The Vietnamese Lunar New Year, known as Tet, is basically like Christmas and New Years wrapped into one. It is the biggest holiday in the Vietnamese culture, and we just so happened to arrive during its start. Decorations of yellow and red filled the streets and houses throughout the village we were staying. During our first dinner we learned that Tet is ushered in with traditions that have been passed down for centuries. A few examples include parades, traditional dancing, wrestling, and of course food and homemade rice wine!
So, it’s the second day that we are in Son Duong and our program director decided to take us to a friends house in a rural village. We hop on a motorbike (yes three people on one motorbike) and we are told it’s just a short ride through the mountains. This short trip turned into a hour long drive through mudded roads.
The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, but the mud caked onto our jeans was not so great, considering there was no way of cleaning them back in the village. Anyways, we finally get to the house and are welcomed with food and rice wine. Some weird looking chicken dish, something with pork in it, greens, and rice (of course). Regardless of what we were eating, it was fantastic! I can’t tell you how many unknown foods we ate so far, and they have been nothing short of amazing.
We’re on our hour long journey back to our home village and we see a crowd gathered on the side of the road. Of course we have to stop and see what’s going on! We pull over, park our motorbike, and get lost in the crowd of people. When we finally surface, we see that the people gathered to watch the traditional Vietnamese wrestling.
Everyone was shirtless, shoeless, and all muddied up. Battle after battle we watch as the drums beat in accordance with the intensity of the fight. Once the shoulders of a wrestler touches the ground, the match is over and is concluded with one final beat of the drum. Next thing I know, everyone starts staring and pointing at me. So Angie and I are thinking that they are just pointing at the two elephants in the crowd. No. They are pointing at me. Not only are they pointing at me, but they want me to come wrestle. WHAT!? My heart immediately jumps out of my chest and I start freaking out. We go back and forth. Yes, I should do it! There’s no way in hell I’m getting in that ring. Yes. No. FINALLY, I tell Mr. Son I’m gonna do it…..
I’m met by an old Vietnamese man fully decked out in a nice olive green suit (badass). He said something to me in Vietnamese and I just shook my head like I know exactly what he said. Anyways I make my way down into the ring of people and am met by a cheering crowd. My heart is pumping! I’m surrounded by total strangers, whom, most of which have never seen a foreigner before. The drum gets louder…
I take off my shoes and shirt as I kneel at the foot of the ring. I see my opponent. An older man, maybe in his 30′s? I can take him right? Oh my gosh what if make a complete fool out of myself and he ends up chokeslamming me like WWE. Whatever, too late to turn back. Drums beat louder and louder as I stand up and enter into the middle of the ring. The crowd roaring at this point. Adrenaline fills my veins. My oppponent stands across from me. Then…..All of a sudden……..
My program director stops the match because he doesn’t want his English teacher to get hurt… Womp, Womp. I cannot tell you how anticlimatic it was standing there, shaking out of my wits in anticipation and excitement, and then having that decision rain in on my parade. Gosh, I was so close! Needless to say, it still made for a great story and even better experience, especially for the second day…
We’ve been without internet for a few days so I just wanted to give you an update on our travels! Angie will be posting soon.
Miss you all!