On My Brother’s shoulders

Ty Andre with Allen McMahon
Around the World: Vietnam
How obtained: second hand book sale


Ty’s first memories are of a crowded orphanage, where he was relegated to a corner of the room for no-hopers. Crippled by polio he had been sent down the river in a bamboo basket by his mother, and picked up by a fisherman who took him to the orphanage. With barely enough food to survive, and not enough workers to look after the children nor sealed walls to keep the rodents and insects out, life was pretty bleak.

But that was all about to change when a young man named Andre caught a glimpse of him, and then had recurring dreams which he took as a sign from God. Ty was adopted, and against all odds, survived. But that wasn’t the end of the turbulent times. From trying to fit into his new family, in a culture that viewed disability as a curse and  usually did not see charity as a reasonable thing given the intense poverty of most of its citizens, to helping Andre run up a huge orphanage. From navigating life and work, and keeping neutral, amidst three Armies of differing tactics and view points, to being in the middle of active war. From working in the country orphanage and teaching in the city one, to playing by the beach. And eating, always eating everything he could (apparently frogs, snakes, eels and snails can all be made to be quite tasty).

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and the lead up to it, this true story is both a fascinating description of life in Vietnam, and a warning against the side effects of war and politics. The toll taken on the common people was staggering and saddening. But it is also a story of friendship, love and the connections between people that will always remain through all.


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