The good stuff

I know I usually only share the bad stuff that happens in my daily adventures (because it’s usually funnier), but there are many incredible, wonderful, great things and people that I come across every day as well.

Firstly is the man who sits at the end of my alley. I would guess him to be in his late 50s and he is always hanging out at the end of the alley way, sitting at a table with his friends either eating or playing cards. When I walk by in the mornings he goes out of his way to say hello and share what English words he knows (usually ‘Thank you’ or ‘I love you’). When he thinks the weather will be either cold or rainy that day and doesn’t think I’m appropriately dressed he rushes me back down the alley to make sure I have a jacket or a sweater. In the evenings when it’s dark, he watches and waits for me to make sure I get into my house safely. When I have friends or family over, he always asks who they are if he doesn’t recognize them. He just truly goes out of his way each and every day and it ensures that I start each day with a smile thinking of how kind he is.

Second is the woman on bus #32. I met her last month and I think that she thinks that I just moved to Hanoi and don’t know my way around but every day she has waited to make sure I get on the bus and, as she gets off at the same stop, she also chit chats with me and is just really friendly. She’s been openly curious about me and has shared information about her life. It’s great to have a friend on a long, crowded bus ride and since I’ve met her I haven’t been groped by any strange men – coincidence? I think not.

Third are the xe om drivers (motorcycle taxi) near my street. As I cross the perilous, crowded, traffic disaster that is Kim Ma Street, they watch me, waiting to see if I need help. When I get across the street they usually smile and applaud – it makes something like crossing the street feel remarkably accomplished. The drivers on the other side of the street always wish me a good day and a good bus ride.

There are many more people and things that just make this placement absolutely incredible, but these three people/groups of people are the ones that I encounter every single day who bring a bit of happiness into the day (especially when its pouring rain like today).

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What I find most challenging

I’m a pretty vocal person, I’m used to speaking my mind, I’m used to discussing policy and somewhat challenging topics, and I’m used to having the freedom to do so. I’m one of those people who if you say ‘You can’t do that!’ I want to do whatever it might be even more.

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What Vietnam has taught me. . .

I remember looking forward to placement and wondering about all the things I would see, do, explore, and experience. So far, it has been absolutely incredible; but then I was thinking about how I’m working so hard to make the most of the  time I have available to experience everything this city, country, and region has to offer and I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t do this in Canada.

Canada has a ton to offer and I still haven’t seen even a fraction of the things I hope to see there, there are many things to do and see in the areas I have lived in with little or no cost, but why wasn’t I focused on making the most of my time or experience? I guess because it feels normal. When you stay in the same country or area, you fall into a pattern or routine, you do normal things, you have habits. You feel as though there is no rush because you have a lifetime to experience what you want and do all those things you never got around to yet.

This realization is giving me something to work towards. I will not wait for experiences like this placement to live my life to the fullest, I will live my life to the fullest every single day in every single town, city, country that I am fortunate enough to live in. I will experience things to the fullest and make the most of the time I have. If I’m willing to spend hours walking around Ha Noi because its beautiful, why didn’t I do that in Canada? I guess I got stuck in the routine of ‘home’ and found what boundaries I was comfortable with.

No more! Vietnam has taught me to experience things, explore, try something new and avoid routine and that is something I hope to never forget.

Originally posted here.

For third year INDEV students

Hello third years, 

I know you have to get your applications for placements in very soon and I know how stressful that is. It’s very nerve-wracking to essentially be applying for a job that you have no job description for, that may or may not have a website, and that you may or may not have experience in. Apply for the job you want the most, in a country that you think you can live in for 8 months, everything else will work out. 
There may not be enough work, there might be too much work, there may or may not be field visits, but it will be a rewarding experience regardless of any of that. 

If anyone is interested in the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development you can check out my summary of their work here, their website here, or you can e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy of my midterm report. SRD currently has two INDEV students based in their Ha Noi office, but they have had an INDEV student in their Hue office as well. They are growing exponentially and have several brand new projects starting for next year that are not yet on the website. So if you want to learn anything about this, want to ask questions, vent about the process, or see my midterm report just comment here, e-mail me, or message me on facebook and I will help you out.

Good luck!

Visa Hiccup

There has been a hold-up in getting my visa for Vietnam. I’m one of three people who will hopefully receive their visa authorization five business days prior to our flight date. This means that while I’m leaving Timmins around the 26th, I will have to find a way to still apply for and get my visa from elsewhere in Ontario.

The problem with this is that the standard way to get a visa to Vietnam is to send in your application by mail, then once it arrives at the embassy (in Ottawa) it stays there for five business days, then is mailed back. So it’s looking like a road trip is in order, as well as the additional costs to expedite the process.

What is probably most frustrating with this experience is that I was not really included in the process at all. So I don’t know the work that went into it to get the visa authorization, I don’t know the process, I don’t know how hard (or not hard) people have worked to try to get this to happen. I just know that it hasn’t happened, may not happen, and its now the last minute. This isn’t for lack of trying, I have asked many times to have the process explained, or to be included, or for an update at the very least. I feel as though had I been included I wouldn’t be frustrated with this because I would actually be aware of what work had been done in order for things to happen on time.

If something happens and the authorization does not come in time, I will have to apply for a tourist visa (also in Ottawa, also at the last minute), then renew the visa every ninety days in Vietnam. Technically, the renewal can be denied.

Hopefully the authorization comes sooner and things are easier, and hopefully this is the only hiccup that will occur from now on. If the biggest problem I have is that I have to rush to get my visa in time, then the next eight months will be remarkably smooth.

Sincere apologies

A small update for everyone!

I’m currently writing the last academic papers of my undergraduate degree titled “Genocide: Perpetrated through Sexual Violence” and “Gender Mainstreaming in Structural Adjustment: The Forgotten Element”. I’ll share more on these later.

Once those are submitted I’ll be back in full force and excited to share some of what I learnt while writing them (particularly the one about genocide).

What’s interesting about my degree is that while this is my last academic term (which will officially end tonight at midnight), I still have eight months left of my degree. However those eight months will be spent in Vietnam working for the Center for Sustainable Rural Development.

I will be leaving Canada September 9th around noon, but I will be leaving home (aka Northern Ontario) near the end of August, so in the mean time if there is anything you’re interested in regarding gender issues, my placement, or anything that you think I’d find interesting, please share it with me and I’d be happy to read/write about it.

“For once you have tast…

“For once you have tasted flight,
You will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward;
For there you have been,
And there you long to return.”
— Leonardo da Vinci

I feel like this is a beautiful way to think and live. To believe and know that all things are wonderful, that there are no limits to existence, and that we can do more than we ever thought possible.
I hope that I never lose this feeling of being limitless, that I always believe and work towards extending my capabilities and moving beyond my comfort zone, that I never stop trying regardless of how well I do.

Location, location, location

I now know that I will be working with Sustainable Rural Development (SRD from now on), however they have yet to confirm where I will be in Vietnam. I was told that Hanoi or Hue would be most likely, however I had assumed this entire time that Hue was the only options as it was listed on the application.

Now I play the waiting game yet again. But here is an exciting map with all of the potential locations that I could be next year!

The waiting game.

As I sit in class, I’m anxiously awaiting news of which organization I’ll be spending 8 months with in Vietnam come September. People surrounding me are checking their e-mails with excitement and sometimes confusion as they get notice of where they’ll be.

The options that I’m aware of are the Vietnam Women’s Union, located in Hanoi, or Sustainable Rural Development, located in Hue. Each placement has pros and cons, namely based on location as if I’m in Hanoi I will be closer to friends and it would be easier to travel outside of Vietnam, however if I’m in Hue I’ll have a greater opportunity to practice Vietnamese and truly immerse myself into the culture.

I also believe that the placement I have will drastically influence my future career and research interests. Working with the Women’s Union will allow me to further my work and research in gender and human trafficking. Whereas working with Sustainable Rural Development would allow me to broaden my understanding, work in rural areas (huge plus for me), and look more into sustainable resource management.

I’ll be happy regardless of which placement I get and once I know, I’ll be able to do further research on the specific organization and some of their work. Hopefully I’ll know today or within the next few days.