Bien, a friend of mine, recently asked me if knew anyone who could help him move his belongings to a new place. “I don’t know anyone,” I said, “but I’ll send you some contacts of some tuk tuk drivers that I know.”
Two weeks later, Bien invited me to come over to his new apartment to have some beers. When I arrived there were only three of us — myself, my friend and an old man in a worn military shirt. His name was Quyen.
“Are you Bien’s uncle?” I asked.
“No,” he replied.
“You don’t know him?” broke in Bien. “He’s the tuk tuk driver that you send me the contact to. He helped me so much with my move that I invited him over for beer.”
Although reticent to talk about his past, Quyen told me his story.
62 years old and from the same province as me and my friend, Thai Binh, when Quyen was younger he fought in the American War and then later the border war with China. After the hostilities ended, he left the military and went back to Thai Binh to cultivate his land. From the mid 1990s he started working in the Van Mon leprosy centre in the Vu Thu District of Thai Binh. The largest leper colony in Northern Vietnam, despite the work being good, the pay wasn’t enough to help him provide for his family’s future. So, in 2005, he moved to Hanoi to find a way to support his children through university.
“I initially worked as a xe om driver,” he says. “But two years ago I managed to raise VND50 million to buy a tuk tuk. It’s much easier to earn a living with it and I’ve been driving it ever since.”
With two children in further education in Hanoi, and a daughter in high school back in Thai Binh, Quyen’s work in the capital allows him to support his whole family. — Trung Del
To see the other stories in this series, please click on the links below:
The Banh Mi Seller
The Shoe Repairer
The Banh Canh Cua Seller
The Street Barber
The Flower Seller
The Salad Professor
The Tuk Tuk Driver