The New Economic Development District Policy in Vietnam

Author: Ancy Lee
Translator: Pius Lee

The Vietnamese government had planned well ahead and prepared many makeshift-hut developments such as the one we were sent among all the villages and provinces. We were forced to evacuated from our family shop-abode with stocks of textile products in exchange for a flimsy tiny hut in “Thu Thua” village, a so-called New Economic Development District (TTNED), in the Long An (龍安省) Province. The moment we were forced to displace, our rights to attend school were taken away from my older brother, my two younger siblings, and myself. We were idle and we sneaked back into to the city to live with our uncle. Unfortunately, our parents had to stay in the TTNED. I remembered that my brothers and sisters and I accompanied our parents to visit the TTNED and stayed there for a few days. It was a strenuous trip of 3 hours in crowded buses, as well as a half hour on a canoe-boat.

Our new hut-home had no concrete foundation. The walls were made of dried tree leaves weaved in bamboo rods. The main door was a bamboo frame with weaved leaves to be locked with an iron wire. In the entire hut, there was not even a brick, a nail or a wooden beam. The four corner primary columns were thick bamboo rods fastened into the muddy ground by pounding and tied with wires. Other fasteners were strings and straws. One night, the thunder-bolts clapped ferociously, I could not sleep until daybreak and stared at the swaying rooftop and walls, fearing that none of the structure could survive the night’s storm. Our table and chairs gradually sank into the muddy ground. There was no electricity, nor tap water. This was my first experience of the simple life in the Vietnamese country-side.

Every family was rationed a 200-liter stone cistern along a river-bank near our new home. Once a week, native villagers brought in fresh-water in canoe-boats to sell to the families. We had to carry our fresh-water from our cistern 300-500 meters away in pails to our home. To conserve water, we were thrifty with bathing water (5 liters for each of the children). TTNED was a boastful term by the government covering up a regress in poverty some thirty years backwards.

Muddy puddles

The TTNED was a marshy area with biers and thistles. It was humid, chilly, and foggy in the mornings. No soul or shadow could be spotted in this wilderness. Dad warned us about snakes in the ditches. The muddy plateau on which our hut was constructed was raised by heaping mud from furrows on either side to a terrace about 1-2 meters high. Huts were spaced 10 meters apart. The furrows of the adjacent houses met and formed a square-shaped pond. Muddy water filled the pond. We, innocent kids, played and enjoyed swimming in them as if they were our house pool. One time when I was riding my bike in the muddy terrace, I accidentally skidded, punching my head-first into one of those ponds. Fortunately, my older brother grabbed hold of me and pulled me out. Strangely, all those months, we were the only kids in the hut village.

Alum Chemicals in the Land

Dad and mom understood that kids had to leave soon as the TTNED was alum-lined and kids could easily get sick. Plantations were impossible. Alum reacted with soap, which ruins clothes. One time when we were waiting for canoe-boats to go back to the city, I did not realize that my feet were sinking into the mud. By the time I felt that I was being sucked by the mud, I could not break loose. Fortunately, my dad and my older sister came to my rescue and pulled me loose completely, leaving my slippers sucked away and disappeared.

The Two Kinds of Foundations

This reminds me of a biblical passage where Jesus talked about 2 types of foundations on which a person builds his house:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock …And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt 7:24, 26).

The above passage talks about two types of people. The former is referred to as “the wise” who lives soberly and builds his house (life) on the rock (the word of the Lord Jesus). He listens to the word and practices its teaching. Even though life is battered by rain and typhoons he does not falter. The latter is referred to as “the foolish” who lives sloppily and builds his house (life) on sandy and soft grounds (carnal pleasures). When life is battered by rain and thunder, it buckles and falls in a catastrophic collapse. May I confront you on whether you are building life on a good foundation? Are you soberly working hard or sloppily goofing around when building your life’s foundation? They will reap diametrically opposite results. May God help you and me become wise people to build a solid and lasting life.

Author: Mrs. Thuyen-Anh (Ancy) Lee was born in Vietnam. She immigrated and was educated in Sweden as a teenager. Her profession was social work until she married Pius in 1994. The couple responded to the calling to be ministers and relocated to NY in 2023.

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