In a Saigon alley, elderly lottery vendors share stories of resilience

Thanh Nien News

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They do not want to be a burden for their poor families in the central province of Phu Yen


This house of around 25 square meters in a small alley off Nguyen Van Cu Street is where 22 people from the central province of Phu Yen stay so that they can sell lottery tickets around Ho Chi Minh City. Without enough space, they have to leave anything they can outside. 
Many of them are way above their retirement age, but they cannot leave the rat race yet. They move to the expensive city as it still has more opportunities than their drought-battered hometown. 
The house has a small attic and it costs them VND5 million (US$230) a month. There were more than 30 of them at times. They sleep on the floor and hang almost everything on the wall. “We can save money by sharing the room among a large group,” said Ngo Van Tien, 51, one of the youngest here. 
Tien washes dishes after a meal. Being the youngest man in the group, he takes care of most of the house work and drives the older members to their selling venues. His main job is a xe om motorbike taxi driver. 
Huynh Thu (R) and another man prepare lottery tickets before their shift between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m. the next morning. Different shifts are one way for everyone to have enough space to sleep. Thu, 76, said he has three children but they are all poor, so he has to work to feed himself. Thu said the risks of old people selling lottery tickets is they often make money mistakes, or they can lose all tickets to robbers. 
They just have one main meal a day at 3 p.m., when people working the morning shifts have come home and before those working the night shifts leave. One woman is in charge of the shopping and cooking and she has to keep the total expense for the meal at around VND150,000 ($7) a day. 
Ba Sen, 60, works two shifts, which leave her less than four hours for the meal and sleep, and she still only makes VND150,000 a day. Sen doesn’t have her own family but she has to take care of a young niece who is still going to school. 
Vo Thi Mau, 84, is the oldest in the house. She has been in the city for five years selling lottery tickets despite being deaf and having joint diseases. Mau said many of them have developed chronic diseases and they only sell enough to buy medicine. She only stay at home when it rains too hard or she’s too sick. 
And yet they are still full of smiles. They visit their hometowns every several months, bringing some electronics they buy for their children at home or some rice and noodles they receive from the city charities. 
A woman puts her tickets above incense sticks at a luck god’s altar to pray for a good day. 
Nguyen Thi Thao, 63, and her older blind brother Nguyen Khoi (L) go out to sell in the afternoon. Thao said Khoi is blind and they do not want their poor children to have to worry about them too, so they make their own living. 
Nguyen Thi Bich Dao, 35, (R) is the youngest woman in the house. She has brought her children over for the summer so they can join her selling tickets to earn money for the next school year. 
You can find the original story here on Zing.

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