A friend who studied biotech upon seeing me watch videos of bacteria multiplying and swimming about on the surface of fluids told me in college they once bought sugarcane juice from across the school and analyzed a sample under the microscope. She hasn’t been able to drink the juice since. But since we haven’t heard of anyone getting food poisoned from sugarcane juice we decided Vietnamese people’s stomach are pretty tough.
That reminds me of one summer, a day after coming home from a year in Japan I got seriously food poisoned after going out for breakfast with my cousins and brother. We ate the exact same food at a place we go to often. Everyone was perfectly fine except me. My uncle shook his head and said, “Your stomach has degraded, no longer good.” The real problem was my stomach not the food.
In any case, I’d still drink sugarcane juice on the street, especially since these day they always make sure to place a sign “nước mía sạch” – “clean sugarcane juice” next to it. And clips of bacteria under the microscope are fascinating! They move in such erratic manner but on the whole create different currents spinning in and out.
In the early 90s, soon after Vietnam reopened its door and abolished the subsidy system my grandfather, Mr. Sinh, wrote a poem for my grandma. This poem often brought up at family gatherings, reminds everyone of a time when people, regardless of occupation, regardless the size of their living quarters, have at one point or another tried to keep livestock as a supplement to their diet and income. My grandparents were actually fortunate to have access to the understructure under their apartment to keep chicken. In Danang during the mid 80s, my parents too have tried their hands at chicken farming while many in their neighborhood raised pigs in the cooperative’s yard. In Hanoi, particularly during the subsidy period, when everything was rationed and everyone was hungry even people living in crammed soviet-era appartment buildings kept pigs, in their bathrooms.
Here is my translation:
On raising chicken
We live in open times
Our heart yearn for a free economy
Watching people trade North and South
earning billions, we too harbour dreams.
Mrs. Que pioneers, raises the flag and launches ahead
With her wisdom, foresight and strategy
Investing half a million
Fence up the understructure, secure it inside out
Skillfully raise a flock of hen.
Feeding on dropped grains of rice they lay golden eggs.
Mr and Mrs prosper in no time
Savoring golden eggs, they’d live to a hundred
Mr. Sinh eagerly adopts their farming model
Fences up his understructure, even builds connecting stairs
He makes a 4-room coop
The chickens surely will be happy with so much room.
Mrs. Sinh looks for choice chicken of a strong breed
but unwittingly, she brings home sick ones
Mr and Mrs frantically look for a cure
trying various medicines for several days
One after another the chickens drop,
Soon after the whole flock’s done for.