I'm starting this blog post with a quote I found in the "South East Asia Backpacker," a monthly magazine full of inspiring stories written by people who are either traveling through or have moved to South East Asia. I find it to be quite appropriate for the story I'm about to tell. Firstly, I knew absolutely nothing about the hill tribes living in the north of Vietnam before I came here. Secondly, had I not met them in person, I would not be inclined as passionately as I am to do something to help them. And lastly, it made me aware of how fortunate I am to be able to travel. So many people are "vegetating" in their own corner of the earth and could only dream of traveling, but are too poor to do so. I used to be one of these people up until not long ago. Coming from a developing country myself, I've experienced poverty and lack of mobility. But I kept dreaming. And I am now so grateful to have fulfilled some of those dreams.
All these ladies that have been following you start taking out their merchandise from their baskets, the surround you from all sides and BEG you to buy from them. "Buy from me!" "Buy from me!" "Me, unhappy, buy and I happy!" "Why you buy from her and not from me?" "Buy from me too now!" "Cheap price for you!" After all the friendly chit-chatting and holding hands on the trek, this emotional blackmail works wonders. These women are absolute masters at a very sophisticated type of emotional blackmail. How can you not buy a little thing here or there, after they've hiked with you for the last 4 hours? With babies strapped on their backs. Stopping by once in a while to breast-feed them. You have to buy, even if the things they sell are ugly or really bad quality.
There was no bridge for this river, so we crossed the water on two metal beams, suspended across two rocks. We didn't want to do it at first, but it was actually easier than we thought. I love the ingenuity of the people here. There's always a solution for everything, even if it's not the most elegant, safe or logical solution. Things seem to always work out, somehow.