Vietnam – Kaleidoscope


On the outside everywhere it’s different. Pieces of glass of reality each time form a unique and unrepeatable pattern.

To get watermelons, you need to use a boat. There are also pineapples and vegetables. As usually at any market. It’s just dogs that are missing as this one it’s held on a river. In the morning a broad river bed in the Mekong delta is completely blocked by berthed boats. They come here for a couple of months laden with agricultural produce and, once these are sold, sail up the river for a new load. Who wants to buy something, needs to paddle.

On Tuesday around 7 p.m. people start gathering in the church. The first ones to arrive are the kids in smart clothes. Now they are standing in a semicircle around my tent too shy to say anything. Only when the priest arrives, they break the ice. But the church fills quickly so after a moment we say goodbye to each other. Tonight, psalms will be my lullaby. We’ll meet again on Wednesday morning when they come back for the morning mass.

A woman is patiently fanning drying rice to make husks fly away. The rest of the family is busy with their duties under a wooden stilt house. Fruits are being sorted, wood is being collected, children are being fed, food is being cooked on a hearth and water is being brought from a mountain stream. Neighbours are doing the same alongside as all houses are cramped one next to another. I don’t know who is a husband, a sister, a cousin in here as the family is big and they all live together. If it wasn’t for the electric line and omnipresent scooters, the life here would appear the same as centuries before.

The World Cup has started so I’m watching a game in a bar full of locals. Although it’s evening, the heat doesn’t stop so all guys are topless and sport tattoos on their chests. Some of them follow the passes on the pitch and the rest plays cards. They support both teams. I can hear them cheering every time the action densifies in the penalty area of whichever team.

‘Hello! What’s your name? What the fuck?’, village kids shout at me. They call what they know in English. They aren’t mean, they are just familiar with two expressions from school and one from films. That’s it. I explain everything else, with Vietnamese of all ages, through hand gestures.

On the beach it’s crowded only at 5 a.m. All town people come for a morning bath and a walk on the shore. Every now and then there are groups of locals doing gymnastics. Not many actually swim, most just stand in the water talking to their friends. And it’s jam-packed. After 6 a.m., when the sun starts coming out of the morning fog, they slowly disperse.

On Sunday you need to dress up. And not just anyway, but in colourful and richly decorated traditional clothes. It’s Sunday, a market day. People gather into town from mountain villages to sell and buy. And to show off. Teenage girls strut proudly full of glittering jewelry that could shame any rapper with their bling-bling.

The colorful pattern always appears differently. But inside the kaleidoscope there are always the same and invariable colored pieces of glass. And the people that I meet are always the same. They work, raise their kids, pee against the wall, renovate their houses, take selfies, overburn dinners, laugh and worry always in like manner. Maybe that’s why I feel at home wherever I go.

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