Parental power gets out of hand
State-run Ha Noi Experimental Primary and Secondary School began issuing entrance examination forms to parents last Friday, but quickly postponed the plan on Saturday morning when frantic parents began jostling and fighting in front of the school gates.
Many of the parents, eager to enrol their offspring at the popular school, which was once attended by maths guru Professor Ngo Bao Chau, had queued most of the previous night in the rain to get their hands on a prized entrance form.
At one point things reached such a pitch that frantic security guards were forced to close the front gates, only to see them come crashing down as hundreds of parents surged forward.
School vice principal Le Thi Mai Huong said she was dismayed by the parents' actions and that she'd been forced to postpone handing out application forms until Sunday morning because of the stampede.
She added that there were just 140 places for first graders at the school and that demand had greatly exceeded that figure.
In a bid to placate desperate parents, she said every would-be candidate would be allowed to sit the school's entrance examination.
And to think that those lucky enough to get a place at the school still have to contend with those first-day blues. God knows what will happen to those that don't pass.
Artist kicks up a stink
Early last month, Tran Trong Linh opened an installation art exhibition named "Negotiation" at L'Espace in Ha Noi to draw attention to the city's chronically polluted To Lich River.
The river was once Ha Noi's main water source but during the city's rapid urbanisation it became so heavily polluted that local residents now keep well away from its fetid water.
For his artwork, Linh froze 20 cubic metres of the river's silty bed to minus 27 degrees Celsius and cut it into seven blocks, which he then installed at the French cultural institute, close to the opera house.
As the blocks of ice proceeded to melt over the next three days – exposing animal and fish bones, hypodermic needles, household waste, even old personal computers – the process was recorded on film for later visitors to the exhibition.
However, what the film could not record was the horrific stench given off by the exhibit. Things got so bad, that exhibition organisers had to hand out face masks to visitors and workers at L'Espace – to little avail, and the exhibition was duly closed.
The installation artwork caused mixed reactions among members of the public. Some applauded the exhibition's primary goal of drawing attention to the To Lich River's pitiful condition, while others were of the opinion that the art work had actually added to the pollution in Ha Noi, particularly when fetid water from the art work ran down the entrance steps to L'Espace onto Trang Tien Street.
Which raises the question, when is an art work not an art work? When it turns into a street.
As in the rest of the world, a Vietnamese wedding is a joyous affair, and perhaps the most important day of a girl's life. But what is unique to Asia, and Viet Nam in particular, is that the date chosen for the occasion is selected for its auspiciousness – based on the couple's ages and birth signs. In a bid to reduce disruption to the workplace, however, for the last 12 years, officials in northern Vinh Phuc Province's Yen Lac Town ruled that weddings could only take place on the second and the sixth day of every lunar month. And in line with Government guidelines, it was ordered that weddings and funerals be modest affairs, to ease the financial burden on the relatives of the newly betrothed or deceased.
The vice chairman of the town's people's committee, Pham Van Luan, said that local residents had willingly embraced the new austerity rules, which even prohibited the wearing of expensive Western style wedding dresses (although that was repealed in 2010).
However, as just two days are permitted for young couples to tie the knot, it is not uncommon for tens of couples in Yen Lac to hold their wedding reception on the same day – which makes life difficult in the small town where everyone knows everyone.
"Being invited to nearly ten wedding parties on a single day is a logistical nightmare and expensive. I even have to borrow money for wedding presents for each couple," a local resident complained.
And you can't avoid the financial burden by simply not attending.
"If you cannot make it, you are expected to let the wedding organisers know beforehand so they can adjust food requirements accordingly. But you are still expected to give a present at least the day before," he said. — VNS