Thursday, October 02, 2008

Borderlands

Irony: my entire last trip into Cao Bang for ADRA was a first. A first to travel to Ha Giang and enter the province from the west. A first to travel to the China border in Ha Quang district – our first year working in this new district. My first Noong ethnic minority market. My first time traveling around Cao Bang on motorbike completely solo. My first time to go on a Vietnamese picnic. My first time to stay in a hotel instead of my home.

So, yes, it was bitter sweet.

Erica calls her own project's counseling hotline to help her get through the transition...

But we’ll start with the adventure.

Field visits were organized in and around the usual routine of meetings and office work.

This trip up to a commune on the China border almost resembled more of an invasion than a field visit: a border guard accompanied five of us on motorbike and four more in a car 60 km through fields and then up mountains and down rocky hairpin turns until we arrived in a place that probably hadn’t even seen foreigners before. The road started out normally enough and I chose to ride pillion so I could take pictures while not overly endangering myself or others.

Markets abound on this trip - we came to yet another market on the way to our commune, but we didn't have time to stop - only drive-by shooting: After that, however, the road went downhill even as we climbed uphill. We switched to riding individually at this point - for safety and comfort's sake. The road was challenging to say the least, and when we went to deliver our baseline survey, we discovered that this was probably the most remote area we had worked in yet.
Invasion begins - our team (L to R: Irene, Giang, Oscar, Huong) at obligatory pre-work meet-n-greet with authorities, complete with tea.
Nga explains survey to local women.
The level of literacy dropped off dramatically and we soon realized we were going to have to revise our way of working in order to continue having valid results in these areas.

After we finished with the survey we had just a few minutes to wander the mountain market.

Ethnic Noong Women.
These women knew how to hold their tobacco! They just kept taking hit after hit.
Camera? What's that? Never seen one of those before!
Then it was back down the mountain to home. Going up might be tricky, but going down can be downright dangerous.
This was the easy stretch.
I took my first major spill of my motorbike driving career on one of the gravel-strewn hairpin turns. Fortunately I was well-clothed and more-or-less prepared for the fall. Bruises and scratches and a lot of dust – no serious damage done. And we were traveling individually on bikes at this point, so nobody else was at risk.
The "shortcut" home.

Then, it was a rush back to town to get back to a 3 PM government meeting – could almost cause cultural whiplash!

5 comments:

Tim and Karin Bodony said...

No one has commented for awhile on any of your fine blog posts, so we are speaking up. The last several posts and photos have been outstanding. Thanks for sharing them.

How do you get Blogger to let you put a series of photos in a single posting? I can't seem to get it to do that on the Bodony blog (bodony.blogspot.com). Do you have Photo Bucket or some other sort of add-on? Thanks again from Tim and Karin.

Erica in Vietnam said...

Thanks for your fine words! I've got some more photos in the pipeline...as long as the internet connection doesn't fight with me in uploading them.

My blogger account lets me upload as many photos as I want - I don't remember any plugins or anything, and I don't use my Flickr account for it. When I click on "add photo" in the publish screen, it pops up with a screen that you can click on "add another image" and add up to 5 - and then I just rinse and repeat, so to speak.

I'm going to check out your blog now!!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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