Summer is just around the corner. People realised this when the Ministry of Industry and Trade started selling watermelons at its headquarter in Ha Noi. The watermelons, which came from the central province of Quang Nam, were covered in flood water for a couple of days last month and maybe were not as sweet as they should be.
Farmers had a difficult time trying to sell the fruit at prices less than VND500 (less than half a US cent) a kilogramme. This led the ministry to call on officials and trade experts to buy tonnes of the devalued crops and send them to the capital to try and help farmers.
The ministry's action was admirable, but the 14 tonnes of melons it managed to sell were far eclipsed by social networking communities who trucked melons to cities and hawked them to residents and retailers for up to VND5,000 per kilo.
The public response to what would otherwise have been a financial wipe-out for farmers was absolutely admirable. It also shows the value of using social networking to solve problems and raise issues.
Shamans thrive on droughts
The country's central region has been under such a long dry spell that farmers have become desperate to find water to revive their wilting crops. However, this is not easy.
Well after well dug by local farmers often failed to find water, so eventually, they turned to venerable shamans, known in Western countries as water diviners, for a bit of help.
For a price, the shamans used many kinds of divining rods, from forked twigs to key chains and clothes' hangers, to find water. Often, after claiming with wide-eyed conviction that they had been successful, many disappeared without a trace. Some farmers paid owners of drilling rigs to dig down more than 70 metres without finding a drop.
As desperate times call for desperate measures, farmers even invited special shamans to hold rain-making rituals. More money was spent on offerings, foods and alcohol. But still the rain failed to fall as promised.
Tran Xuan Huu, a farmer from Dak Nong, said: "I'm not even superstitious, but I've tried everything. I might as well hold a rainmaking ritual. At least it will be a fun occasion for everyone."
It seems that swindling is a practice as old as dowsing. Next time someone claims they can summon the rain, be sure to check the weather forecast before you reward them.
Too good to be true
Life stopped for Suu, a resident from central Nghe An Province, after he was tested positive with HIV virus while doing time in the provincial prison in 2003. On his release in 2013, Suu was listed among those with HIV in the province and showed up for regular checkups at the local public clinic.
The clinic's chief physician took notice of his case and came to the conclusion that something was definitely wrong because Suu remained in good health 10 years after testing positive with the deadly virus. He told Suu to take another test just to be sure. Wonder of wonders, the result was negative.
Suu was overwhelmed with joy. A slab of his life had been downgraded as he patiently awaited an early death. He wanted to start a family, but social stigma still followed him. His girlfriend's family refused to let them get married.
Suu had to show his father-in-law his test results and health certificates not once but twice before he was finally allowed to take his daughter's hand. The couple are now married and his wife is expecting.
The ex-prisoner has now contacted provincial police and demanded compensation for the mistake that ruined much of his life and left his family in shame.
Provincial authorities said there was no precedent for his case and admitted they did not know how to handle his request. However, they will have to figure it out somehow as remuneration seems rightfully due.
The Nghe An Department of Health officially crossed his name off the list of people with HIV in the province on April 1. Ironic, isn't it that it was done on April Fools' Day of all the days. — VNS