It was a nice leisurely trip by motorbike from my hotel in Huế to the small village where Trang’s parents live. The 15 kilometer (about 9.5 miles) ride takes about 20 minutes putting along at a comfortable 40-50 kilometers per hour.
Trang has a younger sister named Ha, who is in her final year of high school. Her English is quite good (she tells me that she is the best in her class) so the translating chores fall on her young shoulders.
Trang has been gone from home for three years now. I have visited her family enough times so that we are all relaxed with each other and don’t feel uncomfortable at our inability to use each other’s language. As I pulled into the courtyard of the family home, Loi (Trang’s father) met me with outstretched hands and a huge smile. Ha parked the motorbike while I kicked off my sandals and joined everyone on the front porch for a cool drink and conversation.
(Be sure to click on the photos to see a larger version of each.)
Then a tour of the house to see that some things have been added since the last time I was there – another room in the back of the house where Ha is supposed to study. I am reminded of American farm houses that grow and ramble – and this house seems to be doing the same. I wonder if will get to be too big soon. One brother announced his impending marriage next spring and Ha is in her last year of high school. Loi and Hương could be rattling around in the house by themselves soon.
Hmm - - wonder if that television will help Ha’s studies.
And I like the little veranda entranceway – nice place to catch a cool breeze out of the sun.
But any visit calls for eating. As always, excellent food and lots of it: two different kinds of chicken, a cubed meat and bánh ướt – a kind of thin wet rice paper used to wrap around the cubed meat, then dip in the spicy dipping sauce. Yum! (It’s yummy if you are used to spicy food – if not, the sauce is pretty hot.) And, of course, a big bowl of sticky rice.
And, as always, I finally have to lay down my chop sticks even though there is still a lot of food left on the table. One explanation for them serving big meals is that the Vietnamese think that my big fat Buddha-belly is indicative of my capacity to eat more than they do, but the real explanation is simply that the Vietnamese are gracious hosts who always want to put on their best for visitors.
It would probably have made Trang blush to know most of the conversation was about her. They wanted to know what I thought of her serious boy friend and where I thought she would live once her education is completed. I told them I thought she had done very well in her choice of boyfriends, but I had no idea where Trang will earn her doctorate – and certainly don’t know where she will be when that is over.
This final photo has significance to me because of something Loi said during the meal. We were all discussing Trang’s love life when he told me that he trusted and appreciated my looking after Trang – that I was her American father. Hương shook her head in agreement. I was astounded!
They were saying I was their daughter's American father!
Maybe that’s why he has insisted on having a photo taken together a number of times – we are the two fathers of a remarkable young woman.
And I am deeply humbled to be given that status by two people who have done an incredible job raising their oldest child. I pray I am worthy of their trust and kindness.