Nguyen Anh Tuan

Late Monday afternoon the body of Nguyen Anh Tuan was brought back to our hem in an open coffin. The coffin has been placed under a makeshift tarpaulin in a tiny communal area at the junction of two hems because the family do not have the space to fit it in their house. The family were able to gather around their loved one and pay their last respects before the plastic bag in which Tuan’s body was placed was sealed and the lid put into place.

I followed the coffin as it was carried down the hem and stood to one side as family and friends poured out their grief. The boy’s mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins were gathered there and I felt so sorry for them in their loss. The great grandmother, a frail lady of 80 years is one of my favourite persons in this hem and my heart went out to her when I saw her sobbing so hard. I went over to her and held her arm for a few moments.

Later on Monday evening we had flowers delivered and went and sat with the family around the coffin drinking tea and eating roasted watermelon seeds. Through an English speaking student we expressed our sympathy to the relatives and I hope that we were able to convey the fact that the loss of a loved one crosses all boundaries and that cultural boundaries are no exception.

The hem has been full of visitors and mourners especially a large group of the boys young friends, all of whom are similar to Tuan in that they all drive too fast on loud motorbikes. This large group of young people has been camped out in the hem overnight and the sounds of their singing and drumming has reverberated through our house. They are still there as I write this and I expect that they will only leave when the coffin is removed today at 12 noon.

I find it difficult to describe the intensity of feeling that has existed here for the past few days, difficult because I don’t understand it fully myself.