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Sa Pa

I met Pan in Sapa where we had agreed yesterday, and we began our 5 hour trek to her village. I spent 2 days with her, trekking through the mountains, learning about Hmong culture and other minorities living in the mountains.

Pan is a shy 17 year old Hmong girl living in Sapa. She speaks english quite well, and knows a few other languages including Viet and Hmong. She came across as very intelligent, although she has been working since she was very young and didn't have the change to go to school.

The fist day trekking to her village was through small and difficult trails, up steep muddy cimbs, across small rice field walls. At points I was exhausted, but it never seemed phase her.

We got to Pan's house at about 3 or so. Her house is built on the face of the mountain, a stones throw from a waterfall. While pan left to get food for dinner I wandered around the area and went to the waterfall to relax for a while. Pan's husband's little brother about 7 or 8 years old started tagging along with me. Without any words, we played marbles while sitting on a boulder in the middle of the river. Whenever a marble would roll off the rock and into the waterfall he would let out a worried sound and eagerly jump into the water to collect it.

After a while I gestured that we should head up the mountain, and we started walking. We got to a large open area where we sat down and played marbles for a while longer.

It was getting kind of late so I guestured that we head back down the to the house, but he started heading up towards a buffalo about 40m up the mountain. They were blocking a small trail that lead sideways around the mountain, I figured he wanted to walk along. The trail was too thin to walk with a buffalo in the way, but luckily he seemed to know what he was doing. By hissing and throwing rocks near the buffalo he make it walk down the trail. We walked about 15m down this trail and 2 more buffalo and a goat appeared from what seemed like no where. I was becoming apprehensive and kept gesturing the we go back down the mountain, I didn't like the look of 3 giant buffalo blocking the trail.

Somehow he managed to move the buffalo up the slope and get around them. But at this point they were between me and the boy. They started moving towards me, I was genuinely scared and stepped off the trail down the slope of the mountain a little bit, just enough for the buffalo to walk along the trail. We headed back in the direction we came, with the buffalo in front of us now. Once they were out of the small trail I thought we would walk around them and back to the house, but the boy kept moving the buffalo down the mountain with us using sounds and rocks.

As we got closer to the house I was worried that the buffalo may damage something, but the boy continued to lead them towards the house. In fact all the way to the doorstep of the house where he proceeded to round the 3 buffalo into their pen. It was clear now that these buffalo belong to the family and they use them to plow the rice fields, the boy was hearding them back home.