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One Legged Woman Hops Around Ho Chi Minh City

One Legged Woman Hops Around Ho Chi Minh City

Have you ever walked through the three street of Ho Chi Minh City on one leg? Two words: NOT EASY. Sidewalks brimming with bodies, bas and ongs cruising with street cart commodities and cradling curbs six inches high. Crosswalks HELLA wide with street traffic-chock-full of taxies, motorbikes, bicycles, buses flowing from all four directions. Fast-paced. Aggressive. Frenetic. Okay, now its time for me to cross the street. I squint my eyes with purpose, focused on how I was gonna hop on one good leg from one side to the other without losing balance and risk getting hit. When I got crutches, I swung my body forward with full-force and fervor, sweat dripping from temple, palms sore from the clutching the handles, bruised left foot slinging back airborne, internalizing the gaze of on-lookers, feeling a little embarrassed. Every sidewalk crack became a potential deathtrap. Okay, maybe not that extreme. I took taxis to places that would have taken me minutes to walk to with two good legs. I crawled up narrow, twisting, winding flights of stairs on my hands and knees. I had enlist the help and support of my two-legged homies on everyday simple task I could have done with careless ease if I only had two working legs. Every simple task a two-legged person could do without a single thought became a major victory for me.

How did this happen, you ask? I injured my left foot in the first few days of my return to the motherland. The story of my injury is rooted in joyful expedition, poor decision-making, and bad footwear. It’s been eight years since I‘ve been back and the first thing I wanted to do was walk the streets. I strapped on my cute but broken tan sandals that I should have thrown away three years ago and hiked through the city, ignoring the whispering pain that began to bluster from the arch of my left foot. I was in the zone, surveying the landscape, navigating the complex terrain of culture and commerce, breathing in the nostalgic mixtures of burning pots protecting the palatable streetfare, sweat, plastic chairs and thick, hot air. Teeming with excitement and loving my two-foot adventure throughout the city, I made no time to pay attention to the pain that kept creeping up in my left foot. The next day I went on a scavenger hunt that took my little feet all over HCMC’s commercial districts and that shy, whispering from the left arch edged into a heaving: “Yo girl, we need to have a conversation.” The pain that built up left my left leg out of commission for next few days.

Having only one useful leg these past few days gave me perspective on what it means to be a person with disability living in Vietnam. On day three, I met Co Hanh, a fierce, engaging, charismatic woman who works as a social worker for people who are deaf and hearing impaired. Fighting for their rights. As a person with hearing impairment, she gamed me up on her and other people’s experience living with disability. She taught me that every little thing people with abilities do with ease is a challenge for people living with disabilities in Vietnam. I got a little taste of what it felt like to be a person with disabilities in Vietnam. To be clear, what I experienced this week was a minor casualty of bad footwear and bad choices footwear, which nowhere near matches the level of seriousness of this reality for people who permanently live with disabilities.

 


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