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Unique ExperienceI found my kidnapped friends in China, and am now finishing a documentary on it - AMA!

Nov 2nd 2016 by 21BenRandall • 41 Questions • 6116 Points

My name is Igor Vovkovinskiy. I am a proud Ukrainian, who lives in the US, for medical reasons. I was named the Tallest Living man in 2010 by the Guinness Book of World Records on the Dr. Oz show. And it so happens that after Leonid Stadnyk died in 2014, I became the Tallest Ukrainian. I did an AMA about 2-3 years ago, however, tons of people on Reddit are asking me the same questions, so I would like to do it again.

I know many people don't know how to Google :) so I'll tell you, my height is 7ft 8.33in and you want to know my weight? Well, my friends, it's none of your business! :) Haha

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/e1bONa3.jpg

I will be posting some photos during the AMA, when I choose to do so, however, please do not request photos.

Let's do this.

Thank you all for the questions. I must go. If you wish, you can follow me on Twitter, @Igor2tall I am sorry if I didn't answer your question, or didn't answer it the way you wanted it answered. A couple quick facts. I love to watch MMA, huge UFC fan. I love my homeland, Ukraine, Слава Україні! I love fishing and reading. PC Games, I love Fallout 3 & 4, wish I could get Battlefield 1, but it's way too expensive, and I don't have an income, so that's out of the question. Have a great Sunday!

UPDATE BELOW!!

UPDATE 1 - 10/30/2016 - 11:30PM Central Time LADIES & GENTLEMEN!! I am still fairly new to Reddit, so I am not sure how to keep updating you. I think, perhaps, updating the OP is best? Your response has been overwhelming. Thank you soooo much for all the kind words, suggestions, offers of help. I can't keep track of anything. I will try to answer as many questions as I can. http://i.imgur.com/cdmKp1M.jpg

Q:

Where do you even start to look?

A:

How often do you hit your head on chandeliers?


Q:

Initially, the only possibility I had (however slim) was to try and identify my friends' traffickers, and trace their path through the trafficking network. That proved to be just as impossible as I imagined it would be, but I got lucky when one of my friends was able to access a phone in China and call home. It still took several months to contact, locate and meet with her, but at least I had a starting point :)

A:

ohhh jeez...when I go to visit someone, pretty much every time I will hit my head on one of the light fixtures


Q:

This documentary sounds like a thriller movie. It's just crazy to think that something like this could happen in real life, yet it probably happens all the time.

Really excited for this documentary, OP. Glad you got your friends back.

A:

Do you ever go to the mall of America?

There is book store there where I think I may come across your path a number of years ago. Short story, as I was looking down thumbing through a book I saw this ginormous foot step next to mine. So I look up to see a mountain of a man. I can only guess this was you, because this gentleman was huge. Pulling books off the the top display shelves with ease, which would have taken anyone else a ladder.

Quite impressive anyway. Have a good weekend.


Q:

Thanks. It was incredible the way it all played out. It was tough to live through, but will make an intense film.

A:

haha, yeah probably me, I would always go to the Barnes & Noble at the MoA.


Q:

Liam Neeson would play you.

A:

Whats the best thing and the worst thing about being that height?


Q:

Hahaha he'd kick ass too

A:

The worst thing is all the medical issues. The best thing? I don't know.... maybe that kids look up to me. I have gone to schools around the area to talk to kids about being tall, being different, about my homeland.


Q:

what made think to film it?

A:

Are the medical issues mostly associated with your joints?


Q:

My background is in documentary filmmaking. When I realised how horrendous this issue is, it was the obvious thing to do


Q:

Unfortunately, I doubt the captives are found often. This story has an amazing ending for sure

A:

What are the health concerns associated with being so tall? Do doctors estimate that your life expectancy is likely shorter than that of a man of average height?


Q:

I'm not surprised that some people are skeptical when they hear it for the first time. I could hardly believe it when I was in the middle of it :)

A:

many health concerns, blood doesn't flow to the outer extremities very well, meaning my legs, so I have excrutiating pain in my legs and feet, as I have had 25+ surgeries on my left foot & leg. Nothing really helps me with my pain. I am on about level 7-8 out of 10 all the time


Q:

So the one friend was able to escape independently, essentially. How did you begin to find the other two? It still seems like finding two needles in a haystack.

A:

Jesus, you poor guy. How do you even function with that much pain all the time? It must be so stressful to constantly be in agony. I'm so sorry :(


Q:

The first friend ran away and was recovered by an NGO that brought her home. As I mentioned above, one of the others was able to call home. She had no idea where she was and it was a painstaking process to try and determine her location, from what clues she was able to give me. You can see it right now in the first 40min of the film if you're interested, it's available for $1 on our fundraising page (to raise the money to finish it!): http://www.sistersforsale.com

A:

I don't function, that's the problem. Also, my doctors will not give me enough meds, but I do not want to be on these frikin pills, they kill so many people. But in Minnesota I have no other choices.


Q:

Just backed at the middle sister level. Hope you can finish the whole documentary soon! Good luck!

A:

Have you tried medical marijuana?


Q:

Thank you, it's much appreciated :)

A:

no sir, it's not exactly easy to obtain legally in MN. I really want to try the CBD capsules, but I can't get anyone to let me try it.


Q:

Did you face any physical danger or threats on your journey to find your friends? Congrats btw! :)

A:

Tallest man typical meal and portion?


Q:

Thank you. Much of the trafficking is done by multinational organised crime networks, and there was certainly an element of danger involved. It was the kind of situation where we (my cameraman and I) would have been killed, or nothing would happen. We came through without any problems, but will never know how dangerous it really was for us. The only death threat I received, bizarrely, was from the family of one of the girls, who didn't want her home.

A:

Well. for breakfast, usually a bowl of cereal or 3 eggo waffles with some jelly, and 2 cups of coffee.

For lunch, a sandwich or two. for example: european or Ukrainian bread, little butter, 2-3 pieces of ham or beef or salami and a piece of cheese (Havarti or Provolone or whatever we have, I'm not picky). Or if I have some Borcht or other soup, I'll eat a bowl of that. Or we'll make some fried potatoes with a pork chop or a steak. For dinner, I may make some rice & chicken in the oven or potatoes & chicken in the oven. I don't have any money to eat fancy. I haven't even ever tried fresh lobster or crab. When my fridge is empty I will eat a couple ramen soups.


Q:

thanks for your response, if its not too personal, could you elaborate on why the girl's family would not want her home?

A:

european or Ukrainian bread

What's this?


Q:

The girls are from very traditional societies, where there's a lot of victim-blaming and suspicion of returned girls. Having lost her virginity, she'd also lost much of her value as a member of society. The family believed she was better off in China.

A:

Uhhhhhh....well if you go to a grocery store bakery, they have bread. And some of it is called European bread. And there are Ukrainian & Eastern European grocery stores in big cities all over the US, they sell hot & freshly baked Ukrainian bread, the kind we ate at home. It's MUCH heavier than the typical American wonderbread type crap, has more substance to it, healthier.


Q:

The death threat from the one girls family...was she the one who chose to stay with her child?

A:

Do you know what caused your great height? Was it a tumour on the pituitary gland, like many other extremely tall individuals?


Q:

She was. Their attitude was a large part of the reason she didn't come home. But their attitude was also largely her own fault - she didn't want them to worry about her, so she told them she was fine in China. You can see how complicated it gets - especially when the man who buys and rapes you is the father of your child.

A:

yes, a tumor.


Q:

Is it possible she was sold off by her family?

A:

Do you want/need a short sidekick? Where shall I send my resumé?


Q:

I suspected so for a very long time, but later identified those actually responsible. Going into communities where human trafficking is so rampant, it can be very hard to know who to trust, because people are very often betrayed by those close to them

A:

Yes, I need someone to help me fight crime. Send your resume to my twitter @Igor2tall


Q:

You are fighting the good fight, OP, while most of us just sit behind keyboards and bitch really loudly about everything. What were the most physically dangerous situations you faced during the making of this documentary?

A:

We can have a battle royale to determine your sidekick.

I'm in.


Q:

The most dangerous situations were the initial meetings I arranged with the girls in China. The men who bought them were aware of the meetings, and were known to still be in contact with the trafficking networks. If they had realised I was there to try and help my friends get out of China, anything could have happened.

A:

YES!!!!!!!!!! Can someone make a wrestling ring to fit 1,500 people? You all can battle, it will be the sweetest Battle Royale ever!


Q:

Did you bring Liam Neeson with you?

A:

Hey, there was a documentary shown on tv here a few weeks ago about gigantism which you were featured in. I remember you said in it that you were a bit of a film buff, what's your favourite movie at the moment? what was the documentary process like?


Q:

Hahaha maybe I should get Liam Neeson to narrate the documentary...

A:

Hello. I like so many movies... it's so hard to pick one, or 10. Okay, these aren't necessarily the newest films, but I like them very much.

Mad Max Fury Road Dredd LoTR Series The Hobbit Series Apocalypto Eagle Eye Star Trek Beyond Captain America movies


Q:

You totally should ask. I bet he would do it too.

A:

When's the best time to visit Ukraine?


Q:

Anyone got his number?

A:

Well...I would say summer. Kyiv is best seen on foot. Hundreds of gorgeous churches, old architecture, museums, parks.


Q:

True Fact: No Liam Neeson film is complete without him calling someone a moron in a scruffy voice.

A:

Can you touch your toes?


Q:

There are a few people he could call 'moron' (or worse) in this one :)

A:

yes


Q:

Brad Pitt has connections to Vietnam. I can't see how he could turn you down....

A:

How tall were you in high school?


Q:

Seems like Brad Pitt's got other things going on at the moment...

A:

I was reaching 7ft 2in in 12th grade


Q:

What are the local authorities in Vietnam doing about this practice or custom of kidnapping brides and kidnapping women in general?

A:

Oh my god. How did the 9th graders (or 10th graders some high schools are like that) react when they first saw you?


Q:

The custom of marriage by abduction is particular to Hmong society. Sapa district has a Hmong-majority population and the local authorities tend to turn a blind eye towards it. The tradition helps facilitate abductions of girls to be trafficked and sold in China. With the border so close, and so porous, there's often little the authorities can do about these abductions.

A:

well...in my city the papers published about me so many times since I came to the US for treatment, that pretty much everyone knew me, but some kids were real assholes.


Q:

Sorry for all the questions, but ishe there anything the Chinese authorities do about it? Or is there anything they could do to help women already in forced marriages? Thanks again

A:

If I was your size and someone was an asshole to me, I'd squash them. But you seem like a really nice guy and I respect you for that.


Q:

It's a tricky situation, because the demand for women in China came about largely as a result of the government's 'one-child' policy. The authorities there do act against the traffickers when they find them, but are unable to provide a better solution for the shortage of women.

A:

I hit a guy once, after about 3 years of taking shit from him. He folded into a locker. They had to replace the locker door and maybe his liver. HAHA. no, I didn't hit him as hard as I could. But he did fall back into the lockers and bent the door.


Q:

Is this similar to the Bride kidnapping seen in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in terms of tradition?

A:

Do you get sick of people asking if you play basketball?


Q:

To my understanding (from a VICE documentary on the issue), it is remarkably similar.

A:

yes! The most annoying this is that 99% of people think that they are the first person to think of that question.


Q:

Did your other 2 friends that you found in china return safely, or are they still there?

A:

So... do you?


Q:

Since the girls had both had Chinese-born children by the time I found them, and they themselves had no legal status there, there was extremely little chance of their bringing their children home legally. So they ended up facing the choice between their kids and their own freedom. Initially, both were prepared to leave their children to return to their homes and families in Vietnam, and one actually did. The other found she couldn't leave her child and is still in China.

A:

I used to, in grade school and middle school.


Q:

Does she have any plans to move back when her child is grown? And since she stayed, does her husband know she was considering leaving? Thanks

A:

and how is the weather up there?


Q:

My returned friend has cut all ties with her child and the man who bought her in China. The friend who stayed did, in the course of an argument, threaten the man who bought her with leaving and returning permanently to Vietnam - which really didn't make the situation any easier at the time.

A:

Excellent. Sometimes foggy, but great right now.


Q:

Did you not get any help from the Chinese authorities when you shed light on the trafficking practices? Or do they not care/are in the pockets of the traffickers?

A:

Have you ever been asked by to get an item on the high shelves while in a store?


Q:

There were several ways we could have approached the problem, and ultimately chose not to approach the Chinese authorities - mainly because the situation would be taken out of our hands in a highly unpredictable way.

A:

yes, quite often. Usually by older people. They are always very nice about it. I'm happy to help.


Q:

How do these Vietnamese girls get kidnapped. Are they kidnapped by chinese that sneak into Vietnam or by Vietnamese traffickers and sold to Chinese? I have cousins in Vietnam anyway they can be safe? Any area to avoid?

A:

Do you have a record of your progression of growth? Has it been constant or have there been phases where you shot up a lot?


Q:

I've been dealing particularly with girls of the Hmong minority, a group which exists in both Vietnam, China, Laos and other areas. Typically, the girls are taken by Vietnamese Hmong, sold to Chinese Hmong, and sold on to Chinese men.

A:

not really. Never kept a written record. But I'll tell you this Thecpoepoe, at 7 years old, I was 6ft tall


Q:

So the Chinese authorities do not have precedent where they assist in repatriating trafficked individuals to the countries they were kidnapped from?

Man, and here I am thinking nobody in their right mind would FIGHT this...

Well, you've done something amazing for not just your friends, but the rest of the world. You have my awe, and gratitude for helping your fellow human beings.

A:

Fucking hell. Were you bullied as a kid? Kids are mean little shits and will poke fun at anything different, and you're sure as shit different. But at the same time I can't imagine anyone, even kids, being dumb enough to make fun of someone so much bigger than them.


Q:

Thank you very much. I've been working with an organisation which has contacts at the Viet-Chinese border, and are able to organise the paperwork to bring trafficked girls home. Otherwise I don't know of it being done.

A:

I hated high school. Never had a single friend. Every football player made sure my life was shit


Q:

Is there no way for your friend to get her child back?

No way for your other friend to leave with her child?

A:

How big is your bed? Also (sorry if your uncomfortable with this) how does the sex work?


Q:

These girls are from small, highly traditional communities. Ultimately, both girls decided that if they were to return home, it would in fact be much more difficult to do so with a child. They saw it as harming their chances of being accepted, finding work and finding new husbands.

A:

my bed is about 9ft by 6ft. Well... I read a book about sex, I can send you an amazon link if you want. :)


Q:

Damn, I feel sorry for the kid. They were just born into all this madness and their mother leaves them. I know the mother's been through a lot of shit and all but still. Poor kid.

A:

What does a 7ft 8 inch man do for a career and how has your height helped/hindered your work life?


Q:

Especially since the kid's a girl, and the man who bought her mother has shown so little respect for women. My other friend, who ultimately chose not to come home, gave this as her reason: 'I don't want my baby to be apart from her mother the same way that I'm apart from my mother'. That just about broke my heart.

A:

I haven't been able to have a normal work life, I haven't worked in a traditional setting since 2005, mostly because I had to have so many surgeries, but also because I have excrutiating pain in my legs and feet.


Q:

Would they drug your friends or hurt them?

A:

You worked at Sam's Club in Rochester, MN didn't you? I remember meeting you when I was about 11 or 12 years old and shaking your hand!


Q:

The girls say they were initially drugged in Vietnam. One says she lost consciousness and woke up in China. The other says she lost control of her actions. Once in China they were coerced by threats of murder and sale into prostitution. When they were sold as brides they were raped and forced to bear unwanted children.

A:

Yes!! :)


Q:

While watching your documentary and hearing that she lost control of her actions, it immediately reminded me of a Vice documentary about this drug (Scopolamine/Devil's breath) in Colombia.Sauce

And thanks for being such a kind human.

Edit: spelled Colombia wrong

A:

Have you ever met the shortest man in America? If so, what was it like?


Q:

Thanks for taking the time :) I honestly don't know which drug/s are used. In a culture with so much victim-blaming, where the abductions rely on a degree of deception, it's also possible that some or all of the girls are not in fact drugged, but say so to excuse what may otherwise be considered unacceptable behaviour, ie. spending time with boys.

A:

nope, never met the shortest person, however in college I had a little person in one of my classes, she was about 3ft 8in. It felt strange, but I never dwell on things like that, because I'm sure she is sick of people starring at her, just like I am sick of it.


Q:

Were your friends Vietnamese or in that country for some other reason when they were kidnapped? Were they your friends before the kidnapping or did you become a human rights activist after it happened? (the experience prompted you)

A:

Growing up in Austin, Minnesota I remember seeing TV reports about you. I was happy that you immigrated to this country so you could receive medical treatment.

Since I have to ask a question, what is your favorite NFL team?


Q:

They were local girls I'd known previously, from living in Vietnam. They were from villages near Sapa, a hill station close to the Chinese border. They would identify as being part of the Hmong minority, rather than Vietnamese.

A:

Hello!! Well... if I say anything else, my house will be egged, so Minnesota Vikings!! No, but really, I like the Vikes.


Q:

Crazy! Keep up the good work, the world needs more people like yourself.

A:

What vehicle do you drive/ride in?


Q:

Thank you :)

A:

a full size van


Q:

Hi Ben.

Just want to say that what you've done and continue to do should be applauded. Good luck with everything and whatever future plans you have.

I haven't watched the 40min doc yet but I plan to later tonight so apologies if this is already in there but, during your time documenting and searching, did one thing/situation stand out more than the others in terms of opening your eyes to the severity of it all?

A:

Why do you have 5 inch soles under your shoes?


Q:

Thank you, ibru. During most of my time in Vietnam and China, I kept my work secret from even my closest friends in Vietnam. After one of the girls returned home, however, it became public knowledge that I'd played a part in finding her and helping her home. In the days and weeks that followed, I was constantly being approached in the streets of Sapa with requests to help find missing sisters and daughters. I knew of course that the problem was an enormous one, but that really brought it home.

A:

not my choice, it's what I had to have at the time to heal my feet


Q:

You're welcome, thanks for answering.

I imagine that would have tugged at the heartstrings like crazy, it sure would mine. More power to you, Ben.

A:

How tall are your parents?


Q:

It's been a difficult few years, but will be worth it to get this documentary out to the world :)

A:

my mother is about 5ft 6in, and my dad is about 6ft


Q:

Any thoughts of setting up something like a foundation so you could extend your work?

A:

What is the one thing you wish you would be able to experience that you can't because of your height? And also as a fellow Ukrainian living in western country does people ever comment when you make бутерброд? If you do so of course :)


Q:

In early 2013 I established 'The Human, Earth Project' which was initially set up to raise awareness, and is now also going into direct action with a human trafficking prevention program in northern Vietnam. You can check it out here: http://www.humanearth.net

A:

I want to be able to just get into a car and drive. Right now, I desperately need to replace my vehicle. But Ford will not answer my tweets nor my calls. None of the dealers in MN, WI, or IL have the Ford Transit passenger van in the size I am looking for. I can't fit into any other type of vehicles.

Я себе сделал бутерброд час назад, украинский хлеб и кровянка. Так вкусно! Здесь люди не понимают кровянку.


Q:

Hey OP. Great post and hope all is going well with documentary. Two questions: 1) Are your friends Vietnamese, and from what socioeconomic background are they? 2) How were your dealing with authorities and NGOs in both countries? Which official bodies/authorities were available for you to appeal to in Vietnam and China respectively?

A:

Have you done or have you ever been asked to do any kind of film or television work? With all the new Star Wars movies coming, I'd bet they'll need a really tall guy to play....something.


Q:

Thank you. I've answered your first question here already - they're Hmong girls from very poor, rural villages, with little or no formal education. I worked with two fantastic NGOs in Vietnam, Blue Dragon Children's Foundation and Alliance Anti-Trafic. Otherwise it was important to keep my work hidden, as there was no way of knowing how far the reach of the trafficking networks extended.

A:

I had a 8 second part in the movie Hall Pass http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2912972/ and here is the trailer, it should start at my part https://youtu.be/UIMYNVkZBSo?t=2m12s


Q:

Sorry. Didn't see other response. Thanks :). So no contact with authorities for fear of corrupted officials? Was that on the recommendations of the NGOs?

A:

Are you subscribed to /r/tall?


Q:

This is a very sensitive issue, and I'm sure you can understand why I'd rather not go on record with too much detail... I would like the option of returning to Vietnam/China at some point :)

A:

yes!


Q:

How are the girls doing now?

Thank you for sharing this and spreading the word. More people need to be educated.

A:

How old were you when you actually stopped growing?


Q:

Thanks. My friend who came home is doing well. Recently I've had some trouble contacting the friend who remained in China (which has happened numerous times over the past 2.5 years, and isn't particularly alarming). She was fine when we last spoke.

A:

around 18-19


Q:

Are you concerned about retaliation from the perpetrators at all? Either from rescuing your friends directly or shining a light on their illegal trade and possibly their identities?

A:

do you have a picture of u standing up?


Q:

Keeping the true nature of my work secret was a major concern while I was in Vietnam and China. I'm no longer in the area and, even if I was, wouldn't be particularly worried now since I'm no longer working actively to find/rescue girls


Q:

I've often wondered around this sort of thing -- at what point and why did you start filming, and at what point (if they differ) did you realize you were making a documentary?

A:

Do you have to special order shoes in your size?


Q:

My background is actually in documentary filmmaking. When I first began learning how devastating and widespread this issue is, I wanted to film it, so I had a cameraman with me from the beginning, and we filmed everything. I didn't realise, of course, what an incredible story we'd stumbled into.


Q:

Hi Ben, thanks so much for raising awareness for an issue that most of the western people only know from the occasional news outlet! Is there anything (besides supporting your campaign) one can do (from as far away as e. g. Europe) to actively fight against this horrendous practices?

A:

Are you married? If you are, how tall is your wife? Do you care about the height of the women you date? How tall was the tallest women you've dated and how short was the shortest?

Also, how have you modified your living spaces to be more comfortable? I know my parents have their kitchen counters raised and it's really nice.


Q:

Thanks for listening :) I've just answered a very similar question, I'll cut and paste: "Trafficking is a very real issue everywhere, including the US, and it's getting worse. It takes various forms, particularly sex and labour trafficking, and exists in places you might least expect it. The best thing to do is educate yourself on the issue, understand which systems you're supporting or starving each time you spend your money, and support organisations fighting trafficking in any ways you can. Victims are very real people, like you or I. They need help." ... And of course, if you're able to support my work, it would be much appreciated and make a real difference: http://www.sistersforsale.com

A:

I am not married. Most women I've dated have been above 6ft, some taller than 6ft 6in.

We built our home with some things modified, our doors are tall, I have a large shower, and our ceilings are tall. I have a specially made bed, about 9ft long and 6ft wide


Q:

Hi OP, Vietnamese here. I'm currently living and studying in the U.S., and I find what you're doing is Amazing. What can the Vietnamese communities in the U.S and other countries do to help?

A:

What's your favorite kind of music?


Q:

Thank you. Awareness of this issue is critical, as is getting more attention and resources allocated to those most at risk - particularly the minority groups along the borders.

A:

70's 80's 90's Rock. Tom Petty, Clapton, Eagles, John Mellencamp, Doors, Nirvana, stuff like that


Q:

What kept you going? Why not give up? Also, congrats man, this is such a good story!

A:

in what ways does your height effect you, i.e. do you need to eat more?


Q:

Thank you. To be honest, it has been incredibly difficult at times, not to mention expensive, and there were times I did consider stopping. I kept going because I knew how important it would be to share this story with the world, and what a difference it can make in the lives of countless girls at risk of the horrors of trafficking.

A:

my diet is about 1800-2100 calories per day


Q:

Hello Ben, saw your 40 minutes of documentary and was impacted by the story.

What efforts are being done in the area to prevent more women from being trafficked?

And if they are trafficked, are they taught anything that could help them get rescued? For example - one of the issues from the movie was the women didn't know how to use international dial codes to call home.

A:

Thanks for taking the time to check out the story. We're currently raising funds to both finish the documentary, and to launch a human trafficking prevention program for vulnerable girls in 13 high-risk villages around Sapa. Similar educational programs in Vietnam have been highly successful at reducing trafficking rates, and we'll be taking that work further. The prevention program will cover a wide range of issues - before, during and after trafficking - including the one you've mentioned, and will also work to change community perceptions towards trafficked girls. For those of you who haven't seen the film or fundraising campaign, you can check it out here: http://www.sistersforsale.com


Q:

Thanks for the reply, and that's awesome. I will be following your story and supporting you!!

A:

Thank you, it's appreciated :)


Q:

How much Chinese did you learn?

A:

Almost none - I can say 'watermelon', 'bad egg', and count to maybe 5 :)


Q:

I'm in China for another day and a half. Is the watermelon worth seeking out?

A:

Hahaha go for it - it's called 'xi gua', or 'west melon', there :)


Q:

haha I hope you learned that "bad egg" has a different meaning than its direct translation!

A:

My Chinese teacher used it to insult me for my complete inability to learn Chinese :)


Q:

Great work. With all the investigating you did i am sure you managed to find out how much the brides were purchased for ?

A:

Purchase price varies from girl to girl, but it seems they can be bought for as little as 3 or 4 thousand US dollars.


Q:

So what's the socio-economic status of the men buying these girls? Are they pretty much all upper class? Also is it common knowledge in China that if someone suddenly has a Vietnamese "wife" they were probably abducted?

A:

They're not actually. A wealthy Chinese man would have no trouble finding a Chinese girl, and affording the wedding gifts to her family. The men buying trafficked girls tend to be those who can't otherwise find a wife - poor, older, physically unattractive or even handicapped.


Q:

So the sort of people who might get a mail-order bride, basically?

A:

There's also an industry catering to men who holiday to Vietnam, Myanmar, etc and buy a bride there. In that case the bride goes willingly with the man, though often doesn't realise what she's in for


Q:

Are the kidnappers facing criminal charges from the local justice?

Is there any possibility of the government of your country do something about it?

A:

The initial kidnappers are often quite difficult to catch - many of them are young men from other towns or villages, who disappear after the abduction and are never seen again. I'm an Australian, my government isn't involved :)


Q:

How bad is trafficking in the United States, and what can an average person do to help?

A:

Trafficking is a very real issue everywhere, including the US, and it's getting worse. It takes various forms, particularly sex and labour trafficking, and exists in places you might least expect it. The best thing to do is educate yourself on the issue, understand which systems you're supporting or starving each time you spend your money, and support organisations fighting trafficking in any ways you can. Victims are very real people, like you or I. They need help.


Q:

Do you have any recommendations of systems we could donate to?

A:

The organisations I respect the most are those on the ground, doing the dirty work - educating those most at risk, and finding, rescuing and rehabilitating victims etc. Prevention is most possibly the most important element - if we could get that right, we wouldn't need to do the rest! Of course there are other organisations working in policy etc which are also very important.


Q:

Can you name an organization besides your own?

A:

(My own work has long been limited by a lack of funding, and I will of course appreciate any contributions - they really do make a difference!): http://www.sistersforsale.com


Q:

I imagine you experienced periods of doubt and feelings of hopeless defeat before your miraculous discovery. Can you open up about the mental battles/conversations you may have had with yourself in order to keep pushing through? I love practicing mind-over-matter and exercising my mental fortitude, but putting myself in your shoes I can only imagine you had to have overcome some serious adversity within yourself.

Thanks for sharing and spreading goodness into the world! Stories like this are what motivate some of us to keep our integrity intact and follow our moral compass, even when the going gets tough and the odds are stacked (severely in your case) against you.

A:

Thank you, and you're right - it was a very challenging time personally. For me, the hardest part was when my friends were facing the decision to leave their babies to go home, or essentially give up on their own lives to stay with them in China. These decisions were going to forever affect lives on both sides of the border. Of course I wanted the see the girls back in Vietnam - but of course I could never advise them to leave their children. That decision was theirs alone to make, and it was very hard to see them struggling through it while remaining impartial.


Q:

How does it feel to be a "best friend" in the truest sense of the term, perhaps ever?

A:

Hahaha I don't see myself that way. I would hope that if the same thing happened to me, somebody would come looking for me. That's the kind of society I'd like to live in, so it would be hypocritical to act any other way, wouldn't it? :)