This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic Portraits of Young Minds Reshaping the Country’s Future. In episode 8 we speak to Giang Trương.
But like everyone call me Danh.
And her girlfriend Xuân Phương.
I am from China. 18 years old and opened a skate shop with my girlfriend Danh.
Danh was born in 1989. She’s one of Hanoi’s coolest skater girls, and owns her own skate shop right in the Old Quarter. We met her there to talk about starting a relationship online and learning from her parents who successfully ran their own business but also experienced huge failures, including jail time.
But first, Danh’s favourite topic: skating.
I skate for like… almost ten years. My classmate they love phone, they love boyfriend, they love girly stuff, I just want to do different things from them and my friend asked me to go to skate so I try. In the Tet holiday I had lucky money I try to buy a skateboard for the first time. Before skateboarding every weekend iIstay at home doing nothing. After skateboard I am just waiting for the weekend and feel alive.
Being a skater is not all fun and games though.. You probably should think about how much you love your teeth …
I broke my teeth, you see one, two, three. I didn’t cry or anything. I do a kick flip and step on the tail and the skateboard come up like this and my teeth came out.
And it gets worse.. .A couple of years ago she injured her back, which then affected her whole career..
My career about skateboarding was just about to get bigger because I got sponsor from China.
Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she used the opportunity to further a skating community in Vietnam…
I opened a skate shop with my girlfriend.
Owning a shop in the Old Quarter is around 18 million/month, which is roughly 900 USD. Her Mum also owns her own business, selling popular dishes on the sidewalk.
Did her parents support her and help her start the skate shop business?
My mum just gave me a little money. First my parents were like ‘no don’t open’. Just find a job like working for the government. Every month have easy money and stuff. No I don’t want. I easy to get angry. So if I work in the government for sure they will fire me.
Does she get angry when she’s in a relationship?
Sometimes. Because she is younger than me a lot.
Younger by 7 years…
I love her and I feel like if you love someone it doesn’t matter.
Through having a shop, one of her aims is to encourage more women into skating…
Skateboarding is not only for the boys I want it for everyone. That’s why I am proud to be a skategirl.
What about her girlfriend, is she into skating too?
She doesn’t want, she gets scared.
Danh and Phương are absolutely inseparable. They ride the city on one motorbike, run the shop together, live together… But how did they begin their inter-cultural romance?
First I just saw her photo.]
I never had feeling with a girl, like had this feeling and just feel special.
In the photo I am holding a skateboard. At that time I broke my teeth.
So she had no teeth in that photograph, but managed to hide that fact somehow…
I smiling but like this…
What else? Well Phuong didn’t reveal the whole truth about herself… She pretended she was 17, not 16.
Before she told me 17.
Because I know I am so young and she’s older than me a lot and I know I lied to her it’s not right. I feel really sorry to lie to her about my age.
Then how do relationships develop online?
After 3 month we chat with each other on Skype, talking about life: What are you doing today? What do you eat and stuff… And we feel connect about music.
After that, it was time for them to meet in person..
I come to China on a skate tour and see her in her hometown. But we talk before, in love already. And just from that we fly from China Vietnam all the time to see each other. She decided last year she come her to study.
We were curious to know more about what it was like for a Chinese person to live in Vietnam. Most people around her don’t realise she’s from China.
Every time we travelling to Nha Trang or Danang, oh she from Japanese, I say yeah and they check her passport it’s Chinese.
I love the people here.
But it’s not all good…
The weather is killing her.
In China hot is hot, cold is cold, but in Vietnam sometimes it’s cold and sometimes it’s hot, especially recently and it’s easy to make the people sick.
How did her family respond when she said she was leaving, at just 16?
All my family my auntie, uncle ask me like ‘oh the Vietnam is so poor, don’t have the car and don’t have the big building, the house, why do you go to Vietnam?’
And do their parents know about their relationship?
First we didn’t tell our parents about us, but I think my mum know. Because we want to have kids, try saving money. My parents love her: ‘We have to call us like mother and dad.’
My dad is kind of like the person…
…like old fashioned.
…maybe two years more cannot tell them about this. Even my brother don’t know it.
They are already looking for into the future of their relationship.
In Vietnam if you want get the sperm you have to be a normal couple. So we try to save money and go to America.
So you’d rather do that than adopt?
I want to adopt two, but if we have more money I will adopt one more.
Now Danh is thinking about being a parent herself, what does she think about her own upbringing?
Her Mum worked really hard at the shop in order to save money for herself and her brothers, sisters and cousins to study..
After I grow up more I understand more and I help her a lot to come like to just counting the money and take care of the customers.
This is even more remarkable considering something else that happened…
My dad, my uncle, my auntie they went to jail. Just sell cocaine, I have no idea why he sell, because he make a lot of money already.
Danh doesn’t remember seeing him in jail.
When I grow up more and I understand more I was like I never want to touch that one. I saw my family like that already so I don’t want to involve anything about the drugs and stuff.
This is another reason Danh was so attracted to skateboarding, and through skateboarding she learned not to follow her Dad’s footsteps, but to follow her Mum’s – persevere, sometimes fall and break your front teeth…
That’s how the skateboarding teach me just to keep trying and keep trying.
[SOUND IN GIANG’S SHOP]
After the interview we went to visit her Mum’s shop. It has a large pavement area and even though it was still early, 5pm, it was starting to get crowded with hungry customers.
So like 7 pm or 7.30 have a lot of people come here and eat like you can see a lot of people.
Especially on Friday night?
Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some people they eat just bun, some people they just eat the duck meat with the noodle on the side and the soup.
Are you sick of it now cause you have eaten it so much?
No I can eat everyday.
Have the very special like fish sauce…
This is being The Renovation Generation. Follow us on SoundCloud or subscribe to The Renovation Generation on iTunes, Stitcher or Mixcloud to never miss an episode.
It is produced by Eliza Lomas and Fabiola Buchele. Our production assistants are Trang Nghiem and Trang Ngo. Jacques Smit is our photographer and research is done by me, Maia Do.
An & Of Other Things production.
In episode 9, it will be our first podcast, which is recorded in front of a live audience. We interviewed wedding planner Dương Vũ Hoàng Anh at a women’s storytelling session at Manzi Art Space in Hanoi.
Be sure to listen.