Before we close out our trip to Vietnam, I wanted to share with you some reflections on craftsman. As we travel around the world carrying all of our stuff, we can't really afford to add to it so I get to look longingly at the amazingly artistic works in the bazaars and medinas but rarely get the fun of haggling for and buying stuff. Occasionally, I do get to buy something like in Malaysia where I was starting to really need a new shirt and picked up a gorgeous batik painted shirt. Batik is a craft where melted wax is applied to cloth in gorgeous designs. The cloth is then dyed and the wax is peeled away to reveal the art. The shirt I purchased was fairly simple but lovely and comfortable.
Vietnam required a different kind of purchase. On our way there, one of the straps on our biggest backpacks snapped off. This was probably a $300 backpack and not easily replaceable but we started looking into it soon after arrival. We found smaller packs but they would require us to trim down our gear even further, not something that any of us were excited about. Sewing through heavy canvass and nylon straps was not something I intended to try with my simple needle and thread I had packed so we emptied the pack completely and went out looking for a tailor that might be willing to take it on.
As we walked through the streets of district one in Ho Chi Minh City, we passed by a group of guys sitting on the sidewalk repairing shoes. Seemed like it might not be too much of a stretch so we presented them with this challenge in our limited Vietnamese and lots of hand signals. They grasped the problem immediately and started to work on it. Using a knife and some sort of metal tool with an eye in the point, they cut off a piece of unneeded strap, replaced the broken piece, sewed it all back together, and finished their work so that it looked as good as new. The entire process took about 10 minutes and cost us 50,000VND - about $2.10. It is hard to express my appreciation for this craftsman that took a problem that could have been a major issue for us and fixed it. The pride that he took in his work reminded me of the value that craftsman across the world bring to us, whether they be making woodwork in Morocco or fixing shoes in Vietnam.