by Phuong Mai
Outlying City districts need more ‘kid zones'
Children all over Viet Nam are out of school and excited about the upcoming summer. While many in urban areas have numerous places to play, kids in outlying districts have fewer choices.
Phan Manh Hung, a resident in HCM City's District 5, says he plans to take his daughter to "kid zones" in the city during her summer break.
Like Hung, parents in HCM City can choose from dozens of privately owned "kid zones" providing modern entertainment and educational games. Or, they can go to 20 public playgrounds located in central districts such as 1, 3, 4, 10 and Tan Binh.
But of the 2 million children in the city, many of them are underserved, particularly those living in outlying districts.
Nguyen Ngoc Hanh, 32, a garment worker who lives in rural Can Gio District, says she has to drive 50 kilometres to reach entertainment parks and kid zones in the inner city. This summer, she plans to entertain her two sons with visits to the district's children's cultural house or supermarket.
In 2000, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism encouraged local authorities to work with organisations to build more playgrounds, and in 2010, another document was issued to remind them of the issue.
However, only 10 playgrounds have been built in the city since 2010.
"My neighbours and I hope that city authorities pay more attention to building more kid zones in outlying districts so we no longer have to worry about where our children are playing," Hanh says.
Book ‘doctor' treats old editions for low fees
The rapid growth of handheld devices and internet services in Viet Nam has changed reading habits, as many people now store dozens of books in their cellphones and tablets. But there are still readers loyal to traditional paper-made books, particularly those with old collections.
Such books, with pages torn and worn over the years, often need mending. One of the best book craftsmen in the city is Vo Van Rang of HCM City's District 3.
In 1978, Rang apprenticed at a famous book-repair shop in the 90s, when there were fewer published books.
After more than 10 years of training, Rang opened a shop at his house. Over the years, he has repaired thousands of books, including thick dictionaries.
His working equipment includes tweezers and an iron to flatten paper, and an old craft paper cutter to clip the edges. Needles and thread are used to connect pages.
He fixes covers by either replacing the book with a new cover or renewing an old one.
"A new cover will help preserve the book for a long time, but many people like to restore the old one to keep its value," he says.
It takes Rang two to seven days to repair a book. His charge is VND20,000-50,000 (US$0.92 - $2.30).
Do Ba Dung of Binh Thanh District says his family collection of old books has been preserved for many years, thanks to Rang.
"Customers come to me because they want to keep their memories associated with their old books," says Rang, who repairs six to eight books a day.
His love of books extends beyond the physical product. In his free time, the 55-year-old says he loves to read books. — VNS