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travel dreambook ella tran

Celebrating Tết in Embassies

This post was originally posted on Traveloka as part of their Tết stories sharing campaign 

I have been lucky to start traveling very early on. I left Vietnam at only 8 months old and grew up in embassies from Austria to Switzerland to America to now, Australia.

The embassies usually had a cornerstone party for all the Vietnamese communities in the area. Embassies families would spent the week to cook homemade food, practice traditional musical acts, and make our own Vietnamese decoration.

I didn’t have that isolated feeling of an international student, gathering in small groups to celebrate Tet in an apartment. But I didn’t have that feeling of inclusiveness in Vietnam, where everyone is preparing Tet together. The feeling is somewhere in the middle. Even though the parties organized by the Embassies were considerable, everything was still homemade. We often didn’t live in countries that celebrate Lunar New Year. It felt like we had a little secret of our own.

At 23, I moved back to Vietnam for a few years. Some acquaintances would comment “You finally get to celebrate at home.” But i felt lost in my own native country. In fact, it was actually the first time I really experience Tet in Vietnam. I enjoyed the chaotic atmosphere when everyone was hustling to finish their end-of-year business and prepared for a Tet. I marveled in the colorful decoration of blossomed apricot and peach flowers. I cherished the empty streets in the cold of Hanoi the first few days of Tet. It was a memorable and unique experience. But it wasn’t what I grew up with. Tet in Vietnam was not part of my childhood and not something familiar to me.

This year, I moved to Canberra, Australia with my family. Tet is during summer here – not something I usually experience. It felt foreign, but somehow, also familiar. With the embassy’s families, we cooked, practiced traditional songs, and made homemade decoration. I felt like being part of a secret again. Perhaps, as travel writer Pico Iyer puts it “Part of being at home for me is being a foreigner.”



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