It was getting late. Lunar New Years’ day had almost ended. I hear some very loud Karaoke music coming from a house. We go there. I see two beautiful daughters energetically dancing and signing, a proud and caring mom and pop. The dad is filming the in-house karaoke event with my Canon 500D. The guy has a very expensive looking karaoke installation, a bunch of songs and a TV screen of course. He starts talking with me. He asks me where I am from. I tell him I’m from Belgium. He says he is very pleased to meet me. And that he is a bit ashamed of his small house. He knows our houses are larger. There is no couch, but a wooden chair is also fine with me. I put him at ease.
This is the first time a foreigner visits the house, and I am the guest. He offers me a Tiger beer, which I of course do not reject. I tell him that I tried Saigon beer and the stronger 333 beer before. And that I don’t like the latter. But it turns out both are manufactured in the same factory. Saigon is for bottles, 333 for cans. I feel a bit embarrassed. He wonders how long I stay in Vietnam and how the food is and the people and everything. I explain him that so much is different and that I like the food. But people are the same everywhere. Many of whom I met already are good, honest and genuine but there are also very cunning, mean and corrupt people. He seems to agree.
In the house I see the typical Buddhist inspired and Tet-decorated (incenses, coconut) altar and two pictures of his deceased parents. But there are more photos hanging, and I ask him about it. He explains he used to be a photographer before for weddings, baby showers and family pictures and so on. They look simple, but I like them. The perfect setting. Then his wife, as hospitable as him and who doesn’t speak English, asks me if I want some food. Noodles or so. The all-day eating event already made me full, so fruit will do, I reply. And I can’t help but notice his wife is some 5 inches larger than him. A fruit plate is served with fresh mangoes, mandarins and apples. We delve into the local foods of my country and he thinks there are a lot of grapes. But I confirm him that the vineyards are mostly in southern European countries France, Italy and Spain. And he knows about cherries too. And the conversation comes back to beers. Fruity beers.
Then it’s time for me to sing a karaoke song. Abba is still very big here, so I choose Happy New Year. I can’t sing really, and I don’t know the text. But I can read the subtitles, so that’s okay and we had a lot of fun. Some more beer, and I ask him some more personal stuff. His two daughters both go to school. One is four, still in kindergarten and very thin. The other one is eight years old, in elementary school and too fat. He says he is worried about that. Because he wouldn’t want to marry a girl that is too thin or too fat. It makes me laugh because he said it in all seriousness.
The man also talks about the Japanese classes he is taking. How he plans to work in Japan next year if he succeeds. I wish him all the best of luck. The conversation goes on for a bit longer.
Mum and dad are factory workers, and they seem to be doing a great job. I can’t help but notice how self-conscious, aware and good these people are. We talk about the loud karaoke music. The volume indeed is very high and I am sure surrounding neighbors hear it — so did we after all. Such a situation wouldn’t be appropriate in my country and out of discussion basically. Post 10PM, people might call up the police. He knows that. In Vietnam however, every neighbor really is a friend.
It is getting around 11h30 PM and time for the children to go to bed. I am getting a little bit emotional too and decide to call it a day too. What a wonderful and lovely family.