Tag Archives: family


My nephew will be three this August. He asks a million of questions and he has a dozen of names for everyone, including himself. Mafo is one of them.


Mafo seems to come from a cartoon character who can transform into different things. It is just like how my nephew changes his lego from a chocolate cake into a dragon without much of a rearrangement. Quite the imagination that he has!

Sometimes it seems he repeats himself by asking everyone in the house the same question about twenty times a day. But if you keep talking to him, you will notice that he picks up your vocabulary and make it his own. Now I see why children can easily learn more than one language at the same time.

He also plays the same game and watches the same video over and over. I would get bored with his cake-making game after three attempts and only stay for his company. He would play it twenty times more, then move on to “really” make it with whatever toys he can find lying around. Sometimes he is so into it that it seems all real even for me.

My husband got Mafo to help him bake a real cake once and Mafo mixed the dough like a pro. I often wonder if he would remember, when he gets older, the time he made a real cake comparing to when it was lego or an iPad game. Probably not? 

Sometimes I also wonder if Mafo would be different to my husband once he realises that my husband doesn’t understand all the things he says. For now, Mafo asks him the same question, plays with him the same game and, when in the mood, tells him to go away all the same like everyone else. I like that!

Travelling means seeing a lot of people. I like to talk to other travellers as well as the local. But I know I always do a bit of judging before I open up to a casual conversation. I know it holds me back from some amazing exchanges, but I can’t help it. I am worried about getting stuck in a conversation with some creepy guy or a boring lot. I’ve been there before. But I hope I could be more like a child, like my precious Mafo, less judgemental and more open to imagination.


On the road again and missing Mafo dearly




After three years in England, I come home to see Hanoi has changed a lot. I have all sorts of reverse culture shocks from boundaries of privacy to the art of barter or the skills of stealing. I stumbled. I fell. I cried. I didn’t get a hug. My family don’t hug. But they keep me strong because they remain the same as which I belong.

My mum still goes to the pagoda near to their house very often. When I was very small she sold me to the pagoda (neither for money nor for real). I stayed at home the whole time. But I was given a monk name, which was supposed to keep me safe from bad spirits. She believed that would help. She just wants to believe that nothing bad will ever happen to me.

My dad still plays chess every afternoon before tea time with a few others in the neighbourhood. One of them hosted the group at his doorstep. A year ago, I was told he passed away. When the shock and upset passed, I sometimes worried about Dad and his chess group. But I came back to see they gathering still. Just move to another doorstep. They play and shout loudly regardless passing bikes, barking dogs or crying babies. The fear of death might have affected them but hasn’t defeated them.

My brother still tells long stories, buys his little sister lunch, and teases her when she lost her wallet (again). He gave me a lot of books when he found out I lost my kindle as well as my wallet. He knows I don’t read the same types of books as he does. But he cares. As always.

A few weeks ago, I was asked whether my family are happy to have me back. As cynical as I am, my answer was “They said they are”. Now if I am asked whether I am happy to be back near my family, the answer is definitely “yes”. They make it home!