It’s not often I’m in the Imperial City of Hue; it was the city where Kings lived and it is also the city where I was born. It’s always humbling and educational whenever I visit this great city. The ambient and the vibe of this place are much different than any city I’ve been. There’s a sense of serenity, and peace. The people here are not into flashy materialistic items or showboating their cars and lifestyle like that of Saigon. Religion and family is a big part of everybody’s lives in Hue. I walk down the street and people would know my name and my history of this place. Though I’m not home in Hue often, or most of my life, they all have fond memories of me running down the street causing havoc. People often tell stories just to tell stories, but when these people tell theirs, their eyes lit up and there’s this warm passionate feeling I get from them as if they really do care.
Whenever in Hue, I always visit my uncle’s house. Often when I’m not with other visitors, they would make me stay with them. The house is nothing special; it is a typical Vietnamese house, slim in width and tall in height. It’s a light blue house with two stories. There is not much on the top except an alter; the ground level has three rooms, the third being the shared bathroom. Though there’s not much to it except chipping interior paints due to the years of flooding, it does feel homey.
Being in this city and home, I value the family time I get to share with my uncle, aunt and cousin. Though I did not grow up with them, they are still family. Being here, I have the advantage of gaining many benefits. One of which is home cooked food and other of which is family history lesson. Living in the States in my whole life, I never really got to know about my family history. My dad passed away when I was in high school and my mom doesn’t know much about hers since she was from the countryside. It’s always bothered me not knowing exactly where I came from and with this trip, I think I more than I can imagine.
I’ve always heard that my grandfather was from another city. His hometown was Vinh, Vietnam; a name of which my father was named after. The question of why he came to Hue was never answered, until now. My grandfather, Diet, was a “bo doi”, a Vietnamese term for soldiers who fought against the French in the French-Indo War. He was part of the northern army, the people’s army, Ho Chi Minh’s army. He was sent into Hue to fight the French and this is where he met my grandmother, Ngoan. After years of fighting and the war over, he had married my grandmother. When it was time to go back north, due to the split of the country, my grandmother was already pregnant with my dad. Soldiers fighting for whichever side split and had to go back to where they came from. My grandfather made the choice, with his newly married wife and baby, to ditch the army and stay in Hue, a centralized, neutral city, to live with his family. Because of lack of communication routes and outlets, my grandfather’s family thought he had died in the war. So why was this significant? The decision to stay in Hue changed the whole aspect of our family history.
When I was growing up, I’ve always been told that we have a family temple out in Vinh. As a kid, I’m like, “what are you talking about? A temple? That’s huge, weird.” I never cared to ask the question of why we own a family temple out in the city of Vinh. So goes the story, my grandfather was the eldest of seven children; I don’t quite know the exact numbers. In Vietnamese culture, this makes him the leader of the household and the kinsman, titleholder and owner to all properties. So why is this important at all? Apparently, my grandfather’s parents were feudal lords, of royal lineage in the province of Nghe An, City of Vinh. They own a vast amount of lands in the province. Because they had thought he died in the war, they decided to split half the land up into six and give it to the other children. What they did with the other half, I’m not sure. But the land that was split into six was enough to make these remaining children filthy rich. My uncles and aunts, as they call it here in Vietnam, now owns a vast amount of properties in Vinh, along with a big collection of cars. As most of you might not know, but you need to really have money to own any cars in Vietnam, as they are taxed 300% on top of their based price. My family history is interesting due to this decision made by my grandfather. Why? If you follow lineage according to head of households…after my grandfather, my father was the first child in the family so he was the next in line to be head of the household. After him would be me. Yes, me! Can you imagine if that decision was never made and we were still living in pre-history time, I’d be a FEUDAL LORD. Haha. But due to that decision, the lineage to the head of the family was kind of split or outcast. Anyways, I’m sick of writing. I suddenly have the sudden urge to rile up an army, go back to Vinh and reclaim my true rightful land!!! Great piece of family history huh? Now who’s with me? Let’s go fight my war!!