Saturday, February 26, 2011

More learning.

Dear diary,

Family history lesson time again.

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived to my family's neighborhood was this thing:

It's a little altar of some dude named Vincente. It belongs to the community/neighborhood, so anybody who wants to come place flowers there or clean up is free to. There are even 2 benches in front of the gate with a locked box for donations. (About the benches, you will see these things ALL over the place here in the neighborhood, perhaps even the city - not too sure. But, a lot of companies that deal with any stone or other minerals build these benches and put their company name and # on them. Then, they donate it to various businesses or even families to leave out front to lounge on. Quick & easy marketing!)

So, I was eating dinner with my aunt inside and about a dozen or so people lined up chairs in front of the altar for a mini-mass/prayer session. I start asking my aunt about the whole deal, and she tells me whenever people feel like praying, they go there and do it. I also asked why she wasn't out there and she told me that she dislikes a lot of them folks. 

Apparently, over a dozen years ago, some of those folks, along with others in the neighborhood, started harassing my family over a plot of land we owned. Those people made a big fuss over a house my grandfather acquired and demanded that we sell it to them at some dirt cheap price for some reason (I'm still unsure about why). Eventually, they brought the issue to the court and after a tumultuous 4 years, it was confirmed that the land was ours and it our prerogative to do with it as we wish. It cost my aunt several lá vàng, gold bar/leaf that many people in VN, for various reasons (very small & portable = easy to smuggle when escaping VN, steady prices, etc.). I think she ended up paying the lawyers 4 or 5 bars over the course of the trial.

But, back to the altar. The land this altar is built upon once belonged to my family. My grandparents owned quite a bit of land here; all the siblings live in their own place and many of their children live adjacent to them as well. Anyway, I found it quite odd where this altar sat. It's between my 2 aunts' houses, directly in front of what would be considered a shared yard. And the walkway that leads to the doors of their houses is very narrow (their mopeds barely pass through, with maybe an inch on each side left). 

As it turns out, my grandmother donated this plot of land to the neighborhood! Sort of. My aunt tells me that one night, when my grandmother was out uh, nhậu...-ing, some dudes asked her for the land. They made a case about how they wanted to build an altar so the people could share it and pray and blah blah blah or something. My poor grandmother, after some beer or liquor or cognac, drunkenly agreed! She didn't remember the next day, but everyone took her word for it and soon, the altar was built. Oh, grams! Maybe that's where I get it from, haha.

So, that's the story of the altar and why some of those praying are dicks. 


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