Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Back from Vietnam

Greetings all, I'm finally back and blogging again in Melbourne now. It's been a truly eventful and interesting journey in Vietnam, but I'm truly glad to be back home. They say there's no place like home, and for me, that's how I feel about my home :)

Being away I have never realised how many things I have taken for granted. Sure, I have traveled interstate and abroad before but this was by far the longest and most revealing of them all. Yet it is those that can make you realise what you truly and truly don't need (wants vs needs).

Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City)
One of the most important outcomes from my trip have been to learn much about my history and heritage, visiting my family and extended relatives, many of which I have never seen, met or even spoken to in my life... In particular were relatives that were descendents of my great-great-ancestors, who felt so much as strangers as they did as people I should or could have known, and maybe I would have if had been brought up in Vietnam. Particularly as it seems traditional, as an annual event (Chup ma), to catch up with relatives of your family tree, although the extent and number of relatives you would meet varies per family name, and as you would may realise, with the family name 'Tran' it isn't practical to meet all distant relatives in the same place - perhaps with a stadium or such, but one has to be realistic about doing this annually and what may be achieved in doing so!

Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City)
So it was explained to me that we were meeting one branch, and so I was able to explore parts of my grandfather's home and the surrounding neighbourhood and get a general idea of what he may have been like and how he may have lived. My branch (one branch) includes:
  • myself;
  • my father;
  • his father (my grandfather - ong noi);
  • his father's father (my great-grandfather - ong co); and
  • his father's father (my great-great grandfather - ong tang). 
This is my direct ancestors in this one branch, however, the one branch also includes the siblings and their descendents. One branch generally represents four levels up from me (although this number of levels I assume varies from family to family and without photographic memories of the past, may reflect only the practical way of remembering them).  At this gathering I was able to meet about 50-60 odd relatives and distant relatives from this branch.

On another day, I met three branches of the family tree and this second gathering was the meeting of two other branches just like mine, although given the large number and extent of relatives attending the gathering, I have been told they meet tri-annually, so I have been very fornutate in the timing of my trip, to be able meet not only meet those relatives from my direct branch, but those from the two other branches as well. There were about 250-260 odd relatives and distant relatives from this branch who attended this gathering. To think that this is only three branches makes me think about how many other branches there may be out there, and of the other family names and their branches...

During my trip I also met my grandmother for the first time, where she cried, as I had been one of her last grandchildren she had yet to meet. After meeting her I felt that I now have an idea of what she was like my father's mother and my father would have been like as a child. I had also learnt some interesting facts about some habits and thoughts that I he had, and those that may have inherited from him, along with those from his siblings and other close relatives.

I am now finally able to feel assured that I have not missed that opportunity to meet not only my grandmother and had also been able to visit the graves of those that have past and finally visit Vietnam, so I feel that I now know my heritage. I now have a rough idea of what it was like for them to live there, of who they were and how they lived. I hope that I will be able to learn from any mistakes that they have made, and understand how to live my own life to fullest. I can now share my insights and stories with those around me.

Me on Mount Son Tra (aka Monkey Mountain), Da Nang, Vietnam
It's been interesting learning and exploring that it was like to live there and imagining what it is like to live with my family and distant relatives, while at the same time trying different cuisine and drinking tasty drinks such as sugarcane juice everyday! One day I may return and visit again, although when that is, only time will tell... ;)