Tu Tran came to San Jose three years ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. A math student at DeAnza College, she almost immediately fell in love with the Downtown Farmers’ Market because it reminded her of her home country.
“This is like how we market groceries in Vietnam,” she says in almost perfect English, which she has learned since coming here. “I’ve seen the indoor grocery stores, but they are not as good. Farmers markets are part of a sustainable living style, which I’m trying to lead.”
In June, she signed up to volunteer at the Friday market, open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in San Pedro Square, joining other longtime volunteers Sally Leishman and Elaine Nacht. Tu works with the farmers and vendors at the market, hands out Carrot Cash, which is as good as money at the market, welcomes shoppers and makes sure things are set up.
“I enjoy helping people and doing my part to make the community stronger,” she says.
The big difference between the local farmers’ market and the markets of Vietnam are the products. Many California fruits and vegetables are not available in Vietnam; conversely, Asian fruits and veggies are not widely grown in California. And in Asian markets, the vendors simply open the fronts of their homes above and they are in business.
Her goal while in the States is to learn as much as she can, get some work experience and bring all of that learning back to Vietnam to teach others and raise the level of education in her homeland.
“American education — Wow!” she says. “In Vietnam, we learn by memorization. There is definitely a different way of learning here — with concepts and observations.”
Coming from an urban metropolis of nearly 9 million people, she has also taken a liking to hiking and being in nature — and watching nature documentaries on Netflix.
She has grown accustomed to an eco-friendly lifestyle that includes walking everywhere, taking public transportation when necessary, minimizing use of electricity and studying by sunlight, reusing and washing vegetable bags, not taking paper or plastic bags at stores, stopping meat and fish consumption, and reducing food waste.
“I reuse a lot of spaghetti sauce jars,” she says.
She enjoys the bustle and energy of the market. One of her hopes is that the pandemic will end soon, so the farmers’ market can be packed with people again.
“In Vietnam, the markets are packed with people and energy,” she says. “It’s not so packed now because of Covid.”