TET in Thanh Hoa

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I have sinned badly as I have not posted a blog for 4 days. I have been very busy exoloring the countryside in the Thanh Hoa province of Vietnam. I left 6:00 am on January 30 and travelled about 3 hours southwest to the Home of Lien’s father, brothers, and sisters. I was invited to spend TET with the Family and it has been a wonderful experience. I was welcomed with the very traditional tea welcome. In the past 4 days, I have consummed at least 150 cups of tea. The cups are small demi-cups but they never get empty. As I visit from house to house tea is offered at every home.

I love the rural country of Vietnam. It is a poor area, but the area is rich in it’s agricultural roots. The people are so friendly here, I have been accepted as part of the family and community. I am the only foreinger here in this area. I estimate there are about 2000 people in the area. I do stick out like a sore thumb. The experiences are so many and varied, that I find it next to impossible to document everything. I will add many photos and hopefully my readers can read between the lines or photos as it may be. I am eating many different foods. It is hard to nail down the names of many because of the language barrier. Google Translate is a help, but for fine detail, it’s Vietnamese to English and vice versa loses a lot.

Just after I arrived, the Equivalent Vietnamese Social Worker showed up to deliver Lien’s Father’s Allowance for TET, etc. Her father is 91 years old and suffers a little from dementia. Lien’s sister and brother in law are his caretakers. I was noticed, of course, and this set off official alarms and a series of Custom and Police Officers showing up to question my presence in the Home. After about 3 hours and many trips by Lien into the village for photocopies of my passport and her documentation, everything was officially settled and I am permitted to stay for the 10 days of TET celibration. It will not be as easy to roam about the country by myself as I had hoped.

I have been walking between 10-20 km per day and i never tire of the landscape, architecture, or sights. February 5 is the Major day for TET. I really don’t know what to expect, but I am sure food, drink, and partying will be in abundance everywhere. I will relate all on a later date. The Internet is next to non existent here. There are certain places where I can get a relatively stable connection for small periods of time. I am going to load up some pictures and find a node where I can publish this blog. Wish me luck. Oh, I was just informed it is time to eat the recently dispatched chicken.

I am finally getting a handle on family relationships. Brothers or sisters can mean brother, brother in law, sister, or sister in law. Mother can mean mother or an older woman who has close ties to the family. She could be a neighbour or blood related. Things are not nearly as structured as in our Western culture.

Time is another frustration for me. It is normally inferred in the situation. But for me not quite understanding, it could mean yesterday, now, today, or tomorrow. I just go with the flow.

Lien’s sister just dropped by to give me some very small apples and a guava fruit. I must look hungry, no. Needless to say, they were delicious.

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