A Death Anniversary in the CountrysidePosted: December 11, 2011
There’s a balance when it comes to wider family events, particularly the countryside ones.
I know behind the scenes my wife makes my excuses and we keep our appearances to a respectable minimum. It wasn’t that this one was especially important so much as we hadn’t shown our faces for a while. When my wife said it would take half a day I thought we’d be back by lunch. It turned out she’d meant it would be 12 hours door to door.
I recall in KOTO days, visiting the countryside homes of the poorest kids. Food was a struggle but the sheer newness and oddness of the situation made it unmissable. Later as the experience becomes less novel the food becomes proportionately less palatable too. Likewise the drinking, that it’s hard to duck out of, is now a chore rather than just a tale to be mentally filed away for future travel anecdotes.
That said, all things considered, yesterday was fun. No one now is either surprised or offended if I just pick at the food and then fill up on my own smuggled in snacks. The drinking was beer, whisky and rice wine before noon. Having written off the day in advance, being drunk before noon was no hardship. There’s a brief couple of hours of euphoria before the inevitable afternoon fug.
For all my caution when it comes to attending family events I’m proud to be a part of these people. My wife has favourites among them and those she’ll only politely acknowledge. Good people and bad people, family feuds and debts of gratitude from the past.
Their own stories set against this incredible pace of change could be a book on its own and, in that respect, I don’t suppose they’re any different to any other family in Vietnam. I noted that while the oldest members of the family are farmers, the youngest include TV producers, an artist and a cafe owner.
I snored home hungover and slept for three hours. A friend called round late yesterday and said I was still stinking of cheap booze. This morning I felt poisoned and wondered, for the millionth time, what other than rice was in the wine.
But during the day the sheer absurdity of me, sitting cross-legged, eating and drinking deep into the Vietnamese countryside with my Vietnamese family and wife, wasn’t far from my thoughts. A beautifully ridiculous situation that, against all odds, still somehow turns a chore into something genuinely life affirming.
Life these days is very very good. Recently I’ve felt just as much in love with Vietnam as I ever have.