Why I’m not happy

I told you that Nam and Lynne’s (actually her name is Lien but I’m going to stick with Lynne) caretaker had been imprisoned for abuse.

I was at a writers meeting at work yesterday and the subject came up and one of the other women there knew about the story and said that it had been in the newspaper. She told me that the woman who runs the variety store just around the corner from me had been speaking… to a journalist. And a photo had been printed.

I don’t want to go running off making accusations without confirming the facts, but it seems that it may have been the result of this journalist’s actions. Some of my friends, even my Vietnamese ones have said this is a good thing. One of my friends said “This is the best thing that could happen. For them to go home”.

Home to what ? They have been on the streets here in this couple’s care for at least 5 years that I can verify. They are orphans. What sort of “home” do you think they have ? If they had a home where people cared about them, they wouldn’t have been here in Saigon all these years.

When I asked Nam “Are you going to live with family in Hue ?” he nodded… whilst looking at the ground. In Vietnam, the term “family” is used very loosely, especially when someone is explaining something to someone in another language. Nam and Lynne used to refer to their caretaker as their “mother” but everyone knew she was not.

Are they going to have a better life in Hue ? No. I do not believe so. That was Nam’s response when I asked him if he thought he would like it there – “No”. Does that sound like a kid happy to go “home” and escape this alleged torture ?

I’m not saying that what these caretakers were doing is ok. Far from it ! But what I am saying is that the outcome is far from desirable. In Saigon these kids had more opportunities. There is a good chance that their excellent English would have led them to find decent employment. Many bar and cafe staff have very limited English. Children so young with those skills are valuable employees in the tourist area. They could have gone far. Much further than I am convinced they are likely to go in Hue.

On my first day in Pham Ngu Lao, some years ago, I was approached by a small boy who offered to sell me marijuana. I was shocked when I asked him how old he was and his reply was “11” (and keep in mind this can mean 10 or even not much more than 9 in western terms due to the way Vietnamese count age differently). Virtually all of the people who sell things in the street in Pham Ngu Lao also sell drugs. After a while they realise that selling drugs is more profitable than selling books or trinkets and they just focus on the drugs. I fear this could be Nam one day.

The rag (I will not call it a newspaper) who printed this article exposing this crime is a sensationalist one that feeds off depravity and scandal. The article following Nam and Lynne’s was one about a brothel on the Vietnam-China border known as “The Market” and they interviewed a young girl who had started working as a prostitute at age 13. Lynne, I believe turns 14 next week.

There’s lots more I want to say, but not right now. I am sort of raging about it. I’m so angry that this has happened. I’m so worried about their future. And I’m not entirely sure what to do.

I know what was happening to these kids sucks. But they were happy kids all the same. And they are not looking forward to what the future has in store for them. Someone needs to do something. In lieu of anyone else, I guess I’ll see what I can do.

Nam and Lynne do not deserve to end up selling drugs or working in a brothel.

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