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Nguyen Hoang Anh Thu

I visited a troubled village. (Illustration: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP via Getty Images)

I visited a troubled village. This village is located on the high side of a small town. All nearly 100 households. The special thing is that they don’t bring sadness with them during the time of going to the fields, in the festivals and even in their sleep. Only sometimes there are a few sunken eyes with nothing in them. The eyes were jet-black, black and big like the eyes of a wild buffalo. The round eyes smile like the sun when the sun has just risen. The smiles were also round and sparkling white under the eyes and pale skin.

Tonight, the village elder’s story is temporarily shelved in the sound of the horn and still remains on the enamel. The wine jars were empty and the eyes were closed. The stories the village elders told over and over again. The songs are sung over and over again. The people sitting there wrapped themselves in each other’s arms in the middle of the night, the red and yellow stripes of the dark brocade costumes. This summer, the river looks sad, all the trees in the house wither. The white flowers bloom in the mountains of this tropical country. Looks like they all made an appointment to see the wind and cloud festival on that mountain. They had passed and the eyes did not see the dewdrops strung on the spider’s web. They passed through the melaleuca forest, where they heard that it was raining blood.

A clear summer morning in the mountains.

There was a lot of crying. They are crying buffalo. An old man was wearing a scarf that covered his entire face, and a dark boy was leading a buffalo. The boy has really black eyes of the mountains. Today the whole village got up early in the morning to cry buffalo. The buffalo can’t cry. Its eyes are always sad and dreamy in the middle of the mountains. They love the buffalo and send the buffalo back to the Giang. Giang will give them a bountiful harvest.

The early morning wind blew on the top of the mountain with a cool breeze. The sound of gongs, gongs and drums began to move. They prepare to make offerings.

They put their arms around each other and went to catch the rain.

-Ọ… ooh… o… ugh… buffalo cry

They circled around. They run around. Surrounded by mountains and forests. The buffalo stood in the middle, looking bewildered. It can’t hear people shouting, even the sound of gongs and drums stirring deep into the mountain. He heard a crack, the mountain was tumbling towards him. It jerked, the rope pulled the nose, the nose was about to break, the pole was buried in concrete. The torrential downpours were crashing into it. The mountain is about to fall. Screams were piercing his eyes. Its thighs are being discharged. The rain continued… a rain of blood began. Its back is being discharged. Blood rain. People cheered, gongs and drums cheered, people sitting in the stands jumped up and cheered. People tilt their heads to drink the rain. It’s sweet. The children burst out laughing as if they were in the wilds of the mountains. Four bloody buffalo paws. The buffalo is receiving a rain of blood. It tries to run around. People were still running around. His eyes almost fell out. It no longer sees anything. Both horns are being chopped off. People raised their heads to collect blood. Cheering and laughing among the surrounding mountains.

They love the buffalo and send the buffalo back to the Giang. (Illustration: Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images)

And they went around each other, drinking the rain of blood. It is sweet and fermented blood alcohol. They quenched their thirst. They said to each other, “Drink,” as one drinks snake wine, the snakes are curled up together, they’re fermenting.

-Uh.. uh… uh… the sound of people jumping and throwing javelins

-Uh.. um.. ugh… the sound of buffalo groaning

On the other side, the others had lit huge clusters of fires. They prepare to burn.

-Ọ.. eh…

The buffalo is waiting to be brought back to heaven. Its eyes were dull and refused to close. The big and black eyes are kind. Even when he is about to die, he is very gentle. People are carrying it up.

A cluster of flames flared up waiting, beside the leaning mountain range.

The sun is red with blood. The forest is dyed red with blood. A rain of blood was drunk. The buffalo lay down in the middle of a circle of people still circling. In front of it was a carpet of blood-red grass. The blades of grass were sprouting from the leaves. They grow minced around the body, covered with red mud.

The fire had already begun, and there were several large pots set on the great boiling fire. They chopped intestines, liver, spleen… and each piece of buffalo meat into it. They put in all kinds of forest leaves. They are cooking tapas. Smoke billowing.

They ate slurps, they gurgled wine. The round black eyes looked at each other very gentle like buffalo eyes. They sang and laughed. They beat gongs, gong la and run in circles around the fire. Bare feet, tangled hair with forest dew.

They put their shoulders around each other, shouldered the mountains, and congratulated each other. They staggered. The mountains are also wobbly.


The next day, they continue to prepare dishes made from fish: fish wrapped in forest leaves with ashes, grilled fish, fish salad, fish salad, grilled fish, fish paste; mollusc insects: frogs, frogs, worms, termites, crickets, sour ants, fragrant ants, red ants, bee pupae. In village festivals, they often prepare a lot. The meat of the buffalo is divided into many dishes: fresh grilled meat, dried grilled meat, grilled with bamboo tubes, fried, fried meat, and there are many strange mushrooms. The bottles are also unique in their taste, which are the secrets of fermented forest roots. They prepare to make offerings. They worship and pray.

The meat of the buffalo is divided into many dishes. (Illustration: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP via Getty Images)

They say, this village is haunted. Many people have passed away mysteriously. The mystery that cannot be explained when the ghost keeps stealing is so unexpected. There is a family that has just experienced extreme grief when 2 children died within just 9 days. Just last February, but not too far away, a family lost a daughter over 20 years old and a son two years younger than her. The sick daughter died of liver disease, she did not speak, the son, who was very healthy, died suddenly while plowing the fields. They talked about many healthy people who went down to the stream to catch fish every day, went up to the fields to work in the fields, suddenly fell ill and died, most of them under the age of 40. Only the worn-out bodies of the elderly remained. Day after day they sat on the doorstep and looked up at a place far away.

Who? Who took their children? The river out there is still flowing, but this summer it’s so dry, it’s shriveled up with its red bottom and countless layers of rotten leaves. They still drink water from this river. It is said that the upper part of the river is being cut by some construction. People block dams, people make roads. Now there is not a fish in the river. The streams have also been chiseled an amniotic red, carved by unfinished asphalt roads. One has to go deep into the forest to catch the fish on the source.

The feast of worship lasts up to three days.

I have heard the crackling sound. They are drying and twisting through the drooping mountains.

They stopped shouting and went away together. The rest of the house is empty, quiet and the smell of sour wine brews on the dirty mats. I walked through a wild, rugged stretch of forest covered with dense bamboo and waist-high elephant grass. I saw the village elder standing there alone, praying. Murmur. He looked up to the sky, in front of a statue made of wood with crude chisels. I saw the two eye sockets of the wooden statue as if flickering in the dim residual afternoon light. A wooden pedestal, on which people place chicken, sticky rice, fish, meat, all wrapped in leaves.


I have seen everything in black because the sun here sets early in the morning. The other statue was in perfect symmetry: eyes, breasts, hands, feet on a wooden stake. I see flowers here growing upright, mountains evenly cut, and a river that never flows. They said, it was the will of the old man, and that’s the way he wanted it. Everything needs to be perfect in a perfectly balanced axis of symmetry. They gave their all, just begging him not to take the lives of their children. But then, the river dried up, sighs and contortions. Hear a “crack.” They are crumbling from the bottom of the river. The river is flowing back to the sky. They pray. They will cross the forest and cross streams to find something to offer. The buffaloes were still lying there waiting for them to cry. They taste the enchanting tapas pin lu in the sound of gongs calling the soul back to the mountain.


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