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Mrs. Trinh Bruise

I don't usually wear the traditional Ao Dai. Since my high school days, I only remember wearing it two or three times, especially on the first day of school. Because I rarely have the chance to wear it, each time I do wear it feels like a special occasion.

The most recent memory I have of wearing it was when I visited my family in Hanoi in 2020. Every time I visit Hanoi, I always feel like I have to make the most of every moment because there is always so much to do, especially during the Lunar New Year holiday when families clean their houses, buy candy, and beautify themselves. I also wanted to buy a long dress for myself on that occasion. It took me many tries to find a shop that sells long dresses tucked away in a small alley, and every time I went there, it was closed. When I finally succeeded in having the long dress I wanted made, I wanted to wear it every day.

That Lunar New Year, my family took our first family photo together, and I still remember convincing my dad to wear the long dress in the photo by saying, "This will be a photo of you that your grandchildren in Sweden can look at when they miss you." The photos were printed and I took them back to Sweden to hang up in our house. They are perhaps the first and most complete family photos of our extended family. Because I rarely wear long dresses, I always feel nervous when I wear them. Sometimes I wear a modernized long dress with jeans and canvas shoes, and people would exclaim, "You're wearing that in Hanoi ?!" But my younger siblings and mother would praise and compliment me, and I'm not sure if they were just being nice.

When I wear the long dress, I often think about Hanoi 20 years ago. I'm not nostalgic, but Hanoi was smaller and more familiar back then. Sometimes it's during the Lunar New Year holiday, or some other Vietnamese cultural traditions, that I am reminded of the values and culture of the Vietnamese people.

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