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Tet Holiday in Kien Giang

Tet Holiday in Kien Giang

I had the most fortunate opportunity to spend four insightful days with my partner Mai in her hometown. Kien Giang and her family of 8 siblings and 2 hard-working parents welcomed me with open arms straight to their dinner table.

I arrived on Saturday evening after a smooth 8 hour ride to the southern province. The house was quiet for perhaps the first and last time of the holiday; her older brother Bay was wrapping the last of the Banh Tet with banana leaves as a nephew waited nearby, ready to cook them into the night. It was around 4 in the afternoon, which meant both of her parents were still working; her mother, feeding the pigs around the back of the house, and her father, out tending the field one last time before the rest of his children would arrive. I greeted them both with the “Xin chào bác” my partner had instructed me to use. With her brothers I would use “anh”, with her sisters “chị“, with the two 16-year-old nephews “em”, and finally, with the younger children, I would use “cháu“. Of course, these are all with the proper intonation.

Over the course of the afternoon and the following day, the remaining siblings arrived. I soon stopped asking which child belonged to which sister or brother; there were far too many to keep count of relations. I was put to work each day, which gave me a sense of purpose, but at the same time treated like a guest. I soon learned the meaning of the phrase “ăn đi” or “eat up” and heard the phrase “be like in your own home” multiple times. It seemed her parents’ sole concern was that I was properly fed (thankfully, there never has been a time when I wasn’t, and it shows) and treated like a guest.

I also learned what it felt like to be in someone else’s home for an important family-oriented holiday. At times, I felt like an intruder. During those times I would escape out to the front porch area to write in my journal and soak up the calm Mekong air. Other times, I would simply sit and witness an exchange of words still so foreign to me, met with a sharp retort or unbridled laughter. Here was a family who loved each member dearly, and through the trials and tribulations life may have thrown at them, they made it through each one with the assurance that family would always be there for them. It was a beautiful sight to see that made my own heart ache for the same warmth I find in my own family, but at the same time feeling blessed (yes, I said it, #blessed) to be able to be part of such a wonderful family if only for a brief time.

Thank you Kien Giang, thank you Mai, and thank you to your family. I will never forget them.

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