This incomplete bridge is one of the reasons my family left Viet Nam. My father’s land, and my father’s family’s land, was taken by the government for reasons that included the building of this bridge. Twenty something years on, and this is the bridge. It sticks out no more than 10 metres from the river bank – indeed it is not even joined to the river bank, just a random structure of concrete and steel, jutting out of the Mekong, without purpose and abandoned. It makes a joke of our leaving for a new life.
I am pleased that my father’s home is now a thriving garden of watermelon, herbs and ‘rau cai’ (a medley term for an assortment of green vegetables necessary for all meals). Ba is an excellent gardener, and it is appropriate that the home he built should birth meals for his younger brother’s family.
This is my uncle’s home, which is directly behind the garden above. It is made of concrete and corrugated iron; inside it is tiled and cool. It is a rich man’s home for the region.
On one side of my uncle’s house lives another aunt – older than him, but younger than my father – one the other side is another uncle. Their houses are built of palm and patted clay.
My father is sitting in the left corner – the guest’s place where he sits and is served tea, coffee and food, where brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews come by to meet him. One of my female cousins leans against the door, taking a break from her daily work, or calling a child home. A cousin’s husband is carrying around his son, stooping to pick up something. A visiting uncle perches on the banister, chatting with my father; and the uncle whose house it is, is gathering the tea things – to make more tea, so the decade of catching up is lubricated well into the late afternoon.
This is one of my younger male cousins, resting from his work. He is perched on the fishing net that delineates where this place is. It is an unamed place, except for the number of the fishing net (9). This is Hang Day Chin – fishing bay no. 9 – where my family hail from.