Sunday, November 19 2017

VietNamNews

Working against the odds

Update: October, 14/2017 - 09:00
Light in the dark: Dining in Noir Restaurant offers customers an impressive experience. — VNS Photo Hoàng Việt
Viet Nam News

Handicapped people can often do a lot.

They just need a decent chance, like the Noir Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City offers to people who battle to see, or cannot see at all.

People eat and are served in the dark.

They see how much effort the handicapped go to in order to make both the restaurant and their own lives work.

By Nguyễn Toàn and Lương Hương

One day, a mother led her three sons to Noir Restaurant, located in District 1, HCM City, to experience dining in the dark. She waited outside while the sons entered the restaurant under the guidance of the sight-impaired staff.

In the pitch dark, the boys were only able to hear their guides without knowing their faces, which they were very curious to see.

As soon as they were out of the dark, they told their mother about a staff worker whose name was Phạm Thị Thu who had a very warm voice. They believed that a person with such a voice would be a beautiful person and insisted on seeing her. What took them by surprise on seeing Thu stepping outside was discovering that the beautiful girl was vísually impaired.

“See? I don’t have such beautiful eyes like yours,” Thu said smiling to the naive boys.

Dark, but not scary

When it was opened, Noir Restaurant instantly received the attention of the community as the idea was considered pretty strange in Việt Nam, and anywhere else for that matter. Many people supported the idea, but also reserved their doubts about its success.

However, in the past three years, so many customers from across the country and even from abroad have returned for the endless inspiration that its special staff have aroused in them. Many young visually impaired workers have also managed to pursue their own dreams.

Noir Restaurant was the brainchild of Vũ Anh Tú and Germ Doornbos from Holland, both of them used to have doubts on the capacity of the handicapped themselves.

“We were both worried, wondering whether if they could carry out the work. Conditions for the sight-impaired in Việt Nam are also not as good as in other countries,” Tú said.

After meeting and talking with applicants, Tú and Doornbos gradually changed their prejudice about the skills of the handicapped.

“They are much better off than what we often assume. Although it takes a long time to train them about even the most basic knowledge, like different kinds of spices - and ways of talking to and sharing knowledge with customers, they absorbed things rapidly, which took both of us by surprise,” Tú said.

What impressed him most in the past three years was the incredible will of his staff. He said some used to have normal eyesight before an incident, such as a critical disease, took away their eyesight.

“I could not imagine how I would face life if such a thing happened to me," Tú said. "Working and talking with them for such a long time has made me aware that their will is strong.

“We are really proud of them, because they have overcome any differences,” he added.

Bảo’s story

Twenty-eight-year-old Nguyễn Văn Bảo was born blind in the central Highlands province of Lâm Đồng. He gradually realised that he had to make much stronger efforts than others to have a normal life.

At eight, he left Lâm Đồng for HCM City to study at a centre for the visually impaired. Earning an IT degree, Bảo could not find a stable job.

“I accepted work as a machine maintainer for several community centres, however, with little salary, I still had to depend on the financial support of family and society,” he said.

Undeterred, Bảo applied for a staff position at Noir Restaurant. “I was curious about the idea, but what’s more important is that such a job would allow me to be more confident and come into contacts with more people with different cultures,” he added.

In order to converse with foreign customers, Bảo spent five months learning English by himself at home. This is a difficult-enough job for people with sight.

Bảo today is independent financially. The job in the restaurant has earned him enough to manage his small family. And moreover, he has become an inspiration to customers who encounter challenges in life.

Thu’s story

Thirty-year-old Thu, the girl mentioned at the beginning of the story, was born into a poor family in the northern province of Hải Dương. She moved to HCM City at the age of 14.

“At that age, I could only qualify for grade one,” she said.

Although lagging behind her fellow students, Thu was aware that only studying hard could change her life.

She became a worker at Noir Restaurant after acquiring an English degree. Every day she travels to the restaurant by Grab application. Her main job is leading customers into dark rooms, showing them their seats and items on the tables, serving food and drink and talk with them about various kinds of food.

In addition to the job in the restaurant, Thu also works as a therapist at home. She utilises most of her time to work and study.

“My biggest dream is becoming an English teacher to small children, and I’m trying my best to realise it," she said.

“Between failure and success lies a river also named failure, but over that river there is a bridge called effort.”

Bảo, Thu and other staff of Noir Restaurant have never stopped struggling hard to win over social prejudice and pity.

They have always brought to others their optimistic spirit, which is like a light in a dark room. Only in  pitch dark can people appreciate this rare beauty. — VNS

GLOSSARY

One day, a mother led her three sons to Noir Restaurant, located in District 1, HCM City, to experience dining in the dark.

Dining means having a meal.

She waited outside while the sons entered the restaurant under the guidance of the sight-impaired staff.

To be under someone’s guidance means to be guided by that person.

If someone is sight-impaired, they cannot see well or cannot see at all.

In the pitch dark, the boys were only able to hear their guides without knowing their faces, which they were very curious to see.

If it is pitch dark it is very dark.

As soon as they were out of the dark, they told their mother about a staff worker whose name was Phạm Thị Thu who had a very warm voice.

Warm, in this case, means loving.

They believed that a person with such a voice would be a beautiful person and insisted on seeing her.

To insist means to demand.

What took them by surprise on seeing Thu stepping outside was discovering that the beautiful girl was vísually impaired.

Visually means to do with seeing.

“See? I don’t have such beautiful eyes like yours,” Thu said smiling to the naive boys.

Naïve means innocent and inexperienced.

However, in the past three years, so many customers from across the country and even from abroad have returned for the endless inspiration that its special staff have aroused in them.

Abroad means overseas.

Inspiration is something that makes people want go out and do something creative and positive.

Aroused means triggered.

Many young visually impaired workers have also managed to pursue their own dreams.

To pursue a dream means to follow a dream.

Noir Restaurant was the brainchild of Vũ Anh Tú and Germ Doornbos from Holland, both of them used to have doubts on the capacity of the handicapped themselves.

A brainchild is an idea that becomes a reality.

Somebody’s capacity is a measure of what they can do.

After meeting and talking with applicants, Tú and Doornbos gradually changed their prejudice about the skills of the handicapped.

Applicants are people who go through a process of asking to be accepted for a job or a place in an institution.

Gradually means slowly.

When people have prejudices towards others, they think bad of them before even learning about them.

“They are much better off than what we often assume.”

To assume something means to make your mind up about it before seeing proof.

Although it takes a long time to train them about even the most basic knowledge, like different kinds of spices - and ways of talking to and sharing knowledge with customers, they absorbed things rapidly, which took both of us by surprise,” Tú said.

Absorbed means took in.

What impressed him most in the past three years was the incredible will of his staff.

To have the will to do something means to want to do it.

He said some used to have normal eyesight before an incident, such as a critical disease, took away their eyesight.

Critical means serious with the chance of becoming worse.

“I accepted work as a machine maintainer for several community centres, however, with little salary, I still had to depend on the financial support of family and society,” he said.

A machine maintainer is someone who looks after machines and keeps them in running order.

Undeterred, Bảo applied for a staff position at Noir Restaurant.

Undeterred means without being put off doing something.

In order to converse with foreign customers, Bảo spent five months learning English by himself at home.

Converse means to be able to hold conversations. In other words to talk.

Bảo today is independent financially.

If you are independent financially you earn your own money and do not need to be supported by anyone else.

“At that age, I could only qualify for grade one,” she said.

To qualify for something, like a school course, means to have achieved everything that is required to take part in that course so that you understand what you will be taught next.

In addition to the job in the restaurant, Thu also works as a therapist at home.

A therapist is someone who helps people to heal if they have problems.

She utilises most of her time to work and study.

Utilises means uses.

Bảo, Thu and other staff of Noir Restaurant have never stopped struggling hard to win over social prejudice and pity.

You feel pity when you feel for other people’s sadness.

They have always brought to others their optimistic spirit, which is like a light in a dark room. Only in pitch dark can people appreciate this rare beauty.

To be optimistic means to believe that the best will happen.

To appreciate something means to give it value.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

  1. The name of a 30-year-old woman.
  2. A word that describes Phạm Thị Thu’s voice.
  3. Nguyễn Văn Bảo’s age when he went to HCM City to study at a centre for the visually impaired.
  4.  The language that Thu would like to teach children.
  5. The number of months that Nguyễn Văn Bảo spent learning English at home.

 

 

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ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Thu; 2. Warm; 3. Eight; 4. English; 5. Five.

 

 

 

 

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