First and last break in Vietnam
In the splendid villa with our family in An Bang, it really hit us: after seven weeks of constant travelling through Vietnam, we really needed a break. Coincedentally we finally succeeded in finding a house in Hoi An, which we could rent for two weeks, for cheap, because we were the first ever tenants and in that capacity, bring good luck.
The house has ridiculous measurements, every room is of huge proportions, there are three bathrooms with showers, toilet and urinal, so you hope you all have to go at the same time and that wouldn't be a problem at all, for once. From the roofterrace you can enter a 'prayer room' entirely dedicated to meditating and offering at the altar: a pretty Tao god with blinking colored lights adorning its head like a halo, looks down upon you approvingly. In this case, on me, finishing the novel I'd written on Ko Samui.
We'd had a lot of bad weather and a lot of time in small hotelrooms together. Walls are important. Alone time is crucial. One-on-one time is essential. The house offered us all of this, with enough space for everyone to do their own thing, the possibility to go on long walks with one of the boys at a time and to have some evening-hours just for the grown-ups.
It's nice to know that we can make a home and find our way fast in every new place. We soon find a few favourite eateries, a small supermarket, the local fruitmarket and a bakery to buy our small baguettes right from the oven.
With three bicycles we could get around in an easy way, the oldest son had to prove his keenness in this traffic now. When I paid him a compliment on how he handled some particularly absent-minded drivers in the dark streets of the centre of Hoi An, he responded: 'oh well, I just have a weakness for staying alive.'
Helping others and receiving aid are the most wonderful things in life. Not many things fill me with more satisfaction than lending a hand, even if it's just to help someone re-balance their cargo on the back of their motorbike, when they're about to lose it in a bend. Not many things fill me with more gratitude than people selflessly helping us. When you're in the middle of nowhere and your motorbike doesn't start anymore, you just have to wait a few moments before the first guy comes and gives it a try. Before long, there's a group of men whose personal mission it is to get this motor running again. Very reassuring.
It only took seconds before people rushed in when our youngest son got stuck with his foot between the bicycle spokes, helping us free his ankle from the iron clutch and then offering to take us to the hospital. We got on the back of a motorbike, ten seconds later another lady put a helmet on my head and off we were, with a crying child as the siren between us. She explained what had happened to the doctor, which was very convenient, because he didn't speak a whole lot of English. Then she had to go and I hope she felt my heartfelt gratitude when she even refused money for the parking lot. My son got an x-ray, I had to hold his foot still, so I sang our consolation-song into his ear and he manned up and held perfectly still. He's got this idea, that he should always give back as many kisses as he gets, even if he has to blow them to you and he kept doing this the whole time, even when I explained to him that it was really fine if he just received some in this particular situation. Furthermore, he always wishes everyone a 'bless you' when they cough, not only when the sneeze and he certainly always wishes himself a 'bless me' and he persisted doing this too, through his tears. This gave me great hope; if he managed to conduct his self-imposed etiquette throughout all of this, surely he'd be fine. Indeed: no bones were broken, just heavily bruised and a large piece of skin had left his ankle. I didn't have enough cash money on me, so carrying my son I went outside to look for an ATM that would actually work. Crossing the street, he raised his little hand to the incoming traffic, as he'd seen policemen do in Nha Trang, sturdy as ever. After returning to our house, my love went and put cardboard against all backwheels: his heart wouldn't be able to overcome such a scare again.
Looking back on our more than two months in Vietnam, the typical Asian outdoors-life is what comes to mind. Especially in the south, in Tra Vinh and Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, this lifestyle thrives and is so appealing. There are couches - not hard benches, but soft sofas - on the sidewalks for get-togethers. Everyone is outside, whether they're eating, resting or working. Even here in Danang, where we spend our last days in Vietnam, you can see people preparing dough, reparing gaspumps, painting furniture, welding motorbike-parts. With 85% of the people not belonging to any religion officially we stumbled upon a baffling amount of home-altars, temples and incense sticks.
Goodbye cau lau and freshly brewed beer for 3000 dong (euro 0,12 - cheers my love), we really enjoyed getting to know you.