American ex-pat loves Vietnam's Tet spirit

"I felt welcome everywhere I went, and I felt I could have stayed for days in any of the towns to share the Tet spirit," said Daniel Levitt, HIV/AIDS and Health Manager of USAID Vietnam.

While talking with a Vietnam News Agency o­n the occasion of the upcoming Lunar New Year, Levitt said he has been staying in Vietnam for three and half years, and that when he spent Tet holiday in the country in 2003, he was enthusiastically invited to be the first person to enter many homes.

"Just after the Lunar New Year, I drove my motorbike 1998 kilometres from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh City through the Central Highlands, which was wonderful because I was able to see how Vietnamese celebrate Tet in many different parts of Vietnam.

"At each little town along way, Vietnamese invited me to sip rice wine from teacups, eat pumpkin seeds and tell them my story," said Levitt.

He said American people do not welcome Lunuar New Year and they celebrate the New Year o­n o­nly o­ne day, and typically, there is very little cultural commonality in the way the New Year is celebrated.

"Often friends will get together in bars, restaurants or homes and count down the last few seconds until the clock strikes midnight, marking the New Year, and they cheer together afterwards."

He added that Americans generally do not make Banh Chung (earth cake), calculate who is appropriate to enter the home first, hand out lucky money in red envelopes, present gifts of food to family and friends, and turn another year of age.

"Perhaps, the greatest commonalities between the two countries are the tendency to reflect o­n the last year and look forward to the next with higher hopes," he stressed.

Levitt also highlighted USAID Vietnam
s contributions to HIV/AIDS programmes in the country in 2005, including supporting the government to provide over 700 people with antiretroviral treatment, assisting in drafting the new HIV/AIDS Law to be passed this year, and providing technical assistance o­n the development of the national HIV/AIDS estimates and projections.

He said USAID Vietnam also supported a diversity of humanitarian programmes in assistance to disabled persons, disaster mitigation, and environmental protection.

In 2006, the Year of the Dog, USAID plans to support the Vietnamese authorities to prevent and fight outbreaks of avian influenza, he revealed.
Nhan dan