Wednesday, October 27, 2010

H'Mong Village Life

Our friend Ker

We went to Sapa again a few weekends ago. We’d been there in February this year, and became friends with our H’Mong guide, little Ker. In the last 8 months we talked to her on the phone a few times, and she’s been keeping us updated on her pregnancy. She’s only twenty years old but she has been married three years, and she already has a two years old little boy. When she was our tour guide, she explained a lot to us about H’Mong traditions and customs, one of them being getting married very early on… in February, she had just been to her little brother’s wedding celebration, that week. He was fourteen years old.

The new arrival - one week old

I actually am starting to know quite a bit about the H’Mong love customs, from seeing a documentary at the Cinematheque, the week we arrived about the H’Mong love market, then from talking to Ker a lot in February and finally from reading Liz Gilbert’s “Committed” book. So, being familiar with the Love market custom and the whole kidnapping business (when a H’mong boy likes a H’mong girl, he and his family go and kidnap her. The girl then spends three days in the boy’s family and at the end of that period she can decide whether she wants to marry him or not. Most of the times, it’s a yes, and the girl moves into the boy’s house, and village). That almost happened to Ker.

Looking at a photo album

Unfortunately for her maybe-future groom to be, Ker had already met the boy she loved, Hong (her current husband) when a whole delegation of men came to her house to kidnap her. Her father was in the secret, which he didn’t keep very well as he killed a pig when the men arrived to his house, and started exchanging tobacco with them, which is a sure enough sign of future wedding cahoots. Seeing this, Ker called Hung to the rescue and he discreetly took her out of the house and hid her at his aunt’s house. Then, they ran away. The men and Ker’s father looked for her all day but she was hiding with Hung in the mountains. She didn’t want to marry some boy she didn’t know. She wanted Hung.

Ker, Hung, their two kids and Hung's younger sister

When they returned, they were quickly married. Ker’s father was pissed off, although H’Mong are good natured people and his wrath was only manifested in this way: he took her mobile phone and purse, and hid them. Ker’s mum came to the rescue after a couple of days and retrieved the mobile phone and purse from under the dad’s pillow.
When Ker was telling us that story, a few weeks ago in her little mountain house, Ker, Dan and I were sitting around the fire laughing our heads off. That story really has a happy ending, they are now married with two kids and Ker’s father has grown to love Hung as he helps him on the farm a lot. :)

Ker & Hung at the local market

Anyway, the weekend was amazing, we spent it in a H’mong village which practically never sees any tourists, in a wooden house with no floor (if you don’t finish your rice, throw it on the floor, the dogs will eat it. That is inside the house I mean), no running water, one light bulb for the whole house, which they move from one end to another depending on what they need to do, kids running around pant less, friends visiting at any hour of the day, cats, dogs, chickens in the house, a lot of rice wine flowing, corn hanging from the ceiling and pigs just outside grunting away day and night.


The best home stay you’ll ever experience.

And the best of all that, is that we were amongst friends, I mean we really went to see Ker and her new baby, we planned it with her over the phone, she was happy to see us and spend time with us. It was a great feeling.

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