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By Tamu Bakery, Oct 15 2016 05:53AM

"When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree" - Vietnamese proverb

I wasn't allowed to ask the girls any questions about their lives or the problems they faced. All I had was 2 hours a day to bake with them.

They were disturbed, emotionally all over the place, and very demanding at the start. They wanted to bake a chocolate gateaux cake, not just some cookies they told me on Monday. I was taking it all in, slowly, gently. We just baked, and I talked about different types of dough. On the second day I ran another baking session with the same girls, and at the end one of the girls came up to me and said "I am so happy!". She was holding a warm bread roll carefully wrapped in a napkin. Was she happy to take it home to her loved ones? Was she happy she learned how to bake a bread? Was she happy she was spending a few afternoons with her teachers learning a new skill?

On my way to the last baking session with the girls I was wondering why I had come to Vietnam, as clearly this "baking trip" was not working out as usual. My taxi was stuck in traffic, just like my thoughts which were gridlocked with the question "Why? Why? Why?"... While we were baking our last cake together, the girl opposite me shouted "Yana, smile! You look beautiful, when you do!". An ordinary phrase, but the girl who said it had been one of the most aggressive and emotionally unstable participants at the start... Another girl said "I am happy because you came here to teach us". The girls were laughing, cutting the cake and speaking Vietnamese. I wasn't sure what this time baking had helped me to achieve. To connect, to warm girls hearts, to make them smile and realise that they can be happy, just from the simple pleasure of cutting a durian cake...

With my packing all done, I was sitting on the doorstep of my small hotel, watching Hanoi's colourful street-life. The grandma from the house opposite was cutting lotus stems, getting them ready to be used in tea. Lotus - like the girls I had been working with - grow in muddy water and problems, but blososm and show the world their real beauty. I went across and bought a lotus tea to take home with me. So that in time of troubles I can make a strong cuppa and hear "I am soooo happy".... That was the reason to bake my durian cake in Hanoi.