Today was a wonderful, memorable day! Nguyễn Quyết Tiến took me to his home town, Tứ Kỳ, in Hải Dương province to meet his family. It is a small, picturesque village surrounded by rice fields and vegie gardens, where most of the paths are only wide enough for a bike or getting around on foot... very few cars except on the main street!
Tiến's father works away and comes home when he can, so his mother does all the farming, growing enough rice and vegetables to feed the family and then some. They have chickens and ducks and can catch fish in the large pond right next to their home, which is large and spacious.
Tiến and his beautiful mother, Hứ
This is Tiến's second oldest sister, Anh with her 3 month old baby daughter, Phương Linh.
With the water table so high, there are lakes, ponds and canals everywhere you look. This one is the largest lake in Tứ Kỳ. The fishing rights are owned by a few families, but it is also used during one of the festivals for a duck catching competition , which is apparently hugely enjoyed by everyone.
The house on the left on the other side of this pond is the family home of Tiến's oldest sister, Oanh. We stopped by for a visit.
It is a lovely home, too.
This is Oanh's mother-in-law, Oanh and baby Quỳnh Anh, and Anh with Phương Linh. Quỳnh Anh kept us all entertained with her antics. She was scooting around in the walker making lots of noise, thoroughly enjoying herself.
Tiến loves his little nieces and gave them lots of kisses and cuddles. I love how Vietnamese men are so demonstrative with babies... not at all like most Aussie blokes.
These pretty girls are Oanh's other daughter, Quỳnh Mai, and her friend. They were very shy about having their photos taken. They are independent 9 year olds who seemed to spend most of the day riding around on bikes with another girlfriend playing happily... all of them dressed in pink!
(Small photo so Katie doesn't have to look at it... LOL) It was about 2 metres long and looked very much like the carpet snakes we get at home.
And of course, like all the households here, they had a thriving vegie garden.
When we reached the main street, we stopped off at the Communal house.
This dear little old lady came over to find out who I was and asked Tiến all about me. She is 80 years old, cloudy in one eye and her teeth have been blackened as was the fashion when she was young... and very friendly!
I took this photo because I hadn't seen how Chả (a kind of minced pork pattie or rissole) is made before. This lady makes it. You can see the big drum around which the meat mixture is pressed for cooking...
The next mystery I solved was what is the difference between vịt (duck) and ngan ("not duck... bigger!"). Most of the ducks here are a small variety of white duck and their meat is called thịt vịt. Today I saw larger ducks, like our Muscovie ducks and it turns out that they are what is called ngan. So there is no mystery bird that's not a duck, not a goose (ngỗng) ... not even a swan (!) as some have suggested ... ngan is simply a larger variety of duck!
Next stop was at the village's largest temple where we stopped and had a look around.
This tiny little old man is the caretaker here. He's about 125cm tall!
There were several old people sitting enjoying a chat over a cup of tea. and these little old ladies proudly put on their brown robes to pose for a photo... again, they are all so tiny!! They all wanted to see their photos, but by the way they were peering, I don't think their eyesight is too good...
(You can see the old men sitting in the background)
This is one of the wider pathways...
We got back to the house with time to cuddle the babies...
The kitchen wing has only recently been rebuilt and it has a modern kitchen, laundry and bathroom. Oanh and Anh were helping to prepare lunch...
Modern facilities in the next room, but still this hearth fire is where all the cooking is done... and here is our delicious lunch. Tiến had asked his mother to prepare traditional Vietnamese food...
Chicken, fish, greens, soup, a pickled fruit called cà pháo that explodes in your mouth when you bite it, and tasty little morsels of cooked blood... all served with home grown rice! All of it was home grown and so very fresh! Fabulous!
Tiến did a wonderful job as interpreter, translating for me so we had no trouble communicating and we all laughed a lot as we enjoyed our meal. After lunch everyone laid down for a nap. I slept on this bed... very comfortable!
but I think it may have been Oanh's bed, for she slept in the hammock with Quỳnh Anh ... I couldn't resist taking a photo, they looked so beautiful.
After an hour I woke to the sounds of the chickens in the yard outside my window. Listening to them clucking around always reminds me of living at Lake Russell Drive with all our chickens and ducks...
You can see the small vịt ducks in this photo, among the various chickens and roosters. When the others woke up Hứ greeted us with a hot cup of fresh green tea (from her own bushes) and warm khoai lang - sweet potato. So good!
Their neighbour was fishing in the canal across the road, using a long bamboo pole with a power chord sending an electric charge to the wire net at the end. Any fish that comes into contact with it are stunned and float to the surface, to be scooped up and placed in the bucket.
Quỳnh Mai and her friends were keen to help him.
Then it was bath time for baby Phương Linh...
... how adorable is that... ??
Meanwhile, Quỳnh Anh was keeping very busy.
All too soon, it was time to go.. a couple more photos...
Such a beautiful, loving family. I had a perfect day.
On the ride home I took a couple of photos, but it's always the case that I missed several classic photo opportunities because I was just too slow... still...
We arrived back in Hải Phòng in time to catch the rehearsal for a performance for the 5th Anniversary of Nam Phap Church English Club on Saturday night. It will be a lot of fun, and I'm hoping many of the students from previous years will be able to come...
From there, Tiến and Thảo and I went and had dinner...
... then we went to his English Club at VIMARU for their Vietnam Women's Day Party. A small gathering, but it was great fun.
We were leaving when I realised that after all the photos I'd taken today, I didn't have one of Tiến and me! So here it is...
Charming host, skilled interpreter, delightful company... I had a perfect day!
After Tiến dropped me home, I had a call from Figo, whom I hadn't seen yet this year, so he picked me up and took me out for coffee. A bonus to cap off an already memorable day!
How blessed am I? What an amazing life!!!