with Robert Bicknell
Woke up this morning and realized that it's my 22nd Tet celebration in Viet Nam. I still wonder where the time went. It seems like yesterday that I first got here.
OK, I'm lying. It's been 22 years and I remember every single day of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. And trust me when I say that the ugly was really ugly.
However, Tet is nature's way of hitting the "reset" button. It's a new beginning and regardless of what happened the year before, you have a chance to come out on top this time around.
I usually play one round of golf before the year ends, and then another during Tet, just to see how things look for the coming year. If I play great golf, I know the year has promise. If I die out there, I figure the year will follow suit and pretty much suck.
It usually works out that way.
What I like about Tet is the quietness. Well, not the actual definition of quietness because you can hear Karaoke until all hours of the night, usually sung by people with absolutely no knowledge of the lyrics, or what key the song is supposed to be sung. In fact, I think they pretty much don't care in the least. They just want to have a good time and that's all that is important.
If it gets too much for me, I plug in my headphones, cue up AC DC on my iPod and crank up the volume until my eyeballs rattle.
We also don't have to worry about strings of major league firecrackers going off ever since they were banned in 1994 after the government got tired of people blowing their fingers off. Suffice it to say the dogs were very happy. There is nothing sadder than a shell-shocked dog walking into light poles.
The "quietness" I am referring to is on the golf course. During Tet, not to many people play during the first two days. It's somewhat peaceful out there and it gives me a chance to reset my sense of balance. I can just go out and swing without a care. Look at the trees, birds and just enjoy being alive for another year.
Tet is a celebration of Spring, but it is also a time for the family to gather. As more and more people move away from home after marriage (unlike the old days where you would have 3-4 generations under one roof), Tet allows everyone to come home for a bit and catch up.
For me, it is a time for taking my daughter swimming, roller skating or just to the park. We watch cartoons together, relax and just enjoy being together. My work and her school usually means I only see her right before bed and that isn't a lot of time. Still we make the most of it, but sadly it usually involves me working with her on English or Science, so Tet allows us just to have fun.
When I worked in the clubs, she and my wife would come up for the holiday and play golf or swim. Now that I'm semi-retired, we have to make due at home… which is OK too.
I usually don't travel to Ha Noi for the Tet holiday simply because I cannot handle the cold weather too well. This is why I don't visit Boston in the winter either.
My first Tet was in 1992 and I was introduced to banh chung, which I thought was the greatest thing on earth and I ate an entire one by myself. I should note that banh chung is "glutinous rice" and the operative root word is "glue". I really don't have to say more than that, do I?
My advice, enjoy banh chung as it is a very important part of Viet Nam's culture and heritage. But consider doing it in moderation… As for me, I will limit myself to once piece per day.
In this coming Year of the Goat, I think we will see a huge improvement in the economy and the golf industry in particular. More courses are coming on line and more programmes for juniors are sprouting.
All this makes me very happy.
Chuc Mung Nam Moi! — VNS