You are my friend
Trip Start Feb 10, 2014
16Trip End Mar 08, 2014
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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
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.
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
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
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
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 ½ 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
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”