With my last community visit taking place on Sunday, and my subsequent flight to Kuala Lumpur the next day, my Vietnam journey came to an end. A couple of days ago I entered one of the world’s countries I hold most dear: Indonesia. The laid-back vibe; beautiful nature; highly visible cultural outings; the large quantity of Dutch words, sometimes sporting a lovely Indonesian spelling: ‘knalpijp’, ‘gordijn’, ‘confrantasi’, ‘handuk’, ‘wastafel’; and the smiley, friendly people, answering you with the typical ‘yaa’s’ and ‘iyaaa’s’, are things I certainly missed very much, so I’m thrilled to be back.
Surrounded by ‘sawa’s’, I’m now writing on my thesis. It is now just me, my thoughts and my words. The data has been collected, the theoretical background has been constructed. Luckily the environment here serves as a great source of inspiration.
The last weeks it’s been awfully quiet on this blog. This is mainly due to ensuring that every ounce of writing left in my fingers flows straight into my thesis, the creation of which has proven itself to be one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Over the past weeks, not a day has gone by in which I wasn’t to a more or lesser extent involved in conducting field research, reading, writing and re-writing.
So today when doing research in the field, the invitation to share a shot of an unidentified Vietnamese liquor with these lads formed a more than welcome break from it all…
Yesterday morning I visited, together with Tina, one my research assistants, a local Vietnamese community. It were the first steps I set, literally, within the field research aspect of my thesis, so naturally I was thrilled. The community, although not stricken by deep poverty issues as hunger and disease, faces severe poverty, with people being forced to spend whatever they earn in a day in order to make it through the day. One of the most important institutions within the community is the catholic church, which ties together the whole community and provides aid to those who are the most in need.
The lion share of my visit I spend in and around a textile factory, set up as a joint venture between the local church in the community and a Japanese multinational, around one year ago. The Japanese firm had provided the factory with sewing equipment, and had trained its 100% female work staff to make use of this equipment. The Japanese firm had wanted to give the factory a Japanese name, but the Vietnamese government intervened, hence it adopted a local name. One of the workers I spoke considered the work environment to comfortable, but she stressed the fact that she was just making enough earnings to make it through the day.
Over the next few weeks it will be my goal to gain a better understanding in this community and its people. It will also be interesting to draw comparisons between the people who are being employed by the factory, and those who are not.
I’m very happy to be able to finally leave my desk, and enter ‘the field’!
The last week I’ve been to Cambodia to visit my sister Vivian. The country amazed me. Its beautiful nature, culture and extremely kind people, who regardless of their horrible recent history still manage to smile nearly constantly, ought to make it a great destination for any visitor. The video shows some of the places in Cambodia I’ve visited, and greatly enjoyed.
My teaching weeks ended officially last Sunday, with a climax in the form of an English competition which featured the best two students from each class. A total of 20 students participated, divided in four teams, and battled it out to determine who’d be rewarded the most valuable scholarships for learning English. I was extremely happy and proud that two of my students, who endowed themselves with the English nicknames ‘Chirslee’ and ‘Ronaldo’, were among the team which was awarded the first price. It served as the perfect end to my highly valued teaching experience, and I hope to find myself conversing in fluent English with said students in a couple of years.
With the end of my teaching comes my full-time focus on my thesis. Right now I am in the process of molding and shaping my theoretical chapters, as well as establishing contacts with locals which can help me establish access to poor communities and can help me with the very necessary translating. This thesis ought to be the crown jewel of my five years of study, and I better make sure to give it my absolute best.
Enjoying my time at Kim Dong high school!