27 July 2014

Glimmer of innocence

Their mother had almost certainly made them sit there to attract the attention of passing tourists. The fact they may have been a little forced didn’t make them less cute though, dressed in their freshly-ironed Vietnamese attire and heads covered with unnecessary hats. I sat down on the pavement opposite theirs. It was night time, restaurants were still bustling, serving hungry Westerners and well-off Vietnamese.

Young boys in Hoi An, Vietnam

I carefully prepared my telephoto lens and – click, click, click – took a quick series of shots in between the people walking up and down the bucolic town centre of Hoi An, in central Vietnam. Maybe those two boys were even twins, I don’t know, but it was funny to watch them calmly sit cross-legged behind their multi-coloured candles, eating grilled corn and nibbling other little things. Those floating candles were meant to be dropped via a long pole on the Thu Bon river, carrying the wishes of the visitors who had just bought them.

Little girl in Hoi An, Vietnam

The highlight of my evening strolls was however probably shot the night before at the same spot. A two-year old girl was playing with her floating candle, at times intensely observing the dancing light, at other times trying to touch it. She would then lift her head up and, with a broad smile, would try to offer her candle to any random passerby. This little chubby girl was undoubtedly too young to properly understand the concept of selling something for money. Tourists didn’t have that any innocence anymore and would gently refuse the candle. But she would still be smiling, briskly walking to the next adult in her field of vision or reverting to playing with her candle again.

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam – any resemblance with Google colours is purely fortuitous

She had evidently not yet grown out of her plump baby traits, she was simply happy to be there. Her harmless boldness evokes in me those quotes in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (the most-translated French book with 255 languages to date) as reminders to always stay a little crazy, a little candid, a little wide-eyed, taking it all in with simplicity:

All grown-ups were once children – although few of them remember it.

(In French: “Toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants. Mais peu d'entre elles s'en souviennent”.)

And a more funny one goes like this:

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.

(In French: “Les grandes personnes ne comprennent jamais rien toutes seules, et c'est fatigant, pour les enfants, de toujours et toujours leur donner des explications”.)