As I was returning on foot to Bich Duyen last week, I noticed a xiclo driver staring up into the sky and repeatedly throwing a small piece of fruit into the air. It appeared that each new toss brought on new laughter from the man as if he and God were playing catch. I was wrong.
It wasn’t Heaven who this man was throwing fruit to but a small monkey, chained by the neck to the second floor balcony of another small hotel in the area. I cannot rightly say why but at the very moment that I glanced up and locked eyes with the small animal, a great sense of grief went through my heart.
The monkey’s hands were just like mine, only smaller, and his eyes and facial expressions were so human that I could not help but feel connected to him. I am not an animal activist, a vegetarian, or particularly moved by the sight of goldfish in a small tank, but at that moment I felt a million pounds of frustration for the monkey, whose outstretched hands fought with all of their might to secure the small piece of suspended fruit.
I took this photo three years ago at Enterprise 184 in Mui Ca Mau. I was reminded of it when I saw the monkey on the balcony and wondered if he had at any point in his life lived in the wilderness like the baby above.
It’s astounding how my perception of the monkeys from 2005 was one of revulsion and fear. They stole pieces of my group’s luggage, food from our dinner table, and kept up quite a racket. Big as I may be, the monkeys at Enterprise 184 looked as though they wanted to start a fight with me. I laugh about it now, but I was truly terrified at the time.
To be honest, I don’t even like animals that much, but when I see them chained by the neck I feel a little queasy, especially if it is an animal that looks so much like a human in chains.