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Hopes and dreams in this Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Hopes and dreams in this Vietnamese Lunar New Year

Saturday, January 28, 2017, 14:02 GMT+7

Looking to 2017, the Year of the Rooster, can be scary – will it cock-a-doodle-doo with luck and happiness? I believe so. I believe it will be a spectacular year filled with many things – especially love.

As many of my students complete the last of their exams and face the transition from high school to junior college or university, they’ve begun to express their fears of the future, though I’m sure they’ll be ok as long as they believe in themselves. A number of my former students have started local businesses in both Hoi An and Da Nang. Their promising results show that it’s not all doom and gloom.   

Even better, a Vietnamese friend of mine, Hoa, is opening a hotel, Hoa’s Place, near Marble Mountain. It’s a beautiful property with spectacular beach views. Hoa is a walking encyclopedia of life in Vietnam and the struggle to realize his dream has taken a few years and many hiccups, but the hotel is finally ready to open – it’s a cheery thought, right?

How do we compare one year to the next? It depends on your perspective of the year about to expire and the potential for the upcoming Rooster Year, doesn’t it?

We could say 2016 was a disaster and 2017 will be the same, yet I managed to publish a book last year, had my first-ever commission for a cartoon, my two dogs had six puppies, and I even made some money!

Vietnam might not be using fireworks to ring in 2017, but we can always let them off in our heads. I’m convinced it’s a year to think big and imaginatively – to allow ourselves to drop the usual association of success with material luxuries; cars, big TVs, and fancy houses with too many useless wooden windows.

What if success was measured in love, creativity, and doing things to help the world?

Getting creative should be the theme of 2017. The rooster is a fancy animal with colorful feathers and a strut in his step – characteristics we’d do well to emulate. Why not paint your house pink or start wearing elephant pants? You could learn a new skill – like playing a kazoo or the piano. How about discovering books? Reading is like traveling, a magic boor leading you into the rest of the world without ever having to leave your sofa.

Another great theme of the year to come is “doing things better.” Replace your horrible rotting wood windows with the latest in metal frames. Learn to stop and look before merging into the traffic. Support local efforts to stop animal trafficking, or simply start a small dog-walking business. Time management is a great place to begin changing for the New Year; arrive at work, school, or appointments on time. People tend to be impressed with promptness and you may just get that promotion a lot quicker than you think. Plan to get things done with time to spare instead of just in time – you’ll be way less stressed!

Why not encourage local small business and travel at the same time? Vietnam has thousands of natural, breathtaking attractions seldom visited or yet to be explored. You’ll be able to gain a greater appreciation for Vietnam’s scenic wonders and better understand the need to protect and preserve the county’s magnificent treasure – its stunning landscapes.

I wrote last year about helping Quang Binh and other places recover from terrible flooding and lost economic tourist dollars. Exploring the country – be it the mountains or coastline – and staying in small, local hotels rather than big fancy resorts will put your money to better use while adding a more unique local flavor to your trip.

Whatever you decide to do in 2017 – try to think “outside the box.” Find endeavors and activities that are closer to the interest of your heart and mind. Good with your hands? Build a dog house or repair a wheelchair! Love science? Start a nature tour that focuses on the local environment and how to protect it.

Whichever direction you choose – remember to think big. We’ll all die someday, so there’s really not that much to lose. I do understand how security-minded Vietnamese are – that’s only natural when there’s little social support, particularly for seniors. Nevertheless, it’s important not to allow fear to hold you back from your ambitions.  We sometimes say in English that it’s better to “work to live than live to work” – meaning we shouldn’t make work our only priority.

So, as you gather with your family over this quiet Tet holiday, ask yourself… What type of 2017 do you want?

Stivi Cooke

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