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|87-year-old Duong Van Ngo|
The last letter writer in the city, Ngo was recognized by the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records as the man who has spent the most time writing letters for those unable to write for themselves.
Sitting at the end of a long wooden table at the Saigon Central Post Office behind a sign that says “Information and Writing Assistance” is a small old man whose daily work is translating and writing letters.
He is surrounded by people who ask him to write letters in English and French.
Ms. Ho Thi Hong of district 8, Ho Chi Minh City, was talking with Mr. Ngo about a package that she received from the US. Ms. Hong has been a regular customer over the past 3 decades.
She said, “I have asked Mr. Ngo to write letters to send overseas since I was very young. He has done this job for dozens of years”.
Although there are now a lot of translation centers in Ho Chi Minh City, many people still turn to Ngo to write overseas letters.
Ms. Hong said, “Ngo knows well the writing style and ideas. Though many people know English, they are not really good at understanding and translating their ideas into a foreign language. Ngo has met a lot of foreigners during his school years. He is influent in both English and French”.
Mr. Ngo says his working day starts at 8 a.m and ends at 3 p.m. He writes 5 to 7 letters charging 50 cents each page.
Translation is completely free: “People can turn to the internet and smart phones to translate. But many still ask me to help them write addresses and check the information. Some send packages containing a lot of documents and papers which needs the correct address of the sender and receiver”.
The only thing that Mr. Ngo has carried with him to work for 27 years is a big black bag which contains English and French dictionaries, pens, and notebooks.
The most important thing to him is a magnifier which helps him clearly read customers’ documents: “A dictionary is essential. It’s necessary to take into consideration the situation and language of each country. There are Vietnamese words that do not exist in the dictionary, so I try to express it in a way that makes it easier for foreigners to understand it”.
Having done this job for quite a long time, Mr. Ngo has many regular customers: “Some customers consider me their friend. I still remember a Thai customer who returned to Vietnam. Recognizing me at the Post Office, he came and hugged me as if we were close friends who hadn’t met each other for a long time”.
Despite his age, Ngo still works diligently and has become an icon at the Saigon Central Post Office.