WOMEN WHO DO IT ALL
Can you imagine being married off as a teenager with motherhood not far behind, and to spend your life farming rice alongside your husband? That's exactly the life most of the women from the villages around Sapa, Vietnam are doing, and they are something to behold. On my two-day trek through the hillside communities, I was humbled and in awe of the local women I encountered.
My guide was a tiny woman named Sang, pronounced “song,” who belongs to the Black Hmong people of the area. Though she be but little, she is fierce. Sang was a 26 year old ball of energy and a working mother. I had so much fun getting to know her, and learning about her heritage. She was the perfect ambassador for Sapa. Sang is in the photo to the left below. She is rubbing fabric between two stones. The friction rubs wax onto the fabric giving it a shiny appearance, all for the sake of looking good.
As I walked around I could easily tell that the women were the backbone of the villages. Many leave home around 16 to enter into an arranged marriage. I witnessed the negotiations of one such marriage at breakfast one morning. The women cook, clean, garden, farm, mother, and clothe their families. Along with sometimes taking jobs as tour guides, learning English, and being integral parts of the community. Just typing it makes me feel lazy. If that’s not enough, they do it all without internet!
I also noticed that the children were very well behaved, respectful, and self-sufficient. It was normal to have children roaming while mom was working or to have a baby strapped to her body. The bonds of family and community are strong, and it seemed like everyone took responsibility in raising the youngsters.
Of course I’m sure it’s not universal, but the women seemed content and happy. That’s more than can be said for most of the people I know who lead comfortable lives. When I asked Sang if she would like to live somewhere else, her response was “It’s not an option so I’m happy in my life here.” I admire and respect these women who manage to balance work, life, and family in a way that seems to escape the Western world. No time for guilt, regrets, or complaints…there is too much work to be done.