by Phuong Mai
City resident goes native in remote rural area
Le Thi Thiet is a remarkable woman. After four years of teaching ethnic children in the central province of Quang Ngai, the 31-year-old Hue native says she feels at home in the remote, mountainous area.
A graduate of Hue Pedagogical University, Thiet teaches at the two-room Son Lien School in Son Tay District.
"Many of my students knew nothing about school. It was tough in the beginning, but I decided to live and work here," she says. "And it turned out to be the most important decision of my life."
After moving to the area, Thiet launched an literacy drive and travelled to remote villages, rain or shine, to encourage parents to send their kids to school.
It finally began paying off, as more parents considered the value of an education for their children, who often work in the fields.
"The thing that makes me happiest is seeing the children go to school every day," says Thiet, whose story, first featured in Tuoi Tre newspaper, has impressed readers all over the country.
Thiet spends her monthly salary of VND1.5 million (US$70) to provide food and clothes to her poorest sudents.
"I have four students to provide for, so I have to be strong," she says.
One of her students, Dinh Thi Duyen, says Thiet cooks for them every day. "She's like our mom," says the seven-year-old girl.
Her students have hopes and dreams, just like children anywhere, she says, and an education can open doors and help them escape poverty.
Octogenarian still working to preserve Ca Tu culture
An 83-year-old Ca Tu villager, who lives in the central coastal province of Quang Nam, has spent years making musical instruments and teaching youth about the songs and epics of the ethnic Ca Tu people.
Y Kong, who resides in Tong Coi village in Dong Giang District, has also been helping provincial authorities preserve the traditional arts.
"The music of the Ca Tu are oral works handed down from one generation to the next," he says.
"The songs and dances feature myths, legends, and stories of local people and of other ethnic minorities in the region. We can't survive without our traditional culture."
Ca Tu instruments, including Tambet alui, Abel, Rahem, Cabluoc, and cong and chieng (gong), are easy to learn, he says.
Besides his teaching, Kong has been working with the province's Culture, Sports and Tourism Department to restore a guoi, the largest and tallest house in the community located in the middle of the village.
Made of wood, a guol contains works by the area's most illustrious artists, and is used for meetings, rituals and cultural performances.
Elderly villagers often spend most of their time at the guoi talking to and educating the young generation. Guests from 40 countries have visited the guoi in Tong Coi Village.
Most Ca Tu in the country live in Quang Nam Province and Da Nang city. They speak a Mon-Khmer language and worship Giang (God). Every year, the Ca Tu hold dozens of minor and major rituals worshipping God to pray for good luck, health and bumper crops. — VNS