Edit Blog Post
Published: November 16th 2010
stick girl and hat
stick girl with the hat
It’s been over four months since my last blog, so those of you who thought I bought the ranch, well, I’m still kickin. I left China in mid July and returned to the states – Illinois to be exact. I’ve spent some time trying to gather my “stuff”, which was strewed across the USA. I have also been spending some time organizing and printing my photos, which brings me to this blog.
Last Saturday my girlfriend hosted a “photo party” for me. A photo party is like a candle party except instead of selling candles you sell photos. We turned her dining room into a mini gallery and had photos hung on the walls as well as piles of prints on the dining room table. Her buffet was covered in various fabrics that I had collected over the last 10 years. In two of the corners I had easels that had framed prints sitting on them. On one easel was a photo of a print I call “stick girl”. On top of the easel was a hat that I bought outside of Sapa, Vietnam. During the party while looking at the print with the hat on top of it, it
jarred a memory, a memory of a “perfect” day in the life of a traveler. Though this day was nearly two years ago I could recall almost every detail from when I awoke until I went to bed that night. Usually, I can’t even remember what I had for lunch two days ago.
The day started out when my Black H’mong friend/guide Sa met me at my guesthouse in the morning. For those of you who don’t know, Black H’mong are part of the Hmong minority group that live in South East Asia. It was during Tet and we were going to spend the day walking down to her village with me taking photos. Tet is the Chinese new years and some of the Hmong groups in Vietnam celebrate Tet for about 10 days. Along the way we happened upon “stick girl” with two of her friends (sisters?) who were trying to sell hiking sticks to the occasional tourist. Sa and I stopped for a while and I took some pictures and then bought a hiking stick from the stick girls. We continued on down the valley towards Sa’s village where we were going to meet Sa's early childhood
friend Su at Su’s house to have some rice wine and celebrate Tet.
After saying goodbye to stick girl we slowly walked down the valley along the road stopping occasionally to take in the vistas. After a few hours (we were walking slowly) we came to an “intersection” where we turned off the road and headed down into the river valley on our way to Sa’s village, Lau Chai. Lau Chai is split in half by a small river and is called Lee Lau chai and Lay lau Chai depending on which side of the river you are on. I don’t think there are more than 200 houses on both sides of the river. There is a winding gravel road, which I had driven many times before but this time I was walking. Sa suggested that we take the shortcut straight down – mind you it wasn’t like we were on a cliff or anything. It had rained recently and the trail was muddy but I had my new trusty walking stick to help me down the path. Well about half way into the path I slipped and actually fell head over heels (I don’t ever think I had
fallen head over heels before) tumbling a few feet with all my camera gear around my neck. Well when I got to my feet I let out a string of superlatives that would have made a sailor blush. Sa felt bad, she thought it was her fault and that I was yelling at her, she didn’t understand when I told her that I was yelling at myself for being so “careless”.
After I wiped the mud off my camera and me I check to make sure all was well and it was. We walked down to the dirt road and then took a small bridge across the river to visit with Su. We arrived a Su’s house and were invited to come in and have some rice wine. Sa and Su have been childhood friends and I am sure they have spent many a Tet together sharing rice wine and stories. Now they would have a new story to tell about the crazy American who fell head over heels, even with a walking stick. The three of us sat there chatting for a few hours, sharing stories, rice wine and food. Some old timers from the village heard that
a foreigner was at Su’s house so they came over to investigate or more likely to have some rice wine. They downed several glasses of the rice wine and we shook hands about a hundred times.
After a few hours at Su’s we headed across the river to Sa’s mothers house to have a visit. On the way there we ran into a Hmong mother with her little boy. The little boy had crocodile tears in his little eyes. We asked what was wrong and the mother said that the little boy wanted the can of coke that she had (which I didn’t give to her). After chatting with the mother for a while (Sa probably told her the story of the crazy American doing a head over heel tumble down the short-cut) the mom gave the can of coke to the boy and all was well.
When we arrived at Sa’s moms house Sa’s brothers and nephews were there sharing rice wine and telling stories. The last thing I wanted was more rice wine but not to take some would have been rude. So I drank more rice wine with Sa’s family. The time came when I
had to depart and Sa called her son and asked if he would give me a ride back to Sapa on their motorbike. Before he arrived I spied a hat on a table in Sa’s moms house. I had fended off several aggressive older Black Hmong women in Sapa who tried desperately to sell me a “champoo” – French for hat. If you have ever been to Sapa you know what I am talking about. Well I asked mama how much the hat was and happily paid her for it and while waiting for her Grandson to pick me up I had a few more rice wines with the family while wearing my new hat.
When Sa’s son arrived we all hugged and said goodbye and he drove me back up the hill to Sapa where I thanked him and gave him a small tip for getting me back in one piece. I returned to my guesthouse where I took a shower and then went to the market to have a bowl of Pho ga (chicken noodle soup) before returning to my guesthouse to work on the photos that I had taken that day. Now you know the story
of the hat from Sapa. Next week Thanksgiving is celebrated in The Sates and Canada and I am going to publish another Sapa hat story, this one having to do with giving thanks. Here's a shameless plug - for those of you in the Waukegan area We'll be having another foto party this Saturday, November 20th and you are invited. Shoot me an email and I'll give you the scoop.
Dave / Yogi
By the way, for those of you saying, “I thought you said you would never drink rice wine again ….” It was a few days after this day that when I was in Sapa I had drunk some rice wine that the Vietnamese had made that contained methanol that dam near killed me. Since then I have only had a few sips of the stuff when visiting various minority groups in Vietnam, Laos, Burma …
Tot: 2.74s; Tpl: 0.058s; cc: 19; qc: 83; dbt: 0.0608s; 2; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb