SAPA: Hmong Home-Stay (Part 3 of 4)
Category : Vietnam
As we walked the final steps that were leading up to Sue’s home her family was outside waiting for us. We got to meet her husband and four children, two girls and two boys. Language was a big barrier but they all kept smiling at us. This was a bit awkward, but it was to be expected. We were still very excited and we couldn’t wait to try and get to know all of them. Now was time to go see where we were going to spend the night.
As we got closer to the home it was a bit of a concern. We both were in disbelief on the conditions this family was living in. The home itself was a rough structure. There were major gaps between each slab of wood that served as walls, you could see right into the home from outside. It sat on area in the middle of rice fields that was nothing but clay and mud that served as the floor.
Inside was just one big room that consisted of four beds and a kitchen/storage area with no stove. Their means of cooking was from a fire pit that was dug in the ground next to two of the beds.
It was also the source of heat at night. The beds were made of just wood, nothing else, big square wood frames with no mattress or padding. Our bed had a mosquito net around it, and a couple of blankets and pillows (that were damp). The inside was also filled with spiders everywhere. Matt was freaking out (he is not a fan of spiders). The only electricity was connected to one light, a small old TV, and a DVD player (we were surprised that they had a TV, they used it to watch music DVD’s).
The home had two doors, a side door, and a big double front door. The front door was always open showing this beautiful view of the whole valley.
Also at the front door a family of chickens kept coming inside. Sue would feed them then shush them out. Then they would try to sneak back in (funny to watch). Inside Sue offered us sandals so we could wash and dry our shoes. None of them fit Matt, so he looked like a giant wearing kids sandals.
Then the tour continued. Next to the home was a small building divided into two parts. On the right side was a pig pen. It had a big pig and a couple baby pigs. Then Sue went to open the left side door. There was the toilet (we were very excited that we didn’t have to use “outside,” and there was toilet paper too). Like most of Asia, it was a squat toilet. The crazy thing was that these two areas were connected and there was a big gap between the two. So as you can imagine using the bathroom means you had company watching you at all times and they weren’t quiet. They would stare at you and “oink” which made it very uncomfortable, but also very funny at the same time. We noticed that there was no sink, shower or bath (it was a good thing we brought sanitizer and wet napkins). You could see a pipe that brought water down the mountain to the home. This water was not clean, and it was ice cold. A lot of this water was put into a couple of containers. As time went on we saw that the kids would clean themselves from this water and wash their clothes. We both felt sorry for this family for having to live under these conditions. It was very heartbreaking too see but it also made us appreciate and be grateful for all the things we had back at home.
Dinnertime was approaching and Sue ran to the store to get groceries. This gave us time to get to know the kids. The oldest girl was the only one who spoke a little bit of English. On occasion she would try to sell her moms handmade items to us. It was cute. We took some pictures with them and got to watch them play a marble game. They weren’t use to technology so they were really amazed when they got to see themselves in the pictures. They wanted us to keep taking more. This was fun and the expressions on their faces were priceless.
We were concerned with the little boy he had a really bad cold. When Sue came back and started cooking the boy was trying to help and kept coughing all over the food (Matt was scared to eat, but didn’t have a choice because he was so hungry). Ling later came over with her husband and helped Sue with the cooking. She showed us how to make fried spring rolls, fried tofu, etc. It felt like a private cooking session.
The dinner was a blast, we all sat together at this little table like one big family eating delicious food and drinking local “Happy Water” (really strong rice wine). It really was an amazing night, with an amazing family, regardless of the living conditions, that we will always remember.