Lan Anh is 10 years old and her bicycle is too big for her.
Lan Anh has big brown eyes and a very cute smile. In her blue school uniform, she shouted “Hello!” to me as I rode my mountain bike past her. I smiled and asked her “What’s your name?”. She looked confused. “Me: Chiara. You?” I attempted. “Lan Anh!” she replied enthusiastically. “How are you?” I asked. “I am 10” she told me. Mmmm this is going to be a difficult conversation, I thought.
But Lan Anh wanted to talk and appeared very determined to try and use her limited English with me. It wasn’t easy for her, the effort was visible on her face. She would look at me and then away, frowning, every muscle tensed while she was concentrating. I could feel how hard she was trying.
I asked her if she was going home to eat – sign and body language at hand this time – and she nodded. We kept cycling next to each other for a few minutes along the main road in Con Son town, then I turned to her and said “Bye Lan Anh, I am off”, and sped up. She pushed faster trying to catch up with me, while seemingly looking for something in her bag.
When she reached me, she handed me something: a little heart made of motherpearl shell! My heart melted.
“Thank you Lan Anh”. “You are welcome”. And then she left.
There was only one road exiting Con Son town and I kept cycling a couple of hundred metres behind her, until she stopped again. When I caught up she had her English textbook open and was quickly flicking through the pages. Then she paused, looked at some pictures and asked me “Is you housewife?”. I giggled then tried to find a picture that could describe my job – the only options were pupil, teacher, housewife and policeman. No good. So I told her that I am a tourist, I am on holiday. She looked puzzled again.
In my pocket I had a small colourful bracelet that I had got in Saigon, so I pulled it out and gave it to her. She said thank you with the most beautiful smile!
We cycled next to each other for another few minutes then when the road split she turned left, looked at me once more and shouted “See you again!”.
Yes, see you again, my lovely Lan Anh.