When Cuban doctors celebrate Tet holiday in Vietnam
VOV.VN - Cuban doctors who work at the Vietnam – Cuba Friendship Hospital have a great experience when they celebrate the Lunar New Year, known locally as Tet, with their Vietnamese colleagues.
Half a century ago, Cuban president Fidel Castro visited Quang Binh province dubbed the ‘land of fire’ during the national war of resistance against American imperialism. Witnessing with his own eyes Vietnamese people’s pain and losses, he decided to build a hospital in order to treat local people and wounded soldiers from the southern battlefield.
Later Cuba sent hundreds of experts and engineers, as well as medical supplies and equipment, to build the Vietnam - Cuba Friendship Hospital in Dong Hoi city of Quang Binh province. Cuba has since sent medical experts and doctors to work alongside their Vietnamese colleagues at the hospital in order to help examine and treat patients.
Oncologist Alfredo Garcia Mirete has wonderful feelings about the Vietnamese Lunar New Year as he has been working at the hospital for four years. On the days leading up to Tet, he and his colleagues go to the market to get something for the holiday. Everyone helps him to buy Bánh chưng, a Tet delicacy which is a cake made from sticky rice, pork, green beans, and pepper; prepare traditional dishes such as ginger jam and pickled onions; and decorate the house with peach blossoms and a kumquat branch.
He recalls that during his first Tet celebration, his Vietnamese colleagues bought him colourful decorative wall hangings that contain people’s best wishes such as good health, happiness, and good luck in the new year ahead. After Tet, the Cuban doctor took down the hangings and carefully kept them in his closet. He sometimes takes them out and looks at them to contemplate the past. Over the following years, he also bought apricot and peach branches to decorate his house, making the Tet holiday even more cheerful.
“It’s interesting that people converge on wet markets and supermarkets to purchase things for the Tet holiday. More importantly, Tet is the time when Vietnamese people commemorate their ancestors. It is a fine traditional custom that cannot be seen in Cuba,” shares the Cuban doctor.
Meanwhile, Prof. Dr Jesus De Los Santos Reno Cespedes, who is also an oncologist, recalls that he was given a small kumquat tree by a Vietnamese girl when he went shopping during his first new year celebration at Dong Hoi wet market. He had not understood her gesture until he heard about Vietnamese people’s habit of buying a kumquat tree as home decoration during the Tet holiday. After that, he planted a kumquat tree on the premise of the hospital, and to his surprise it is now blooming and bearing fruit.
The doctor notices that, unlike in Cuban culture, Vietnamese people hold a party at home on New Year’s Day before visiting relatives, neighbours, and friends on the following days to extend New Year greetings to each other. He says he feels excited when many Vietnamese colleagues invite him into their houses to celebrate Tet.
“During Tet, I am invited to take part in a cozy party with my Vietnamese colleagues at the hospital. I am very happy at celebrating and enjoying a very warm, jubilant atmosphere there. I still remember that last year my colleagues and I erected a bamboo tree, a symbol of the Tet holiday in Vietnam, in front of the Hall of Residence for foreign experts in the hospital. It was interesting that we also hung the national flags of both Vietnam and Cuba during the Tet holiday there,” recalls the doctor.
In front of the Hall of Residence, the doctors placed eye-catching pots of ornamental plants beautifully decorated with rows of multicoloured lights. They all organise a year-end party with bánh chưng, pickled onions, frozen meat, pork sausage, and boiled chicken among other typical Tet dishes.
Dr. Nguyen Pham Tuan has been working alongside Cuban doctors at the hospital for several years. Every Tet, he comes to wish his Cuban colleagues a Happy New Year.
“In the days leading up to Tet, we always try to get closer to the Cuban doctors because at that time they also miss their relatives at home. We try to ease their nostalgia by holding a warm year-end party. The leadership of the hospital also comes to extend New Year greetings and present them with lucky money, a fine traditional custom of Vietnamese people during Tet. I feel as if the Cuban doctors have been familiar with Vietnamese culture,” says Dr. Tuan.
Since the Dong Hoi-based Vietnam - Cuba Friendship Hospital welcomed Cuban medical experts to work and provide medical support, thousands of patients in Quang Binh province have been saved from death. The Cuban doctors’ task is to assist their Vietnamese colleagues with cases which require a high level of expertise. This has become a bridge for the strong, long-standing friendship between the two peoples over recent decades.