The Diary of a Nurse in the MIM Program: Entrepreneurship in Sapa, Vietnam

Meet Gia (pronounced “Ya”) a tour guide for ET Pumpkin Adventure Travel in Sapa, Vietnam. She is a member of the Black Hmong hill tribe people who live in the mountains and valleys of Lao Chai, a few hours trek from Sapa. Gia, in her early 30s, is quite fluent in English but admits that she cannot read or write. However, Gia has plans to someday start her own tour business in Sapa. She is building her clientele by handing out her cell phone number and email address to visiting tourists for referrals for future tours. How does Gia read her emails if she cannot read or write? She asks nice tourists to read her emails to her!

Gia has four children and is quite proud that three out of four go to school–one of her sons stays at home and helps run the household. Gia is also pleased that she and her husband own their land and are fairly well off in comparison to their neighbors. Although the floor in their house is made of packed dirt (very common in hill tribe homes) they have now had electricity for the past eight months.

Gia’s family’s livelihood revolves around planting and harvesting rice. In addition she grows other crops on her property to supplement their diet and raises livestock. She has three pigs and some chickens. Gia is able to contribute more to her family’s income by being a tour guide for ET Pumpkin Adventure Travel. In all of her spare time she is busy weaving and dying fabric from cotton or hemp, sewing, and hand-embroiderying clothes for her family to wear for special occasions. She is currently working on hand-embroidered outfits for everyone in her family to wear for the new year. The hill tribe people are known for exquisite hand embroidery.

Meet Gia, member of the Black Hmong hill tribe posing by pumpkins growing behind her

This is like one of the trails that Gia must trek to get to and from her home in Lao Chai to town in Sapa--she regularly treks in the dark with only the light of her cell phone (this is like the trek that most of our group did with Gia on day two in Sapa)

Gia's aunt weaved, dyed, and sewed this traditional outfit that Gia picked out for me to try on. It consists of a inner coat (no sleeves), exterior coat, and, a fancy wrap belt. Gia laughed and laughed because she thought I could almost pass as a hill tribe person.

Gia took us for a tour of her friend's house in Sapa, Vietnam during our first day of trekking

Gia's friends are sitting around in their house hand-embroidering goods for sale

The hill tribe people are known for their exquisite hand embroidery. They often weave and dye their own fabric from cotton or hemp.

This is indigo dye from a plant that is used to hand dye fabric by the hill tribe people

This is an indigo plant used by the hill tribe people to dye clothing blue

Gia (Black Hmong) and Ali Mondragon (MIM 2011 candidate) posing at the waterfall in Sapa, Vietnam

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2 Comments

Filed under Ali's Entries, Vietnam

2 responses to “The Diary of a Nurse in the MIM Program: Entrepreneurship in Sapa, Vietnam

  1. Chris Bloom

    Love your Sapa pics Ali! Much better than mine, and a great story to boot. Our guide in Cat Cat was great, a local too, but the guy that took us to Bac Ha was miserable.

  2. Thank you for reading the MIM blog, Chris! Glad you enjoyed the photos! It is too bad you did not get to meet Gia as she was such a wonderful guide.

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