Cu Chi, Independence Day, Vy and An

An and Vy Cu CHi

After lunch with Vy’s family, we went on a walk around the neighborhood. A wonderful day. Thanks to An for carrying her camera and asking a neighbor child to take this photo.

This is the wind blowing the curtains in the room at Vy’s grandmother’s house where we took a nap after an enormous lunch.  The laughter in the background is the ongoing eating and beer drinking of a whole extended family, but primarily men doing the beer drinking and staying at the table. I am posting this to try to convey the sense of peace and ease at that house, the wind coming in over the fields. Next door is a sort of lumber yard; across the road in the back is a field where grass for cows is growing.

Vy’s grandmother had 8 children.  She was a factory worker in HCMC. In the 1980s, the government opened up this area around Cu Chi for people to come and settle in it.  Vy’s grandparents wee among the first to come. They had to fill in the bomb craters in order to build, and often found bombs. Their first house was made of poles and thatch. They opened a shop (Vy remembers going with her grandmother on a bike at 3 am to buy things at the market for the shop), made a little bit of money, then some more, started building a house of concrete, and now have a solid three-bedroom home with the typical ceramic tile floors and surfaces, nice wooden carved furniture, at least one big TV and two fat geese in the back yard.

Vy’s grandmother is now 84 and blind, and spends most of her time lying on her bed in her room fanning herself and listening to the radio, but doesn’t seem unhappy; in fact, she giggled and laughed when she was talking with us, held my hand and asked how old I was, and seemed positively relaxed and content. She said she thought she might live until Tet. She gave the impression of being someone who no longer has to take responsibility for anything at all — and she’s right about that! –  she just lives one day at a time and feels comfortable.

The convenience store is in the front of the house, facing onto the road, in the space that many Vietnamese houses use for parking motorcycles or even cars. Vy’s aunts , cousins, uncles and sons-in-law (“third aunt” — “fourth uncle”) live around the neighborhood. One aunt’s daughter is the chair of the People’s Committee. Relatives kept coming in and out and sitting at the table and eating and drinking, then leaving, so I was losing track of how people were actually related. There were quite a few very pretty children, too, mostly wearing yellow.

Note: When Vietnamese men, brothers and cousins and nephews etc, get together to drink beer on a holiday and talk, the sound of their voices is not loud and threatening: it’s soft, easy to listen to, full of laughter. At least in this case. You can hear them in the background while you watch the curtains blow.

That’s VY on the right and her father on the left. Notice the “snap” gesture, which is what Vietnamese young people do now instead of the V sign. I am petty sure An took this picture. There is a good picture with An that she put on Facebook; I’ll try to get it from her.

Lunch Vy


Vy’s dad. He is, I believe, a production manager at a big factory in HCMC — I think it makes New Balance running shoes.

Vys dad

For those whose sense of history can stand a tweak, here is the Cu Chi Petrol station:

Cu Chi petrol

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

2 thoughts on “Cu Chi, Independence Day, Vy and An

  1. Wow, it’s so different now. There was so much learning to do last time, for everyone, you and the Vietnamese. Now it seems learning-time is largely over and doing-time has begun. This is exactly what most of SE Asia is aiming for, isn’t it. I’m not surprised that Vietnam seems to be handling the transition well. I wonder how things are in Laos. The Laos people we know are annoyed by the energy of the Vietnamese and probably secretly envious; I hope the Laos can hold their own.

    Lovely poem, by the way.

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