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Without teachers our children could not succeed

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Illustration by Trịnh Lập

 by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

A popular Vietnamese saying goes, “Muốn con hay chữ thì yêu lấy thày” – if you want your children to find joy and happiness in studying at school, you need to love their teachers.

Of all vocations, Việt Nam’s tradition places the utmost importance on two types of work that start with the word “thày”: teachers (thày giáo) and doctors (thày thuốc).

These masters have to work hard, with less remuneration and recognition. A German friend emailed to set up a meeting this Sunday, November 20, coinciding with Việt Nam’s Teachers’ Day, one of the most celebrated days in Việt Nam.

“I will be brief, as I shall have to visit my old teachers,” I said of an activity that was new to my friend.

It is natural for small children to love their primary school teachers, but for parents, it doesn’t come naturally. It’s a work in progress; believe it or not, if you want your children to progress, parents and teachers must find a way to work together to steer their children in the right direction.

Over the past decade or more, a leading trend was for student-centred schools, creating an academic environment focused on student needs and desires. The roles of teachers somehow became less stressed upon or evaluated. Their work became more difficult with less recognition.

In public schools, where an excessive number of students have to fill up limited space, many teachers have to carry a small-sized loudspeaker at all times. The classroom noise makes it difficult to hear anyone. At home, you only have to listen to a few kids. Your children’s teachers must fight for a quiet moment with 40 or even more, who all need to be heard and understood.

In private schools, teachers have to cope with fussy parents who want to interfere with how their children are taught and trained. They put pressure on teachers and how they do their jobs. Some rich kids are, at times, disrespectful to their teachers. 

In the media, you read about stories of teachers who became so hopeless they resorted to physical abuse of their students, leaving the parents to go into a rage and attack the teachers whom they were supposed to “love” as tradition dictates. 

Understanding your children’s teachers and putting yourself in their shoes may be better than trying to “love” them. Every day, in the parent-teachers report e-book, we see what happened when our kids were at school; their names were noted for not doing homework, for under-average grades, or their best grades or achievements. 

As parents, we tend to like to hear about our kid’s achievements and success more than anything else. Good news about our children’s success at school tends to please our ears more and flatter our sense of success more than any other professional accolades. 

Some of my rich friends decided to send their children to an international school because they did not want to hear about their children’s shortcomings 

“I hate to hear and see that the teachers have listed as my kid’s wrongdoing in the Vietnamese school,” one said. 

I, for one, am no exception when it comes to helping our children learn and succeed at school. The only difference, I guess, is the attitude towards our children’s try-but-fail efforts. Such shortcomings tell us much more about a child’s character, attention span, skills, and effort than anything else.

During my child’s primary school years, she was very frustrated she could not match her best friend, who got top marks in all subjects. In that situation, you cannot compete against a superhero kid, and can never win the race, so why bother to start it in the first place!

I believe a child’s time at school is to try to figure out what they like and do not like, how to correct their own mistakes, learn the right way, and then to grow from there. 

Trying to be in a child’s shoes with an adult’s point of view, I realised something which I later told my child, which is if you get top marks all the time, and never taste the sour bitterness of a lower grade, you’ll never fully grasp the sweetness of a hard-earned success. Also, from a child’s perspective, they learn more from their shortcomings. 

Teachers’ work is as challenging as ever. My children’s teachers still sent class reports late at night, and if you have a question, they will help you find a solution. They will list your child as having unfinished homework but never stop encouraging your child to do better, work harder and notice even tiny changes in your child’s growth, both physical and mental health. 

Understanding their perspectives will gradually bridge the gap between the two sides. Parents and teachers share one common goal, to help children grow and teach them to become good people. 

Thank you. It seems to be too polite a word to say on this special day. But thank you. Dear teachers, we are always grateful for your actions, for pointing out our children’s mistakes, and for encouraging them to be better every day. We thank you for giving so much in a job that does not always give back.

We love you! VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/without-teachersour-children-could-not-succeed_339228.html

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HCM City to host ASEAN food festival

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SOUTHEAST ASIAN SPECIALTIES: Vietnamese cuisine will be presented at the ASEAN Food Festival held in HCM City from November 24-27. VNA/VNS Photo Mỹ Phương

HCM CITY HCM City is hosting a food festival featuring traditional cuisine from Southeast Asian countries in the downtown area from November 24-27.

The event is organised by the HCM City Union of Friendship Organisations (HUFO) and its partners, the Việt Nam–ASEAN Friendship Organisation, to mark the 55th anniversary of the South-East Asian block.

Hồ Xuân Lâm, HUFO’s vice chairman, said the event aimed to promote friendship and cooperation among people in Việt Nam and other ASEAN countries.

The festival includes 46 stalls showcasing food, tea, coffee and specialities from restaurants and businesses from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Việt Nam, as well as universities and colleges in the city.

There will be performances of traditional music and dance from ASEAN countries, street art performances and cooking shows.

The festival takes place on Lê Lợi Street on District 1, and is expected to attract a large number of visitors. — VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/events/hcm-city-to-host-asean-food-festival_339481.html

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Cỗ lá, the food tray that demonstrates Mường ethnic culture in Hòa Bình

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Thúy Hằng

For Mường ethnic people, especially those living in Hòa Bình Province, cỗ lá (literally means a food tray displaying several dishes) is more than just a popular food. The food tray represents Mường culture and is an integral part of important occasions, weddings, funerals, New Year or new house celebrations.

A traditional food that has been kept and inherited from generation to generation of Mường people, cỗ lá is unique – from the selection of ingredients to the way of cooking and the food presentation – through which to present the conception of human life of Mường people.

Cỗ lá is very unique presents the conception about human life of Mường people. — VNS Photos Thúy Hằng

Bùi Xuân Phú and wife Nguyễn Thị Vi run Mường Thàng Quán – a restaurant specialising in Mường dishes in Hòa Bình City for 20 years. To create the distinctive yet natural light sweetness of the dishes, all dishes presented on cỗ lá should be prepared with wild leaves and vegetables collected in forests or gardens.

“Depending on the scale of the event, a cỗ lá should consist of at least seven different dishes, including the compulsory ones of cỗ ngọn (slices of boiled pig liver, heart, and maw), boiled pork, chả lá bưởi (grilled pork in pomelo leaves), grilled pork in banana leaves, gà đồ măng chua (steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots), rau đồ (steamed wild vegetable), and canh loóng chuối (soup cooked with wild banana stem),” Vi said.

The Mường woman also said that it takes at least one and a half hours to prepare a cỗ lá because “you have to finish cooking all the dishes before displaying them all on the tray.”

Gà đồ măng chua (steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots). 

To grill the pork, Vi said that it’s necessary to marinate with lá mắc mật (clausen indica leaves) and hạt dổi (wild pepper) to get the aromatic flavour for the meat.

The steamed chicken with sour bamboo shoots should be chopped into bite-sized pieces before mixing with sour bamboo shoots and a little bit of salt, then wrapped in banana leave and steamed for about half an hour.

“The tip to making this dish good is the ingredients. Hen is preferred as its texture is more tender. To make the sour bamboo shoot, we use only the bamboo shoot of giang (a kind of green-trunk bamboo) as it retains the natural sweetness after being fermented,” Vi revealed her cooking tricks.

The savoury and palatable canh loóng chuối is cooked with wild banana stem, pig bone, and lá lốt – a kind of aromatic leaves.

Canh loóng chuối is cooked with wild banana stem, pig bone, and lá lốt – a kind of aromatic leaves. 

Her husband Phú said there are some rules for the presentation of cỗ lá.

“The presentation of a cỗ lá for a wedding or festive event must be different from the one for a funeral,” he said. “A tray must be spread with a banana leaf cut in half. However, for the wedding, the tip of the leaf has to point out; on the contrary, for a funeral, the tip has to point in.”

In the old days, Mường people used only wild banana leaves to spread on the tray. But nowadays, when finding wild bananas is inconvenient, they can replace by other kinds of banana leaves, except the aromatic banana “because it has lots of acrid resin that can harm the taste and flavour of the food displayed on it,” Phú said.

He also said that to prepare cỗ lá for important occasions such as weddings or new year celebrations, each family has raised pigs and chicken for a year before butchering the best ones to offer to the ancestors.

In the past, wealthy families used an engraved copper tray to display cỗ lá while ordinary people used the bamboo tray.

According to the 65-year-old restauranteur, seating arrangement rules had to be followed in the old days.

“In the Mường stilt house, the side with windows has been specified as the ‘upper place’, which is for elders only, and the younger ones sit next, in order from old to young,” Phú said.

Nguyễn Thị Vi, co-owner of Mường Thàng Quán, a restaurant specialising in Mường dishes in Hòa Bình City, demonstrates how to present a cỗ lá. 

Due to modernisation, traditional custom has been fading. Many can not speak the Mường ethnic language, and they don’t use the correct Vietnamese word when they mention cỗ lá.

“Many of our guests, especially the young ones, when they place an order for cỗ lá, instead of asking for a mâm cỗ lá (a tray of cỗ lá), they used mẹt cỗ lá (flat winnowing basket of cỗ lá). In our culture, the flat winnowing basket is used to offer food for the Hungry Ghost,” Phú said.

Nguyễn Xuân Tùng, a tourist from Hà Nội, said that although he had many chances to taste cỗ lá when he travelled to many places in the northwestern region, the one he sampled at Mường Thàng Quán is the best.

“It’s not only about the food, but about the rich ethnic culture presented through every dish, especially the traditional customs and stories told by the restaurant owners, who are authentic Mường people,” Tùng said. — VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/co-lathe-food-tray-that-demonstrates-muong-ethnic-culture-in-hoa-binh_339592.html

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Việt Nam takes move to curb obesity

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Students do morning exercises at a preschool in the southern city of Vĩnh Long. VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI – Việt Nam’s Ministry of Health has issued its first specialised guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of obesity in response to the increasing obesity rate in the last decade.

According to the National Nutrition Census 2019-2020 of the National Institute of Nutrition, the rate of overweight and obese children increased 2.2 times, from 8.5 per cent in 2010 to 19.0 per cent in 2020.

According to the Ministry of Health, in 2020, the rate of overweight and obesity in urban areas reached 26.8 per cent, in rural areas 18.3 per cent and mountainous areas 6.9 per cent. 

The National Institute of Nutrition also announced the obesity rate among children in inner districts in HCM City surpassed 50 per cent. In comparison, the rate in Hà Nội surpassed 41 per cent.

Guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of obesity promulgated under Decision No. 2892/QD-BYT dated October 22, 2022, are applied at medical examination and treatment facilities across the country.

Prof. Dr Trần Hữu Dàng, President of the Việt Nam Association of Endocrinology – Diabetes, said that the guidance marked a milestone that could help millions of Vietnamese people prevent obesity and its complications such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, or sleep apnea.

Dàng said that obesity adversely affects all health problems, reduces life expectancy, causes many chronic diseases and reduces the quality of life.

“Measures to prevent and treat overweight and obesity and maintain long-term weight control can improve health status and reduce complications for patients,” he said.

“However, obesity has not been paid enough attention. Obese people usually struggle to lose weight, and many of them believe in and use remedies that are advertised online without health workers’ consultation,” he said.

“According to the World Health Organisation and the American Medical Association, obesity is a chronic disease requiring long-term management and treatment because obesity causes a lot of dangerous complications, affecting people’s health,” Dàng said.

According to Doctor Nghiêm Nguyệt Thu,  Head of the Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, National Institute of Nutrition, the way in which obese people try to lose weight is the issue.

Thu said that many people aim to lose four or five kg a month, which is not sustainable.

“The goal of losing weight is not to pressure obese people to fast or exercise until fainting. However, a weight loss goal set between 5-15 per cent over six months is realistic and has proven health benefits,” Thu said.

“Lifestyle interventions are the foundation for maintaining safe and sustainable weight loss, including nutritional interventions, physical exercise, behaviour change, and psychological support,” she said.

Drug treatment is only applied after three-month lifestyle interventions do not help lose five per cent of weight or for patients with a BMI of more than 25 kg/m2.

The surgical weight loss method is only suggested for cases with a BMI  of 35 kg/m2 or higher, or those with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 with other obesity-related comorbidities. 

“The challenge for nutritional treatment is to make patients change their behaviour. No amount of exercise is effective if people keep eating too much,”  said Thu.

Experts recommend eating more boiled green vegetables and fewer sweet fruits. In addition, people should exercise for 30-60 minutes a day.

Dr Phan Bích Nga from the National Institute of Nutrition said a high-sugar diet with too much sugar and unhealthy fats often found in cakes, soft drinks, sauces, junk food, and fast food, plus not getting enough rest and inactivity are the leading causes of excess energy and metabolic disorders.

However, she noted that these concerns should not matter until children are at least three years old, as their bodies naturally carry more fat. VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/viet-nam-takes-move-to-curb-obesity_339400.html

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