Words fall far too short to do this womans story justice. I met her on the plane from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. Her name is Hiep. A beautiful Vietnamese woman with an incredible story. In this post I will share a tale about a female genius who against all odds achieved something not many women have, or ever will achieve. It was an honour to meet you Hiep and I look forward to the day we meet again.
I got to the airport very early, eager to return to my comfort zone. Hanoi. It was going to be my home. I was going to stay and work there. I was 6 hours early. Cried a lot this day. The previous few days had been hard, anyway this story is not about me but felt that part you needed to know to emphasis on how important Hiep’s story was to me.
I like to listen to music when I write. This is what I am listening to: https://youtu.be/jRjbziecrSo
She sat beside me on the plane. There were a lot of empty seats and rows, pretty much everyone got their own row but not us, we had been places next to each other. I was reading the Kite Runner and she was reading The Secret. We sat in silence for about 3 minutes before she looks at me and began to talk. We spoke about where we were going and why. She was going to Hanoi for work. She worked in business development, flying regularly. I am unsure of the name of the company. I cannot remember but I know she is important.
She asked me if I believed in the laws of attraction. I told her I did. she wanted to hear this but the truth is I didn’t. From personal expeirence things did not often go my way. I live by acceptance, accept what happens and live my life allowing the universe to do what it wants with me. After her story I changed my mind.
She explained a few things to me, about being a woman growing up in the poorest part of Hanoi. What they now refer to as ‘slump city’. For as long as she could remember she was different. She knew things. School was boring for her as she outsmarted her peers and teachers, she learned on the streets, picking up any book she could get her hands on, any news paper, magazine, journal, anything. She has four younger siblings, when she was 10 she begun to find ways to make a little money to help support her parents. They were poor, living in one room, all together. She did not want to talk to me about her parents. I am unsure of the history there but I could see love in her eyes, behind that pain. I can understand parts because of something they made her do.
She left school ar 16, to work and help her parents look after her siblings. She didn’t want to give up learning. She was eager to continue, desperate to use her knowledge so she could escape Hanoi, later in life she came to know of it as hell on earth, a prison keeping her far from her dreams. She said she felt shackles by chains which bought her to a life of misery, abuse and numbness.
At 20 her family married her off, they needed the money they thought he would bring. Women did not have equal rights, they were not paid the same and she was not allowed the opportunity to have a job which used her brains. At first the partnership seemed to work, she was happy. At 22 she would wake up early every morning, cycle to 30km to school, study to get qualifications in hope to go to university. She would then go straigh to work, go home, feed and take care of her husband, sleep for a few hours and do it all again, eveyday for 4 years. By the third year she had two childre. She did all of that through preganncy, taking only a short periof off after giving birth. After she gained her qualification she was given a scolorship for university, it was clear to her school that she was gifted. She was fascinated with physics, she excelled, her work gained her recognition, she was finally living her dreams.
Her children are so important to her, she loves them very much, she showed me pictures and told me about their interests. She paused for a few moments, I held her hand and I thought she was going to cry but she didn’t. This was just the beginning of her tale. The next part of her story was not joyful.
She loved her children, but she could not protect them from life at home. With him. Her husband. While she was pursuing her dreams of freedom she had conditioned herself to ignore her life at home. She imagined it never happened.
Hanoi is humid, hot, the air is polluted, sometimes unbearable. She told me she always wore a lot of cloths. To hide her bruises, broken bones, starving body. Her husband abused her, daily. He would drink. Took an odd job here and there but he was lazy, he neglected his children. Even thought he was at home he would not feed them, would not wash or change them, would not lift a finger. Hiep would still have to come home and clean, cook, take care of them all. She has a scolorship but that was not enough to feed herself let alone her whole family so she worked at night too.
She said she could take the abuse, she took it for years, she thought it was the will of a higher power, afterall, she had achieved her dreams. She had finished school, ontained a degree and has two beautiful children. She thought that this was a sacrifice she had to make in order to achieve her dreams.
This puzzled me, why would a genius think this way? she knew better, she was intelligent, clever and incredibly strong. Why was she allowing this misery in her life? I could not keep my thoughts inside. I had to know. I asked why she stayed. She looked at me and sighed, “the children” she said.
She got out her snacks, put her book on her lap and told me she knew she was sat next to me for a reason. She had seen me ealier and knew we would talk. She felt we were somewhat similar. When I heard this I thought it was madness, my life was not like this at all. I told her I lived a life of privilege and opportunity. She laughed and told me she wasn’t talking about our upbringing, she was talking about our current state of mind.
We paused for a while and spoke about our beliefs, life, our theories, aspirations, education, how our minds worked. She was right, we are both very independant woman, now in that moment. She worked bloody hard to get eveythign she wanted, she took control of her life and she is very sure of herself. Now in her early 40’s she is a force to be reconed with. She said she sensed I was independent, she also said wise without words. I did not understand this but accepted it as whatever she sensed, I was grateful for. She shared a very personal and deep story with me. She said my facial expressions made her want to tell me more, I cannot control my quizical brow sometimes and that day it was going crazy.
She believed in the laws of attraction because now, if she wants something really hard it happens, eventually.
Once she had her degree she was afraid, what happens next? is this it? is this the end?
She begged a higher power for answers, for guidance, for help. The next morning her son came into her room, looked at her bruised face, touched her cheek gently and told her that he loved his dad, but he does not like what he is doing to her. He told her it was wrong and him and his sister did not want to be with him anymore.
My insides went cold thinking about this moment, I felt the blood drop from my face and I had goose bumbs eveyhwere. I cannot put into words just how difficult that was for her. I do not think she has shared this story often, in fact I am unsure if she has every really shared it before because her eyes were moving from side to side as if she was only just recognising how bad things use to be. She was thinking hard… There were no tears, she did not cry, in fact she looked almost at ease, as if a burden had been lifted.
She continued. She said a few weeks later she recieved a scholorship from Boston university, they had recognised that she was very very gifted and offered her a place on their masters course. This was it! this was her escape, this was the will of the gods, she would finally finally be free. Her husband did not make it easy, he beat her senseless, almost to death but she did not feel the pain, she was not afrid. She got up, packed her things, her children’s things and left. She gave her husband every opportunity to see the children while she was away but he was not interested, he did not contribute a penny. His rational was that she chose to take them and therefore she had to fund them herlself, he spoke to her as if she had a choice, they both knew he would leave them on the streets if she didn’t take them.
In Boston she begun to build herself as a woman. She was treated an an equal, sometime surpassing her peers as she was excelling in her studies. She was there for a total of 3 years. She could have stayed, her children learned English, obtained a good level of education, they were happy. But she was not finished with Vietnam. It was her home, and even thought the memories of her ealier life haunted her, she loved her country and she longed to be back. Also she was on a student visa. She had to return.
When she returned she filed for divorce, now she was stronger, reached her full potential. She had her masters in Physics, think it was engineering or something as a speciality, the world was her oyster. She was finally free. Her husband caused hell in the divorce, made a lot of demands but this woman had studied the laws of Vietnam as a hobby, she knew exactly what she was entitled to, she had all the evidence she needed to prove he was an abuser, never paid a penny towards the childre. This woman had spent 3 years in a new reality. A reality that she controlled. She succeeded in the divorce, got everything she needed. Allowed shared custody, he never visits but she has given me the chance to.
She now works for an international company as a buiness developer. I am unsure of what the company is called nor of what they do but I know she is happy. She can afford her own home, help her siblings and parents, she flies all over the world, soemtimes brining her children with her. She lives a modest lifestyle. She said she is not wealthy but she is rich becouse she has more than the majority of women in her generation can never have, independence, a home, healthy children and her own money.
She is really bloody intelligent, challenged me all the time, we laughed about this as I would smile every time she made me think, we spoke about real subjects, equations, real knowledge, also about spirituality, journeys, mindfulness, we even spoke in French for a bit too, did I mention she also has quite a few languages? this woman! really.
She inspired me, she is beautiful, really really beautiful. I thought she was my age, but she was 42. She never bothered with men after let marriage ended, she soul focus is her children. She said maybe one day, but she doesn’t need it. Her priorities are different.
Another song to end the story: https://youtu.be/Vq_PPPR96Zw
She offered me a job, after speaking about my background and what I had done/my ideas she offered me a role as an international acount manager for a company based in Hue. I could live in Hanoi and do buiness from there as they had an office there too. I researched the company and it looked like a dream job, something similar to what I use to do. I would also be involved in buiness develoment. I was excited, she was excited. Before we had even landed I had a job offer, a real job offer. She also said if I prefered I could teach, she said jobs like her’s did not pay much but teaching would.
She has contacted me since, she has given me the contact details for the jobs, we speak from time to time on whatapp but I chose not to take her offer. It is not that I am ungreaful, believe me this was a dream but when I returned to Hanoi I was a different person from when I had left. I had my head screwed on more. My friends were escaping reality, living a life of freedom. I did not feel so free anymore, had a few issues in Saigon and felt it was best for me to backpack for while longer. I also had plans to open my own buiness and at that point thought I would return to Hanoi later on to puruse it. None of that is going to happen. I was living in a dream that wasn’t my dream. It wasn’t what I wanted. She understood but the offer still stands and for that I am greatful.
Once she finished her story she gave me a list of books to read. She felt it would inspier me to achieve something big. She made me want to achieve soemthing big, just not sure what that is yet.
Hiep you are an incredible human being. You inspire me as a woman living in a mans world! Your mind in incredible and it was an honour meeting you. I wish you all the best in the future and look forward to our next meeting. You taught me a lot about integrity and honur. Becouse of you I am more focused, becouse of you I am begining to believe in the laws of attraction. Because of you I understand more about domestic abuse. I never knew what it was really like.
An ex of mine, Nathan, went through this. It can happen to anyone. I hope Hieps story inpiers you to help, to escape, to report and to never raise your hand to anyone. If you want to talk to someone, I am always happy to listen and help if I can .
“There are no secrets in life, just truths that lay beneath the surface.” – Dexter
Peace out ❤