Gorgeous children

Gorgeous children

_igp0536
Exhibit A taken in Phong Nha

I love kids, always have, and Vietnam has been an incredible place to indulge in their presence. My assessment, that I will gladly defend with photos, is that Vietnamese children are gorgeous and often angelic looking.

I love that there’s little hesitation to talk to unknown adults. For the most part I haven’t received the ‘why are you talking to me?’ stare. I get long looks…but it’s often from the really little kids who are just checking me out. Generally no-one is uptight about strangers talking to their kids, particularly if it’s a foreigner.

girl-on-train
Exhibit B taken on the train to Hai Phong

The most fun has been in restaurants and at parks where you just wave to a child and they start to move in closer. Somara’s an added bonus (for a multitude of reasons of course), because the kids are drawn in by the colour of her skin and hair. On a number of occasions our table in a restaurant has become Grand Central Station with kids running back and forth to grab our attention. Because of the nation wide push to learn English, parents encourage their kids to take any opportunity to speak it, even if it’s just running up, yelling ‘hello’ and dashing off.

throwing-mud

_igp3044
Mai Chau

A lot of the times I’m out walking I see grandmothers and grandfathers pushing their grandkids on bikes around the neighbourhood.  Often they have a bowl of food they’re trying to spoon into their mouths. It’s fun to watch them eating on the run. No stress or tantrums that I can see about getting them to eat; they’re taking it moment by moment enjoying the sights along the way.

_igp2829
Doan Trang feeding the pigs

Remember what I said about being angelic ‘looking’? I’ve noticed that as always those with the angelic looks also know how to work it…and work it good. They’re able to assuage a bad situation…such as my friend here who was not supposed to be plucking greens from the garden to do this.

Unfortunately there are severals things that challenge my desire to take photos with wild abandon. My work in the film business has ingrained in me the need for the waiver. I can’t help but believe people have the right to decide how and when their image is used and appreciate that being a photographer comes with obligations and responsibilities that are rarely fulfilled. And the last is my belief that sometimes you just need to be in the moment. Nothing between you and your surroundings. All of this leaves me a quagmire that’s easier to acknowledge and move on from, than it is to solve.

I have most easily left these impediments behinds in rural areas where kids are excited to have you hanging out with them.  Somara has stopped to pet A LOT  of dogs and cats in this country…and that’s been another great ice-breaker. What has stuck with me in these situations is the amount of fun that’s had in genuine play. Kids hiding behind structures and slowly creeping up on people…trying with everything they’ve got to catch a bug in a cup or a jar….riding bikes side by side holding on to each other’s handle bars…(and no helmuts)and just combing the beach for shells.

_igp0103
Thuan An beach near Hue
grasshopper-2
Self described BFF’s grasshopper catching in Mai Chau

Parks are few and far between, land is expensive, and most empty space is a construction site or has something edible growing on it. But going to the few parks we’ve found is guaranteed good kid watching. (Yikes it sounds so creepy). Near us is a particularly good park with astroturf, some fantastic climbing structures and a short zip line. The best part is watching the negotiation that goes on between the kids lining up for the always popular zip line. I haven’t seen a scuffle…only a few indignant young girls questioning the boy at the back who thought he was entitled to go to the front of the line. I also loved the man who was lifting his small child up onto the knot to sit, and took it upon himself to stand there for the next 20 minutes helping every other small kid who came along.

I guess it’s not just the kids I love, it’s watching others treasure these young creatures; it’s all quite magnetizing. As are these three beauties of the Canadian kind. And I’ll leave it here.

_igp1555
Hoi An Pagoda dance

 

 

 

 

Why you should travel with kids….

3 monkeys
credit: Fia Jampolsky

I spent two and a half weeks with my sister Fia, my brother-in-law Joel and these three goofy girls, Somara, Ava and Lily, travelling around Vietnam.  Fia thinks 5 minutes of unplanned time is an opportunity to cram in another activity; so we did A LOT in that time.

First we met in Hoi An, an ancient city in central Vietnam. And from there we went on a wild adventure eating strange food, changing beds every few nights, waiting for transport, rushing to catch it, cycling, kayaking and hiking in 30 plus degree weather; going flat out to take in as much as we could before Fia and her posse had to return to Canada.  And even though there were times when the girls didn’t want to eat what was on offer, or they were ‘too hot’ or ‘tired’, they more than embraced the experience.  For me they came to define the experience, taking it to another level.

For one thing, they saw the fun in everything.

big pooptitanic

boxer boy

They had no fear of getting close to really look at or pet things.

straws
chopsticks
puppy
Bai, a pup they visited on numerous occasions in Hoi An

They were door openers, receiving invites to places we might never have gone. After travelling 5 hours north of Hanoi we landed in a small village near Sapa, home to most of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities. The staff at our home-stay immediately asked if we would like to teach an English class. So even though they’d been up early, travelled all morning, and some-one (no names) had puked on the bus, they were keen to trek up the mountain and meet the locals.

We spent the better part of two hours helping 8 or so kids with their English vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling.  Our girls took turns playing teacher and eventually the kids sang for one another; Ava, Somara and Lily in French and English, the local kids in Vietnamese.  And for one last blast of fun, we all did the Macarena.

Buffalo KidEverywhere we went they became a main attraction.  This young guy started doing stunts on his buffalo as soon as he saw them.  Do you think he was trying to impress them just a little bit?

On another expedition to a famous pagoda, called Bai Dinh, we spent a significant amount of time with local tourists who wanted to be photographed with the girls. (I think they asked my sister and I to be in some just to be polite).

pagoda selfies

Travelling with kids can be a hassle, but so can travelling with adults.  I’m so grateful that I spent my first weeks in Vietnam with these three gorgeous monkeys.

girls
credit: Fia Jampolsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S.  When culling through photographs I found a few more that reminded me why I love to travel with these guys.  No matter where we are they can conjure up a dance routine, a tune, or just go with the moment.

at an old pagoda in Hoi An
at an old pagoda in Hoi An
ricefield
in a ricefield
on a cruise ship
on a cruise ship