Mrs. Hanh inspecting each piece of jade before I handed over a cent.

It’s mainly because of that woman. She is the¬†inimitable¬†Mrs. Hanh. Hanh is her first name, the Mrs. bit is a sign of respect and affection shown to her because she is possibly one of the most inspirational women I have ever met and I’m not the only one.

I met her in 2008 when I lived in Viet Nam and she became like a sister, a mother and best friend. We speak the most ridiculous Englamese together and even though communication is difficult across skype and phones, we know what’s going on. In other words, without getting too gushy, I feel really lucky to know her.

So when I went back there this year she told me that I simply had to buy shtloads of jewellery to take home with me to sell. She knows I want to make money to fund Project New HOPE and she wants it to be a success. And she’s really bloody persuasive!

So we made a date for the Saturday morning before I left in Da Nang city. I stayed with a friend the night before and Mrs. Hanh took a bus from her hometown about 2 hours away. We shopped and we shopped. Ack, I say we, I didn’t really shop – I just spent money. She shopped; she looked and prodded and poked and bargained and asked questions and inspected every single item before I paid anything. She also inspected the receipts, luckily!

We drank litres of orange juice with salt, we ate noodles and I drank a fair bit of coffee too. I’m not joking when I tell you that I almost passed out once or twice. It’s not like we were careening around a shopping mall, this is the most jam-packed market building you’ll ever see. It was just so intense. And hot…

We finally finished up just before lunch time and headed for Hoi An on her motorbike. I drove and she squealed behind me. (We had a couple of close calls…) We got to Hoi An and ate an amazing dinner at the beach with Pat, another amazing person I feel very lucky to know. I couldn’t believe how good the food was. But Mrs. Hanh – was.not.impressed. The crab wasn’t good enough. And she called the owner over to tell her personally. You can’t beat that kind of directness!

Next stop, scarf shop. She took me to see a friend who she’s been dealing with for years. This friend gives Mrs. Hanh all her children’s hand-me-downs so they can be passed on to the children in the orphanges in Tam Ky. That’s just part of everyday business for these ladies, they don’t think twice. So we sat on the floor with the shop owner for another hour or so and chose silk scarf after silk scarf. Mixed silks, handwoven, manufactured. We juggled colours and swapped packs and they chatted about everyone and everything.

So then it got dark and we had to leave – we piled all our loot on the bike again and headed off down the number 1 motorway back to Tam Ky. She drove this time, I carried two backpacks.

I don’t think she stopped talking the whole way home, especially when a big truck was honking its way past. (We were on a 110cc scooter…) I caught very little of the whole lot except for this – she was so excited that she’d helped me and she was so excited to get working on shopping for her new restaurant.

And that, dear friends, is why I’m selling this stuff – because she made me buy it because she believes in what I do. I believe in what we’re doing too and there’s no other way to say it . A minimum of 30% of all sales will fund Project New HOPE and 20% towards her restaurant venture – and that’s a whole¬†other story for another day.

Thanks for reading,