Her Story: A Woman From Vietnam II
There is beauty and inspiration behind the story of every woman. Every so often, you get a glimpse. You realize how glorious life is – the lives of other women and the life you live.
I’m currently taking German lessons in Germany, and I’m meeting the most heroic women. This woman is one of them. I don’t know her whole story, but I do know this…
Much of my route to German class matches that of the bus. I always walk because I find peace in the transition by foot. My mind can unscramble the new grammar I’m learning, I witness the changing seasons, and I get to watch people do their daily things. But not today. My left foot feels a little sore (from all the walking, no doubt). So when the bus stops just 15 yards ahead of me and opened its doors, I take it as a sign and jump in.
This story is not about me and the bus, though. It’s about the woman who sits down next to me two blocks later when the bus opens its doors again.
I don’t recognize her in the poofy parka. Her fur-trimmed hood covers her head. “Oh! Good morning,” she says to me in choppy German that sounds more like, “Ah! Guo mor-ehn” if it had been English.
She pulls off her hood, and there we sit side-by-side: the 50 year-old Vietnamese woman I told you about and me.
“How are you?” I ask. And that’s when she opens her heart to me and starts to talk.
“I’m really tired,” she says. (“I reel vire.”) She doesn’t seem sad, envious, frustrated or anything you and I might express when we feel beat. She sounds so matter-of-fact, like “this is how it is”.
She tells me that she’s been in Germany 20 years and has been working like a dog every day. She would wake up early, go to work, and come home and crash. her body ached; she didn’t have time to cook or clean like she wanted. Sometimes she might have energy to watch about 30 minutes of German TV, though she couldn’t understand it. Then she’d fall asleep.
I think she tells me that she lives in a studio apartment. The bed is her couch. The TV sits at her feet while the kitchen is at her head. I feel quite certain my college dorm room was bigger (and didn’t we all just complain about how small those rooms were?!).
Her 30-year-old son is in Vietnam; I don’t know how long it’s been since she’s seen him. She has never had fancy vacations, a mini retreat to the mountains or a spa, or trips back to her home country. She just keeps picking herself up and going each day.
I ask her what kind of work she did all these years in Germany.
She was a cashier – at grocery stores, at flower shops, at news stands. Whatever she could get. She looks me in the eye and says I am lucky to know about computers. “There are so many more jobs then,” she comments with an accepting sigh.
I think about asking her if she is working after school. I want to tell her how much I admired her. I want to ask if she misses her child or if she gets to talk to him. ”Oh!” she cries and swings around to look out the window. “We’re here.”
Oops. I didn’t even notice we’re at our destination.
And with that, she picks up her worn out plastic H&M bag that hold her lunch and school book. She stands up, climbs out of the bus, and keeps going. Because that’s what she does.
She keeps going.