An enlightened village

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Hospitality and cleanliness are hallmarks of a remote ethnic village in Quang Nam

 A Lang Thi Tinh, a Co Tu woman, brings her family's tray to the Aur village communal house to feed guests, all of whom are offered food by every family in the village

We visited Aur village, which is situated in a dense forest deep inside Tay Giang District in the central province of Quang Nam, recently with an ethnic Co Tu guide.

Patriarch A Lang Ren welcomed us with a smile and shook our hands before leading us to their communal house – a large traditional stilt house in the middle of the village.

Once we were seated on mats woven from a kind of bark by local women, Ren let out howls, in response to which four middle-aged women brought dried wood to the house and started lighting a fire to keep us warm.

Less than 15 minutes later Bling Trai, another woman, brought a net basket full of fish caught in a stream not far from the village.

Soon after that a representative of each family showed up in formal clothes and with trays consisting of foods like cassava leaf soup, dried squirrel meat, bacon, and rice besides rice wine.

The village is home to 21 families, and the trays were arranged in a long line along the length of the house. The newly-caught fish were either grilled on fire or braised.

“If you cannot eat all the food, eat a little from every family’s tray, otherwise they will be sad,” Ren told us, sipping wine from a bowl.

He said for many generations his village has been observing the custom of treating every guest well, whoever they were and whenever they came. Every family has to provide them with whatever they have, he explained.

According to local man A Lang Ot, the village stream has lots of large fish, but villagers never catch them for personal use but only to treat guests.

Happy village

Bui Tan Truong, a teacher at a primary school in the village, expressed admiration for the locals’ lifestyle, which he described as “unusually civilized and prosperous.”

He said the people did not destroy the forest but lived with it, picking rare mushrooms, plants, and roots to exchange for things like shampoo and fish sauce.

“Everything here is very clean. You are not allowed to litter.

“Villagers are punished by being ordered to sweep the whole village if found violating the rule, while guests are warned.”

The villagers raised pigs, cows, and buffalos but the animals were kept in a field near the stream, he said.

They do not “dare to touch” streams, which are their water sources, for washing or bathing, he said.

“The kids always look tidy and bright, even though their clothes may not be new.”

People work hard, are frugal, and love each other, which protects the 21 families from hunger, he said.

“Aur is a very happy village.”  

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