Vietnamese Interpreter, Food Demonstrator, Rock Climber

My Journey to America – Life before America

Summers in Vietnam

Vietnam on the Globe
Vietnam is located near the equator between 9 and 23 degrees north.  Eastern Vietnam has a long coastline on the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. It has tropical monsoon seasons because of being so close to the equator.  The seasons are rain or less rain. The spring and summer in South Vietnam are the rainy seasons and the fall and winter are the dry seasons.  During the fall and winter, there would be rain but just less.  During the spring and summer for six months, it would rain almost every day on and off.  The sun still shines every day.
On an average annually, rainfall exceeds 1900mm or 76 inches of rain per year in Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam. May to mid-November is the rainy season with the maximum in September averaging 12.8 inches over 23 days. Generally, there would be a hard downpour for a good twenty to thirty minutes then the sun comes out. Other times, the rain would be consistently on and off nonstop for days. I had fond memories of walking home with my cousins in knee-deep rainwater.  The weather was hot and humid so it was fun and refreshing.

Vietnam needs the rain. The constant rain and fertile soil created delicious sweet tropical fruits and plenty of rice grains.  Yummy!

However, there is a negative impact when there is too much rain. Heavy floods and typhoons occasionally occur especially by the coast damaging crops, many fruits produce, and properties. That is no fun.

I was fortunate to have not experienced the dramatic events of a typhoon yet because I did not live near the coast. Most of the flood damages occur in the country, by the coast, and in small cities where there are poor drainage systems.

In the city, many homes had primarily concrete floors. If you are well to do, the house would have a marble floor. There was no rug or carpeted floor because of the frequent flooding and the heat.  During the rainy season, water from the rainfall often flooded our house because of poor drainage and/or roof leaks.

The floor in our house was concrete and our beds were several feet high off the ground. The rainwater level would occasionally reach a foot high on the low ground outside and three to four inches of water would flow into the house. Because we were prepared, the damage was minimized.

At my parents’ home, we had a large rectangular concrete water holder.  When it rained, the container would be filled up with fresh rainwater for our everyday usage.
At Bố and Mẹ Đức’s house, I remembered having only cold running water.  Our shower was from a hose or a bath would be from a filled bucket of water.  If we wanted warm water to bathe in, we would have to boil the water. The weather was hot all year round so a warm water bath was not necessary.

I love rain. I love to listen to loud thunder crashes in the distance and playing-in-rainwitness a flash of lightning brightening the sky. It was an opportunity to play and run naked in the rain. It was refreshing during a hot and humid summer. I preferred the freedom of running naked in the rain overtaking a bath or washing up with a hose in the kitchen.

In a warm and tropical climate, you can imagine many mosquitoes and bugs wandering about. We had a special bed net for sleeping at night to keep the critters at bay. I loved the net. I loved to play house in it when I was sick.

I was a finicky and picky eater.  My favorite food was French baguette from the bread man every morning and of course tropical fruits.

The temperature was warm all year round from central Vietnam to Southern Vietnam while North Vietnam has cooler seasons. The plethora of rain with warm, humid air and the fertile dirt harvested plenty of tropical fruits available mostly in Southern Vietnam during the summer. There were fruits like jack fruits, mangos, durian, papayas, guavas, watermelon, and many others. I remembered having the sweetest grapefruit ever!  The Vietnamese grapefruit was huge, five to six times larger than an orange.  Grapefruits were as sweet as oranges and juicy too.  The Vietnamese grapefruits are also known as pomelos.  It quenched my thirst on a hot summer day.  Yum!!!  Water apples called mận were my favorite apples. I rarely ate apples or pears because they were not available to me as much as the tropical fruits.

My favorite times were playing in the sun outside with the other neighborhood children.  I remembered loving to have a smooth concrete floor.  It was cool for my feet on a hot summer day.  The concrete was a great place to play “Banh Đủa” which means ball and chopsticks game.  We often used the golf ball for our game.  The concrete floor was the best place to bounce the golf ball.  I rather played with a golf ball versus a tennis ball because it was small enough for my hand to catch.  However, the golf ball seemed to leave behind little dents or holes on the floor.  We played jump rope, hopscotch, balls, and many different made-up games.  I remembered I was always laughing, smiling, and having fun. Life was simple and fun.

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