Vietnam part 1: Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, near former DMZ – december 14 – 22, 2015
December 12, 2015
After a short flight from Hanoi to Hue, we were driven to Dong Ha, about 1 1/2 hours north. This is where the MY STORY photo project would be working with village health workers and staff from the medical college. Organized by Medical Committee Netherlands Vietnam (MCNV), an NGO that has been around since the late 60s, this workshop would focus on telling stories with images. But first we were invited to a musical benefit at the imposing state theatre; several well-known Vietnamese singers were donating their time to raise money for MCNV’s food program for malnouriched children. And it was quite a show; including a spirited cover of Hotel California!
Sunday was a day off to explore Dong Ha, mainly find the local supermarket and the BBQ duck lady for dinner! Motorbikes and electric bikes are everywhere, 90% wearing helmets (mandatory). We walked everywhere because we could not find any bicycles to rent. That was pleasant in the cool, damp weather, but when rain arrived early in the week we were glad to have 2 of MCNV’s sturdy umbrellas!
December 14, 2015
Mr Quong, director of the Dong Ha MCNV office arrives at our hotel to drive us to the Quang Tri Medical College, where MCNV has its office and we will do the training. It’s on the outskirts of the city, past several large government buildings, all that lovely warm salmon color. The college has 800 students in nursing and pharmaceuticals. There are two main buildings, one for MCNV and one full of classrooms, while a long, low building in back was once a dorm for students and now houses a couple of offices and a small museum for MCNV.
There are 11 students, including Binh, who will also be our translator. Three women, seven guys, ages 20 something to 70. Their names are a challenge; Vietnamese is tonal, like Thai, and we are fooled into thinking we can get the pronunciation because the alphabet is Roman. Ha! Not a chance! We try and fail, and try again, and fail, and then we all have a giggle.
Here they are:
First day of the workshop:
Our hotel, Huu Ngi (Friendship) boasted a coffee shop with an espresso machine and a sauna. The cappuccino and latte were good and the sauna (really a steam bath) was blisteringly hot! Felt good on a cold rainy day, though.
Shoot something moving!
Get close to your subject:
One of the assignments was to shoot photos in some of the nursing and pharmacy classes:
Field trip to the Dong Ha market. Students had to shoot a photo essay on the market, with one photo from each person. After much discussion, they decided on their story, assigned shots, and off we went.
Scenes from the market:
Now came the hard part: editing their photos down to 3 each plus artist portrait for the closing exhibition.
After many attempts, we succeeded in finding blank CDs for student images. Google Translate had us asking for transparent CDs, not white ones, as they are called here!
Certificates are presented:
We said good-bye to our wonderful hosts at MCNV and headed up north to Cao Bang, Vietnam part 2.
Dong Ha was pretty much destroyed during the war. This is a powerful reminder.