by Van Dat
Civil servants - with a flourish
In a country where civil servants are not known for their cheerful or sociable ways, officials in Binh Khanh Ward in HCM City's District 2 seem to be a different species.
Newly married couples going to the ward People's Committee to register their marriage are in for an especial surprise, as Tran Thi Mai Linh and Ngo Tan Phat found out.
The young couple was invited to sit and a small party began. There was music and an emcee asked them with a flourish to sign the marriage register as ward officials looked on avuncularly.
The couple received the marriage certificate along with flowers and a congratulatory letter from the People's Committee chairwoman. It all came as a shock to them since people are used to red tape rather than a red carpet at government offices.
All the arrangements, including the music, were made by the ward officials themselves.
Phat said that he was surprised but that the simple ceremony has left him and his wife with fond memories.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Hanh, the ward chairwoman, said while the ceremony may not be big it leaves couples coming to register their marriage with a nice feeling.
The ward has celebrated 14 such weddings so far. It also sends congratulatory letters to families of newly married couples and newborn babies and condolence messages to bereaved families.
Other wards in District 2 are also adopting this practice now.
Drink seller, 87, learns languages
After selling beverages for 40 years on a HCM City street, 87-year-old Tran Thi Dinh has spoken four foreign languages.
Seated at the corner of Tran Hung Dao and Pham Tran Thi Dinh, she calls out to prospective customers, whether Vietnamese or foreigners, in a medley of languages she learnt on her own. Many people are taken aback.
She often helps foreign visitors find their way around, and foreigners living in the vicinity adore her for her kindness.
When she has free time, she tells foreigners stories in several languages.
She says she can speak Khmer and French fluently and a little bit English. She used to learn Korean, but quit because it was too difficult.
Every day she comes to the place at 5am and stays until 5pm. Despite being nearly 90 she rejects her children's request to stay at home and take things easy. She says she cannot give up a job she has been doing for 37 years.
So every day her children bring her there and pick her up in the evening. The only question they ask her is if she is happy. They, and she herself, do not care how much money she earns.
Her husband used to work at Ba Son Shipyard. On holidays, he would often come to her shop and sit with her. When he died six years ago, she was grief-stricken and stopped coming.
But later she decided to come again because she had so much time on her hands and was feeling bored at home. — VNS