Her face is deep, hypnotic and riveting. Every line, crease and wrinkle in her face shows a history of war, struggle and suffering. It just wasn’t her face, but her rough hands and her thin, fragile frame that shared with every passer by her life story. Still, there was still an intense cloud of mystery that hovered over her, hiding behind her weary, aged face. Who was she? What has her life been like? How much has she endured over the years? What has she witnessed and experienced from Viet-Nam’s war torn past?
We only know her as the elderly woman who sold the brooms, who spoke only a handful of words in English and who politely held out her hand, asking for money.
If she couldn’t convince anyone to buy one of her brooms, she would allow you to take her picture, in exchange for a few thousand dong (about 25 cents). When uninterested customers would decline, she would quietly, silently follow, then with a gentle nudge, she’d look up with her twinkly eyes and put her hand out again. It was hard for anyone, at this point, to decline an offering of generosity. She was so kind, so gracious and extremely thankful when someone shared a little bit of philanthropy. Hopefully she gathered up money to put more food on her tail-thin body or to at least lift some of the burden that laid on her tired, broom making hands.
We followed her for a while through the busy, bustling and colorful streets of Hoi An, which was very easy because she stood out amongst the crowd. After a while, she knew she was being followed and briskly disappeared behind a building, out of our sight for good. But her memory, her presence and her face is still deeply embedded in our minds. She might have been old, but she was strong, committed and determined to overcome all obstacles. Her strength was obvious.
Seeing just a few minutes of her life reminds us of just how fortunate our lives are.
Did we give her any money? Of course we did. We shared enough with her to make her eyes twinkle a bit more and bring a big lift to her toothless mouth.
Greeting her customers
Clenching her goods, moving on.
Previous Viet-Nam posts you might enjoy reading and viewing:
- Heading to Viet-Nam & Twitters
- Return from Viet-Nam, fresh perspectives
- An American in the family
- Pineapple peddler in Hanoi
- When Oranges are Green
- The Face – elderly woman in Hoi An