Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In search of a smile

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I didn't know what kind of hospital this was when I got there. It just seemed not to be an ordinary one. I thought it might have been one for victims of Agent Orange (I saw a very deformed child in Saigon.. this might have been from A.Orange.. that was shocking..), but after I took these shots I found this poster:

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After I saw the poster I asked the guard whether it was possible to go in for taking some pictures. I was quite touched before asking him, not being sure what it would be like to take pictures of these kids. He said no. So I left... and next day I left Hanoi.

When I was back about four weeks later, I wanted to give it another shot... I had something in my mind which I could have said to get in.. maybe something like that I want to write an article about it. Anyways, it was just the very last day, the day I had to leave back to Germany, when I wanted to go there again, so I wouldn't have much time. I thought I could go there for a min. or two, on my way to the bus. I imagined when I would take the pictures and meet these children, I might leave Vietnam with a smile - I was in pursuit of a smile that day actually. The plane would go after 5 p.m. and I left the hotel before noon. I just walked in the direction from where I knew the hospital is.. although I wasn't sure where exactly it is (just remembered some points). Plus, I thought that was the same direction from where I came on my first day - where I jumped from the bus that came from the airport (well that was wrong).

In short, I missed the hospital (didn't find it again).. I walked past in this direction, hoping to find the bus, coming from the centre. So I left the centre towards the wrong direction. About three hours before the plane would take off I found somebody in a shop who spoke english and I asked her to tell the taxi driver to bring me to a bus, which would take me to the airport (I didn't see the necessity yet to let the taxi bring me the 15 kms to the airport.. and then fight about the much too high price). He brought me to where I started, right in the centre. There were small buses (no public transport to the airport). The guy asked me when my plane would take off - which was two hours before that - i told him, and finally 45 min. later he would start the ride (after I knocked on the window, showing on my clock). Hm, on the bus I thought it might get short of time slowly. But then I thought if they bring people to the airport every day, they should know! Nevertheless he took his time. Some traffic jam as well in the city. But he remained cool (I tried to). We were at the airport about 20 min. before my plane would take off. I thought (not having the experience) that this should be enough to check in and hop on the plane. I was wrong again.

You can guess, my personal "mission smile" for that day failed. And yet I didn't regret it. When I left asia three and a half weeks later, I was really ready to leave.. and so glad to get back home. I left with a smile.

Monday, November 2, 2009

About a boy

s m i l e

Between Ca Na and Phan Thiet
(Friday, 11.09.2009)

I met the little boy and his family on a sunny, but very windy day around noon. Later there also was a bit of rain too. The day (which you can see at the beginning of my video) had started just wonderfully, since at first the wind didn't bother me much. But later after a couple of kilometres on the bicycle it did. The wind came straight from the ocean and hit me undamped. When I had to climb some hill, I started to feel lousy. Finally on top of the hill I was happy to see some of those huts, one after the other, where they sell drinks and where I could refresh myself (short before this I had stopped again for a moment and recorded the scenes after those at the beach in the video).

There were about five of those huts, one after the other, and after pondering where to stop, I got it easier then, when I saw two kids playing in the distance in the last one. Easier not only because I love kids and the interaction with them, but also because sometimes I just felt uncomfortable when there were only grown ups in such places, and the way they sometimes would observe me, not speaking english etc., or other times getting a bit too importunately. But of course I've also had many positive experiences, when it was very relaxed or even fun.

But to the boy, I don't know, I just liked him. In fact, it wasn't difficult not to like him. Anyhow, at a certain point in Vietnam I met people, children, who when I took a picture of them, very soon asked for money. I started to feel a bit uncomfortable about it then when kids were just smiley, because they could sense and pronounce the word dollars. To be honest, I didn't always give money. This time it was different. I thought about how much I would give for the boy. Just "coins" of course (even if it's tens of thousands in vietnamese money). I even felt like giving him a hug, before leaving. But instead of the hug, I took him up and shook him a little bit. In a kind way of course. He smiled. His father smiled at me too. I smiled back to both of them. Happy End................ no, not entirely.

My creation

Thereupon his father showed me the boy's feet. I was quite shocked to see how deformed they were (if you dare, you can have a look here). Also since I didn't notice it before. The father tried to make me understand that they need money to feed him. I wanted to give something, so I did. Even if suddenly I was expected to do so. Anyway, I payed my drink and gave a little extra for them too, additionally to the "coins" I gave for the boy. While I gave the father the money I asked him how this happened, by showing on a motorbike.. the father intimated that it had not to do with a motorbike. I didn't ask again. I had a vague feeling that he didn't want to tell, or didn't feel well with the question, altough he smiled.

My creation

The family was just preparing for lunch when I wanted to leave. I was quite hungry as well actually, and didn't know when there would be the next restaurant. I had everything ready and wanted to leave and the moment I waved goodbye, the father offered me to stay and eat with them. I hesitated for a moment, but then joined them. I was glad. So I had lunch with the two kids, the parents, one granny; the grandfather did not join them.. but then a bit later another older woman came. I supposed maybe the sister of the grandmother or grandfather (probably the latter).

Soon I noticed this grandaunt's peg leg. She even presented it with a smile. It was in some kind of rain gutter. Later that day I tried to interpret the whole scene. Or rather, the family's, and the boy's story in particular. I imagined that the boy's scar might not have happened by accident, but might have done intentionally. Possibly to make travellers feel pity for the boy and through this, give money more easily. The family lives in really poor conditions (such as many people I met during my travels, especially in Vietnam). I imagined how just this might have worked very well for years for this grandaunt. Who by the way and to be honest, couldn't touch my feeling for sympathy. Actually how I saw the family then, I was reminded of some classic tragedy. And for me there was the "bad" aunt. The parents of the boy, the sister and the grandmother seemed really likeable. The grandfather kept aloof from the family, even during lunch. I felt he was very unhappy. I interpreted it later as a possible feeling of guilt. Possibly for what he might have done to his grandson. Maybe the parents and the grandmother (probably his wife) couldn't seem to really forgive him for what he had done. Even though they knew it would be "better" for the family, in a way that it would mean more money for them. But even more, he didn't seem to be able to forgive himself. Maybe he couldn't put it all to (who I picture as) his sister, the grandaunt. Maybe the rest of the family didn't even know that it was all the grandaunt's idea. - Well, if it really was. - Since she moved within the family so freely and easygoingly. Or maybe they know, and she just deals with it differently, only seeing the benefits from it.

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