by Hoang Ha
Ferry rower's posture affected by his lifetime's work
Ngo Van Ba walks with a forward gait, his head up and eyes down. The 63-year-old from Can Tho City has rowed ferry boats for so long that his posture has changed.
"I've known only one career for 40 years, rowing a ferry boat," Ba says.
Opposite the Ninh Kieu pier, Xom Chai in the Cai Rang District's Hung Phu Ward has thousands of families who once made their living ferrying people to the pier.
Since the advent of passenger ferries, many of these ferrymen had to find other work. Today, only 10 ferrymen, including Ba, take small boats of passengers across the Can Tho River.
Ba says his boating career helped him raise seven sons and daughters.
"I still stick to boating," Ba says.
However, due to rheumatism, Ba has begun working with others and ferrying passengers by motorboat. After deducting expenses, he earns three-fifths of the total revenue.
Unable to compete with faster and cheaper passenger ferries that run during the morning, Ba chooses to work from midnight to early morning. He charges VND4,000 per passenger.
He usually takes passengers to the floating market or to sightsee at Au Islet, Phong Dien canal or My Khanh. He earns an average of VND200,000 a day.
"Once I had four foreigners who wanted to go to Phong Dien canal to take photos of fruit gardens and rice fields. My boat got caught in a shoal, forcing me to wade in water and push the boat. Luckily, they tipped me VND150,000," Ba recalls.
It's never too late: 80-year-old in master's programme
"My age is perhaps triple the age of others in the course, so I might be slow and forgetful," Le Phuoc Thiet said in a speech at the opening ceremony of Duy Tan University's MBA programme this month. "Though my health is not good, I will try my best to graduate."
Thiet, born in 1933 in Quang Nam Province's Dai Loc District, is now a student at the university, located in the central city of Da Nang, in MBA (master's of business administration) programme.
His grandchildren said Thiet had moved to the US in 1975 but had no chance to go to university as he had to support his wife and seven children.
"I started studying at the University of California at Hayward when I was 62 and it took me seven years to graduate," Thiet said. "A lot of Asian people come to the US for education. I thought it was a waste not to study while I was there."
"Vietnamese might think it strange for me to go to school at a later age, but cases like myself in the US are not rare," he said.
Graduating in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in economics and finance, Thiet and his wife returned to Viet Nam in 2003.
Thiet's seven children, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren still live in the US.
"I learn not for social status or position. I want to learn simply because it helps maintain my memory, and I want to be an example for my descendants to treasure knowledge rather than money," he says.
His grandchildren plan to rent a room in the university's dormitory so that Thiet can be near the beach and exercise every day. — VNS