proximity and living conditions up until the mid-90s

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.
A couple hundred thousand Dongs down the drain
You chickens have ruined me!
Gone are our savings, our pension
Gone are our capital and profit.

On the second floor Mrs Que lament
the hens have left the coop to chase after roosters.
Mr looked everywhere
Seeing only people frolicking with each other.
The coop lies empty, rank and rancid
The smell of poop rose to the living quarters.
Grieving, Mrs Que continues,
Them chicken, ungrateful, unfaithful things
When I’m sick they up and go.
Then Mrs. Sinh and Mrs. Que lowered their voice
We’ve been fools, might as well forget it,
Chicken come chicken go.

And the original:

Kể chuyện nuôi gà

Ta sinh sống ở thời mở cửa
Lòng những mong kinh tế mở mang
Thấy người buôn Bắc bán Đông
Lãi thu bạc tỷ nên lòng ước mơ
Gương bà Quế phất cờ đi trước
Người khôn ngoan mưu lược tinh thông
Đầu tư gần nửa triệu đồng
Sửa gầm chắc chắn khóa trong khóa ngoài
Nuôi bầy gà mái thật tài
Ăn cơm rơi vãi đẻ ngay trứng vàng
Ông bà phút chốc giàu sang
Được ăn trứng vàng sống đến trăm năm
Ông Sinh học cách làm ăn
Rào gầm làm cả cầu thang xuống gầm
Xây chuồng hai lớp bốn phòng
Gà chắc vui mừng được sống thảnh thơi
Bà Sinh tìm mua gà nòi
Vớ phải gà dịch gà toi nguy rồi
Thuốc thang chạy chữa mấy ngày
Gà thi nhau chết lăn quay cả bầy.
Mấy trăm ngàn bạc đi Tây
Khuynh gia bại sản vì mày gà ơi !
Lương hưu dành dụm hết rồi
Mất toi cả vốn lẫn lời thật oan
Trên lầu cụ Quế thở than
Bà ơi gà mái bỏ ràn theo trai
Ông tìm khắp chốn khắp nơi
Chỉ thấy gà người đú đởn đùa vui
Chuồng mình vắng vẻ tanh hôi
Phân gà ủ kin nặc mùi xông lên
Buồn rầu bà Quế tán thêm
Giống gà bạc nghĩa, bạc tình, vong ân
Bà đau gà chẳng viếng thăm
Bà ốm, bà nằm gà lại bỏ đi
Bà Sinh, Bà Quế thầm thì
Dại rồi thinh lặng gà đi mặc gà.

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