You never know where the road will lead you.
On Sunday I had a day off and had planned on heading to a place called Ninh Binh to see the sites and to get some pictures. But as I was making plans with the front desk of my hotel the clerk asked if I wanted join her and her husband for a day trip out to her village. I couldn’t resist and said yes.
The transportation of choice here is a moped (see posting on Dec. 23, 2007). So they talked one of the door guys into going with us so that I would have a ride. Luckily it poured cats and dogs that morning so they finally agreed to my offer of hiring a regular taxi to take us. A 1.5 hour ride on the back of a moped in a country where an ambulance is also known as a taxi did not intrigue me.
So off we went to the parent’s house. There we were met by her brother, sister-in-law, nephew and parents. They were farmers. They owned a small plot of land where they grew mostly peanuts and had fruit trees; they also kept a pig, a cow (for fertilizer), and a fish pond to supplement the diet. Although these people were not as poor as I have seen in other places they were not what one would call well off either. Her mother prepared a nice meal for all of us; and as there were guests (the door guy and myself) and her daughter and son in-law were home for their once a month visit, it was a special meal with more than 5 dishes. It reminded me of my mom’s house. With the exception of sitting on the floor sitting on straw mats and the fact that we were living in the bedroom, living room dining room area; and then there was the home made rice whiskey they were passing around.
I find it interesting that everywhere I go VN they always think that this is the poorest place in the world. They also assume a lot about the US as well. Yesterday I was invited for another family dinner with other people. this is the third time in a couple of trips I have been invited for family meals and the questions/comments are always: “you’ve never seen anything as poor as our house have you? This is a modest meal isn’t it? There are no poor people in America are there? The government provides for all of the needs of the elderly and poor don’t they?” Then when they discover that I do not have children they say, “Americans are not concerned with having a family because they don’t need to have children and grand children care for them when they get old.”
While I was out in this village we walked to the village center and had a treat. As we sat there passers by would stop to say hello, as my host grew up there and basically knew everyone personally or knew who they were. Including the local crazy guy; who was busy bothering a shopkeeper. When I asked who he was her husband started making fun of him; she quickly told him to stop. I guess in every village puts up with one.
Although I did not see anything spectacular I did get to spend a relaxing day with the locals learning about village life (so did the door guy – who promptly got lost walking down the road by himself and had to call our hosts on his cell phone to get back). This is something you can not buy. Below is footage of the farm area and the three who brought me there; we did eventually walk out about a 1/4 mile into that field so that I could take pictures; and although not in this footage there were many farmers out tilling their fields and children letting their cows graze. And once again my host was able to introduce me to anyone I wanted to talk with. It was a fun day.