Nguyen Thi Lan while dancing by the river in the evening in Tram Chim on June 29, 2023. This is one of the activities she does daily and loves to do to be healthy.
Nguyen Thi Lan while dancing by the river in the evening in Tram Chim on June 29, 2023. This is one of the activities she does daily and loves to do to be healthy.

The first thing that undoubtedly impresses about Nguyen Thi Lan is her sweet and warm smile.

At 72, she is remarkably vigorous and vivacious.

Nguyen Thi Lan rises at four every morning, dedicating the hour from 4:30 to 5:30 to an ancient Chinese discipline that combines meditation and gymnastics. It is a habit she has maintained since she was young. She acquired this practice during her school days in the city of Saigon, which she witnessed transforming into Ho Chi Minh City after the Vietnam War with the United States.

Today, this charming lady resides in a small countryside town nestled in the heart of the Mekong Delta, Tram Chim, close to her hometown of Cao Lanh. After spending many years in Ho Chi Minh City, she moved to this area upon marriage, joining her husband in their farming business. In the meantime, she devoted herself to raising and caring for her family, which has now expanded to include her grandchildren.

Nguyen Thi Lan is a woman who has cherished travel more than anything else in her life. Each place has gifted her with many memories that she still loves to share and talk about. Although she no longer wishes to go on long trips, she frequently visits her daughter in the neighboring town, savoring even these shorter experiences.

During her free time, she assists the family with household chores or simply relaxes with her smartphone. Technology has become a part of her life, and she enjoys watching videos and photos on her mobile or simply calling someone and having a conversation.

Does all of this seem monotonous? For her, monotony is not a problem, as she knows how to infuse even the most ordinary days with sparkle. She takes pleasure in painting her daily routine with the ever-changing colors of her clothing and applying soft makeup, thoughtfully deciding what to wear each morning.

After dinner, she concludes her day by the river of the city. Every day from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., you can find her with her small radio as she performs a dance similar to the tango. She dances alone but is always surrounded by people who stop by to greet her or join in the activity.

Now, at 72, she is determined to cherish the present as best as she can and treasure life's small daily joys. Her life has been intense, filled with sacrifices and responsibilities that she has faced. These experiences have allowed her to fully appreciate the world that surrounds her today.

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How does it feel to be 72?

"Now that I am 72 years old, I often reflect on my past. I still remember my childhood and at times I revisit my youth and all that I have experienced. However, while the past occupies a place in my daily thoughts, I believe it's essential to live in the present and plan for the future."

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What do you look forward to?

"I predominantly live in the present because when I contemplate what I'd like to do in the future, I sometimes worry that I may not have enough strength or health to make it happen. My hope is that the next generations, including my children and grandchildren, can enjoy a happier, more successful and longer life than mine."

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What is your biggest concern?

At times, I naturally face fears and negative thoughts that may be linked to my personal life or my family’s. This pertains to health, employment and struggles that may arise at any moment. But each time I try to conquer and overcome them. I remind myself  that suffering over something uncertain serves no purpose.

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Life expectancy 2023

74.74
years
Vietnam

About the photographer

Chiara Negrello

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Chiara Negrello (b. 1995) is a storyteller from Italy who focuses on social issues. Her work has been published by The New York Times, National Geographic, amongst others. She mixes photography and video.

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