The rice paddies around my home are serviced by a system of irrigation canals and ditches that ensure the fields have ample water. Sluice gates are positioned in a number of places to cut off, reduce, or re-direct the flow of water. From time to time, I see local farmers using the gates to adjust the flow. There is certainly a water management agency in charge of this activity, though I do not know how it is organized or at what level of local government it exists.
I also do not know how long the irrigation system has existed here, though I do know there are continuing efforts to improve it. In the last couple of months there have been several small projects to upgrade waterways. Sections of the system that had consisted of earthen ditches were dug out and lined with concrete walls and floors. I presume this reduces erosion and water loss from seepage, and increases the flow rate of the water.
Dinners in waiting.
The title above is, in fact, a bit of a come on. Sam – my lovable terror of a puppy – and I often run into this local farmer and his water buffalo when we are out for our morning walk. After seeing this fellow for some time, I have come to the conclusion that he is not taking these animals to the fields to work, he has them out for a morning walk, just as I have Sam out. Usually, Sam and I keep our distance when we meet this troupe – or more precisely, I force/drag Sam to go the other way – but this time we had to pass in a fairly narrow space. The calf and Sam really wanted to stop and get to know each other, sniffing and, in Sam’s case, jumping up and down, but their respective owners managed to move things along. In opposite directions.
When Minh and I decided to visit his father’s family home in Phú Thọ in northern Vietnam, I assumed Phú Thọ referred to the city I found on Google Map. Later as we bounced along country roads in a very uncomfortable minibus that had passed the city of Phú Thọ 45 minutes earlier, I realized Phú Thọ was the name of a province as well as that of a city. We did eventually get to our destination in high country with terrain in between hills and mountains. We were in the northwest of the province about 150 km from Lào Cai on Vietnam’s northern border with China. This is farm country that grows upland rice, and we arrived at harvest time.
The setting was magnificent. The rambling ranch-style farmhouse was at the top of a small rise overlooking golden colored rice fields ready to be harvested. If it had not been 105 in the shade during the day and not much cooler in the evening, the visit would have been perfect. The house had fans, but no a/c. The weather was exceptionally hot; even the Vietnamese living there were wilting in the heat. I did not envy them cutting rice in the fields by hand or cooking in a stifling hot kitchen. Good time to be a guest who was expected not to lift a finger.
While Minh’s father no longer lives in the ancestral hometown, a huge extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces – all of the latter being referred to as brothers and sisters – does. Minh had not been to visit for a long time, so it was a homecoming to begin with. And he arrived with a foreigner, quite the oddity in those parts, making the visit a genuine event. There was delicious food and plenty of it, featuring a chicken from the chicken coop, plenty of vegetables from the garden, rice grown on the farm, and beer and Vietnamese spirits in plastic jugs vs containers with labels from factories. Interestingly for Vietnam, there was not a cup of coffee to be found anywhere, even in the small town near the farm. The people in these parts were tea drinkers, downing quantities of strong green tea grown on hillsides next to the rice fields.
All in all, a great visit with welcoming, friendly people living in beautiful country. And in case there is any question about the photo, that is early morning haze, not smog, in the distance.