each course with flair and courtesy. He prepared whatever drinks we requested. Later he helped the chef with dishwashing. The two of them were a great food services team.
Early one morning on Halong Bay I witnessed another example of “two people are better off than one”. A mother and her daughter paddled up to the side of our junk in a flat-bottomed wooden boat. Together they had artfully arranged dozens of bowls of colourful fruits and vegetables to sell to tourists. The daughter was the helmsman . She steered the boat and kept it close to the ship as her mother, who spoke a little English, greeted customers, negotiated prices and carried out the financial transactions. Together they made a great team.
Paddling a kayak with my husband everyday was another practical example of how “two people are better off than one.” My husband sat in the rear and steered the boat. I sat in front and provided extra muscle power to move us forward. Together we were able to kayak in and out of secluded caves, and around the huge karst rock formations in Halong Bay.
I learned some excellent lessons about teamwork on my voyage in Vietnam’s Halong Bay. Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us working together with others is important in life. Teamwork can make the difference between success and failure.
Other posts that include Scripture passages………
Stick Stick Men
I Have Fought The Good Fight
A Place of Happiness