You are my friend

Trip Start Feb 10, 2014
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Trip End Mar 08, 2014


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014-02-26

Buy of me…Buy of me!

2008 I was in Sapa on a motorcycle tour with four guys and a guide. I loved it became hooked on Vietnam. I walked down the main street with my friend Andreas who lives in Austin Texas. When walking through the main street of Sapa you are continually accosted  by females dressed in traditional Black Hmong or Red Zhou attire trying to sell you their handicrafts. The females range in age from perhaps 4   to 50 years old.  The word No does not mean no to them but a "maybe"  so they just walk with you and then stop trying to sell things. Instead they start a conversation with “where are you from”  “where are you going” etc. If you happen to be hiking they may follow you or walk next to you for the next 5 kilometers. Meanwhile you become acquainted and in the end you buy some items.

Andreas and I were approached by 4 young girls ranging from 12 to 15 years old. After a km we stopped and asked if we could take their picture. Not a problem they said. I got out my camera, took some pictures and then pressed the record and started a 15 minute conversation  asking their names, where they lived, about school, their parents, their houses etc. They did not notice that I was filming them.

The girls

Mee,  15 Years old, outgoing and with a beautiful smile

Cha,    14 years old , laughing a lot but a bit shy

Langh, 14 years old, quietly spoken, a bit reserved

Lee,    12 years old and funny

 That afternoon, our group and guide went for a round trip tour along mountain tracks to Lao Chai, Tavan and Chiang ta Chai . Two of the girls lived in Lao Chai and asked if they could come on the back with us. (they are used to it as motorcycles are used as taxis carrying up anything from 4 pigs, a load of bricks or 4 persons and two babies.  In the end they won as we bought plenty of their stuff.

2011

I am in back Sapa with Paul (my son in law)  Wouldn't it be nice if I saw one or all of those kids again I thought.  Finding any of  them was difficult  as they all look very similar.  I entered the market and suddenly recognized the face of Langh. She walked past me and I said “Hey- You are Lang! aren’t you? “

“  Yes “she said but “who are you?”,  “You know me I said”. “No I don’t “she answered. “Yes you do” I said ,pulling out a small photo album. “Oh yes I remember now “she said. Straightway she got on her phone to call her friends. Lahng’s mother was at the market place as well. I invited them  to have some noodle soup and showed them the movie of 2008. Within minutes 20-30 kids , all dressed in their traditional outfits stood around us to watch the movie. Over the next few days Lang and Cha where our guides and showed us around on the back of our rented scooters. Langh showed us where she lived and grew up, a place which looked more like a barn instead of a house.

Then we met Mee, now 17,married and with a baby. She had travelled 20 km down a bumpy road with the baby on her back, to meet me.  Later number 4 (Lee) joined us as well.  A few days later when Paul and I were leaving Mee had again travelled down the bumpy road and waited near our hotel with her husband who she wanted to introduce. I had bought some bay clothes at the market as they clearly had very little. I handed Mee 4 envellopes with enough to sustain them for a while.  (they earn less than 100 dollars per month. Later back in Australia I went to various garage sales and gathered a large variety of baby clothes and sent them off the Mee who had not given me an address as they don’t exist but a description of where she lives.(Like Lao Cai district, village of Chiang Ta Chai, 3rd street of the main road on the left 2nd house, or something like that). Never heard anything about it and never received my self addressed envelopes.

2013 Passing through Sapa again on my way to China I never saw any off them as every person in the valley was engaged in with the planting of rice. I spoke to Lang’s mother who informed about that they did not know where they we working the valley

2014. On arrival in Sapa I walked the 13 km to Tavan via Lai Chau where I passed Lang’s house. I called in. Her mother recognized me and made tea. Langh is married and has a baby she said. I gave a her my tel number and left. A day later I see a girl standing in front of the Bamboo bar, it was Mee with one child walking and another baby on her back. She had walked 1 hours from the next village via a track following the river just to see me. How nice. Later I took her on the back of the bike to the main road high along the side of the mountain so she could walk to remaining 500 meters back down the mountain side.  I was glad to hear that she had received the box with baby clothes I had sent but was puzzled by the self addressed envelope . Soon Cha came past. She said some years ago she wanted to be a tourist tour guide and now she is. She heard that I was in Tavan so made a point of seeing me.  Meanwhile Langh rang me and said she had a shop in Sapa.  Still only 1.4 meters tall, 20 years old with a baby on her back she runs her own shop which she said that one day she wanted to have. She sells traditional clothing to tourist as well as purses, hand bags, wallets, hats and caps, table cloths, napkins etc. When I asked her where she bought all this she pointed…to  her sewing machine. Amazing.

Yesterday I received a text from Lee, the 12 year old is now 18 , married and… a baby on her back. She will probably front here today as they know that I am leaving Tavan tonight.

Two days ago Mee asked me to come for dinner.  Around 5pm  I found her “house” and was introduced to her father in law who is 65. The house consisted of four walls made of woven bamboo, earthen floor, one low table with two low seats, that’s all. A sheet of plastic makes the sleeping quarters and in the corner the kitchen. In the corner of the kitchen a hole in the ground for cooking, a few pots and some utensils. In the other corner a stick with some clothes and that was it.  This is what you call being poor and living basic. Mee had prepared a fantastic meal consisting of duck and side dishes.  Later Eddy told me that she must see me as a very important guest seeing that she killed one of her ducks that afternoon , especially for me.  An interesting observation is that we in the west seem to need the most modern kitchens with everything that opens and shuts. Then when it comes to food, a lot comes out of a packet. Here the kitchen could not be more basic and everything is fresh.

So this was the story of Mee, Lee, Cha and Langh. My young friends in a faraway country. I teaches me a lot about life, friendship and the very big difference between “needs” and “wants”

Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

Rob on

Wauw!!!!!

Karel on

Wat een schitterend verhaal. Hoe is dit allemaal mogelijk. Je bent toch wel een heel bijzonder mens. Bijzonder ook de adressering van de babykleertjes. En het komt nog aan ook z0als nu blijkt. Geweldig allemaal. Ook de manier van leven en wat zien ze er allemaal gelukkig uit. Wij zijn wel heel erg afgedwaald met onze luxe.

richard.wolters
richard.wolters on

Yes karel you a are right, the have absolutely noting and live in poverty, but have a lovely smile on their face when they greet you, and when you have conversations with them you cant help but notice that the don't complain about anything either.

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