Luu Chi Kien and Nguyen Thi Xuyen

At last, the sort of day I’ve been waiting for since we arrived in Viet Nam a week ago. Mao collected us at 8.30 am with the intention of taking us out to the main tea growing area near Thai Nguyen City. However, as we set out we were discussing options and she talked about her parents-in-law and mentioned that her extended family would be planting trees today. So we turned around and went there instead. It was the right choice. Mao’s home village and her in-laws village are next to each other. To get to both we drove past a massive open-cast mining operation. It was a real education for the girls to see first hand both one of principal sources of climate change (mining and burning of fossil fuels) and one of the principal solutions (planting trees, working and living harmoniously with the natural environment) in one place, in one day.

When we came to the home of Mao’s parents-in-law we were met, and very warmly welcomed, by a very sprightly, vibrant couple Luu Chi Kien, 78 years and Nguyen Thi Xuyen, 72 years old. We had most of the day, so there was no rush. First was the welcoming ritual of green tea, and also a toast ‘Chuc Mung Nam Mo’ of herb-infused rice wine to the New Year.

Mao with her parents-in-law, Luu Chi Kien and Nguyen Thi Xuyen
Mao with her parents-in-law, Luu Chi Kien and Nguyen Thi Xuyen

It was very evident that here was a wise couple, people who have been farming the land since they were children and have seen many changes. We set up an interview in their home. They talked about the clearing of forest that happened in the 1960s.Temperatures have become warmer and they are not getting as much water as in the past. They have replanted the forest behind their home garden and are busy planting trees in other areas to protect precious water resources and keep local temperatures cooler. Their neighbours are doing the same. It is clear to them that humans are the source of the problems they are experiencing locally and that they are aware of globally. The solution is simple, to live more harmoniously with the natural environment.

Luu Chi Kien then took us for a walk through his forest and along the way shared his deep knowledge and wisdom about medicinal values of the many plants growing there. He is man full of energy, vitality, humour, compassion and much wisdom. It was a great honour to spend time with him.

Luu Chi Kien, a very wise man, imparting local knowledge about the medicinal value of the many plants in the forest, carrying a global perspective
Luu Chi Kien, a very wise man, imparting local knowledge about the medicinal value of the many plants in the forest, carrying a global perspective

After a very simple, delicious, lunch prepared in their farmhouse kitchen we walked along the country path to the place where the rest of the family were busy planting trees. The taxi that we had hired in the morning collected us from there and we drove back towards Mao’s village where we met her mother. It was wonderful to also meet her and unfortunate that we didn’t have more time.

The wise Nguyen Thi Xuyen sharing with the young, planting trees for the future
The wise Nguyen Thi Xuyen sharing with the young, planting trees for the future
The nearby coal mine
The nearby coal mine

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