vietnamese people get their id when they're 18 (nb: they can vote when they turn 21 and legally, they cannot marry before they're 21 too. but pratically, they sometimes marry before, in their family, and wait until they're 21 to make it official)*. before that, they have some kind of identification document which is issued by their school, not directly by the government. when 18, they have to fill in a form to request an id and amongst other information, they have to write their religion. so basically, or so i've been told, they could write anything because some people say that no one cares about that, others say it's important. anyway, there is at least one rule, it's that if you're in the communist party**, you have to have no religion; so next to 'tôn giáo', they have 'không' written. so when you enter party you have to officially give up your religion, especially if you're a catholic (but i guess that if you're a catholic, you don't enter the party at all). the party is more tolerant about buddhism, since most vietnamese people are buddhist, so if you're a buddhist and you become a member, officially, you stop being a buddhist ('buddhist' becomes 'không' on your id) but most people go on practising the rituals. sometimes though, they get rid of the buddha statues they have on their altar but they rarely stop worshipping their ancestors, which is part of the buddhist traditions. so there will always be an altar where they burn incense and put offerings for their ancestors.
* i got the information provided in this post via various people. i don't know how accurate it is. i guess that getting info here is the same as in bolivia when people are protesting and you ask them why, you get as many answers as there are people, or when you go to the forem in belgium...
** there are different ways to enter the party: when you have excellent grades at school, they give you the opportunity to enter, when you work for the government or other state company, you also have this possibility but here, i guess it's not really up to you, it's probably compulsory. when you work for a state company, you might be given the opportunity to travel abroad and follow a master degree because it's good for the company. however, i've been told by a party member that if you're high-up in the party, you might know some secrets so they won't let you travel abroad too much for fear you might talk too much and disclose some sensitive info.
when you're in the party, you have to attend some meetings once a month where they talk about what could be done to make the country better. if you don't attend those three months in a row or if you stop paying your subscription, you're expelled.
i realized yesterday that my father had married an ex-party member. and she's the kind of woman who practises everything that can be practised in buddhism. i'm not sure she ever gave up those traditions, even when she was in vietnam.
february 5th: a few days ago, when i was still in the highlands, i was called by a friend. 'i call you because i've just read your blog and what you say is wrong', she said. 'in vietnam, we get our first id when we're 15 and can vote when we turn 18'. so i just wanted to add this note to correct what i'd written previously. as i mentioned before, i never know how accurate the information i put on this blog is. but thank you diệp.