November 25th, 2015 / posted by paularath

Ha Long Bay kids

On the drive between Ha Long Bay and the Hanoi airport, we made a few stops to get a glimpse of village life. The kids above were very excited to have visitors to their village and followed us throughout our walk.

Of course it helped that a very smart woman in our group, Ruthanne Fuller, brought postcards of U.S. cities to give away to the kids. That turned her into a pied piper. Ruthanne, by the way, is an Alderman-at-Large for Newton, Mass. She is considering a run for mayor one day.

Ha Long Bay nearby village life

Photo by Jerry Mayfield.

"I can read" several women exclaimed.

“I can read!” several women exclaimed. On the right is Ruthanne’s husband, Joe, a professor of  business at Harvard. The woman behind Ruthanne in the blue shirt is our A&K guide, Wannee, who stayed with us throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. She’s a doll! Photo by Jerry Mayfield.

The other smart thing Ruthanne did was bring Longs-variety reading glasses to give away to older villagers. They were incredibly popular and appreciated. Above is Ruthanne enjoying the fruits of her thoughtfulness with a woman who was so anxious to see that she didn’t bother to take the label off the specs.

Now I know what to take on my next trip to an underprivileged area.

One of the sad things about Vietnam is, of course, the poverty. About 55 percent of the people earn less than $1 per day. The farmers earn an average of $1.30 a day. Of course they grow their own food to a large extent, but they can’t even afford a motor scooter or a tractor or a new hat.

Some of the village girls found us a curiosity.

Some of the village girls share their postcards with friends.

The school situation is pretty sad. The government makes education compulsory for elementary and secondary school children, but everyone has to pay something for their children to go to school. One guide, who has three children, said it costs $25 per month to send a child to school in the city. He added that public welfare is almost non-existent in Vietnam.

Many schools do not have enough classrooms or teachers, so they hold school in two shifts. The kids only go to one shift but the teachers teach all day, both shifts.

Village hardware store.

Village hardware store.

Just like in the big cities, much of village commerce is held outdoors, by women, and the merchandise gets wrapped up and carried home after business hours. Deliveries are made with baskets on poles, just as they have been for centuries in Indochina.

Ha Long Bay farmers

The farm we visited is a sort of truck farm. These women were there to get small lettuces that they would take to their own farm to grow to maturity.

Life has changed little in many decades in the countryside villages. Farming is still done with water buffalo and watering cans.

See the guy’s green helmet? He told our guide proudly that’s it’s an old Viet Cong helmet that has served him well for many years. He didn’t say if it served him well as a farmer or during the war, or both.

– Paula Rath

Leave a comment:
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.