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Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 01:46:54 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: The Ransom of the Flower Girls

With regards to O. Henry

I have returned to Hong Kong after 9 days in Vietnam. The trip was short but productive. Their were many highlights but maybe my favorite was the "ransom of the flower girls"! There are young girls aged about 10-15 who sell flowers every day at the town center. They work from about 2 or 3 PM until about 10. Every day. I have gotten to know them and some even came to the Burke House dinner last November (another ransom). I buy at least one flower every day. Sometimes I line them up and say "ok, I buy from you today, you tomorrow, you the next day", etc, etc, etc. I was already planning on taking some friends to the movies on Sunday afternoon (my last day) and I decided to invite some (actually 8) of the flower girls. "Oh no, we have to work" they said in unison. Well, let's see what we can do.

The mother of two of the girls is also the mama-san, the boss of the operation, or at least the manager. So I offered her a deal. I will buy 3 roses from each girl right now if they can have two hours off to go to the movies. That's 8 girls times 3 roses times 10,000 Vietnamese dollars or about $15. Sold.

So for two hours 8 kids who would have been trying to sell flowers to tourists on a Sunday evening sat in a theatre with popcorn and soda and got to be children again for a few hours. A total of a dozen tickets cost 720,000 (VD) or $45 (US). Add popcorn and soda and we still kept it under $70 total. I am not an accountant but I thought is was a good investment.

Reports are that tourists were hard pressed to buy flowers in downtown Saigon on Sunday evening.

The Ransom of the Flower Girls

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