Tour De World Country #50 begins. It was 10 years ago today that my Best Friend Amy and I set off to explore the world, and today, we return back to the place where our journey first began. One of the highlights from that adventure was meeting two little beggars named Sun and Muong from Hue, Vietnam. It is our mission on this trip to return tho their village and track them down. Stay tuned to see where that road leads us and to learn what happens next…
Excerpt from “The Backpack Diaries”
Amy’s Diary Entry
January 25th 2002
“I was touched by Sun and Muong, two little girls who I will remember forever. We had seen them before as they were regular beggars on the popular tourist street that was lined with restaurants catering to tourists. Our first encounter wasn’t so pretty as we tried to offer them cookies instead of money for their outstretched hands. The older Sun was happy with that, but little spitfire Muong slapped it away. What sympathy we had for them soon vanished with that display. The next day Traci and I were having a solo sanity day, and I was having breakfast when I spotted them again. Sun motioned hesitantly that she wanted my aluminum can so I signaled them to come closer to my table. They soon were sitting at my table, devouring my breakfast scraps. I ordered them each a meal and watched them gobble that up as well. Ann, a young Vietnamese woman who spoke pretty good English, joined us and was able to tell me a little about these precious girls. They lived by the river and their parents were fishermen. They were 9 and 13 years old, but they were so small I would have thought they were only 5 and 7. They came to this street frequently by themselves to beg for food and money. This was known and accepted by their parents who were very poor and likely had other children to feed. Sun and Muong were dressed in ragged clothing, and I arranged for all of us to go to a market where I bought them each a new play outfit and also a traditional Vietnamese outfit, as well as shoes, hats, and sun- glasses. We then went to Ann’s home and bathed the girls and dressed them in their new outfits. Ann was the only child of laborers and lived in a concrete home with 3 rooms.
The furniture was sparse. Her parents had devoted themselves to earning money for Ann to attend college, which she did. She had graduated with a degree in accounting and English but could not find a job, so she was trying to start her own business. Sun, Muong, and I walked back to the same popular tourist area. We were all holding hands, and the two little girls were engaged in their own conversation while giggling and frequently looking up at me and rewarding me with genuine smiles of delight. I bought them dinner before disentangling myself from them and went back to the hostel to find Traci. The following day we arranged to be taken to their homes and again were left in wonder as to the conditions that some people were forced to live in. Their homes were on stilts, and the walls of their one room homes were of tarps. A few of the homes had 1 or 2 of the walls made of plywood. A few plastic chairs and maybe a table were the only furnishings, along with various kitchen wares. There were kids every- where, all surrounding us as I’m sure the word got out that we had bought food and clothes for Sun and Muong. Some other mothers brought their kids over to us and pointed to their children’s feet, which of course were shoeless, or to their ragged clothes or to their mouths.
Other little boys would run up to us with out- stretched hands and say “one dollar, one dollar, one dollar”. That was a bit disturbing. Muong’s mother was 32 but looked at least 10 years older. She had had her 6th child several months earlier. Her oldest child was 13. I asked Muong where she slept, and she pointed to the bridge that crossed the river, and Ann confirmed that many people slept under the bridge. Muong wouldn’t let go of my hand and stomped on other kids’ feet if they encroached on her new possession, which was me. I looked at pretty little Sun, with her long dark hair. She was just starting to develop breast buds, and I wondered how long it would be before she was trapped in this same life leading nowhere. They found us the next day while we were eating at a restaurant, and who could blame them? If I were hungry, I would look for the people who bought me food too. For maybe the first time in my life, I felt a motherly urge to care for these little girls. I wanted to take them back to America with me and offer them a better life. Their futures seemed bleak and predictable if left here to fend for themselves and there were so many other children just like them. We left the next day, and my heart was truly sad as I knew I would probably never see either one of them again. I still think of them when I’m lying in bed at night and wonder how and where they are. Traci’s mom is shipping them a goodie box from America.”