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?