For weeks now, we've been trying to co-ordinate a trip to visit Tứ Cuờng Commune, in Hải Dương Province - Tuyền's hometown. Finally, we locked in on a two day trip that would also include a visit to Tiên's home as well, then had to postpone it for a day because of the typhoon. Meanwhile, I had picked up a middle ear infection that was messing with my balance...this morning, while walking, I had to have my hand on Hải's shoulder to keep me going in a straight line! That was pretty disturbing, especially with a two hour motorbike ride ahead of us. So after breakfast, Hải came back and took me to the hospital... check out all the drugs the doctor prescribed!!!
The big yellow babies are the magic bullet antibiotics. By the time Tuyền and Tiên finished classes and came to pick us up they were already taking effect and I wasn't feeling dizzy any more.
It was mid-afternoon before we headed off. I love riding through the countryside, it's so peaceful and smells fresh and green (except where they are burning off the rice harvest stubble!) and it was a gorgeous day.
I took heaps of photos along the way because everything is so different to Australia it is all fascinating to me!
A couple of hours later we arrived at Tuyền's home. It's in the middle of the village, on the main street.
Immediately inside the gate is a covered storage area that doubles as a garage for the bikes and farm equipment.
Down the side of the house is a long courtyard with various pens and utility rooms ...
... including this traditional kitchen for when there is a blackout.
We said a quick hello to Tuyền's mother and sister, then went two doors down to visit his grandparents.
His grandmother is an absolute darling, a tiny little lady with blackened teeth. Whatever it is that the people of her generation chew to achieve this look, it obviously keeps the teeth very strong - her teeth are in great condition. She was intrigued by their large Western visitor, and spent much of our visit stroking me and holding onto me....
Tuyền was keen to show us Bird Island, where hundreds of egrets roost every night, so we jumped on the bikes and hurried to get there before sunset.
Five o'clock, and the quiet roads were suddenly busy as the school children headed for home - most of them on bicycles out here in the country.
As we pulled up some enterprising locals displayed souvenir toys and trinkets - the sunset roosting obviously attracts visitors. There were several punts lined up and we boarded one to get a closer look at Bird Island, which is in the middle of a small lake. The birds are a kind of egret, with a colony similar to the one we have here at Boambee.
While we were paddling around the island hundreds of egrets came to roost after a day of foraging in the rice paddies all around, and these grey birds, which are night feeders, flew off into the darkening skies.
Even with the bird calls, it was very peaceful on the water.
Nightfall came quickly.
When we got back to the house, Katie again picked up one of the two puppies that were in a pen in the garage. Of course, she gave it lots of cuddles and it responded by snuggling right in... to the amazement of our Vietnamese hosts! Over here, no-one pets their dogs like we do. They aren't washed regularly and are rarely allowed inside. Tiên couldn't get over it, I don't think it had ever occurred to him that a puppy would respond to affection so warmly - this little puppy got as close as possible, just like a baby.
Just as dinner was being served, we had a blackout, so we ate our dinner by torchlight. The food was delicious. Tuyền's grandmother came and sat next to me, even though she had already eaten. This is Tuyền's grandmother, his mother - Săm (who looks more like she'd be his older sister), his younger sister - Yến, Tuyền, his father - Tùng, Tiên and Katie.
The blackout didn't last too long, and we finished the evening looking at photos of Tuyền's childhood, then had a fairly early night. We slept upstairs. Tuyền said he often sat in this doorway when he was growing up - a great spot for catching the night breeze and looking out at the stars.
Tuyền's parents were up and about shortly after 4am, getting started for the day, then at 5am came the big surprise... Loudspeakers set up throughout the village began spruking community announcements at full volume. So loud it distorted! This continued for the next couple of hours ... extraordinary! Yet even more extraordinary was that neither Tuyền nor Tiên woke up!!! So it was just as well we didn't have a late night after all haha.
This is where Katie and I slept comfortably till the wake up call
This is the view across the street from the upstairs balcony.
Tuyền picked some fresh herbs and chopped them for our breakfast...
...and his grandmother came over to visit again.
By the time we came downstairs (7:15am) both Tuyền's father and his sister had already left, and his Mum was busy getting our breakfast ready - a delicious fish soup.
A few photos, and we were off to visit Tiên's home on the way back to Hải Phòng. I had to be back in time to teach two classes at VAIE tonight, so we needed to keep moving! I hope we can come back and visit again next year.