by Stan Sinberg
The women who operate the floating stores in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, are nothing if not industrious. Stockpiling their canoes with Oreos, water, Ritz Crackers, cigarettes, and two dozen other items, they spend hours a day rowing after the large tourist boats, in search of customers.
Recently I was on a day trip and was descending off my boat into a kayak. While I was still standing in the kayak, a wave came causing me to lose my balance, capsize the kayak, and gash my foot on the larger boat’s rusty ladder, so that it was bleeding pretty badly. I swam back to the boat, and tried, without success, to hoist myself up on the ladder. While I was struggling, I spotted one of the “floating store” women rowing frantically towards me. “That’s nice,” I thought. “She’s going to help me get back on my boat.” Instead, when she reached me, she asked, “Want to buy something?”
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