The Buffalo Boy.

We woke up to foggy mystical skies. Life starts early in the Hmong villages in the north. It didn’t take us long to realize we were no longer in the “Land Of The Morning Calm.” Life in Vietnam, particularly here in the north, starts early. I’m talking 4am early!

By the time we crept out of bed it was already 7am and the grandmother of the household we were staying at had already been awake for hours. She was this tiny lady who just never stopped moving. It wasn’t long before we set out along our way for day two of our trek. The fog made for this magical walk as we spent the morning walking through it. We weaved in and out of the terraced rice fields and all of a sudden you would hear the faint sound of a cow bell in the distance. It would come closer and closer and as I looked around (even though the sound of the ringing cow bell was quite loud) I still couldn’t see anything yet. Finally, just at about an arms reach, a small boy and his mother came into the clearing. They were guiding their water buffalo back home. Water Buffalo trudging along as they hauled a heavy load of wood from the forest. This wood would later be used in the adobe style indoor oven to fuel the fire for dinner.

It was just about this same time we encountered the only person we had seen for many kilometers. This tiny human left me thinking about him weeks later. He was dressed in a blue coat, blue jeans, and flip flops. He was sitting by a fire that was more smoke than fire. He sat in the grass beside the fire just observing us. He didn’t seem scared, but rather just observing us. Our guide walked over to him as Tom and I followed. The three of us sat there with him. I could feel my heart just being pulled on. Chu-in (our guide) began speaking to him and we learned he was six years old. His job was to lead these massive water buffalo out to the fields to graze and bring them safely back home. Tom worked on making the fire a bit warmer for him. We learned he built the fire himself to keep warm. We emptied our bag of all our food to pass along to him. He was the sweetest little boy. He didn’t have a single toy or book out there with him he just sat there, alone, watching the buffalo.I kept glancing around for an adult and no one was in sight.

Later, his mother came along- I think quite some time had passed since we had arrived- but she was working the fields & came back to check in on him. We chatted with her for awhile. Chu-in speaking Vietnamese to the buffalo boy- the boy translating Vietnamese to the Hmong language back to him mom. I could tell she loved her son. We chatted for a bit more before we departed. Her eating her grasshoppers she had collected and us eating the bread/Vietnamese hot dogs.

I wonder what the future holds for this boy. I know it will probably look a lot different than my future and that’s okay. The buffalo boy changed me. I loved him instantly. He had the sweetest eyes and a very important job looking over the family’s most prized possessions. Sometimes, I don’t think words are necessary to communicate. When you want to show someone love- you don’t always need the words. I don’t necessarily think he was unhappy. It didn’t feel right that I could feel “more fortunate” or that he was “less fortunate.” Traveling does that to you, you know? It shows you that what you’ve known isn’t necessarily always best. It shows you that love is universal. That pain doesn’t have to be felt to be understood. That your way isn’t always the best way. It changes you.

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the buffalo boy.

the buffalo boy.