Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Sleeper

Tuan is a 13 year old boy who has been living on the streets of Hanoi for some time. I say 'some time' because I have no idea of his full story. The little bits that I do know are tragic, and for sure there's much more that he will tell me in the coming weeks.


One thing I know is that, in recent months, Tuan has had no home at all. He's been sleeping around Long Bien bridge, or on the island in the Red River, or in doorways of friends' homes. Since coming to Blue Dragon, he seems to spend about half of the time sound asleep, as though he has a lot to catch up on.


One of the boys in our Link program brought him to the Blue Dragon center about a week ago, and Tuan has been living in our Shelter since then. He seems so happy to be there - so pleased to have a comfortable bed and friends to play with - but it's early days yet. My experience is that some kids will wear a mask of happiness because they think that's what I need to see. Those are the kids who will be with us for a while, and then vanish.


Other kids - most kids - quickly learn they can let their defences down, and let us into their world. Those are the kids who stay with us, and grow up as part of the Blue Dragon family.


Vi was one of those kids who came to trust me and the Blue Dragon team back in our early days, 5 years ago. I met him shining shoes outside my house, and invited him in. Six months later, Vi was among the first kids to move in to a Blue Dragon residence (The Big Room), and now he's senior captain of a bar in a fine restaurant, has travelled South East Asia, and is starting to think about the day he'll open his own fine restaurant. He's come such a long way from his days as a shoeshine boy earning money to send his younger sister to school.


Vi is 21 now, and one of my best friends. We hang out whenever he has spare time, which isn't often. But this evening we met up and had a meal, and then Vi came with me back to the Shelter to talk to the kids.


A group of the boys were playing on the floor, making enough noise to drown out a jet plane. Tuan was right there beside them - sound asleep. He looked so serene, and even seemed to be smiling in his slumber, despite the riot going on around him.


Vi noticed this too, and we both found it most amusing.


"How can he sleep with so much happening here?" I laughed to Vi, who gave me the most profound answer: "He feels safe here."


I hadn't even thought of that before. But Vi would know - he too went from surviving on the streets to living in a safe home in the care of Blue Dragon.


"He feels safe here." Of course he does. He doesn't have to worry about where his next meal will come from; he doesn't have to hide from the police and the gangs at night. No wonder he can finally catch up on all that missing sleep.

2 comments:

John Shors said...

Michael,

I am very interested with what you are doing. I'm a bestselling American writer who is creating a novel about street children in Vietnam. Can you contact me? I think I may be able to help your group at some point. My email address is shors@aol.com.

Thanks!

John Shors

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