Life Stories,  On Writing,  Travel

Vietnam – Part 4.5: Thoughts on Loss (In the Rice Paddies)

Children in Sapa

She was born in a country a thousand years old, in the far North, where all the women before her worked in the field, worked at home, worked even in their sleep. Here, women were bought by their husbands. They were strong, important, full of pride in their work. Her mother lived a simpler life, one with nature, playing in mud, running up and down the hills. Her clothes were hand-made, hand-woven, painted with the indigo plants. Her porridge was made with rice the family grew. The water was fresh and cool.

Mom got married too long ago. There were no pictures of the wedding on the home’s wooden walls. It was too long ago. Today, mom seems the same but she has a cellphone. The fields look the same, but in the distance, huge stone, brick and cement palaces are being built. The river is cool but in itself brings plastic bottles and bags and dirt. The noise almost reaches us. Mom’s youth was too long ago. Then, I was born.

When I was a baby and stayed at home, strange people would come into the house daily, looking into the corners like they have never seen a house before. They took photos of me, of my face, my expression, my muddy feet. When I did go out of the house, I couldn’t run through the fields like children did in mom’s stories. I had to walk with my mother and learn to speak words in a language not my own. Every day, I see more strangers than ever before. They smile at me, at my muddy face and my muddy feet, as I offer them things we made. I was told to be persistent, to ask and ask and ask. Children have better chances selling than adults. I stand in front of them in those small minutes of rest and make them uncomfortable with my presence. I was told to look them straight in the eye, but I can never do it. When they walk further, I follow these intruders around as they roam through my field and my home with my mother, and I smile and offer them the little we have which is still our own. They smile back. They take photos of my muddy feet and my muddy face. I try to sell something using the words I do not understand. There is so much that I don’t know. However, I do know that childhood in Sapa has changed.

Little girl in Sapa, Vietnam

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