Becoming 68

The Meal The celebratory meal given by Huyền and Dũng, Hân's friends, for my 68th birthday Inexorably the years tick by, hardly welcome, but the momentum of youthful delight in the day propels us into celebrations, maybe for the sake of others as much as ourselves; the Vietnamese are not easily diverted from an excuse for a party. So we came to be waiting for the compliment to be complete, a working day for them meant this was after dark. Such a hiatus, indeed any slight drop in external demands, forces attention to the phone, maybe to catch up on the 2,000 (sic) Facebook 'friends'. Hao Hảo Hang Hằng Loi Lợi Dung Dũng Waiting to leave Waiting in our house; which doubles as restaurant in the mornings. The greetings on the wall were for Bảo Trân's third birthday Two cars brought us the 15 kms to where Asean Highway One crosses the River Lạch Ghép. Here the large sea food restaurant - Thơựng Hà - with windows on three sides, sits above the ponds where the shrimps are grown. Being warmer this winter the lack of doors, heating and even window glass is not a problem, nor is my sticking determinedly to beer. Others prefer the 'wine' which in this case was nearer to what we would call a dry sherry, but the word is used widely to translate medium strength alcohol, leaving vodka for the translation of spirits from 30% upwards. The table Tradition places women and children at one end of the meal, and the men at the other, as can be seen here. There are some 20 tables of varying size, ours sat 14. These are laid with clusters of bowls and suggested bottles of drinks. Roasted corn relatively soon appears, then a fish based soup, but drinking is the main focus, food merely an excuse. Bouquets come often in Vietnam, greeting visitors, the New Year, birthdays; and are always spectacular. Birthday flowers While the women enjoy their food, the men concentrate on toasting in endless rounds of bonhomie. Drink and Phones Meals have two main features: drink and phones H + H Hằng and Huyền Loi Dung Dung Lợi, Dũng and Dũng h+d Hằng and Duyên Duyen Duyên H + B-T Hân and Bảo Trân Children Children's End Brothers Brothers in Arms I was there Maybe I was there The main dish was grilled prawns in a sweetish coating which could be dipped in wasabi for a rather marvellous extreme sweet and sour taste. Various meats and vegetables followed, and a second soup, noodles and rice were available. But all the food is secondary to conversation and Facebook. The children eat and move away to play. The adults drinking slows down and they drift to the tables in front of the building for tea. Front of Restaurant The entrance area of the restaurant where tea is taken on the way out After Dinner After dinner: tea, tooth picking, cigarettes, and, oh yes, phones Karaoke Karaoke Sign Everything is photographed to be shared with friends who are not there, to such an extent that at points nothing is happening to be shared except the sharing itself. Han and daughter Another Duo The adults take a turn Then back in the cars to return to Tinh Gia and the end to all such proceedings here – karaoke. There is a big range of choice for this in our small town, the favourite Hồng Hạnh is nearby. Much of the singing was done by the children; and much is a little sentimental for my taste. A father and
daughter duo
Karaoke Room Karaoke room in Tĩnh Gia For me its main feature is the apparently deep panels of lights that look as though they go far into the walls and floor, done I guess with a one way mirror as glass on the front and a mirror behind the actually single line of lights. The slow numbers chosen restricted dancing, maybe fortunately for my age and lack of drinking, however it was fun to still dance a little at the annual celebration of the seemingly rapidly approaching terminus. Leaving Exit. Happily the women entertain, while the children are entertained Following being 68 it seems reasonable that the next page is about graveyards; these ones are in the area of Tinh Gia. Some are formal cemeteries as in the west, but as well as these, there are small family grave sites, often placed alone in the fields where their occupants worked. Black Chinese style grave. line
Saturday 23rd January 2016 Murphy

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