.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Home life in Hanoi

Anyone who knows me is aware that one of my objectives in travelling is to be able to see the world through the eyes of the people who live in the countries I travel to. Sometimes this is difficult because of my own insecurities. However, if I let go of those insecurities I may have opportunities to share the lives of these people.

My friends in Cambodia once told me I am not like other westerners. 'How is that?' I asked.

'You trust us.'

I don't trust everyone. But I'd never had any reason to mistrust those people. I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt and they took me into their lives.

Here in Vietnam I have befriended a family who invited me to visit their home on the outskirts of Hanoi. I would like to share with you some of what I observed.

I was taken to the village on the back of a motorcycle. We rode down a narrow lane between houses. At the end was a row of four terraces. Each was perhaps four metres wide. We parked the bike outside the second one and went inside.

Three people live in the house. The mother, 62, is divorced and lives with a daughter, 28, and son, 19. The daughter is a teacher in a secondary school, that's years six to nine here I believe. Secondary students have three months holiday at this time of the year, so teachers do too, without pay. The son has just finished high school but failed to obtain a high school diploma so has to work in a noodle factory for which he is paid 20,000 dong ($1A is about 13,500 dong) for a shift. This is not enough to pay for his food. The mother doesn't work. She gets some benefits from the government but I'm not sure if she actually gets a pension.

The front room of the house is the living room. It is not much deeper than it is wide. There are steepish narrow stairs without a rail going upstairs. There is a rather fancy wooden cabinet but all the other furniture is plastic. Behind this room is the bedroom in which the mother and daughter sleep. Not much room beside the two beds. The third room at the back is the kitchen. It is smaller than both the other rooms. There is a bench on one side. The larger part of the room is partitioned by two brick walls of about two metres high. In one section there is water storage. The next has the stove. The third has the shower and toilet with only a curtain separating it from the kitchen. The back door is made of wood that looks like it's been scavenged from a rotten boat. There is a backyard about 1.5 metres deep with concrete walls on all sides.

Later I was taken upstairs. There are two rooms. One where the son sleeps and a semi-open area used for hanging washing. A roof has recently been built over this section, not well though. It slopes backward so that rain water runs inside and seeps through to the rooms beneath.

While I was sitting in the front room a guy came to the door. He and the mother were talking in Vietnamese and it seemed they were arguing. Voices were raised. I was looking out the door just taking in what was going on. The daughter had gone to the kitchen and came to call me back there. She explained that this man was the garbage collector. There is no municipal garbage collection. In Cambodia the situation is similar but people either bury or burn their garbage. In this home there is not room to do either. On the opposite side of the lane are plastic bags piled about two metres high and along about three. This is their garbage from the past couple of months. It had not been collected because there is some dispute with the collector. I was told, 'You should not look at him. Because him see we have foreigner friend. Now him want to charge more money.'

They invited me to stay to dinner. After checking what I like to eat the daughter went to the local market. She returned and cooked an extremely delicious dinner and plenty of it. I haven't eaten so well for a long time.

I felt warmly received in this home. As in other parts of Asia I find that people who have so little are often the ones who give the most.

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?