Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trip to Sapa


I know it has been a while. Sorry for that. I have not felt like writing because I have been sick and also have not been doing anything much so I thought it would be best if I do not provide you with a boring rendition of my day or week. Not that today’s blog would be any more interesting, only that it will not be as mundane.

So what have I been up to? Socially I have not being doing much. However this weekend a friend came to visit so we went to Sa Pa. This province is in the Northwest of Vietnam, close the China border.  This area is famous for its landscape, beautiful rice terrace, and trekking. 

The trip was very adventurous. I got to see the H’Mong tribe as well as the Dao, Giay, Pho Lu, and Tay tribe.  I have been impress by the colours and dressing of many tribes, but I have to say that I was very very impress. I guess it has to do with the fact that the majority spoke English. Percentage wise I have to say a huge percentage of them spoke English when compare to the people of Hanoi. The people are beautiful.    

On our first day we spent time walking around the town and we went for a small trekking, which allowed as a view of the landscape. From there we could see majority of the town.  Shopping wise I managed to only purchase a scarf.

The next day while eating breakfast we met an Argentinean girl who said she was going on a 13km trekking. Since we had no plans we decided to join the trekking.  The trekking was very nice. I have not walked this distance in a long long time. I don’t recall the last time I did trekking.  I have been sick lately so I did not think I could do the whole 13km, but I did. Thank God, because you know I love to walk

On our way down I started a conversation with a H’mong women and we walked together the whole 13km together.  I was happy about this as she became my guide of the place including providing me some information about the landscape and the situation that is currently happening.  

After we got there the women ripped me off my selling me a wall hanging item for like three times the price.  I guess I could not be upset as she acted as my tour guide.  So family and friends whom I bought these items for, your better appreciates this.

My guide
The next day we decided to go to Bac Ha to check out the ethnic minority market. I will write about that in the next blog.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hanoi women's market

Hi, I have not written in a while. Reason being is that I have been sick lately, which meant that I would go to sleep as soon as I got home.  My health is better now, I hope it last. 

So what has been going on with me? Hmm? Well I have to say things are starting to get interesting. Work wise, it has been alright, I am a bit frustrated about the misunderstanding about the role as a M&E advisor, and what this means.  The misconception is that some people believe it is about monitoring them as project managers while it is actually the monitoring and evaluation of their project.  I understand it is a thin line, but this thin line can be hell at times. 

I promise myself that I will not write about my work on my blog, but I am frustrated, so this is the most I will write about my work. 
Socially, I have been okay on the going out front. Actually I have been staying in a lot because I have been sick, but last week I had enough and actually went out.  On Friday, I went home early to sleep as I was not feeling well. On Saturday I went to Ho Chi Minh mausoleum to see Ho Chi Minh as he has now returned from Russia. By the time I got there it was close.  Later on in the day I took a walk around my neighbourhood and I finally found the market.  All this time I was going to a market elsewhere. 

Food and other goods were so cheap that I could not believe my eyes.  I came home and went right to sleep. 

Later on I met up with Folly and a few other guys that I had met earlier when I first arrived in Hanoi.  It was nice be out of my house and also have real conversation. 

Now the conversation was a bit interesting.  There was a guy name Matt who was the most argumentative and stood for everything that I do not believe in. The last straw was when he said that he get his news from CNN. Hmm, well after that I realized that this conversation was not going anywhere.

The following day along with a few friends we went to a women’s market which was being held my women groups in Hanoi. The market consisted of also a taste of food from different countries.  The food there as grate, at least the ones that I tired. There was a fashion show and acts. For me my favorite of all was the fashion show, I now have two things that I would like to sew. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I have been here for four months and how do I feel you ask?

Today is Tuesday and let me say that the day went well. It is funny how I am now used to the stares that I do not think about it much anymore.  But let me say that while I attempt to avoid noticing them, other ensure that I do notice that they are in fact staring at me.  

So I walk from my house every morning to catch a taxi to go to work.  While walking this week one man called me very franticly, I looked at him to see what he wanted. This fool took his phone out and asked me to stand there while he takes a picture of me. What did I do? Of course I rolled my eye at him and walked off.  

Another incident was when I took a taxi from work to home; the driver was looking at me the whole time while he was driving.  I did not mind so much as here in Viet Nam the cars travel less than 40km/h due to heavy traffic. Once we go to my apartment, the taxi driver also took his phone camera out, attempt to take a picture of me. Once again I told him I did not appreciate it.  
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But then yesterday I snapped at a man who kept looking at me, he walked towards me.  When he got very close to me he started raising his voice, yelling and making a scene. I had no idea what he was saying.  

But let me say that it’s not all bad.  I realize that when people stare at me and I stare back at them, they either turn away or smile. I like it when people smile as I see it as a curiosity thing then bigotry.

While I sometime know this is the case with some people, it is still a bit disturbing, especially when their curiosity leads to them touching me. … So I now have braids in right, and you know new braids hurt. Before I continue let me enlighten some of my friends…Actually what people should know is that a lot of black women, me included do not like when people touch our hair.  This dislike amplifies when I have my afro or when I have just completed new braids. Reason being? Braids hurt as hell when they are new! My afro, it’s a bitch to wash and to comb; and get it to that shape, so no, I don’t want your finger print in my hair.

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So where was I? Yes, I was at a restaurant and one of the women working there came to my table and began to pull at my hair. I pulled away from her and her hand continued to follow head.  I told my colleague to tell her that I did not like her hand in my hair. He told her. She apologised for touching me, but then she continued to do so. What the? 

I was not upset at the incident, I found it funny as hell as this woman kept touching my hair although she was apologising. It was her curiosity. Hmmm, I guess now that I think about, I did not find it as funny as I thought for I have not gone back there since.   

So I have been here for four months and how do I feel you ask? Hmmm… I don’t know, I have to say that adjustment has not been easy. I love my job and like what I am doing. That keeps me around. People’s reactions are sometime offensive but I believe my ability to cope with my experience can only determine how long I will stay here.

In hindsight, I believe this should be part of the “before departure” training that organizations often provide before their employees depart for field placements.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Visit



This week was another tiring week. Hmm I need to get my energy going. On Wednesday my colleagues asked me to go visit a sick women who works in our cafeteria. Initially one colleague asked as to donate money for this woman as she is receiving cervical cancer treatment.  The amount that she asked for while it seemed like a big amount in Vietnam, it was very small in dollars, and with no hesitation I donated.

A few days later this same colleague asked us to go with her to visit the sick woman.  I was very hesitant to go. While our cafeteria is very small and there are like 5 people that work there, I did not remember the face of the women whom my colleague said was sick.  She asked me two times and both times I flat out said no without consideration. She came to ask me for a third time and without much thought I agreed to go. 

I don’t understand why I changed my mind, it puzzled me as well, and I then attempted to convince one of my colleagues to come with me.  Of course I was not successful.   On our way there, I did not know nor could I recall the face of the woman whom we were going to see.
Once I got there I saw the woman. She is a very sweet woman who always comes around to our desks and asked us for our lunch money at the end of each month. I felt a bit bad once I saw her for not recalling who she was.  That sadness came right off when she came straight to me and greeted me. 

This visit was my first invite to a Vietnamese person house. I felt very much welcome.  During the visit, the women informed us that she had been sick for a while so she went to the hospital.  The first time she went they told her that the health system was short of money so they could not get the specialist for her condition to see.  She waited for several months and went back. 

When she went back she was told that she had cervical cancer. She was informed that surgery was an option that she could take. Before I explain further, please not that Vietnam is a communist country; medical services are supposed to be practically free. However, you must also know that in such systems there is also heavy corruption. 
As previously indicated this woman was informed that surgery was an option; however she must pay some bribery fee before she can be put on the surgery list.  She said while she was not surprise about paying the bribe, she indicated that she was very much surprise about the bluntness of the asking. 
She visited a different medical facility.  There they informed her that she would require a surgery; however they were more reserve on how much bribe she would need to pay to get herself on the list.  Yes she got the surgery and paid the bribe

She also spoke of the reason why she was ill. She indicated that her family members had disturbed a sacred site and someone in that family was suppose to be punished for it.  According to her she went to two fortune teller and they both told her of this. 

I was shocked not by the story but by the fact that a person in her family’s actions are having negative consequence on her health. There are so many questions that I could have asked, however I did not such thing, only that I felt bad that she go the short end of the stick.

So back to what I was saying, I did not understand why I went to the house to visit this woman, especially when I had no intention of going. But when I got home on Wednesday the only answer that I could come up with was that I felt if I was in her position, I would appreciate if someone else visited me. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Back in Hanoi


Last week was my first week back from vacation.  I was completely tired and exhausted, I have to admit that I was not as productive as I hope I would be at work.  Some of the days I came home early as I was so tired and drained. Attempt was made to sleep early everyday; some of the days I could not fall asleep at all.  On Wednesday I went to bed at 8pm as I was tired and falling asleep, however once I went to bed, I could not fall asleep until 3h30 am.  That was hell. 

On Thursday I came home early as I was very sleepy at work and my head was hurting me.  however, once I got home I could not fall asleep so I decided to wash my hair. While braiding my hair, my door bell rang. Who was it you asked? It was John. I was like what are you doing here? He was like well I called and you would not pick up so I thought I would come over.  I was like if you call someone and the person decides not to pick up, it means they do not want to talk to you or see you. 

We talked a bit about my disapproval of his behaviour and how I do not appreciate it. He indicated that he understood and was sorry about his behaviour. Yet I was sceptical.  Anyhow I told him I was busy and he left after our conversation.   

Socially did not do much. However, over the weekday I attend two birthday parties, one on Friday and the other on Saturday. Additionally, I braided my hair. I wanted it small, not as small as I typically get it when others do it for me. I was very excited once it was completed and I found out how small they really were.  I will not need to comb my hair for a while.  Thank goodness.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It’s the end of my vacation and I am now going home.  So how did this past week go? It went really good.  As previously indicated the wedding was last week Saturday and on Sunday, I took the train to Vienna to meet up with Sondre. I was very tired from the wedding preparation so I slept for two days. Well not really, but I was unproductive in terms of doing touristy things.  We basically walked around town, not going anywhere specifically; however we managed to see a lot of the famous sights as we later found out.

The days after was followed by walking more around town and going to the museum quarter.  In this area there is a kebab stand that sells good raps. Maaaan was the food good there.  Just talking about it makes my mouth water. 

On Thursday and Friday, efforts were made to do some sightseeing, which we did not discover during our first couple of days of walking around the city. We went to the Austrian historical museum and Schönbrunn Palace where Maria Antoinette grew up. At the Historical museum, I was very disappointed; for a country with such great history, the museum was not set up properly to present the tales.  It appears that historical items were put on display without and description to indicate their importance.  This was a bit irritating. 
The the second place we went to was the Schönbrunn Palace. The palace was almost as extravagant as the Château de Versailles in France. The colours of the fall leaf made the grounds of the place looked even more amazing.   
On Friday we went to the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, to see some of Gustav Klimt artwork.  I was impressed by his work.  I was very very happy to see his artwork. Also I was impressed by the actual size of the panting themselves.  They were huge.  I mean if you have ever seen the Mona Lisa, it is pretty small compare to how one imagines before they see the original panting.  Oh and I also managed to see Jacques-Louis David's painting of “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”.  It is a very impressive painting as well. 
Because we were very tired, we went back to the hotel after attending the gallery.  Later in the evening, we went to see a classical concert.  Coming to Austria, I had my heart set on seeing an opera as I had never seen one before; however I must say I was very happy that I went to see a classical concert.  The concert included an opera piece as well as a ballet piece.
This vacation was by far one of my best ones.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Wedding

Today is Sunday and I arrived in Vienna on Wednesday. Last blog I indicated that I would be travelling to Austria to attend my friend Maya’s wedding.  Well the wedding finished yesterday and today I am travelling to Vienna to go meet up with Sondre. 
How was the wedding you ask?  The wedding was very very good, but it started off as if the bride was not going to get a dress to wear.  But knowing my good friend Maya, and I think she will kill me once she reads this blog that it was a classic case of Maya.  She bought her dress online in the United States, according to her, the person whom she bought the dress from was much thinner than her if you look at Maya, and it is difficult to find someone that is much thinner than her. Additionally the person had no shape what so ever.

The dress therefore had to be altered to fit her. The dress was altered in Indonesia when she went there for her brother’s wedding.  They did not do it correctly so when her mother came last week for the wedding; she decided to fix the dress.  This meant that her mother spent endless hour trying to fix it.  In the mean time Maya and her fiancé Ben were busy organizing the wedding and getting things ready. 

I arrived in Austria on Wednesday like I said; I stayed in Vienna the first night and took a train the next morning to Brixlegg, which is like 30 minutes away from Innsbruck (5 hours away from Vienna).  As soon as they picked me up from the train station we went to Ben’s house and I was put to work. Work I worked the whole time while I was there. This meant from Thursday to Saturday I was going to bed like 12am and me waking up 5am as I is still jet legged from Vietnam. But we would all be up and ready to go by 9am to do some work for the wedding. 

On the day of her wedding I did her hair along with the hair of a few of my friends. And like I said classic Maya, she finished the dress less than two hours before the wedding started. In the wedding speech, I indicated that this was an example of Maya, no matter how bad things may seem to be, she always come through and makes this work at the last minute.

The wedding was great, the day before the wedding I got to see a lot of my friends from Norway, including little Liam.  He is so cute.  He does not cry at all. This is very very good. 

I am currently on my way to Vienna, I should be sleeping as I am so exhausted, I got home at around 3h30 am last night and because I am still jet legged I woke up at 7am.  There is something seriously wrong with me. 

I thought I might write this first before the next leg of my trip. 

Peace !!!