The Monkey Dies- Last Days in Hanoi

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jan 24, 2011

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, January 16, 2011

                                                  Lise Abu
                                               "The Monkey"
                                March 14, 1999 - January 14, 2011

Sadly, Lise Abu, affectionately known as "The Monkey" died this morning of indifference... he was 11 (measured by the time he lived at Peace Village).  Sharing the same birthday as the legendary television monkey, J. Fred Muggs, he was discovered lying down and unresponsive in his cage by an American going to work at Peace Village.  

Despite the constant pleadings of the American to warm the monkey or "Monkey will die!,  monkey will die!", these pleadings went unanswered.  The American summoned the school staff who casually walked over in an attempt to save Mr. Abu.  He was then removed from his cage, and after all these days his jacket was finally put on him.  He was taken nearby to where a fire was made to warm him and cover him with blankets.  Baby droppers of milk were orally administered, and although he did open his eyes for a bit, and could be heard barely muttering the words "I'll get you for this", he did pass on.

Mr. Abu, lived a simple, solitary, monastic life... however; sadly, it wasn't of his choosing.    He will be missed by the American and surely will be missed by the people at the school until a replacement monkey can be brought in.  Mr. Abu leaves behind a carrot.


And that's the story… just like the wires on the telephone pole, the sign spelling 'Pho-to’ and the easy going approach to making crossing the streets in traffic easier…Abu the Monkey was here one day and gone the next….it’s just the way things are here. 

I have absolutely fallen in love with the people of Hanoi and I must say again that they are such a playful and warm people, especially toward foreigners.  Maybe it is this laissez-faire attitude toward all things in life that allows them to express this playful, friendly personality part without getting consumed by details, minutia and bitterness….I really am not sure why.  Thru a westerner’s eyes, at times it seems like the society here in Hanoi may have been the basis for the townsfolk characters in the movie Pleasantville…. but they really are so, so much more.

As another example, yesterday I saw the two college girls, Tho and Yen, who had walked me across the street when I first arrived.  Tho asked me to join them and she would make a meal for me that evening….I mean here are two 21 year old girls, my son Ben’s age, and they are inviting this 59 year old American over for dinner. 

Well, I told Tho how much I appreciated the invitation, but have had such a craving for Italian pizza or spaghetti, and wanted to know if she knew of any place to get some.  She said yes she did and I asked if they would instead join me for dinner and drinks.  They took me to the highest building around here, 23 stories, where we had an excellent bowl of spaghetti and I had an even better bottle of Hanoi’s local beer, Tiger Lager…neither of them drink.  But we had such laughs and such friendly chat, that it was truly a highlight.  Often the laughs came about from language barriers, but it really was a blast.  Matter of fact, Tho’s 22nd birthday is today, and she invited me to join a party that they were having for her.  However, tonight I have been invited out to join Chau, the VPV house manager, to join her to do something at her house where she lives with her family and I believe eat... I’m really not certain... while Chau speaks nearly perfect English, once again my hearing of anyone with an accent, is a problem.  I just can’t rave enough about the people of this city…so I guess I’ll just stop now. 

Today also was the day many of the volunteers parted ways… as I had pointed out in my trip to Chiang Rai, these goodbye’s always bring back memories of the last episode of M*A*S*H where everyone is leaving and going their own way and by various means of transport.  Ellie and Krisztina left yesterday to catch a flight for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) down south, Gee flew down to join them this morning.  My roommate Rai (aka Ryan) left by bus to meet up with his friend Rosie and the two of them are going to the mountains of Mai Chau for 2 days.  What a wonderful fellow Rai is as a roommate, a friend and a fellow volunteer at Peace Village.  All that really need be said, is that he is just a real kind, genuine and authentic person… oh yeah, who happens to drink snake vodka and eat snake heart.

Also, today was my last day working at Peace Village.  This part just seemed to go so fast and it was as enjoyable and challenging as any placement that I have done.  It was an eye-opener for me to work/see such low functioning kids and to get a glimpse of what life is like for them.  A few of them, like Minh (the high fiver, and Ahn the page turner, and Ha the laugher who put balls on chopsticks…I know that while perhaps I didn’t do too much to change their lives, they did have some laughs and reactions they may never have had before… and like I’ve said often,  just to impact and make just one person’s world a bit more fun and joyful is enough for me…. I’ll leave it to others to change the world.

And the staff and the interns were just so kind and friendly…While I wish there would be more teaching structure to help reach the kids wherever possible, the staff at Peace House are just wonderful.  But finally, there was one fellow who really touched me and his name was Tho.  I’ve included a video in this entry of Tho performing his martial arts routine.   Tho has down syndrome but was perhaps the brightest,  kid at Peace Village…and every time I would see him, he would always run up and give me this big , clinging hug.  And Tho loved his basketball and from the dribbling picture that Lori commented on, you can sort of see he is pretty good.

Well, today the basketball rim finally rotted out and broke almost totally off.  I made it a mission that after work, somewhere in Hanoi, I would find another rim before I left.  Everyone thought the only place I would possibly find a basketball rim would be up toward Old Quarter, about half hour bus ride away.  Wouldn’t you know it, but I’m walking back from work and there tucked away in a sports clothing store is a basketball rim… and to boot, as I am walking back to Peace Village to bring them the rim, I run into two of the interns there and I was able to give them the rim so I didn’t have to walk back.  

Funny how things sometimes just seem to work out… and I have difficulty believing that it is all just coincidence.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Amy on

Ken - I would like you to write my obituary! I'm not surprised that these young women want to be with you. Enjoy the rest of your stay. I'm looking forward to your next post.

Bea on

The story of Mr. Abu breaks my heart. Peace Village doesn't deserve to get another pet. A warming pad used for animals that live outdoors would have done the trick and kept him alive. Of course that would require an extention cord and an outlet.

cynthia meanwell on

no language, no hearing, all heart. wonderful post, ken.

kay on

Hi, sorry i found this post on Google, and I already got the wine from but i am now looking for wine or liquor with tarantula or other creatures, do you know where to find ? Thanks a lot.

Pam on


Karen on sorry about Mr. Abu. Wonder why nobody was interested in him. Aside from that, sounds like a most wonderful adventure...

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: