Erin M McCuskey
Feisty filmmaker, photographer, projectionist.
Mrs Ly Man May - celebrating her ghosts
Women of Ta Phin 3: Mrs Ly Man May - A series of images and tales from Viet Nam.
This is our Ta Phin homestay host Mrs Ly Man May. She opens her home for visitors like us to stay overnight or for a few days. Many of the women in Ta Phin now operate homestays. It is such a beautiful way to experience the culture close up, without feeling like you are taking advantage, (unlike many tourists who stomp into then out of the village and spend their money in the city).
We got off the bus with our guide and walked to the home of Mrs Ly Man May. Well I say walk but actually it was a climb, through mud, bridges and rutted paths. I only made it because two women from the village helped us all the way, holding our hands while carrying large baskets of craft on their backs. I felt like an ungainly giant, stomping and flailing my arms while being dragged up the mountain by locals.
But we soon got our Ta Phin legs after a few times into the village and back. For anyone put off by the thought of climbing a hill, rest easy, there are home stays in the village that are not on hills!
Mrs Ly Man May and her family opened their home to us, and have made some changes to make it more comfortable for we giants, such as a fridge and flushing toilet. The Red Dao live in rudimentary buildings that are large enough to hold the village it seems. They leave their doors open to allow the movement of ghosts through the building, and they have an open fire in the middle of the main room. We sat many times staring into the flames, wondering, thinking.
During our stay Mrs Ly Man May takes a visit from a woman with a sick child. She chants and waves burning charcoal over the child. She is mesmeric and the child stops its wailing. Later a village shaman arrives to bless the spirit of Mrs Ly Man May, he does the same for other villagers, paying homage to their other world. His visit is special and a fabulous feast is arranged.
We throw back rice wine served from china teapots. The men stay up drinking while the women sit in the kitchen waiting for the men to finish so that they might clean up. It gave Mrs Ly Man May time to catch with her married daughter who had come to visit.
Being married for women means moving away from the homes of their childhood and into their husbands family home. For Mrs Ly Man May and her daughter this was a recent move and they missed each other dearly. For we visitors being part of the family at this time was an extraordinary experience.
We will be releasing more images of the women of Ta Phin on this blog, you can sign up in the form at top right.
Ly Ta May
Mrs Ly Ta May King