Disabled man goes on the road
If Chu Duc Toan, who is paralysed from the waist down, had not travelled from his hometown in the northern province of Ninh Binh to southern Viet Nam, he would have never witnessed the courage, patience and kind-heartedness of his compatriots.
Born with legs disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange, Toan, 32, had only VND3.5 million (US$170) in his pocket when he left home.
He had never even travelled beyond his town in Hoa Lu District, where he lives with his sister. His father died at a relatively young age from the effects of Agent Orange, and his mother died in 2008.
To prepare for the trip, Toan bought a wheelchair in Ha Noi as well as clothes, sewing needles and thread, and a notebook.
He told his elder sister he was going away for a few days, but finally let the entire family know about his whereabouts when he arrived in Hue.
The sister had asked him to return home, but he insisted on pursuing his dream to learn more about the country.
Along the road, Toan ate at simple eateries and slept at pagodas or at the houses of local residents. Many restaurant owners refused to take money from him when they heard his story.
After arriving in Quang Nam Province's Dien Ban District, a family there asked him to be their adopted son. He agreed, and now has an adopted mother Nguyen Thi Hong and four new brothers.
Toan has filled his diary with not only wonderful moments but with recollections of all the special people he has met on his trip.
Although the road is still long, Toan says he is not impatient and will never give up. His destination: Ca Mau, the southernmost point of Viet Nam. After reaching the area, he will then return to HCM City and find a pagoda to live there for a while.
Transgender teacher gets vocal
Pham Le Quynh Tram, a teacher formerly known as Pham Van Hiep when she was a man, has found happiness and courage in her new avocation as a singer.
While waiting for her gender transition to be officially recognised by the state, Tram has released a music CD for charity purposes.
Tram, 40, whose works as a private tutor in HCM City, had been thinking about recording an album for years. Taking four months, the CD Duyen Que includes eight songs.
The Binh Phuoc native, who had gender-reassignment surgery in 2006, says she loves singing because it makes her feel optimistic and strong. "I want to be a teacher who knows how to sing," she says.
More than 200 poor students in Binh Phuoc who have been taught by Tram have gone on to attend several major universities in HCM City.
She says all of the proceeds from her music project will be presented to disadvantaged families via the Red Cross Association in Chon Thanh District in Binh Phuoc Province.
In 2009, Tram became the first person in Viet Nam to be recognised as a transgender individual. However, that decision by the Binh Phuoc authorities was later withdrawn and put under further consideration.
Although Tram has suffered physical pain and mental suffering because of discrimination, she says she will continue to try to gain legal recognition of "her true self". — VNS