Seeing my old days…

By: Live Slowly            Trans by: Ngoc Trai Nguyen                 Editor: Alex Hoang

In my old days, there were some times I brought my lunch box to school…

At that time, children only went to school half a day. I studied in a special class and at times there were some full days at school for studying. One of the reasons I loved those days was because I could bring my lunch box to class: looking like an adult going to work and having the chance to exchange and taste other kids’ food :)

Now, when I went to mountain region with the “Meal with Protein” group, I see the children going to school with their lunch box in their hands.

30 years ago, during the some of the darkest periods of Vietnam’s economy, when there wasn’t enough for basic needs, there were still some vegetables and some simple foods like salted peanuts in my lunch box. Shown below are the lunch boxes of the school children at Batxat District (Laocai Province).

In years past, there was permanent hunger…

My children could never imagine how 50 gr of pork could make our family meal a party. During that time, we could only buy some hundred grams of pork a month per person with regular food stamps. We always tried to buy lard for sautéing vegetables and put the rest of it in fried rice. When we had some thin slices of lean meat, the children would be happiest because they would certainly get it. That’s how we developed the concept of “saving eating”: the thin slice of lean meat would lie on the surface of the bowl of rice, where we stared at, then it moved down slowly to the bottom of the bowl, without changing in size very much. That was “saving eating” :)  The hungriness was always loitering around. Obviously, we just stuffed ourselves with bowls of rice mixed with noodles and vegetables dipped in fish sauce, the starvation came back in no time.

At the Denthang Kindergarten, we luckily arrived at lunchtime. The little children’s mouths were shiny with oil as they had pork for lunch that day. Thanks to the online “Meal with Protein” campaign, the children can have salted fish, egg, tofu once a week and pork twice a week. The teachers said they divided all the food for the children from the start to be fair. The children immediately used the strategy of “saving eating”: saving the food so that the next bowl or even the third bowl will have the taste of food in it.

During my school years, the cold froze our hands and feet…

Even now, sometimes my siblings and I still wonder if it was colder when we were little as opposed to now. The cold used to absorb, chilling our bones despite how many layers of clothing we put on our bodies. As young students we used to make a game out of our situation. This game used to help us take our mind off our cold surroundings. My children cannot begin to picture it, when I tell them about how we used to dared each other to guess how many layers of clothing we were wearing that day. The record belonged to a friend of mine (a skinny girl in grade 3) who wore 13 blouses. :)

Up on this mountain hill, where all of us were shivering under layers of sweaters and jackets, the kindergarteners we met only had 1 or 2 layers of clothing on them. It was a luxury for them to have a hat or a scarf. It wasn’t a rare sight to see children with bare feet. There were frozen little hands that I tried to warm up with my own hands, but to no avail.

Back then my blanket showed my feet if it covered my neck…

Have you ever used a blanket with damaged stuffing? I know my blanket in my childhood as well as I know the back of my hand. When I got in it, I knew where to hide my feet, avoiding the part without any stuffing.

The bamboo bed, which was filled up with tiny babies, made me feel warm. Guess how many little kids were sharing a duvet? Of course you cannot tell, but the teachers always had a way of squeezing in as many kids as possible.

I remember my sister waited for me after school…

My sister and I love each other very much. The beginning of that love started when she brought me to and from kindergarten class. My sister, who was only a little bit bigger than me, led me through the rough road at sunset. I thought of my sister when I saw the little 8-year-old girl sitting in front of Alu Kindergarten.

I always hope that those beloved old days would rest well in my heart, that my children would never have to experience them. But after near to 4 decades, I still see the same situation here, and in some ways it has gotten much worse. The bitterness tugs at my heart… I resign myself to thinking that my past gave me a strong will power to live, my abilities to adapt, and a strong sense of perseverance that my children’s generation could never dream of. Hopefully the children here would take the advantage of these conditions to enrich their lives. However, there is a big need of hands to help them along their way.

Did you know:

Most of the children from 3 to 5 years old in the mountain region go to school alone everyday: Although there is no fear of transportation accidents like in the big cities here, but what about the abrupt rocky ascents? What about deep streams along the roads to school?… I admire their will to study.

Some kids from 3 to 5 years old can finish 4 bowls of rice: The rice grain is smashed as big as corn after cooking, with no taste. A strong kid here can eat up to 4 bowls of it. The reason is very simple: they have no food at home, there are only vegetables and rarely, salted fish (I have tasted some: it’s a kind of a dried small fish which has seen some decaying as it has been kept for long and is very salty). The teachers said that at certain periods of time in a year, parents have only corn powder to bring to school, while some have nothing to bring to feed their children. The teachers add some of their own rice in, then mix it all up and cook. They divide the rice mixed with corn to every child. At this point in time, 1 or 2 bowls of mixed rice at school is the main meal for the children, as the dinner at home contains no rice, only the same routine of boiled vegetables.

– The children in Batxat District have no concepts of milk and bread: There was only 1 kid out of 38 at Pacheo Kindergarten who knew what a fresh milk box was and how to drink from it. Most of children attending school at Denthang, Ngaithau, Alu.. from kindergarten to elementary levels, don’t even know what a loaf of bread is. Someone guessed that it was a kind of baked goods, but never tasted it. Thank you very much to the friend from the “Meal with Protein” group who sent bread and condensed milk to us to bring to the children.

Please raise it up for me to dip!

I am not a writer, nor a reporter and I hate taking photos. I was looking for some answers for myself when I joined this group. Now I regret not knowing how to take photos that I can use to bring back the real feeling of the steep hill road to Ngaithau Kindergarten, where the adults from the cities had to choose every step to walk up, and the 3rd graders with bundles of firewood on their shoulders ran as fast as the wind. I regret that I didn’t take a picture of the little ice frozen hands of the 3-year-old girl with the body as tiny as a  doll.

Those were some of my impressions on the children’s eating and sleeping. I will talk more about their learning tomorrow. Thank you for reading.

16 thoughts on “Seeing my old days…”

Chào chị ngày mới!
Chúc chị một tuần mới vui, khỏe, buôn bán đắt hàng nhé.

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Cám ơn bạn, có người mau mắn mở hàng thế này thì chắc chắn là đắt hàng rồi :)
Chúc bạn một tuần đầy sảng khoái nhé!

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Đọc lại “Gặp lại tuổi thơ”, mà bằng tiếng Anh.
“ĐƯỢC” nhiều quá. Thanks ‘Sống thật chậm” nhiều nha.

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Rất hân hạnh được đón Giỏ thị trưởng tới chơi nhà.
Bạn ạ, hôm qua con gái tôi cũng hỏi tôi tại sao lại không phải tuổi thơ – childhood mà lại là ngày xưa – old days. Thực cũng tại tính lẩm cẩm của tôi mà ra, tôi cứ thích giữ cho tuổi thơ những gì ngọt ngào nhất, đẹp đẽ nhất, đáng yêu nhất. Số còn lại thì liệt vào những ngày quá vãng thôi.
I am happy that you appreciated the English version.

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Uầy, cái nick “Giỏ thị trưởng” là bác Tiến Khoai ưu ái đặt cho đây, Lana xưa nay không được ‘trưởng’ bao giờ nên thấy lạ lạ không nhận đâu. Thật ra Lana là người gầy cái giỏ, gọi là người bưng giỏ nghe hạp hơn, hihi.


Hihi, giỏ trưởng hay giỏ phó hay giỏ viên gì cũng được, miễn là mỗi lần các bác ấy đi, giỏ nhà bạn lại gửi lên nhiều khăn và mũ cho các cháu là được rồi :) Bạn không biết chúng nó thích thế nào khi được đồ mới đâu, mà học sinh cấp 2 vẫn rất trẻ con nhé: vừa nhận khăn xong, thấy đứa khác được phát mũ, có đứa lại rụt rè hỏi “Cho cháu đổi khăn lấy mũ được không ạ?” :)
Túm lại là gu các cháu rất màu mè, càng xanh đỏ càng tốt, các bác đi tặng đồ lần này cứ gọi là mắt chữ O mồm chữ A hết.


Soạn cái còm bảo con gái bé dịch cho bố. Mít tơ oai một tý. Nó bảo bố dốt thế còn định lòe nữa. Không. Tự làm lấy. Huhu…

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Khổ thân bác, giai thoại về tiếng Anh của bác thì bác kể toáng lên cho thiên hạ nghe từ tám đại rồi, bác còn gồng lên làm gì cho khổ thế :)

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@Khoai: Anh ơi vô tư đi kệ đi mình cứ còm tiếng Việt còn nhấm nháy được chứ còm tiếng Anh nhấm nháy không ai hiểu cho, hihi.

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Thanks you. Khekhe…..Mít tơ oai!

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Ôi! em mở hàng cũng không đến nỗi nào nhỉ? Buôn bán tấp nập chưa này! Còn chưa kể những người vào xem hàng rồi lẳng lặng ra đi nữa chứ

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Cám ơn bạn nhé, hôm nào ế hàng lại phải đi tìm bạn về sờ cho một cái lấy may :)

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Một vài chữ dùng theo cách nói của người bản xứ (native speaker):
beloved old days = good ole days
where all of us were shaking in sweaters and jackets = where all of us were shivering under layers of sweaters and jackets

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where all of us were shaking in sweaters and jackets = where all of us were shivering under layers of sweaters and jackets
Cám ơn bạn, tôi xin sửa ngay.

Xin bạn cho phép tôi giữ lại ‘beloved old days’ để giữ mạch với từ dùng ở trên.

Mong lần sau bạn lại ghé thăm và chỉ giáo ạ.

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T. ơi, mình xin phép post lại bài này (cả tiếng Anh và tiếng Việt) trên facebook của mình. Mình muốn các bạn của mình biết về các em bé và cùng tham gia với mình trong dự án “Cơm có thịt” này. Mình sẽ dẫn nguồn đầy đủ để bạn nào quan tâm có thể vào blog của T. để đọc thêm. T. cho phép nhé.

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Cứ tự nhiên H.Lan ạ, mình đâu có giữ bản quyền gì đâu :) Rất vui được gặp H.Lan hôm “chia của nả” ở nhà bác T. Nghe chị Lana nói lại là H.Lan “thất vọng” lắm vì STC chẳng giống Lan hình dung, xin lỗi nhiều nhiều nhé :(
Mình và con gái mình đang định trong kỳ nghỉ Tết này sẽ chuyển càng nhiều bài sang tiếng Anh càng tốt. Hy vọng sẽ cung cấp được thêm nhiều công cụ hỗ trợ cho các thành viên Cái bang tác nghiệp :)

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