Today was the third day of our three week long journey and already one of the best. We started out by driving south out of the city toward the delta and Mekong river, which runs from China to the South China Sea in Vietnam. The countryside here is absolutely breathtaking with its rice fields, unique farm houses, and green landscape. One of the first things I noticed on our bus ride were the coffins and burial sites above ground on almost every piece of farm land facing various directions. Our tour guide, Hue, explained to us that this was done because of flooding during monsoon season that caused underground coffins to pop up. Also, most farms are part of family land so many farmers and country people are laid to rest on their own land. They are also given a direction to face which will lead to their children’s prosperity. Hue explained that since people so live in the city do not own land they are usually cremated.
I think it is so beautiful the care that is taken of those in the afterlife. The Vietnamese show the ultimate respect for their ancestors and the lives they lived. This also makes me think about the Vietnamese connection to the land I have noticed. These families spend their whole lives building up their farms, so being buried in your own land is the greatest respect. I love the idea of being so physically connected to your family and home even after you are gone.
This is something I continued to think about more on our next stops to the brick, coconut, and rice noodle factories. Everything they did and used was resourceful and innovative. Susie talked about their sustainability and being able to put people to work. While the conditions may not be ideal, with humid heat and intense labour, each person I met had a smile on their face and was played a vital role in production. At the coconut farm we saw workers who shucked the coconuts that then went to the workers who axed the coconut for its juice then to the workers who cut out the coconut meat and peeled it. The process was amazing to watch.
At the rice noodle farm, we also saw rice noodles made from start to finish. Our tour guide, Ut, told us that this farm puts out about only $450 a day of noodles, which still does not account for costs. All I thought was that is no profit at all! In the tuk tuk, Hue explained to me that they make more of a profit overall than the coconut farm while having better working conditions. I was amazed! But he told me that people have enough to live and support their families and that’s all they need.
This is such a foreign concept in our capitalistic, western ideals and it shocks me still that the rest of the world is not like that. The beautiful smiles and laughter of the Vietnamese show such happiness that has nothing to do with money.
After the rice noodle farm, we met Mr. And Mrs. Sao, who was a Vietnamese soldier in
Cambodia. Mrs. Sao taught us how to make rice paper and they shared tea and stories with us. He and his wife were so genuine and kind welcoming us into their home. Ut explained to us that the sheer experience of talking and relating to people is what brings happiness. It is the raw power of community and wanting that connection with others.
Vietnam is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, but I find myself forgetting that some 50 years ago this country faced a brutal and horrific war. I think the fact that these people are so open to us says so much about their own resilience. I’m excited to see how else the country and her people have bravely faced the horrors of its past while moving towards a beautiful future.