The woman and her son


The woman and her son

April 14, 2016
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September 2015

The woman and her son

Every evening a young woman with her son wrapped in a cloth on her left arm passed the terraces of cafes in the old city of Hanoi, the capital city of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The weather was good and the evening was clear enlightened by the moonlight. Locals and foreigners, enjoyed their food, drinks and snacks till midnight.

The woman carried on her right arm a basket with her small trade such as ballpoints, paperclips, candies, roasted peanuts and other knick-knacks. I did not see someone bought an item. Serene she walked from one table to the another while the child continued sleeping.

I took a package of toothpicks, always useful. It cost 10,000 Dong (less than 1 Euro). I asked the Vietnamese man with whom I shared the table on the terrace about her profit. He replied some 5,000 Dong and added that she had to pay an informal fee to the security man of the area.

One morning I sat on a terrace drinking iced espresso, a specialty of many cafes. Ambulant vendors walked on the pavement selling vegetables, fruits and other agriculture yields on a carrying pole or a bike. Other vendors offered small household goods or ornaments. Shoe polishers, men and women, offered their service.

The traffic was heavy in the old city. Taxis, scooters, cyclists, vendors and pedestrians passed frequently the small overcrowded streets. This hustle went on from early in the morning till late in the evening seven days a week.

The old city is a shopping center for a large variety of attractive fashionable modern-day consumer goods, handicraft and traditional products from different ethnic groups. The streets are lively and colorful and Vietnamese and western music are reverberating. The small lanes are bustling of all sorts of activities like in other developing nations.

Local people and tourists are flocking into shops selling a wide assortments of gorgeous silk cloths, dresses and ties. Next to traditional dresses there are numerous t-shirts and outfit with in daring style. Vendors sitting on pavements are offering fresh juices and prepared food next to services as hair cut for men.

The last evening before I left Hanoi, I trailed the young woman with her inseparable sleeping son. As it happened she passed my hotel. Gesticulating I asked her the age of the boy who was awaken by now. She raised two fingers indicating the age. I gave her some money. She was pleased. I made a picture of her and her son.

She continued her way in the labyrinth like old city. I followed her at a distance. An old woman sitting on the pavement said that it was her usual route and she will pass along cafes and small eating stalls till late in the evening. The street lighting was not clear. I lost her when she went around the corner of a narrow dark street. I had to trace back my way to the hotel.

Unfortunately I forgot to take the business card of the hotel whereupon a map of its surrounding was printed. Asking the direction was complicated as my pronunciation of the name of the hotel and the street was not as it should be. After almost one hour walking in various directions I saw a young man sitting on his scooter operating his smartphone.

I asked him about the hotel. To my great surprise he spoke fluent English and knew the hotel. He ordered me to sit at the back seat of his scooter. I asked him whether he had no appointment. He said that his girlfriend will be there in thirty minutes. He drove me to the hotel. I thanked and offered him some money but he did not accept. He wished me a good stay in Hanoi and off he went in the night of the city. I am still grateful by this empathy.

Back in the hotel room I looked at the picture and saw that one shoe of the boy was on the pavement. I wondered whether the woman knew about it during her trail.


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