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A market for broken heart mementos

Update: October, 22/2017 - 09:00
Priceless: Some sellers give away their souvenirs for free. — Photo Courtesy of Facebook Chợ người yêu cũ
Viet Nam News

While many people keep old flames burning in their hearts while nursing scarred souls, there are others stuck with physical objects - jewelry, books, clothes or other souvenirs - painful reminders that they’d rather not have around. Now there’s a place to get these vestiges out of one’s life forever.  An Vũ  reports.

Most of us keep an old flame burning in our minds or in our hearts. A shattered relationship usually teaches us lessons and leaves a scar in the soul. But it can also leave us with physical objects—jewelry, books, clothes or other souvenirs we might rather not see everyday.

To address the problem of unloved mementos of a former lover, a group of young people has established a special fair held monthly, where people can buy and sell such objects. Called “Chợ người yêu cũ” (old flame fair or exes’ market), the event has been held at 58 Tô Ngọc Vân Street on the first Sunday of each month since May 2017.

Unlike other book or trinket fairs, this one takes place inside a residence called Bay la Bato. Sold here are utensils, souvenirs, tokens and even love letters between old lovers.

Đinh Thắng, founder of the fair, lives and works in Hà Nội. As a real cosmopolitan and man of carefree spirit, he claims the old flame fair is among the many “awesome” social ideas he has generated.

“This fair is only one of those many cool ideas my friends and I came up with after a chit chat about ex-girlfriends, boyfriends and things,” he said. “After the break-ups, we found there were many objects left in our homes by old lovers, and we do not want to see them again, since they remind us of unhappy memories.

“However, these things were still in good shape. It would harm the environment if we tossed them away. Then, we thought we should make an exchange with other people, so the objects would find new owners. They can buy new, good objects and we protect the environment. It’s a win-win,” he said.

In its first six months, the fair has attracted so many young people eager to sell their mementos that there isn’t enough space for them all. They wait patiently for others to finish selling and a stall to become available.

Thắng said only about 10 people came to each of the first two fairs, which he describes as an “experiment”. The space constraints are a necessary condition for keeping the event free, as hiring a larger venue would be too expensive.

The intimate venue keeps the event convivial. Attending as a buyer and selling are free. But if a seller brings extra goods to sell, he or she pays 30 per cent of their profits to the organizers.

At the fair on October 1, 500 buyers and sellers turned out. Some people at the venue’s 20 stalls sold their pottery souvenirs, with prices  from VND30,000 (US$1.3) to VND110,000 ($4.8). But others give away their souvenirs for free. All sellers at the fair join a Facebook page and describe what they want to sell and the tragic love story behind their items. Then the organising board selects those allowed to sell, with early posters getting priority.

Lonely hearts: At the moment, there are over 20 stalls in the fair. — Photo Courtesy of Facebook Chợ người yêu cũ
Make a commitment: The ex market is held every first Sunday of each month. — Photo Courtesy of Facebook Chợ người yêu cũ

Trần Đức Cường said it was his third time selling things in the fair. He brought some handmade earrings, bracelets and old pottery, all from ex-lovers. All things range from VND15,000 to 100,000.

“I come here mostly for fun, and to share my love memories, not for profit. I what to contribute something for the true spirit of this fair,” Cường said. He added that he has seen more and more sellers and buyers come to this fair, and he thinks the organising board has become more selective in choosing sellers.

“People shared their old love stories in the previous fairs, but now I feel like this fair is more commercial,” he added.

Another seller said she also came to open her hearts to people, not for money.

“I think it should be the sole purpose of this fair,” she said. “I find this idea inspiring. Since they are old stuff, and we don’t need them, we sell for a better goal, for people who truly need them, and we even give things away for free.”

Yet, Hoàng Tường, a buyer, said people should not take advantage of their old memories by making a profit.

“I see some sell their books, scarves, and even diaries and love letters. I think these are so sacred and are something between two lovers, so they should not be sold,” he said. “It’s like they sell their private lives for a bit of money.”

Thắng insisted that the fair is not a place for strangers to be ruthless with their memories of ex-lovers, nor to find ways to erase them altogether.

“I saw two ex-boyfriends of the same girl selling things here, and they do it in peace," he said.

Thắng said that for some sellers, the fair is a kind of therapy. Whether they are in the process of moving on or have already done so, sellers see getting rid of objects not as an act of erasure, but as a way to “stand up and keep on going with their lives”. VNS

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