Wandering through a high mountain village one afternoon we descended on foot down a hill and into the clouds, following the sound of childish laughter until we arrived at what looked like the local creche. There are no qualified nursery workers here however, instead 3 or 4 young children were being looked after by a couple of girls who looked about 12 years old. No doubt older sisters who were left in charge whilst their parents worked. I’ve chosen to include the images below as they tell a story, but more importantly, how photographs can be taken out of context and used to create a false narrative in news reporting. In the top left image, the young girl looks exhausted, unhappy, and weighed down by her responsibilities. She’s possibly contemplating a future of drudgery, no education, and with little chance of ever escaping that. However, this was just a brief moment in the 20 minutes or so I spent with them. The image on the right is the reality – an older sister having fun with her young siblings. (To be fair, she probably will never have a different life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a life of misery.) Food for thought eh?
The same can be said of the images below. Dirty (yes), parentless (unlikely) abandoned (no), uncared for (no). It was the end of the day and I expect that they were simply tired and hungry. No different from any other young child the world over. The big difference here is that water is a precious commodity, there’s no running water inside the houses and washing machines are unheard of. When the parents work all day in exhausting manual jobs, I don’t suppose there’s much energy to do the washing by hand or even the incentive when the children are going to be spending the days outside. (The boy in the grey sweatshirt is the same boy who is laughing in the image above)
Looking further down the hill was a scene that demanded to be captured.
Some of the Vietnamese people are so open they invited us to look in their homes. The houses here rarely have any windows so are very very dark inside. I think the reason is that it gets very cold in winter with snow on the ground, and the house stays warmer without windows. Indoor cooking helps to warm it up, but, (and it’s a very big ‘but’) there’s no chimney! The room fills with choking smoke and I couldn’t stand it for more than a few minutes. I hate to think what it does to their lungs…..
Some families were sitting outside at the end of the day and here’s another photograph that could tell a story.
Everywhere we went in Northern Vietnam we saw buffalo. Unlike their African cousins they are very placid creatures and here we see them walking home accompanied by a couple of young boys.
Also walking home were these three ladies, one of whom is possibly carrying her dinner!
Another day, another location, and the daughter of the house is left to do the clothes washing.
More examples of traditional clothing below. The lady on the left was shredding leaves in a machine, and the ladies on the right are thinning out the rice plants. It’s a wonder they can stand upright after being bent double all day.
As we walked away from the field above, I heard George Michael ! These two young children may be living in a wooden hut, but they had a device that was playing music!!