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Say 'I love you' to your mom on this Mother’s Day in Vietnam

Sunday, May 10, 2015, 17:35 GMT+7
Say 'I love you' to your mom on this Mother’s Day in Vietnam
A kid kisses her mother in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Time to celebrate a mother’s love again! Mother’s Day falls on May 10 this year and it is basically a Western tradition, but Vietnam has also celebrated it in one way or another in recent years.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

Around Mother’s Day, you are likely to see lots of youngsters whizzing around on motorbikes with red or white roses for placing on altars at the local pagodas or temples along with prayers for good health and thanks. The red roses are for parents still living and white for the departed, and there is always lots of food for the ancestors. Heaven has a great buffet!

The modern Vietnamese woman is a wonder, which is made up of a businessperson, manager, teacher, cook, secretary, taxi driver, and wife, all rolled into one. More than half the small business operators in Vietnam are women with men working in more structured roles in government or companies. 

By small business, I mean selling, buying, and making as a home business. She’s running the local banh mi (Vietnamese bread) stall or a street food cart. She’s running the family business built on her hubby’s money. She’s the one heading to China searching for cheap imports. She’s the one settling the family disputes over money. Cross a mum over money in Vietnam and you’re face to face with a guerrilla fighter willing to do hand to hand combat.

I see this often in my little street on the edge of Hoi An. The mums are working around the homes, watering the vegetables to sell, feeding the chickens for the market, skipping a meal to save money for the kid’s tuition fees. The men’s disputes are often cut short by a young female voice roaring across the street, demanding that dad had better shut up and come home soon or there’s no dinner! The three grandmothers in our street can wait patiently while the men argue over prices, land or projects over beer in the front garden then snap a word of comment that seems to settle the matter. I wish I could do that.

It’s still a land of sacrifice for women, especially mums. I don’t think we Westerners understand just how hard it can be to get up day after day before dawn and carry trays of food to the market balanced across the shoulders, trotting kilometers in 30-degree-plus heat simply to put food on the table at home and pay for education. 

Let’s not forget that sense of solidarity with her husband too. I often admire the mum outside helping dad mix the concrete, organize his tools or stroll down the street with a wheelbarrow full of rubbish from dad’s work. It’s support that we Western folks can’t imagine well any more.

Think of the countless mothers out in the mountains tending cows, planting rice, working part-time as a laborer, trading for hours at the market or doing all the men’s paperwork in offices around the land. All with a grin and a sisterhood stronger than steel.

It’s very likely your mother was the one who taught you to speak a language, get dressed, walk and eat with a spoon. She’s the one who spent hours at the market finding just the right size shirt for you and those shoes you always wanted. She’s the one who remembers what food you hate and the color you like. Mum is a walking encyclopedia of you.

So this Mother’s Day why not think outside the box and do something different. You cook. You clean. You wash. Then remember she does this every day! Think carefully – and give mum food she loves, buy something in her favorite color and those shoes she’s always dreamed about.

Enjoy this poem I took from the Internet:

To my mother on a day that is once a year But it should be every day A mother is one who loves unconditionally No matter what happens you always love us The work you do is not noticed Yet you continue to work to help our family You love us when we are disobedient You encourage us to achieve in school With your support we achieve our goals When we visit you your smile brings a smile to our faces Your beauty never fades When you speak your words are wise Thank you for always being there Happy Mother's Day!

Stivi Cooke

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