On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Family is important in Vietnamese society; and taking care of elders is one of the expectations one has while growing up in the Vietnamese culture. Xuan Thi Nguyen is now the oldest member of her clan of ten children; all of whom escaped the communist Pathet Lao in 1979; and all of whom now reside as refugees in Switzerland. Nearly all of them remain in the Luzern area where they keep an eye out for their mother; and all of them are caregivers who have taken extraordinary steps to ensure that one of them is with her at all times. The names of the caregivers and their time slots appear on a duty roster that is posted in their mother’s living room.
Ba Xuan Thi Nguyen, Matriach and mother of 10
Ba Xuan Nguyen and her late husband Long Tran raised ten children in the vicinity of Vientiane, Laos in the years before the Pathet Lao communists took over in 1975. As a Vietnamese family living in Laos, they spoke Vietnamese at home and the Lao language around town. Of course, the younger generation of students spoke Lao exclusively while at school. The upshot of their mixed cultural existence was a community of shared values; Vietnamese and Lao. Twelve of Ba Xuan Nguyen's clan escaped Laos in 1979 and became refugees in a strange land. But that code of shared family values exists to this day, and a Lao Son-in-Law is also on the duty roster for caring for his Mother-in-Law.
Children of Ba Xuan and Long Tran (center); Binh; Hoa; Thanh; Lien; Kieu; Hanh; Chi; Linh and Son; Dung
If you visit the apartment of 82 year old Ba Xuan in Emmen, Switzerland today, you will see the monthly duty roster of caregivers that is posted there. It reads, in German, something like this:
Mo (Monday) Di (Tuesday) Mi (Wednesday) Do Thursday) Fr (Friday) Sa (Saturday) So (Sunday)
Lien, again (daughter)
The duty roster is filled in completely for 24 hours a day, every day; and it is changed by week, if necessary. All ten children are on the list, with Son-in-Law Khamla, a Lao, also listed as one of the caregivers.
It was a privilege for the Footloose Forester to meet each and every one of the loving children of Ba Xuan in Emmen; and to meet their father before he passed away. The united family he met in 1989 was an inspiration then; and continues to be an inspiration now.
About the author
Sadly, Ba Xuan passed away after two days in the hospital, on 2 December 2013. She was well and smiling when we visited in mid-October.