Doctor Duyên checks on a patient. She has had shifts at the holiday during Tết for a decade. — Photo thanhnien.vn
HCM CITY — As millions of migrant workers hustle to return home for Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) holiday, trains help deliver the happiness of reunions.
On January 9, Sài Gòn Locomotive Enterprise celebrated early Tết for train drivers ahead of the busiest season of the year.
“Working in the service industry means no Tết. Watching people going shopping makes me feel excited even when I cannot spend that precious time with my family,” said 38-year-old train driver Lê Văn Duy from the northern province of Nam Định.
In his seven years as a driver, Duy has celebrated New Year’s Eve on board four times. Instead of admiring glowing fireworks, he blows a long horn to mark the New Year.
At the HCM City-based Hospital for Tropical Disease, the Tết vibe is overshadowed by the urgency of preventing a coronavirus outbreak.
The hospital has developed a rapid response plan to receive those suspected to be infected from Tân Sơn Nhất Airport – one of the country’s largest gateways welcoming overseas Vietnamese from all over the world.
“We all have late night shifts during the holiday,” Doctor Đinh Nguyễn Huy Mẫn told Thanh niên (Young people) newspaper, adding “Everyone wants to share that special moment with their loved ones but we cannot deny our responsibility.”
“This year, I will be in charge of New Year’s Eve so my family will have the last meal of the year sooner than usual,” he said.
Most patients who have to stay over at the hospital during Tết are in severe conditions.
“It is good that at least we are healthy for them to lean on,” he added.
As Mẫn’s wife is also his colleague, they have to arrange their schedules to ensure one of them is with their children.
Nguyễn Hữu Nhân Duyên, deputy director of Nguyễn Tri Phương Hospital’s Emergency Department, said this year, she would go home to the Mekong Delta Province of Đồng Tháp for Tết before dashing back to HCM City for the holiday shift on the third day of the Year of the Rat.
“It is a part of the job,” she said.
Most of emergency cases in previous Tết holidays were related to alcohol, according to Duyên. Patients were not co-operative, making treatment much harder. She expected to see fewer cases this year, especially as the Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention took effect from January 1.
New Year by sidewalks
Nguyễn Thị Vân, a 46-year-old street cleaner, has seen New Year fireworks on HCM City’s famous Nguyễn Huệ Flower Street for more than a decade.
As the 15-minute firework performance ends, it is the time for cleaners like Vân to work.
The more rubbish people throw away, the heavier their workload is. Besides picking up trash, they also have to clean the whole street with water ahead of New Year’s Day.
“I finish my job at 5am, rush home to take a shower and sleep then start over again at 3pm. There is no time to visit friends and relatives,” said Vân.
Her sweetest memory was last year’s Tết when her second son and his friends drove from District 12 to District 1 to see her. For Vân, that little act showed her son was not ashamed of her humble job.
After his retirement, Phạm Văn Hề joined the people’s protection force of District 1’s Phạm Ngũ Lão Commune.
Although his house is just metres from the communal headquarters, Hề has not spent any New Year’s Eve with his family since he started the job.
“I’m used to it but feel so sorry for my wife to prepare everything by herself,” he said.
The force helps local police protect people from harassment and drug addicts, especially on the famous backpacker street of Bùi Viện.
41-year-old Nguyễn Hữu Nhân helps direct traffic in busy parts of District 5.
In the past two decades, while his wife, children and parents are busy arranging altars for worshiping, he stands in the middle of a street, with police and other forces to ensure traffic safety.
“I feel bad thinking about my children as they have to stay at home with their grandparents but there is not much I can do,” he said. — VNS