04-14-2006 17:22

Cafe culture is very much alive in Vietnam - although many cafes are actually streetside tea shops. Locals gather at tea stalls across the city after work or school to chat, exchange news and to feel a part of a community. And now a new tea shop is providing that same sense of community, and employment, for a particular group of people -- the hearing impaired.

Night time in Hanoi, Vietnam -- and the city is abuzz with action.

Many city residents spend their evenings in tea shops along sidewalks, catching up on news, gossip and laughs.

But this tea shop is different.

Unlike other stands, the owners, and most of their customers, converse in sign language.

The tea shop, opened by 30-year old Nguyen Quyng Loan, was originally set up as a way to simply earn a living.

But what Loan quickly discovered was that she had also created a community for herself and others who are deaf.

Tea stall owner said: "When I started the tea stall in 2001, there were not many people in the community (deaf people) knew about it. However, there are more and more people coming and they now find it a place to gather, exchange information or teach each others new words of the sign language or just simply catch up after work."

Opening at 6pm until as late as 10pm, Loan's stall was first seen as strange by neighbours.

But soon it became a familiar and welcomed scene on the street.

A club for the deaf meets every Sunday morning in the city providing a great place for people to meet.

However, for many who can't spare the time on the weekend, Loan's stall seems to be an ideal place for catching up with friends.


Editor:Wang Ping