The sky was still dark when I got up the next day, but I liked it because it was quiet and peaceful. I came downstairs to the veranda, took a deep breath and enjoyed the fresh air that you can only find in the countryside. After a while, everyone else woke up and at 6:30 a.m., they were ready for a new day full of activities.
We had breakfast at a local food stall not far from Uncle Tung’s house (a tip: in Viet Nam, you can always find delicious food at small, simple food stalls like this). That morning I had Hủ tíu bò kho (noodles in thick beef broth, eat together with beef and vegetables), and it was excellent.
Our plan for the second day began with a visit to the Liên Bửu pagoda and the nursing home nearby. At the pagoda, we met Aunt Ly, a female monk who has dedicated her life to taking care of the elderly, not only in Trà Vinh province but also in other regions. We went inside the nursing home to give old people living there some cash, rice and to talk to them for a while. Later, we had a conversation with Aunt Ly. She shared with us the reason why she had established the pagoda and the nursing home. Her purpose was to build a house for old men and women who were sick, homeless and neglected by their children. She also told us some touching stories about the situations she had seen, and her words made us think a lot. Fortunately, after years of trying, now she has sponsors from many places, and together they can care for more than a hundred people at a time. Moreover, volunteers at the pagoda also help Aunt Ly make money by cooking vegetarian foods and selling them at the local market.
Our next destination was the free clinic opened by a group of philanthropists. People, especially poor ones, can go there to get free medical care from an admirable female monk, Aunt Man, an excellent acupuncturist. If one is sick, they will be provide pills made from herbs – for free, of course. The clinic is open only on Sunday morning, so it’s always crowded there. After greeting everyone and doing some sightseeing, we queued up to have Aunt Man check our health and give us some useful advice. We also talked happily to the locals, who are very kind, gentle and humorous. One of them, Uncle Út Xếch, invited us to his home for lunch. We were surprised by his generosity.
Uncle Út Xếch offered us a tasty and special kind of coconut called Dừa Éo (a local name for that coconut). It was perfect for such a hot afternoon, and even more fantastic when we could drink it freely (I have to admit that I drank 5 big glasses, since the coconut was so fresh and sweet). In addition, we also had a big and extremely delicious meal at Uncle Út Xếch’s house. Every dish was great and, more importantly, the ingredients were taken from his farm. It was truly a local meal.
We said goodbye to Trà Vinh at about 3 p.m. that day to return to Hồ Chí Minh city. All of us were so happy with the trip. We had a great time together and I really feel that we are no longer just colleagues. The trip showed me the value of trying things I have not done before (like driving a motorbike on a small road in the countryside, enjoying the landscape, visiting new places, living like a local, etc.) Those were unforgettable experiences for me, and I greatly appreciate them. I learned a lot about giving and receiving as we helped the poor and about the solidarity and teamwork among us – the Tiger family!
By Thanh Dang