We were walking along the streets of the Old Quarter when an elderly Vietnamese lady selling straw hats and other knick knacks off a huge plastic bag asked us if we were interested in buying one.
“How much for the hat? Do you have four?”
Quite frankly, I don’t even remember the price she quoted – I just remember it being rather cheap. But because she didn’t have enough hats for the four of us, we declined and walked away. She must have thought we were typical tourists who get a thrill out of bargaining, because she began chasing us down the street as she lugged her huge bag of knick knacks along. She asked us how much we were willing to pay, each time shouting out a lower offer than before. At that point, I just felt really bad that someone who could have easily been my grandma’s age was running after us, but we carried on walking away quickly, hoping that she’d eventually stop following us.
We finally caved when she shouted an offer of 70,000VND (SGD4.10) for two hats. After all, we could easily find another two straw hats elsewhere, even if at a higher price.
As Bryan handed her 100,000VND, she let out a subtle yet undeniably genuine smile, happy that she’d made a sale. I watched as her tan, wrinkled fingers – presumably the product of years of labour in the sun – reached into her purse, as she carefully took out three creased and browned 10,000VND notes in change. Her eyes beamed one last time as she thanked us for the purchase, and that was the last I saw of her.
Contentment comes from being grateful; may I never stop being grateful for what I have.