August 28, 2009 § 16 Comments


Lam was the eldest of three siblings. Her family lived in a small farm that had been passed down through generations. Life had been especially hard on Lam and her family. When she was just 8 years old, her mother died from snakebites while working in the field. By 11, Lam had to drop out of school to help out on the farm. Despite the hard work, she insisted that her two brothers stay in school. “Our family’s future depends on you,” she said.

Misfortunes, however, never seemed to cease. A long drought, coupled with unusually cold weather, severely crippled crops and depleted the family’s savings. But the most severe blow would come in the news of her father’s cancer. The cancer had reached a late stage and surgery was required. Unfortunately, Lam’s family did not have the means to pay for such expensive treatment.

As Lam pondered how to come up with the money for her father’s surgery and for the family’s daily expenses, she was approached by Madame H. who ran a local matchmaking service. She told Lam that a rich Korean merchant was looking for a wife and Lam matched his description perfectly. Madame H. promised her a hefty sum of money–one that was large enough to cover all medical expenses as well as paying for her brothers’ education.

At first, Lam flatly refused Madame H.’s offer. She would rather kill herself than to make such an unprincipled choice. But as the bills were piling up and her father’s condition worsened, the offer was once again on her mind. She had been stricken by poverty all her life. She did not want to see her brothers dropping out of school and living the rest of their lives in poverty–she did not want to see her father dying the same way her mother did, because of the lack of treatment. She wanted a better future for all, and so she agreed.

After a long flight to Korea, Lam was able to meet her Korean husband for the first time. He was exactly what she envisioned. The guy was a pale-looking man in his late forties, repulsive and partly crippled. Although she did not love him, she was determined to be a good and faithful wife.

Unfortunately, there were more to the guy than just his appearance. Her husband was an overly insecure and paranoid human being. He prohibited her from ever leaving the house, fearing that she might leave him for another man. In fact, he would lock her in the basement every time he was about to leave the house. Additionally, Lam was not allowed to contact her family and friends; her passport was taken away by the husband’s family.

But the abuse didn’t stop there. She was the subject of numerous brutal beatings by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. In many instances, the two even threatened to burn her hair if she did not “obey” them.

After a year of marriage, Lam’s husband became very sick. He passed away shortly afterwards. While everyone was attending his funeral, Lam remained locked away in the basement. She was sad and confused. What had she done to deserve this? Why wasn’t she be allowed to bid her husband a final farewell?

It turned out that her husband’s family had special plans for her; she was set to be married off to the husband’s brother. When Lam learned about this, she was enraged. No matter how much they beat her, she refused to let them have their way.

She was held captive, bruised and battered, for almost a week without any food or water. But despite all that, Lam continued to persevere. If poverty could not take her down, this would definitely not. Thanked to a concerned neighbor, Lam was later rescued by the police. At last, she was free.

Her trip home was one accompanied with deep reflections. As her bus passed through the town’s entrance, she saw Madame H.’s car leaving the town. Inside the car was her best friend Trang. Watching history repeating, Lam was disheartened. Fate can sometimes be cruel.

[Simon N.]

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§ 16 Responses to Trapped

  • just1more says:

    that’s a sad story. :-(

    however, i don’t think poverty is to blame for most of our problems. man is. and woman. we control so much with a closed heart and an accepting wallet, when we could give all things to all people with a little love. :-)

  • amok says:

    Your friend was wrong in my opinion. Capitalism, as it is applied today, is the source of the problems for people who live in poverty. Here is someone that understood the problem at last:
    Admin – But I don’t think socialism is any better. :)

  • indisch says:

    Sad… But poverty is not the root of most problems… it’s more like the other way round. Most problems are the root of all poverty.

  • cantueso says:

    I thought that “money is the root of all problems”, had become proverbial in English, though based on Twain:

    “The lack of money is the root of all evil.” [...] kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” is sometimes attributed to Twain. …”.

    As a general theory of evil it would not work, as there are too many disasters and illnesses not related to money.

  • blaxter says:

    An interesting story! I think some of the damage of poverty is that it limits kids’ choices. Your story certainly shows that Lam had standards, values and principles – but in the end had no choice. I’m not convinced that socialism or capitalism is totally to blame! Someone has to make money for there to be any to share around. Possibly we just don’t give away enough – thinking we need it all ourselves. I know I should give more to others.
    Admin – Well said!

  • gshstudy says:

    The story was very powerful. I like the loop at the end to show the unbroken cycle. I am not sure how many problems in the world would vanish if poverty was eliminated, but it sure would be exciting to find out.

  • obliterated says:

    Now I’m sad. It is true that poverty is the root of a lot of problems. And it is also a vicious cycle that is very hard to break out of.

  • xaevryn says:

    As much as this story shows poverty as being a great evil, it is really no worse than what Lam faced in the “wealthy” world. So while “the want of money is the root of all evil,” neither can money buy happiness.

  • lyndaspix says:

    A sad, but interesting story. It is unfortunate that the loop at the end isn’t a positive one, but it is quite realistic. The cycles of poverty and abuse do seem to go hand in hand. It is interesting to note that while Lam’s husband’s family had money, they were also the abusers. Abuse obviously doesn’t limit itself to the poverty stricken.

  • madsilence says:

    I’m currently reading the book, The Places In Between, by Rory Stewart. In 2002 Stewart, an author & scholar, walked across Afghanistan. I was struck by his description of the people and culture: their poverty, illiteracy and generally poor quality of their lives.

    Stewart touches upon the multi-cultural art & architecture of Afghanistan (Muslim, Hindu & Buddhist), the trade in illegal antiquities, and the manner in which poor Afghans view their cultural heritage. Apparently many artifiacts are sold to satisfy the greed of collectors in Japan, Britain & America.

    Question: Can the poor afford to view & value their art & architecture as do more wealthy countries? Is the study of art history a mere affectation of the well-to-do? When suffering from hunger and cold, the value of artificats is translated into food and fuel. How can the contemporary art world justify exorbitant prices when so much of the world’s population is poor & suffering?


  • mimulus says:

    I think the big problem is that the Economy in general is in benefitting just a few, everywhere in this world. We that work are one way or another serving this Economy, which means, serving just a few powerful rich people.
    The only way, utopic but not impossible, would be a model of Economy that regarded humanity causes in its rules. I don’t mean it in a socialist view. I think there’s enough for everyone and it would be possible that everyone became prosperous, which is necessary to live life plenty.

  • vishesh says:

    we hear of such stories both fiction and real….what is life worth? how can people exploit others like this?

  • gypsy-heart says:

    Powerful piece…what did she do with her life once she returned? Did she take the same strength she demonstrated, when refusing to marry the brother, and do something about her life?

    I am not unrealistic sometimes the conditions are dire..but a lot of times it is all about choices…sometimes wrong choices. I know that from experience..yet I learned so much from the wrong choices. Hmmm…maybe it was really all about the lessons?

    I guess if there was a silver was her husband dying young. Is that wicked of me? :O

    You always make me think…I like that!
    leafless – There are two types of people–ones who resign to their fate and ones who stand against it. It’s quite a dilemma.

  • enreal says:

    You are a great story teller… I think poverty is not the root of all evil. Wealth is objective… there are those who have nothing and still are happy with the nothing that they have… All the hardships and suffering faced in Life is meant for a lesson. Cruel and unjust as it may be… we must learn.

    This story was sad and I can imagine it happening over and over. She was a strong and selfless woman. Many would have been broken under such circumstance. I am sure what ever her story continues to be she will be stronger because she learned.

    Kudos… great article! Thank you for enlightening us to the many lessons life has to give

  • Scietech says:

    Yes, poverty is the root cause of many problems . . . the poor are in great danger of being ruthlessly exploited by nasty characters :-X

  • shenmue says:

    poverty may not be technically the root of all evils but they live few choices or no choice at all which leads to evil. You are right there are people who resign to their fate or stand against it but i believe our destiny is to build bridges to what we want in life, it’s just that sometimes the bridges lead to a more miserable situation. kudos to your blog which never ceases to amaze readers!

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