Ink conversations with Binh

At 18:00 Da Nang’s vicious sun had already set but I was still struggling with the humidity alongside hunger. ‘Bread Of Life’ had been recommended to me, so sitting in the window of the cafe (right next to the air conditioning unit) I waited patiently for my Vietnamese iced coffee and mushroom burger.

A second waiter approached me but before I could smile and indicate that I had already ordered, he sat down next to me with a blank docket/receipt and pen. He wrote “what is your name?”. I wrote back and also asked for his name.

Meet Binh.

Binh is 26, originally from Hoi An, now married, has been working at Bread Of Life for some years and is deaf. He’s not the only deaf being in the cafe either. The chefs, baristas and other serving staff are all deaf too.

Binh’s receipt quickly fills with questions and answers around Australia vs Vietnamese life and I am forced to rummage in my bag for more scrap paper. Turns out Binh was born all hearing and speaking but at the age of four he had a horrible fall – cracking his skull open. After numerous months in hospital he was pronounced stone deaf in both ears.

The deaf, in Vietnam, are more often than not seen as a burden on family and society. Schools for the deaf are far and few between, consequently a large proportion of deaf adults today have minimal literacy skills and many are unable to communicate with their own family members (sign or otherwise).

This is where the little cafe I’m sitting in becomes a life-line for some of Da Nang’s deaf. Bread Of Life teaches new deaf recruits to sign in Vietnamese, the skills required of a chef/waiter/barista and more importantly Bread Of Life gives these folk their independence.

I had intended to eat and run within an hour but instead stayed for over two ‘talking’ with Binh and some of the other staff. By the end of it, I’d been offered a ride back to my hotel and I happily agreed. Perched on the back of Binh’s motorbike and with a piece of boxed apple pie tucked under my arm, we accelerated off into the night and mayhem of Da Nang – Binh, oblivious to the thousands of honks, beeps and all other manner of traffic sounds.