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Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Bahamas. The Vietnamese

I have heard it said the Vietnamese believe in ancestor worship. It is true most have an alter in their homes. On it can be found photos of deceased parents or grand parents. It is true there are offerings of fruit and incense is regularly burnt; particularly on appropriate anniversaries and Tet. I have never associated this with worship. I have always believed it to be showing respect for their forbears and perhaps praying to a higher deity to look after their souls. Perhaps I am wrong but it is what I believe.
The sense of family is strong in Vietnam. Their culture is built around that of the village with its headman and council of village elders. Into this was fitted the family with the father as head. They knew their cousins to the tenth degree, whilst I hardly know any second cousins. They know their parents, grand parents and great grand parents. Family history is often lost in the occident where one lives with a very limited family. The extended family does not fit into a modern apartment. The older generation are often to be put into the dustbin of the past. In Vietnam where the State traditionaly was some distant organisation the family looked after it's own. After the village the family was built upon respect for one's elders. In it's language the personal pronouns refer to 'older brother' or 'younger sister' etc. There is a duty to the family that is almost non existant in the west.
There is also a respect for education. There was no higher honour than to return to the village with a doctorate from the University of Hue, the old Imperial Capital. Teachers were also highly respected. All children wore a school uniform. Usualy khaki drill for the boys when I was there. White Ao Dai's for the girls in state schools. Pink Ao Dai's for Vietnamese Catholic schools. The only exceptions were The Couvent des Oiseaux, in Dalat (boarding) and Saigon, which wore a white blouse and blue skirt. And the French Lycée Marie Curé in Saigon (in the French tradition no uniform) where the girls looked like a parade of mannequins every morning, each trying to outdo the other in the latest fashion. In a country town the sight of a long line of girls wearing the gracefully flowing white Ao Dai's, often with conical straw hats, sometimes with waist length hair, walking sedately along leaving the school was a picture of such innocent and elegant beauty as to defy all thought of war.

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