It is common to be amazed by the cultural phenomena. Seeing the unusual pleases the eye, the sense if you will. To me, cultural habits and traditions speak of the wise and kind. Many things have captured my heart here in Nam, especially how rooted and present people are amongst each other. I am amazed at the chaotic traffic that floods the streets early in the morning, and how the side walk becomes a scooter parking lot.
Yes, one has to have courage to drive the streets of Hanoi. But more than this, I have observed the silent bravery of the peasant women here. In their petite frames, and simple clothing garnished with their conical hats (called Non La), they walk or bike the city in search of locals or tourists to buy their fruits, vegetables, flowers, pho or clothes. And then you have those who at midnight clean the city with their hand-made wire brooms. Yes the trash collectors in this country are women.
All these women captured my eyes with a smile, and I followed their path with a melancholic sight realizing the weight of their produce is probably twice their weight. The walkers carry two baskets as a balance that holds from a flat bar that goes over one of their shoulders. When I walk by them with Gaia in my sling starting to complain because she is getting too heavy, I start to get an imaginary slap in the face just to consider the fact that they are carrying triple what I am carrying, and still keep a kind smile and a focused mind.
Since my first walk through the Old Quarters of the capital I have been thinking of them, wondering what they go home to, following them with my camera and snapping a moment out of their humble lives. And so, life happened. As we were walking with Gaia sleeping in my sling, we came across the Women’s Museum. It was prefect! I had to go in, in just a few days of craving understanding of their womanhood, the oracle opened to me.
In this museum I learned that those women who sell flowers, fruits, and vegetables which are carried in twin baskets, actually wake up at 2:00 am to be in the central market until 4:00 am to get the best products. Then they go off to sell their merchandise in hopes of a good day to make a living. If it’s a bad day they stay out until 7:00 pm. They go home to eat and sleep until the next early morning… and so on.
I also learned how this country has the most bad-ass, strong, brave, courageous kind of women. This country unlike any other (that I have read about), had women who fought in many wars. They fought for their independence and then for their idealistic believes. From their early teens they led armies, stood for their mother land and died for her. They had husbands and families, they had babies. They birthed them during their battles and nursed them while at war. They kept their word for each other. These women were warriors and heroes who made silent sacrifices and continue to do so. They are strong, they don’t give up, they are present in each moment. They inspire me. With much pride and dedication, to the Women of Viet Nam: Warriors, Mothers and Heroes.