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Saturday, 03 June 2017 20:01

Journey to Dak Lak - Part 4: "The other side of the hill: A dream"

I had a dream of picking up a girl, H. Uyn, to bring home to our OBV family. Since the day I met her, not a day went by where I didn't think of her. It was like to know her, to help was fate.

It had been a hard day for our group, to make a home visit. After travelling over 100km from the mountainous city of Dak Lak to Ea Kiet, we had to walk for the whole morning, over hills, pass springs and red muddy land, to finally reach the home of a family of 2 victims of a minority group. This part alone, if you could believe it, was the easier part to deal with. The other part was the fact that a foster father had married his daughter. There was also the barrier of cultures and languages, as the community here spoke their own dialect. But we pushed on, refusing to give up and be powerless to help these girls.

She lived in a small hut in the small settlement of Tria, where she had become the wife of her father at the age of 10, and giving birth four years later. Whether by ignorance or being an accomplice, the wife of the man (and foster mother of the child) said "I don't know what's going on", when asked. Having given birth to 2 boys of her own, how could she not know? How could she be so ignorant to 'not know', or not recognize the 7 month pregnancy of a little girl? It was when the girl's teacher who finally realized what was happening.

We tried to trace down the girl's biological mother.

"Mother Edi bought me when I was in 4th grade (10 years old) at the price of 120 USD. The seller was not my biological mother..I don't know who she is, because she sold me right after I was born. I am pure Vietnamese, not part of any minority group." (*)

Her suffering broke all our hearts. It was hard to hide our tears. Mr. Ngoc - an officer from the Labor and Social department had to walk away quietly, to compose himself.

Her baby cried from hunger. Instinctively, she held hr baby, pulled up her muddy shirt and offered a breast (though it was more to quiet her child, that baby ate rice). When asked, she answered with much conviction "Yes, I want to go back to school. I want to visit OBV".

But it wasn't easy. Her foster mother wouldn't allow it. Not because she was worried for the girl, but because her grandchild -- or now her step-child, as he was her husband's baby?? -- would be taken away. According to the matriarchy of the E De group, the baby girl would take on the mother's surname...Would she be keeping the baby for herself, or for her husband?

That was something I didn't want to think about. We were focused on making this girls' dreams on coming to the other side of the hill into a reality. One day we would carry out her wish, to live with OBV, that she could go back to school, and protect her beloved little daughter.

(*) To get a better understanding of what that $120 is worth, let's compare that amount of money. In American, the average income works out to be $8/hour. Could you buy a meal with that? Of course, a Big Mac meal, for about $6. In Vietnam, the average salary in these regions work out to be $100 or if they're lucky, $150 USD/month. While a bowl of pho (standard breakfast/lunch/dinner meal) would cost as little as $1, there are other costs to think about: school for the kids, if any. Food for the month. A child being sold for $120 is essentially one month's salary, considered to be a lot of money.


Nov 2016

Translated by Mr. Phung and Jacqueline Huynh.  The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Nhật Ký Hành Trình Đăk Lăk (4): Giấc Mơ Phía Bên Kia Ngọn Đồi"

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