Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dinner and a Tour

Parents: you may want to preview this post.  There is a historical story of a somewhat horrific nature.

Well, at this point I feel like I have settled into Vietnamese culture.  While I am quite familiar with the general culture of Southeast Asia thanks to Sunday and his family, this is my first time truly experiencing it in a real immersive setting.  I am just in awe of the simplicity and graciousness of life in this part of the world.  Tonight we were fortunate enough to be welcomed into the home of a friend of our tour guide named Lam.  He and his wonderful family lavished us with a delicious meal cooked by his talented wife who runs a specialty food shop in the city.  

Besides meeting such a nice family, my favorite part of this experience was seeing a typical Vietnamese urban home.  It was nothing like I expected -- very different from Chinese homes.  

You can see the entire house in the picture above.  We dined in the living space, which was quite bare.  It had an armoire in one corner, an old crt TV in the other, and a religious alter in the middle of the room for worshiping ancestors.  Family photos hung on walls and portable fans lined the room.  There was no a/c even though the temps have been hovering around 100° since I arrived.  Parallel to this main living space were three additional square rooms.  The one behind the blue curtain was a shared bedroom for their three teenage children.  Behind the yellow curtain was additional living space, and the third room at the other end was the parents' bedroom.  At the far end of the house was the kitchen and bathroom, both of which were extremely small and very basic.  I loved seeing the family interact around their home.  For Americans, material possessions define us - and the bigger they are the better our lives are supposed to be, but this family who live in such basic conditions appeared so happy and grateful.  The kids played, not on phones or iPads, but with each other.  The parents loved sharing with us food from their culture.  It was wonderful.  One of my favorite parts was our dinner entertainment - a few magic tricks by the one kid, who is 14.  It was a great reminder that kids everywhere mature the same way and have similar interests.  

Apart from the great cultural experience that was our dinner tonight, I am having a spectacular time in Vietnam.  A hi light so far is definitly the motorbike tour I went on earlier today.  Motor bikes are more prevalent than cars in this country, so what better way to explore a rural village than the way the locals see it every day!  The thrill of zipping through traffic with virtually no safety precautions, apart from a helmet, was quite exhilarating.  We were able to explore all different types of off the beaten path attractions - places a bus just couldn't have gone.

Small rural village market

Remains of a king's tombs that was destroyed in the war

Monastery for children.  Rural families who can't afford to raise their kids will send them to a place like this where they can receive free care until the age of 18, at which point they decide if they want to continue life as a monk or leave the monastery and return to their family.  Really made me appreciate what we have to offer kids in our country.

A car that belonged to the monk Thich Quang Duc.  His final ride in the car ended with him exiting the vehicle, sitting on the ground, entering a state of peaceful meditation, and setting himself ablaze in protest of the persecution of buddhist monks by the army in what was then South Vietnam.  The army did not react and in fact made a statement along the lines of "We should have had a barbecue."

On a happier note, we also saw dozens of baby ducks!

Tomorrow we move on to our next city : Hoi An.  My time in Vietnam has been nothing short of extraordinary so far.  I can't wait to see what the remainder of my days has to bring.

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