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.