Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

Lao Chai Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012 Sa Pa, Vietnam

We trekked to two villages today. The first was Lao Chai village, 6 km from the centre town, where the H’mong people are living. The trek was through rice fields and quite steep. The most difficult part was walking and balancing on the edge of the terraced rice paddies. In my embarrassment of being 65 a village girl had to hold my hand over quite a long stretch that was about six inches wide and straight down a long ways on the right and into the water on the left. I managed to slip into the water several times but the girl kept me from falling down the mountain. Narda had a girl with a baby on her back holding her from slipping down the side.

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We took about two hours to get down to the bottom to the beginning of the Muong Hoa valley. Our guide who collected us from where we are staying this week; the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel (http://thaibinhhotel.com/), was from the H’mong tribe and she spoke good English. She had her baby strapped to her back the whole way and was really a good guide and a steady hand to Narda over some of the slippery and muddy parts of the path.

We had lunch at her village and went on to to Ta Van Village which borders Lao Chai Village.

A better description is from http://www.allsapatours.com/sapa-vietnam/Ta-Van-Village.html, “Ta Van means “a big turning road” like a basket brim, or tripod-leg line. Vast terrace fields with unique position of a big turning road become a landscape and a destination of Ta Van. Seo Mi Ti scenery-old pine forest, a half day of sloping road away from township centre, is also a particularly interesting eco-tourist site of Ta Van. And Ta van has become an integral tourist site for ecological excursions in Sapa.”

Lunch was good with the only complaint being the constant harassment from children selling stuff. We did purchase a bed spread and some other embroidered things from our guide’s mother. The bed spread she said took three-months to make, OK so we believe things but it was well done and the mother (in the photos below) was making them whilst we were  there and a lot of work goes into these things. We paid 700 dongs about $35 US and for a handmade spread that seemed cheap. They die the fabric with indigo plants that make it go green. The fabric is soaked for months; the longer it is in the dye the darker. We picked some of the plants and it instantly makes skin turn green. Our guide is on the left below and her mother is holding the baby after hours on the back of the mother as we climbed down the mountain.

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I am not sure how much the villages are affected by the tourist coming through. They are better off and have built schools off the proceeds so we are doing our little bit. The village by Western standards are quite poor and I am not sure we could live like they do for very long which probably illustrates our materialistic ways.

There are six major groups in the Sa Pa area each speaks their own language though they share Vietnamese they do not understand the other village’s languages. Each village has its own culture and beliefs. Our guide is Buddhist and she married a fellow from another village. Some villages are Christian some have no beliefs – which is impossible because we all believe something or the other – but they all co-exist and have for I suppose many hundreds if not thousands of years. Apparently they were not affected by the American war in the 1960s and early 1970s and the government has pretty much left them alone, probably because they are so isolated and non-threatening. This is really something to see; we, with all our Western beliefs and wants and to see tribes living like they have for so long makes one believe that society may continue. They will be still here when all the Christians, Muslims, Jews and spiritualists of many hues destroy themselves. The teenagers do not run off to Hanoi but stay in their villages and keep the traditions going.

_DSC4104I took 188 photos and a lot of video today and I am trying to select the best 20 or 30 or maybe 50 for today’s album which I am uploading to Facebook, Google+ and a few other photostreaming sites.

This is the view from our hotel room

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We have two more days here and hope to get to the other villages. The weather has been fantastic.

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home again

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Sacha asleep in the lounge and so is girl friend Georgia.

What a long trip this has been.

The last time Sacha and I were asleep in the same house in New York was in March of 1992. We were visiting my father and brother in Clifton Park. Mum had died several months earlier and the last time we were together with her was in 1984. It is a long way from Australia so the visits were not frequent. My brother Robert was dying of AIDS. We stayed in his upper east side apartment for a week before going to Clifton Park and staying with my father. He would come to visit us in October of that year, age 87. The boys and I rented a mobile home and with dad in tow we drove around Australia for a few weeks. Those were great times. Leigh was nine years old and talking about pitching for the New York Yankees. Sacha, now asleep in my lounge here on Albermarle Road, Brooklyn, was eleven and as worldly as an eleven year could be. We had already traveled together between Australia and New York a couple of times and we had ‘done’ France, Germany, Hawaii, California and New York along with too many places in Australia.

I just got back last night from Holland. Sacha and Georgia came over from Melbourne to stay at our apartment. I left for Tennessee the day after they got here for new step-son Chris Moreman’s wedding. Then three days later Narda and I were off to Holland for the parent’s 80th birthday celebration. That went for ten-days. If it weren’t for the in-laws there would only be Sacha and I left. Marrying Narda gave me three step-sons and a large family of sisters and parents and lots of relatives in Holland and in Australia. I have my own step-sister and step-brother who I have met once – in Hawaii – but outside of them there is no one left in the States for me.

Since Sacha and I prowled New York back in 1992, my father has died (last year 23 January – three weeks after I started a new teaching job at The Dwight School), Leigh – the tragedy I can not shake – killed himself soon after turning 20 – after achieving his goal to play professional baseball but there was something wrong with him that neither the LA Dodger’s psychiatrist could fix and I did not know about – he went to Sydney then left the world August 16th 2003. Brother Robert died in 1992 soon after our visit.

Now I have three days with Sacha before he and Georgia go to Thailand for a week then back to Melbourne. I get to see Sacha often, we spent a few days together last July and in August in Melbourne and I manage to see him each August since Leigh died but always in Australia. This will probably be our last time together ever in New York or even in the States. Sacha was born in Hawaii and then we moved to Australia soon after. I will see him this coming July-August in Melbourne and again on Christmas Day 2008 as we already have our ticket. It has become easier flying back and forth to the point that I do it about twice a year.

I miss seeing Leigh. I have no idea what the future holds and of course no one really does but as long as I have memory, Sacha’s visit this week to NYC will be one of my favorites. We have gone a long ways since the two boys and I lived together in South Australia (Hackham, Mt. Compass, Victor Harbor, Middleton – we lived in ten houses in ten years). I always thought that by this time I would be watching Leigh playing baseball but that died. I did get my PhD after seven years of too much work and sorrow and Sacha is an happy adult of 27. I have been married for six years and that has been good and has given me a connection to Holland and many other places. But I am still the same person of the 1980s that had great dreams and believed that my two children and I would have an incredible trot on this planet. We were so poor and our life was so rough but there was a good quality and depth to it. I enjoyed living and playing with my children in Australia with the great plan of us all living in the USA one day. Here I am living in NYC and Sacha is visiting. It is as close to my dream of the 1980s that I will ever come to.