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 Leer hem vissen en hij zal voor de rest van zijn dagen te eten hebben."

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At home with Tuyen

-Els, Johan, Liza and Yoran with Donxa to Co Loa-


Who was the most nervous, Chu Dinh Tuyens family or we? Years ago we already decided that one day we would visit Tuyen. But we wanted to wait until our youngest son, Yoran (now 12) was old enough to learn something from a culture that is completely different from ours.By now Tuyen is already 14. We have been supporting him at  his studies since 2004. According to his letters, he is doing well.

“Today i went with Tuyen to buy presents allready.  Tuyen very likes . Every thing is ok for your visit. See you again. I’m Duong. Donxa Volunteer.” The message appears on our mobile the evening before our planned visit. Duong is studying chemistry at the University of Hanoi and she is our Donxa volunteer and our guide when we leave for Nhoi Tren Village in Co Loa tomorrow morning. The village of Tuyen is situated about 20 km from Hanoi centre. And once it was the capital of Vietnam from where, for a short period during the 10th century, the Ngo Dynasty and the Dinh dynasty ruled over the country.

 At 9 am sharp an energetic Duong steps into our hotel lobby. She brought along Trân Thi Thu Phuong, a student in English who will be our interpreter. We ourselves have a backpack filled with packages- Belgian Chocolate amongst other things -  for Tuyen, his family and the other children our family is supporting. The packages even include a fishing rod. Because Yoran knows that Tuyen, like himself, is very fond of going fishing. He can’t wait to take his Vietnamese brother out fishing. And sure, later that day, they will go fishing!



Yoran is feeling a little ill at ease as we drive through the narrow streets of Co Loa and then stop in front the little house of Tuyen. But then aren’t we all? Our daughter Liza is taking the pictures.  The welcome is most warm. Everybody is at home: mother Sáu Lê, brother Ngoc, sisters Ngà and Tuyen. We are all welcomed, after taking off our shoes, to come on to the two room house and sit on the low bed.  Bottles of water appear and slowly short conversation come to life, about the family, the  chocolate, the good times and the bad… Sáu Lê had to raise her three children all by herself after her husband died at a young age. The sorrow even caused her to get an infection to her eye that mutilated her face. From a material point of view, our two families couldn’t be more different. But on a human level, we seem to connect.  For example, Yoran also wants to become a carpenter, just like Tuyen’s older brother. Ngoc has worked for years on the woodcarving decorating the corner cupboard that is standing in the house. It’s a showpiece of craftsmanship. His big dream is to start his own furniture workshop: to start with a small workshop in the just as small garden of the house. His mother is supporting his choice for a full 100 %. And we also want to help. Sáu Lê prefers us to contribute for the workshop rather than renovate her poor house. “With the income Ngoc can earn, we can fix the house ourselves later.” Bravo!


Afternoon tea

As the conversation progresses, the atmosphere becomes more relaxed and sympathy grows on both sides. Even the mother of Duong drops in to say hello. Together with Thuy (a girl from the same village who is also supported by Donxa) accompanied by her mother. Drawings and presents are exchanged and everybody wants to be in the picture. Liza is having a busy time. Thuy’s mother doesn’t want to leave for home until we promise solemnly that we will drop by later in the afternoon for some tea. She even wants to invite us for dinner. But unfortunately we don’t have time for that. Apart from having tea at Thuy’s house, we are welcomed to a cup of authentic bitter Vietnamese tea at the colleague-carpenters of Ngoc and at the family of Nguyen Quang Huy (the disabled child that our grandmother is supporting) and Duongs family.




Besides, that noon we are treated to an elaborate meal that was carefully prepared by Ngoc en Ngà. It’s a banquet because nothing is too much for Tuyens family to please us and make us feel welcome.


You can feel that it’s done with upright sincerity and our visit was prepared with the highest care. Even the puppy had been washed especially for our visit. The pet was the playmate of Liza the whole morning. Sáu Lê even wanted her to have it as a present. If it had been up to Liza, we would now have a dog.


The farewell is nearing. But before that we all bring a visit to the little school for mentally disabled children that Donxa built and supports.


And of course to the royal An Duong Vuong-temple (3rd century before Christ). On the stone steps of the staircase at the entry we proudly pose for the family picture.



A whole lot of hugs later, and packed with a big bag of homegrown peanuts and sweet potato’s it is time for us to return to our Hanoi hotel. We miss each other already.






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