Natural shampoo

On the last day of the year, after making banh chung and many kinds of food for Tet, there is something you must do: washing your hair with herbal water – the natural shampoo that you can make at home.

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Gleditsia fruits – if you don’t have much time to prepare, you just need them to make your own natural shampoo

All things you need to do is walking into your garden, looking for some kinds of leaves with good smell such as lemongrass, old coriander, holy basil… Picking them up, your finger will be cover with natural fragrance. Finding some pieces of pomelo skin, gleditsia fruits… After that, you wash them to make sure they are clean, dip them into a pot of clean water and boil them for about 10 minutes. After that, you put the water into a basin or a sink. You remove all the herbs and wait for the water to be cool. Using the water to wash your hair will make you feel so comfortable, so relax.

This year, as many other years, I told my mom to let me wash her hair. We talked a lot of things while washing it. And now, I’m writing this after washing mine. I have to tell you that I like using herbal water much more than using shampoo.

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Họp phụ huynh

Dạo này, mình liên tục được họp phụ huynh. Hôm thì 1 người, hôm thì 2 người. Tuần rồi, mình có nguyên cả ngày thứ Năm để họp. Mấy năm nay, đã họp phụ huynh thì thường là mình được họp phụ huynh kiểu 1 – 1, chỉ có 1 giáo viên (mình) và phụ huynh của 1 học sinh. Trao đổi với mình xong, phụ huynh có thể tiếp tục đến gặp gỡ, trao đổi với các giáo viên khác và ngược lại. Người ta bảo đó là phong cách họp phụ huynh của trường quốc tế, còn mình thấy chẳng cần phải quốc tế thì nhiều nơi cũng dùng cách này rồi, nó thể hiện sự tôn trọng cá nhân từng học sinh, và cả phụ huynh nữa!

Mỗi lần họp như vậy mang cho mình những cảm xúc khác nhau. Lần đầu tiên họp theo cách này, là sự lo lắng, băn khoăn. Rồi có những buổi thấy mệt mỏi vì khoảng cách giữa phụ huynh và giáo viên sao mà xa thế. Và có những buổi thì tưng bừng như gặp bạn lâu năm… Tựu trung lại, mình rất mong chờ mỗi lần họp phụ huynh, hay thế đấy!

Thứ Năm vừa rồi mang lại cho mình nhiều nụ cười, và cả những cơn đau đầu váng vất. Buổi sáng, mình gặp gỡ, trò chuyện chủ yếu với các phụ huynh có con học theo phương pháp mới với mình và các thầy cô giáo trong trường đến nay là năm thứ hai, nên đã rất vui vẻ, tin tưởng vào phương pháp làm việc của thầy cô và học trò, cũng như tích cực ghi nhận sự tiến bộ của con cái. Một số ít khác là các bố mẹ sinh sống ở nước ngoài, mới đưa con trở lại Việt Nam, và một vài bạn chuyển từ các trường khác đến. Điều mình được nghe nhiều nhất là: “Công nhận con học theo sách Cánh Buồm thế này khác hẳn em ạ. Tự tin và chủ động lắm. Con thích viết, và đã có thói quen viết rồi đấy!” Một phụ huynh có cậu con trai tinh nghịch chia sẻ: “Năm nay chị hoàn toàn yên tâm, vì các thầy cô rất tâm lý, hiểu rõ đặc điểm và cá tính của con, nên có cách làm việc khiến con yêu thích!” Phụ huynh khác, mới đưa con từ nước ngoài về thì vui mừng: “Trời ơi, trước khi về nước chị lo lắm, chị sợ con không học được tiếng Việt. Thế mà bây giờ thấy con yêu vừa thích học, vừa tiến bộ nhiều thế này, chị mừng quá em ơi!” Có phụ huynh thì nói với mình rưng rưng: “Mấy năm nay con cứ nói con sợ văn, con dốt văn. Thế mà mới vào học ở đây hai tuần, chị thấy con tự lấy sổ ra viết, rồi còn bảo với bố mẹ là: Con thích học văn rồi, con thích đóng kịch nữa! Chị bất ngờ quá!” Những người đã từng hợp với mình các năm trước thì gật gù chia sẻ những việc học sinh của mình làm ở nhà, và tấm tắc về những điều các bạn ấy học được. Người ít hài lòng nhất, có lẽ là ông bạn mình, vì cả mình và bạn ấy đều biết, chúng mình có thể và nhất thiết sẽ phải làm được nhiều hơn thế cho học sinh, để các bạn ấy thực sự là những con người tự chủ và sáng tạo! Câu hỏi chung mà phụ huynh đặt ra với mình không còn là “Tại sao các cô làm thế này….” “Sách Cánh Buồm liệu có hiệu quả không?”, mà là “Ở nhà, anh chị nên làm gì để hỗ trợ tốt nhất cho con?” Thực sự, phụ huynh và giáo viên đã là những người bạn.

Buổi chiều, mình họp với các phụ huynh mới tinh, có con học ở các trường khác mấy năm, giờ mới “đánh bạo” chuyển con đến đây. Ai cũng chia sẻ thật nhiều về đặc điểm của con, về những băn khoăn trăn trở khi chuyển con sang một môi trường học mới. Mình cũng tỉ mỉ chia sẻ về những điều đã và sẽ làm cùng con cái họ. Phụ huynh nào cũng gật gù ghi nhận những điểm mới ở con mình và khấp khởi hi vọng đây thực sự là lựa chọn sáng suốt của họ, kèm theo nỗi băn khoăn “Học theo cách này có vẻ hiệu quả với con thật, nhưng liệu sau vài năm, nếu chuyển ra trường công, con có học được không?” Quả thật, đó là điều ám ảnh không chỉ với một người. Mình đã nói với phụ huynh, rằng khi đã học được phương pháp học, đã thực sự chủ động và biết tự học, thì con có thể thích ứng với mọi hoàn cảnh. Tuy thế, mình vẫn thấy những ánh mắt đầy hoang mang. Mình còn mong lần họp sau, những ánh mắt ấy sẽ được thay thế bằng sự tin tưởng, và mong các phụ huynh mới của mình cũng sẽ vui vẻ, hào hứng khoe với mình về những việc con làm đầy tự hào, và bớt đi những băn khoăn hiện đang đeo đuổi. Mình biết, để đạt được điều đó, mình và các thầy cô giáo khác sẽ còn phải nỗ lực rất nhiều…

Điều duy nhất khiến mình ngẩn ra, không biết nên đáp lại thế nào cho phải, là chia sẻ của một phụ huynh: “Bây giờ, con bận quá, học đủ thứ xong về đến nhà thì cũng muộn. Con anh học bơi, học vẽ, học tiếng Anh và còn đang theo một chương trình Homeschool của Mỹ nữa, nên bận lắm. Con và anh chị gần như không có thời gian ở cạnh nhau nữa. Dù có thời gian, con cũng ít nói chuyện với bố mẹ em ạ. Nhiều khi thấy hình như con không có gì để nói với mình, và mình cũng không có gì để nói với con. Cố bắt chuyện với con, con cũng chỉ trả lời qua loa cho có…”

Tay’s traditional stilt house

As many of you know, Vietnam is a multi-ethnic country. There are 54 ethnic groups in the official list. Each group has its own language, lifestyle. At many places, many ethnic groups live in a same village or their villages are beside each other. It’s easy to go to a Tay village and meet Kinh people, marriages between different ethnics are very popular. That’s why I have been used to with other ethnic people since I was a child. My village is between a Cao Lan’s village and a Tay’s village, and it is near to a Nung’s village. I had many friends who could teach me their languages (which I forgot now, what a shame!), took me to their home to play. We used to bring many kinds of fruits to school to share. Coming to their stilt houses, I really enjoyed sleeping on the bamboo or palm floors, felt the wind blowing my hair. However, I was too busy playing, eating and sleeping there to care about the structure of their house or their custom. Anyway, my friends used to tell me something I should and should not do at their house before we came, so their parents were always satisfied with me. Well, we never broke their rules… when they were watching us, of course.

Perhaps the sweet memory is one of reasons that I have kept coming to visit Vietnam museum of ethnology since I moved to Hanoi. The museum has an interesting collection of traditional houses of many ethnic groups in Vietnam. I hope soon it will have traditional houses of all ethnics. In this entry, I’ll tell you something I know about Tay’s traditional house.

Tay is the second largest group in my country after Viet group. If the Ede longhouse is my most favorite one, the house of Tay ethnic is the one that always calms me down, gives me peace when I am tired, stressful.

Tay’s traditional stilt house at Vietnam museum of ethnology

Tay house is usually built near to watercourses, at a foot mountain or alongside a river or spring. The house is surrounded by paddy field, palms, bamboo and other kinds of trees.

According to the museum, “The house has three main sections and two extensions, with the four inside columns and two at the tops carved to look like lotus flowers.” We can see all parts of the house in the picture below:

General arrangement drawing of Tay house in the museum

Tay house has many wooden pillars which form the shape of the house. It doesn’t have a real wall as all the walls of the house are made of woven bamboo pieces. These panels are easy to open to welcome wind into the house on hot days of summer. The thick palm leaf roof helps to keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter, too. The roof required almost 6.000 palm leaves. It is long and big enough to keep the sunshine not go directly into the house through bamboo wall.

Palm leaf roof

A bamboo fence is around the house. Going thru a bamboo gate, we’ll enter the dwelling area.

The house – a flower made of wood, bamboo and palm leaves

Near to the gate is a small palm shine dedicate to the God of land:

A wooden staircase leads us into the house. The staircase is very important to Tay people. To step on the staircase to enter the house, everyone has to wash their feet clean first, using water from a bamboo tube next to the staircase.

Bamboo tube with water to clean your feet before entering the house (every family always has to keep it full of water)

People also remember to take off their shoes. When greeting important guests, the house owner usually come down to invite them. The owner is also behind guests when walking up the staircase to protect them and guide them into his house.

The staircase – the number of stair is always an odd number, usually 9 or 11

At the top of the staircase is the “water terrace”. The terrace is made of bamboo or pieces of palm trees. As the name of it, people keep water there. It’s also place to wash everything to prepare to cook, place to bath, washing hair… On rainy days or hot days, it’s also the place that women sit to sew clothes and men to sharpen their knives. Sitting there on a hot day you’ll see how wonderful a stilt house is for sure.

Water terrace

Staircase and terrace are also the area that the daughters of the owner and their boyfriends sit and talk in evenings.

Next to the terrace is drying place (drying yard) where people use to put things that need to be dried such as raw corn, manioc roots…
Drying place

Entering the house, you’ll step on bamboo floor. People usually sit right on the bamboo floor to discuss things. Therefore, you usually don’t see too many tables and chairs in a Tay’s house.
A look from the door

Near the door, it is the pantry area, husked rice granary, newlywed’s room and finally another granary to keep rice and other things. They are arranged along the bamboo wall. That is considered as the back part of the house, the front part of the house is sleeping area.

A part of sleeping area – look from center of the house

People usually sleep on mats which are covered bamboo floor. It seems like Ede longhouse, you don’t see any bed in their bedrooms. If there are old people living in the house, their sleeping places are made of wood and put higher than others’ sleeping places to show the respect of the family.

Sleeping place of an old person in the family

The pantry was designed with two parts look like two drawers:
Pantry

On the higher part are many bowls, knives, pots…

But the interesting thing in pantry area to me is the other part: you can see many wooden things, such as, wooden bowls, wooden basket, wooden tray, wooden sink… even wooden sandals.

On a wall of the pantry room has a small altar of kitchen God. People believe that the kitchen God take care of their family’s activities.

Opposite the pantry room is the kitchen, or I’d better said: fire place. So it’s easy to find something you need when cooking, I think. The fire place is considered the heart of the house.

Fire place

It is not only where people cook every day but also the place for people to sit around and talk together. Family stories are usually shared here. When neighbors come to their house, they also sit around the fire to talk. Tay people avoid yelling at others in the house, especially in kitchen place. They believe that if family members argue or shout at each others, they are insulting their ancestor and Gods of the house so they will be punished in many ways, such as being sick or getting bad luck.

In winter, they keep the fire all the time to keep the house warm. People hang many things above the fire to keep them dry so they can use them longer. It is like a small storage:

Newlywed’s room or other name is the bride’s room is a special place for the new bride.

Inside the Newlywed’s room

When a son in the family gets married, his wife will sleep there. On the wedding day, the bride sleeps together with her bridesmaid. Only from the second day, the couple can share the bed. Except her husband, no man is allowed to come into the bride’s room. That’s why sometimes you may see many men at home but they still go to the paddy field to call the mother come home when her baby cry – well, she forgot to take him out of the bride’s room before going to work 😀

Ascestor altar

Guests or women in the family who have just given birth are not allowed to sit or sleep in front of ancestor altar.

Another thing I love is that in a Tay traditional house, we can see many windows which are opened to bring wind and light into the house.

A window

Under the floor, Tay people usually keep farm furniture, such as, ploughs, rakes, mortars, wooden mallets…
wooden mortar

Under the floor

When coming to a Tay house during Tet (New Year Days), you can see many red papers on ancestor altar, wall and other things. Tay people believe these red papers will bring good luck into the family and protect them from bad spirits. They also have wonderful songs singing to welcome spring. Perhaps you’ll want to visit them one day.

Looking for mother/ Tìm mẹ

Once upon a time, in a small village, there was a poor family. When the first child was born, the father said: “As we have worked hard for the whole life, we still can’t have a house. We should name him House, hope he will have a house to live.” And the mother cried and agreed with him: “Let name him House”.

After some years, their daughter was born. The father said: “As we have worked hard all days, we still can’t have enough rice to eat. We should name her Rice, hope she will have enough rice in her life.” The mother again agreed with him. “Let name her Rice” – she said while tears were on her face.

The couple worked hard all days and nights. The father worked on the field in the daytime. At night, he went to the forest to hunt. All rice he planted, he had to give to the Lord of the village. All animals he hunted, he also had to bring to the Lord of the village. The mother went to catch fish and snails. All fish and snails she got, she had to bring to the Lord of the village. The Lord of the village returned them only a little of what they brought to him. “If it stays this way, our House will never have a house and our Rice will never have rice” – the father said. The mother cried for her children. Then, the father continued: “We can bear that but our children, how could they stand such situation? We have to try to have a house for them, to have rice for them!” However, no matter they tried, they still gained nothing – everything had to give to the Lord of the village and the greedy Lord gave they nothing.

One winter day, when House cried hard for cold and Rice cried hard for hunger, the father came to the village Lord and asked him for a bit of rice to feed his children. The Lord got angry and shouted at him: “Everything on this land is mine. How dare you come here and ask for anything? Go away!” He asked his servants to get the father out of his house. The father had to leave without rice. However, the Lord suddenly thought that if the poor man dared to come here and asked him for rice, he must dare to steal his rice. So, the Lord rode his horse to go after the father. He saw the father crying while walking, he killed the poor father and pushed him down into a cave. The Lord thought no one could know what he did. But in the cave, the father cried for the last time: “Oh God, the Lord of the village killed me!” Leaves of the forest whispered: “The Lord of the village killed a man.” Mountains whispered: “The Lord of the village killed a man.”

While riding home, the Lord suddenly thought: “His wife and his children could know about this, I’d better kill them too.” So he turned his horse to look for the poor mother and her children.

At that time, on the mountain, under the shadow of a huge tree, the mother was holding her children. House and Rice were too hungry, they kept crying. The mother did not know what she should do. Suddenly, she felt hurt in her heart, she wondered what happened. She tried to sing a lullaby to help her children sleep. She hoped that when they woke up, their father came and brought some rice for them. Some lice kept sucking her, she said to them: “Please suck me, do not suck my children!” The lice said: “The Lord of the village sent us here to kill you. Now we sucked all your blood, we will leave.” So they left. Only the smallest louse stayed and told the mother: “Poor you, the Lord of the village killed your husband, and now he is coming to kill you and your children. You should run right now otherwise it will be too late. I will stay with you to take care of your children.”

The mother woke her children up. Holding Rice in her arms and House on her back, the louse on her clothes, she tried to come to higher place. House asked his mother: “Oh mother, I’m too cold. Where are we going? Where is father?” Rice asked the mother: “Oh mother, I’m too hungry. Where are we going? Where is father?” The mother told her children to be silent, the Lord of the village was going after them and he tried to kill them all. The children were too scared.

Bring her children with her, the mother thought that going to higher place, the Lord of the village may not get them but she did not know how to find food for her children. The louse said: “Soon you will pass the cave of grandpa Stone, you should ask him a bit of rice.” When the mother passed the cave of the grandpa Stone, she did not dare to ask. The grandpa Stone gave her his basket of rice: “Take this to feed your children. You should go quickly! The Lord of the village has come near here already.” The mother thanked him.

She kept hiking. Her legs and her hand got hurt because of the sharp rocks and thorns of many trees but she did not know. The sun rose when they got to a high mountain. Staying there, their village looked as small as a hand. The mother said: “This is very high. Perhaps the Lord and his servants can’t come here.” House said: “Oh mother, they can. The other day I came here with grandpa Stone to cut down big trees, servants of the Lord came and took all wood we had. The mother said: “We have to go higher.” House told her that he could walk by himself – “I’m grown up, mother” – he said. At that time, they heard the sound of the Lord’s horse.

So the mother kept Rice on her back and ran with her son to higher mountains. The louse was still on her clothes. When they came to a top of another mountain, their village looked as small as a finger nail. The mother asked House: “Dear, do you know this mountain?” He answered: “Yes, mother. One day I came here with grandpa Stone to cut some rattan. The Lord of the village came after us and robbed all the rattan. The mother got terrified: “We have to go higher place!” Rice told her: “Mother, let me go by myself, I’m grown up now.” So House took Rice’s hand, ran ahead and the mother with the basket of rice ran after them. The louse was still on her clothes.

They reached the top of another mountain. From there, they didn’t see their village, only white cloud around them. The mother asked her son: “Dear, do you know this mountain?” House answered: “No, mother. I’ve never come here.” So she decided to stay under shadow of a tree. House and Rice sat on her laps, slept easily because they were too tired. Looking at her children, the mother cried: “Staying here, the Lord of the village cannot get us but if I stay, I will eat my children’s rice. I have to go to find more rice for them.” Therefore she gently put their children on some leaves on the ground and hang the basket of rice on the tree, put a dried branch of tree next to her children. She took off her old shirt, covered her children. She still could not walk away. The louse whispered:
-You should go to look for more rice for them. You should be hurry. If you see the Lord of the village, turn into the rattan forest. The forest will protect you. The Lord rides horse, he won’t be able go in there.
-Will the Lord come here?
– If he sees you, he will chase after you and won’t come here. Don’t worry.
– If he still comes here?
– So I’ll fight against him.

The mother went down. She heard the sound of the Lord’s horse, she saw him. The mother ran into rattan forest. The Lord of the village went after her but his horse couldn’t go because rattan tied its legs. The Lord left his horse and ran after the mother by himself. Rattan gave the mother a road but they scratched the Lord’s body, tore his clothes by thorns. The mother tried to run. The Lord could not go further, he had to go back and took his horse. His face and his body were bleeding, he was so angry.

When House and Rice woke up, they didn’t saw their mother. Rice cried, House told his sister: “Don’t cry, our mother soon will come back, dear.” He called out for his mother. The louse pretended the mother voice called back to him. He said to her sister: “Mother is near here. Don’t worry.” Then he saw the basket of rice, he used the dried branch tree to take some rice for Rice and for himself. The louse lulled them to sleep.

The Lord intended to come back to the village, suddenly he heard someone sing lullaby. He turned his horse to look for. The louse heard the sound of the Lord’s horse, it left the children, came down the mountain. The Lord followed the voice he heard, only saw a small louse. He asked if it saw the mother and her children – he asked for 3 times, and 3 times the louse said no. He was too angry, he picked the louse up and put it into his mouth, swallowed it. The louse said to him: “You killed a man, now you kill a louse. You are too wicked. You do not deserve to be a human!” The Lord turned into a tiger. The tiger was so terrified, ran into the forest. One day, the tiger saw a young woman working in the forest. It scared her and forced her to come to its cave to be its wife.

Since the Lord turned into the tiger, people in the village lived more easily but the tiger requested them give it a liver of pig or buffalo every day or it would kill people. Villagers were so angry but they could not kill the tiger so they had to obey its request. Every day, they put a liver next to the stream of the village and the tiger came to take it.

About House and Rice, they ate all rice in the basket but their mother did not come back. Rice cried a lot. House decided to come back to the village to look for their mother and find some rice for his sister. When they came to the stream, they saw a pig liver. House took the liver, made fire as grandpa Stone had taught him and roasted liver for his sister. The tiger came to take the liver but didn’t find it. The liger looked around. It saw the children but could not catch them because House played trick on it. It came back to the cave and told its wife that she had to come to the stream and bring the children home if she did not want to be killed.

The woman cried and went to the stream. House and Rice saw a woman crying beside the stream. They came to her and asked what happened to her. She told the children her story and said that she could not let the tiger kill them. Rice asked her to help them find their mother. The woman thought and found her own plan. She told the children hide into her long dress. She came back and told the tiger she could not find the children. She said she was pregnant and prepared to bear a child so the tiger should give her private. The tiger did not come to her place for some days. The woman and the two children planned to kill the tiger.

When the tiger asked her if she gave birth to a human baby or a tiger, she said that were two human babies. The tiger wanted to eat their livers but she told it to wait for more time because their livers were too small to eat. Tiger said it would wait for three more days. House told the woman to come to the stream, cut a part of liver that villagers left there and gave it to the tiger, told it that human liver was smaller than buffalo liver. He also told her to hide three sharp thorns into the liver. She did as House said. The tiger swallowed the liver, thorns in the liver scratched its stomach. The tiger died. They buried it and came back to the village.

They did not meet the mother. She got lost and went to somewhere else. Rice missed her too much. She hung her mother’s shirt and cried hard. The woman cried too as she did not know how to find their mother. House found a nut of mango, he buried it into ground and said: “Grow mango, and help us to find our mother”. The mango soon grew. Only one day after that, it became a huge tree with many fruits. Many birds came to the mango, wanted to eat some fruit. House asked them if they knew where his mother was. Those birds did not know. One day, an eagle came to the mango tree. House asked it the same question. The eagle said that it knew a woman looked like House and his sister very much, she got lost and did not know how to come back to her village. House invited it to eat mango and asked it to help him find his mother. The eagle agreed.

The eagle let House and Rice sat on its back and flew away to find their mother. It flied to a far place, stopped on the bank of a river. It said that their mother usually came there to wash her face. It put the children on a branch of a banyan tree and told them waited there, if they saw a woman that looked like them, that would be there mother. Then the eagle flew away. The two children waited and waited. They saw their faces reflected in the river water – the two faces looked exactly the same. Many women came to the river to wash their faces but they didn’t see anyone looked like them. Finally, a woman came to the river. The children saw a face looked like their faces. The woman also saw their face reflected in the water. She looked up and called for them. The mother and her children met. They were too happy that tears wet their faces.

The mother and her children came back to their village. One the way, House and Rice told their mother what had happened to them since she went. The mother said: “The Lord of the village died. So did the tiger. Now we are together again. House will have house and Rice will have rice, my dear children.” They lived happily ever after.

Visiting the longhouse

Last Saturday afternoon, I asked some of my friends and their children (two boys and a little girl) to come to Vietnam museum of ethnology. We had a great afternoon. The children loved to play there.

First, these children liked to run around until they saw the longhouse – the traditional house of Ede ethnic. From that time, they seemed to be attracted by the house and could not wait to step into the incredible house. And I must tell you that they spent most of time to discover the house. Well, that is no surprise to me because I have come to this museum for many times and still love to walk into the house, look at all wooden and bamboo furniture which is made by hands.

From the main entrance of the house

A traditional house of Ede ethnic, who live in high plateau region of central Vietnam, is usually very long that is why it is called longhouse. In such house, there were usually 8-12 families live together: “the house accommodated families of daughters and granddaughters who were the descendents of one mother”. The house is lengthened whenever a daughter gets married. In Ede society, after marriage, the man comes to live in his wife’s house and has to listen to her rules.

From the minor entrance of the house

According to the museum:
“This house is 42,5m long and 6m wide. The floor is 1,1m off the ground. It is modeled after the longhouse of Ms. H’Đach Êban which had been constructed in Kỳ village, ward Thành Nhất, in the city of Buôn Ma Thuột.” The house was made by wood, bamboo and reed. Top of the roof is about 4-5m off the floor.

This wasn’t the longest house of Ede. I heard that in the past, some houses was even over 200m long. The richer, more powerful a family was, the longer the house was.

The house has two entrances: The main entrance of the house faced the north (every house in an Ede village has to obey this rule) and the minor entrance faced the south. At each entrance is a spacious courtyard. The richer the owner is, the wider and more beautiful the main courtyard is.

The main wooden courtyard

To get into the house, people have to step on staircase and walk on the courtyard. There are two kinds of staircases: The male staircase and the female staircase. The female staircase is decorated by a new moon and two female breasts. The new moon is the symbol of the faithfulness. The breasts are symbols of powerful of female in Ede families. People said that the two breasts on the staircase used to cost two or three days of a good craftsman to make because they have to be carved exactly the same.

Female staircase

Male and Female staircase – photo by Willettsworld

The female staircase is used only for the grandmother, the mother, daughter in the family and guests. The male staircase is usually smaller, without decorates. It is use for men. In the past, if a man in the family (the husband, a grew up son) steps on the female staircase, he would get punished by the village that he had to give money or something the village ask for, and had to prepare pig or chicken to offer the god of the staircase. Nowadays, the punishment no longer exists but Ede people still follow the rule of using staircase.

Male staircase

In front of the main entrance people put two staircases (a male and a female). They also put a male staircase in front of the minor courtyard, women in the house usually step on it to go to work.

The number of stair is usually always an odd number, usually five or seven – they believe that even numbers are number of devils. If you come to a longhouse and see the female staircase up-side-down, the family must get something bad and they do not want to have guests at that time.

The two staircases in front of the house are really challenges for our little friends. They wanted to win them and felt unsure about them at the same time. I told the boys (one is 6 and one is 8 years old) about the male staircase and guided them to step up. They really excited. After some seconds looking at it, the older stepped up slowly. Finally, he got to the courtyard and said that it was not too hard to do. He kept going up and down for times before he decided to explore inside the house. The younger boy was the first one who asked me to come to “discover” the house but he seemed to be much worry about the staircase. I had to stand next to the staircase, gave him a hand to support. Finally, he stepped on the courtyard with big smile – the smile of a winner. However, after study inside the house, he seemed to forget how to won the staircase so he said that he could not walked down by himself. The older one support him by went up and down for many times to make sure that it was very easy. Finally, when I agreed to stand next to the stair, encouraged him, he slowly stepped down. When he got on to the ground, the big smile showed up again. This time, he wanted to make sure that he would not feel scare of the staircase again, he went up and down for three more times, hihi. He is so cute, isn’t he? When we playing there, there were many tourist, Vietnamese and foreigners. Many of them stopped and encouraged the boy.

The little girl (3 years old) really loved playing with the female staircase. She stepped up (we had to give her hands to make sure she would not fall down – it is rather high for her), walked on the yard, went into the house and then, went out, stepped down. And a new turn started. After about 10 times, both her mother and I felt dizzy already but the girl was still so excited and shouted: “One more time, mom! One more time, auntie Mit!” Oh my!

Finally, her mom asked her to come to see anther house and she saw some beautiful girls in áo dài (Vietnamese traditional dress) posing on the ground so she decided to leave the longhouse.

Mothers of the two princes were so tired after walking and they wanted to sit down and chatted so I was the one who was escorted by two princes to discover the house. We took off our shoes, went barefoot on the bamboo floor. Well, it is so great to walk barefoot on the bamboo flat floor, feel the cool of bamboo skin gave to you. I love that feeling since I was a kid, walking on the bamboo floor of my family’s friends’ house. The boys seemed to notice the sound of flat bamboo when they walk much more than the feeling I told you, haha, they laughed a lot and said that the floor complain that they were too heavy, “but it tells me that it still can handle, auntie!” – one supported me.

A quick look inside the house – photo by Willettsworld

I told the boys that if they wanted to know something, they had to ask me or other people, or looked for information written on some boards. That was how I got them busy, hihi. They found out the name of the house which was written on a board next to the main entrance. They asked names of many things in the house, counted how many of this and that. It was so funny to see the two detectives working that way. They also tried to find out what is different between the sound of cồng and chiêng – two kinds of gong.

Gongs

Yep, and here is other some other information I got for you about the house: The house is divided into two sections: Gah and Ôk. Gak is like the living room, where they welcome their guests, make offering to Giàng (their god), and the sleeping place for bachelors and married man who, for some reasons, has to returned to his mother or his sisters’ house. This is also used as the meeting hall for the whole family, a place for them to discuss important things, to eat, to play music.

Carved beams

It has craved pillar and beams which were decorated by image of many kinds of animal: turtle, elephant, crocodile, crab… It also has many precious things which show the rich and the power of the family, such as chair of the owner of the house – reserved the head of the family when they have a meeting– gongs, female drum (big drum), ceramic pots of traditional wine… One of the most impressed things in Gah is K’pan – the long bench or sacred bench. It is 10-20m long. It is reserved for the elderly of the village, guests and musicians. People usually put gongs under the long bench.

The owner’s house pillar and her seat

The rest of the house is the Ôk, which are sleeping places of each couple in the house and their fire places. These bedrooms are separated by bamboo wall. When sleeping in the house, people keep their feet pointing west.

Bedrooms

The two boys even tried to lied down on the floor like an Ede person and said that they would sleeping there if we could make sure that it would not be too cold in the night. Leaving the longhouse as two winners, they started to study around, looking for other interesting things. When we left the museum, they said that they wanted to come back again the following day.

Bamboo floor – tied by rattan

More photos: here

Update:

At the first time I visited the museum, about 7 years ago, I saw a bigger female staircase. I tried to find out what happened to it and knew that it was ruined (because of time, the weather, and of course us – visitors who have stepped on it day by day) and they had to make a new one (the smaller one as you saw in my picture). So, I put a picture of the original female staircase here for you 🙂 As you can see, in this pictures it had already been broken a bit.
I also added a picture to show you how it looks like inside the Gah/living room.
The two pictures were taken by Willettsworld