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Main » 2014 » Tháng 1 » 29 » Tet Festival in Vietnam
6:33 AM
Tet Festival in Vietnam
Foreign students learn about Tet preparations in Mekong Delta 
As Tet is only three days away, the foreign students who recently paid a visit to a city in the Mekong Delta probably still cannot forget what they saw and did there when locals prepared for their biggest festival in a year. 
A Ho Chi Minh City-based Vietnamese language school organized a field trip earlier this month to Sa Dec City in Dong Thap Province to provide about 20 international students with an opportunity to both improve their Vietnamese and have first-hand experiences with how Vietnamese people get ready for Tet, or the Lunar New Year. 
Traditionally Tet begins on the first day of the lunar year (coinciding with January 31 this year) and lasts till at least the third day but Vietnamese normally start preparing for and celebrate it days before and after the occasion. 
While the bus carrying the students haling ( draw slowly and heavily) from such countries as Britain, France, the US, Brazil, Thailand, and Korea, was on the Trung Luong expressway spanning Long An Province, Vietnamese teacher Pham Thi Ngoc Phuc suddenly asked: "Does anybody know why we are visiting the flower villages in Sa Dec today?” 
Many students raised their hands. Some answered it was because Sa Dec is the kingdom of spring flowers; others believed the spring flowers there are very beautiful. 
Tet is coming and it is the best time of the year to see the flowers that are a symbol of spring and the beginning of a new year in Vietnam, according to Phuc. 
During the trip, the students would have a chance to make banh tet (a sweetened cake made primarily from glutinous rice and rolled in a banana leaf into a thick, log-like cylindrical shape) and create bonsai trees under the guidance of native people. Bonsai trees and banh tet are both Tet symbols. 
Enjoying flowers, banh tet 
Renata Pio could not hide her cheerful attitude upon arriving at the 100-year-old Tan Quy Dong flower village, where about 1,500 local families plant more than 1,000 different types of flowers. These flowers are annually transported to major cities for sale during Tet – the country’s most important holiday. 
The young Brazilian woman, who wore a non la (Vietnamese traditional conical hat), walked between colorful flower-beds and posed with other people for photos with flowers in the background. 
Sometimes, she spoke a few Vietnamese words to ask about types of flowers she had never seen before. For example, "Cái này gọi là hoa gì? Có màu gì?” (What kind of flower is this? Which color do they come in?). 
"I understood that flowers are a great symbol of Tet. I've tasted the traditional food and experienced how important the preparations for this event are for the Vietnamese,” said Pio. 
After leaving the flower village, the bus stopped at a local house nearby, where the students practiced making banh tet and individual bonsai trees under expert instruction. 
When Yuri, a six year-old Korean girl, saw a local woman packing banh tet, she rushed in and asked the elderly how to do it. People then gave Yuri a big cheer as she finished making her first banh tet. 
Meanwhile, Heather Stur, who teaches international relations at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, did not miss out on any activities, even though she and her husband had to take care of their two little kids. 
Stur said she saw a lot of beautiful flowers all over Sa Dec, and added that banh tet and banh xeo (literally translated as sizzling cake – made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder and stuffed with meat and a number of other ingredients) were very delicious. 
"I did not know much about Tet before I came to Vietnam. So I've really appreciated the opportunities to learn more about the Tet holiday and the traditions that are important to Vietnamese families, so that when I go back to the US and teach my students about Vietnam, I can share the traditions with them,” Heather said. 
"Learning about these symbols in Sa Dec helped me understand that Tet is about the happiness you get from spending time with family and friends, and exchanging gifts of flowers and banh tet.” 
Learning Vietnamese 
During the later part of the field trip, while the visitors were eating Hu Tieu Sa Dec (a special noodle dish from Sa Dec), British Lee Kirby tried to teach Philippe Bardy, from France, some basic Vietnamese words. 
Kirby also asked other foreigners questions in Vietnamese like, "Anh đến từ đâu?” (Where are you from?), "Chị đến Việt Nam lâu chưa?” (How long have you been in Vietnam?) or "Bạn đang làm công việc gì?” (What is your job?). 
His ability to sing Vietnamese songs was what impressed people the most. When everybody gathered for dinner at the ancient house of Huynh Thuy Le, named after the lover of the famous French writer Marquerite Duras, Lee volunteered to sing two Vietnamese songs. 
Kirby told Tuoi Tre that most foreigners and expats often feel shy about learning Vietnamese, and this trip helped them gain more confidence in communicating with local people. 
"I think this program is very good because it offers foreigners more opportunities to learn Vietnamese and share their feelings,” Kirby said. 
Also at the dinner, Philip Anderson, whose Vietnamese name is Bão, gave a surprise gift to everyone at the ancient house when he sang a Vietnamese song named "Nhỏ ơi” (Hey little girl), with a warm and sweet southern accent. 
"I got the chance to be immersed in Vietnamese language and culture. I was very impressed with the field trip because it not only furthered my language skills, but also allowed me to meet new people and interact with teachers and students outside the classroom,” the American said. 
What Lee Kirby, Philip Bão Anderson, Heather Stur and the others experienced during their visit to the city was intended to get them prepared for the upcoming Tet, according to Vo Thanh Binh, principal of the Vietnamese school that organized the field trip. 
"We believe Sa Dec is a great place for them to see how Vietnamese gear up for Tet and thus make themselves ready for the forthcoming event,” Binh said 
"What’s more, we would like them to enjoy Vietnamese culture and to help them improve their Vietnamese command.”
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