Cricket Hunting on the Frontier

Chefs can cook several delicious dishes from crickets but no one knows cricket hunting is a hard work. If kids hunt crickets for games, adults hunt these insects for earning their life.

Very early in the morning, the Ktup villagers of Katang in Lao Bao, Quang Tri Province, crowd towards the Sê Pôn River to begin another day of hard work.

Xôm Nưm, a 43 year-old woman of Pa Cô ethnic group, and her two daughters, leaves her home in a Ktup village after a hurried breakfast to prepare for cricket digging at the river.

Criket digging is very popular among ethnic minority groups in mountainous regions

They call others in the village to join them on the trip. There are 10 families that dig for crickets.

“I’ve been doing this job for almost ten years now,” said Nưm, an experienced cricket digger. “People in this village keep switching between working in the forest and digging for crickets to earn a living.”

Anticipating that I would like to go along, she warns me not to. Once you get there, no matter how much the heat make you want to return, no one will take you back and there is nothing to learn about the job, she said.

Only after digging twice with a chét (a tool smaller and shorter than a hoe), Nưm and her two daughters gathered at the hole to pull out fat crickets. Nưm told me she learned from years of experience that to catch a cricket, you have to identify exactly where the main and secondary holes are.

They work from early morning until late afternoon and they get only one break around noon. They try their best to find enough crickets to sell to Laotians living close to the frontier, who are fond of this dish.

These Laotians buy crickets from the diggers to make various dishes for their families as well as to serve in bars. Their favorite dish is fried cricket, which they served at almost every drinking session.

“Only on good days am I able to earn about VND10,000 to VND15,000, enough for rice and food,” said Hồ Thị Then, a 60-year-old member of the Vân Kiêu ethnic group. A Katang villager tells me that on days when fewer crickets are caught due to the heat, she has to resign herself to buying the food on credit.

“It is not easy to live with this job,” Then said in a sad mood while putting crickets into a bag quickly. “We have to be very economical to live sufficiently.”

Later in the afternoon, the intensity of the sunshine decreases. The shadows of Mrs. Nưm and her children grow on the river basin. The ground smells quite unpleasant after a hot day.

Nưm stops her work and collects her tools to return home. The next morning, her two daughters go to take the crickets to the Karôn market in Laos to sell.

“Today we’ve caught quite a lot,” she says excitedly. “On days when we are able to catch a full bag, our whole family can have enough to eat!”.

By Duy Phien -Translated by Thanh Tam

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