Today’s journal will be a story about my trip to the Mekong Delta where the family I am staying with comes from. I went there during the weekend to celebrate Têt (Chinese New Year) and to visit the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. First stop Saturday morning was the flower street in HCMC. This is a street dedicated to huge flower decorations and it is a tradition for Thao and her cousin to go there every year and take pictures with the flowers. This year was special because we are entering the year of the tiger – and Thao’s cousin is born in the year of the tiger. In Vietnam this means that she needs to be very careful this year and especially this particular day, because a lot of bad luck can happen. Nothing bad has happened yet, so let’s hope it stays that way. Thao’s aunt who is also born in the year of the tiger decided to stay home for Têt this year because she was afraid to leave the house.
Next challenge was an almost 2 hour motorbike ride from HCMC to the province in the Mekong Delta. After about 30 minutes I started not to able to feel my butt, it started hurting a few minutes later and I could barely get off the bike when we finally got there.. Oh well, life goes on, I can still walk – what doesn’t kill me, only makes my stronger, right? Do I have a stronger butt now, then?
We got there at 11am and already then, the women in the family were chopping everything from meat to vegetables, sitting on little chairs on the ground. The old-fashioned charcoal stove was pumping and in every corner, something was going on. This was only the preparations for a big lunch the next day where relatives from all over came to the house to wish them a happy new year. The preparations went on for hours and after dinner we went to Thao’s other cousin’s house where we were going to spend the night. While we were having homemade jelly – yes, Shal and Sherms I HAD JELLY – a third cousin called to ask us to come over and help with another preparation for the preceding day’s lunch.. When we got there there wasn’t much for us to do, though, so while Thao and some of her cousins where watching a special new year show on TV, I was trying to have a small conversation with her other cousins.. Confused? Me too! There were so many cousins and the next day there were even nephews as well.. However, I learned to say house, which sounds a bit like NJA in Danish and door, which I actually already forgot.. They taught me some other words too, but it is really difficult to remember words that sound strange and which hardly would have any meaning or resemblance to anything in any language I know.. I am trying, though and will remember house..
We went back to the first cousin’s house, though probably not the first cousin in the row of cousins, but the cousin I mentioned before. In Vietnam it is important to know the number and rang of the cousins and aunts and you call them aunt number 3 or 2 in order to show respect to them. I found it very confusing! Well, we spent the night in a NJA. I went to bed a little early, but it didn’t do me any good. It is very normal to have the TV on the loudest mode all day from 5 to 22 and on this holiday, even until 1 am.. So I spent approx. 2-3 hours awake in bed and woke up when they turned it on the next morning.. I tried to go back to sleep, but it didn’t really work..
We went straight to the grandparents’ NJA in the morning and I had my beloved coffee søøø daaa (ice coffee with milk) and some bananas.. This was the day of the big lunch and at one point there were so many (haum) people that Thao couldn’t even tell who everyone was. The lunch was duck, pickled papaya, ginger/lime/sugar/soya dipping, herbs and a lot of other things. I guess it can be compared to our Christmas dinner where everything has to be there for it to be complete. After lunch was a very special part of Têt for Thao. One of the things she doesn’t want to miss. This was the day where they made these funny roles of rice, corn and pork rolled into banana leaves. It is like a ceremony where everyone sits on the ground making sure that the roles are made properly.. I had the honour of tying one of them.
When the roles were tied the activities of the day were over and we could relax. We went to see an orchard which belongs to the grandfather and had crispy rice paper with ginger marmalade. I slept like a baby until the PUBLIC radio was turned on at 5 am. Public means that a load speaker somewhere turns on and the whole neighbourhood has to listen to it. 5 AM everyone.. What do you say? I am glad DR is not that public!! I managed to fall asleep again trying to forget that we had a long motorbike ride in front of us.. Luckily, my butt wasn’t AS sore this time!