A 10-year old girl uses a machete to chop bamboo while carrying her 1-month old sister on her back and keeping an eye out for her 2-year old brother.
We want to take a photo of her, so we ask our guide, Su May, for permission. In Vietnamese, Su May tells the girl that she is beautiful, and asks if we can take a photo. The girl says she doesn’t know, and continues chopping. My mother proceeds to film the girl, then tells her she is a movie star and hands her 10VND. Her face lights up and she casts a smile. She is a warrior.
A black Hmong elder sings a wise tale while attending to her garden. We stop to watch her, and she watches us, all while humming her song. We approach her, and she shows us her hands, which display deep, dry cracks filled with her village’s soil. She tells us she wants to look at us, just like we want to look at her. She analyzes our hands and touches our modern clothes. She tells us we are beautiful.
Are we living a lucid dream?
We trekked two full days with Su May through the mountains, rice fields, and rural villages in Sapa, Vietnam. The experience was surreal; at times I felt like I was floating amidst unexplored land.
On day 1, four village woman followed us nearly 4 miles up-and-down muddy mountains wearing plastic sandals and their traditional tribe attire. While we were covered in mud, they remained spotless.
At first, I was not too sure why they were following us, but I soon realized they wanted to sell us “souvenirs” once our guide was out of sight. Nevertheless, I enjoyed their company, and admired their determination.
Day 2 was a much easier trek, so I soaked in the visuals and took more photographs.
By the end of the day, we were equipped with handfuls of bracelets made by village children and a wider perspective on Vietnam. We returned to Sapa town rejuvenated, and were greeted by friends, old and new. We exchanged stories and thoughts on the world that surrounds us.
Where does the road lead us now?
I do not want to say goodbye to you, Sapa, but the southern sun awaits our arrival. So, goodbye for now, and when I return, I hope I will have grown wiser and you will have remained the same.