Christmas is being spent in Northumberland with family. Today included a trip to a fresh, breezy, blue-skied Tynemouth – the anti-Hanoi.
Yesterday we got married again. This time with the whole family present, sisters, kids etc and a lovely day was had by all.
For a number of reasons, 2012 has been a trying year for us. In October, on our anniversary, I asked Loan to marry me (again) and yesterday was the culmination of that. It also seemed to break a run of bad luck. Since then a new job has been secured by me and a new cafe opened by Loan.
All of the above means that, for the first time in 12 months, we’re absolutely committed to Hanoi. We wobbled this year and the wobbling made us more unhappy than anything Hanoi could throw at us. In the end all we needed to know was our near future would work out and when that fell into place we happily settled again.
Beyond this the only thing I need to really love/survive Hanoi is an annual day like today in Tynemouth. Head, sinuses and cobwebs cleared.
I will hate Hanoi again. In the middle of next summer, in a pool of sweat, I’ll dream of windy Tynemouth but I’ll also love Hanoi many many times inbetween.
Happy Christmas to all. I hope your year is ending as well as mine is.
I’ve become fascinated by the role of the eldest son in Vietnam. Not just what is expected of him but also how it colours all family life.
Because the eldest son will one day keep the parents – so, from a very early age, the parents are a little scared of their own boy. Above all else the parents cannot afford to upset the eldest son and the son surely understands this.
In arguments with siblings the eldest son is most likely to backed. Request for possessions or preferential treatment are investments parents expect to see a return on.
You cannot afford to risk your relationship with your son.
A daughter will leave – perhaps marrying an eldest son herself. Then she will be part of the payback of another parental investment – expected not just to cook and clean for her husband and parents but also, frequently, any yet-to-leave sisters too. In this instance, it’s the mother-in-law that’s frequently the enforcer – safeguarding the payback while keeping her son onside by controlling his wife.
The question is: how do you begin to gain equality for women when parents can’t afford not to put their sons first?
And when and how will this change?
About this time of year an email goes back to the UK asking Mum, Dad, sisters, brothers-in-law and nieces and nephew what they want for Christmas.
Over the years they’ve become used to table cloths, DVDs with Mickey Mouse speaking Chinese and assorted silk dressing gowns that aren’t quite suited to the North East winter.
This year at least a couple of the kids are better catered for with the Little Blue Dragon book. Stephane and San Alexandre Yvin, from Green Tangerine, have apparently written and illustrated it and very lovely it is too. All proceeds are going to the very wonderful Blue Dragon and it’s in English and Vietnamese.
They cost a very reasonable 200,000 VND each and are available from Bookworm.
As regards Blue Dragon check out their recent post on trafficking – a robust defence on justifying the cost of rescue.
I particularly liked Michael’s line in the comment box:
“It sure is strange when NGOs say “We don’t get involved in individual cases.” If there is no “individual case,” then what is there? How do you help a million if you don’t help one?”
NGOs have become very sophisticated in highlighting the circumstances of individuals to boost their fundraising. For them then to turn around and suggest actually assisting individuals is somehow naive, well it doesn’t seem quite right.
I was watching the god awful Being: Liverpool series yesterday – it’s so car crash cringey that you feel compelled to watch and yet even pressing the play button makes you shudder in expectation.
Anyway, Liverpool, “Being Liverpool” lost and this fly-on-the wall thing covered all the ramifications of pub chat, podcast blather, fan moping etc across Liverpool.
I wondered where the women were.
Then it struck me just similar how our cultures are – despite how we might like to pretend otherwise. Men yakking over an issue of deluded importance while no doubt wives, mothers, sisters and daughters were getting on with the business, work and logistics of living.
Yesterday I watched as the female side of my own Vietnamese family took charge in mopping up a family problem with a solution that was equal parts empathy, common sense, hard work and generosity.
Though they stopped at giving their plans the go ahead – waiting instead till “Dad gets home”.
I have issues with men being written off in Vietnam. Just as I do anywhere. For me equality means equality. Expect little of men and they’ll expect to do little. It’s too easy.
But women’s contribution to Vietnam needs to be more widely recognised. Women need more opportunities. They need a break in every sense. They need tradition and those who insist on it, male and female, to adapt to modernity.
In Vietnam boys are still much more likely to stay onto secondary education. At a time when Vietnam needs skills the country can’t afford to lose the chance to develop its women. In the end, at the risk of dissolving into NGO-speak, education is empowerment.
I don’t believe that where Vietnam gets it wrong, that it’s always men to blame. I’ve heard of too many domineering mothers-in-law using their son’s wives as domestic help to believe that. The eldest boy being expected to keep parents into their old age has its own far reaching issues that could take up several pages. Think them through for a second.
But what is certainly true is that women continue to get a raw deal. Changing the situation starts with education. Tomorrow, October 11th is the International Day of the Girl. Change how women are seen, utilise their potential and, I believe, the dynamic will change for the better. More info on the Plan Facebook page here. You can also raise your hand or do the twibbon thing or add your own blog post.
Pic above courtesy of Plan Vietnam.