I reach Hue City, Vietnam in the morning of 27th June, one day before the start of my fellowship. Following multiple flight transfers and airport transits, it’s surreal to think that I’m actually here - after months of dreaming of working in Vietnam, researching fellowship opportunities and preparing for the trip.
Walking off the plane in Hue Airport and into the terminal, I’m immediately struck by the heat and humidity. It’s hot. Really, really hot, and it’s not hard to immediately sweat from the sweltering and seemingly suffocating heat. Driving into the City, the streets are packed with “xic lo” and scooters zooming at dizzying speeds in every direction. I guess there’s an order to this madness, but for the uninitiated, I quietly wonder why there aren’t massive car pile-ups at every street corner.
The streets of Hue are a feast for the senses. Every passing minute in the City promises smells ranging from sweat and dirt, to delicious steaming bowls of noodles wafting from nearby street vendors, and fresh produce and fruit from the street markets. The horns of scooters and cars blare in quick succession narrowly avoiding one another, the sounds of machinery operating continues throughout the day on the numerous construction sites around the City, and xi loc and “xe om” drivers shrewdly persuade and heatedly negotiate fares with pedestrians. Visually, Hue City contrasts with the bigger cities of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi. To me, being in HCMC felt like I could have been in any other city in Asia, but Hue’s brown dusty dirt roads, ubiquitous street vendors, family-operated outdoor eateries lined with small plastic chairs and tables, and the absence of towering buildings and billboards gives Hue a quaint charm.
After checking into my hotel, I make my way to the Friends of Hue Foundation (FHF) office to meet the FHF staff which includes Chi Nhi (FHF In-country Director), Linh (Volunteer and Thriive Coordinator) and Van Anh (Volunteer, HIPE and MCP Project Coordinator). I’m also glad to meet the other Vietnamese American Scholarship Foundation (VASA) Cultural Bridges Fellows: Rachael and Nathalie (their bios can be found here) both of whom are working on the various programs that are operated by FHF in Hue.
In addition, we have Lisa Vu, from Tennessee, U.S.A. Lisa is a Summer Volunteer who will be focusing on the HIPE (Health Initiative for Peer Learning). In particular, Lisa will be focusing on how FHF has operationalized HIPE. Lisa will work on developing a new curriculum for HIPE and will conduct key informant interviews to understand the new track for curriculum development.
As a VASF Cultural Bridges Fellow, I will be focusing on FHF’s Thriive program over the next 9 weeks. The Thriive program is a unique Equipment Capital Loan program to benefit small growing businesses. I will aim to help develop the protocols and procedures of Thriive and FHF with a view to: strengthening the short-term and long-term evaluation frameworks for Hue-Thriive Businesses (recipients of the Thriive Equipment Capital Loan); and to promote the long-term growth of the Hue-Thriive Businesses via the establishment of a Hue-Thriive Business Association.
Throughout my Fellowship, I will blog my adventures in Hue ranging from the work of the fellowship to my culinary discoveries in Hue, along with other insights and observations during my time in Vietnam. I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to hit the ground running and to get to know the FHF staff, volunteers, Thriive program, and Hue City better.
Friends of Hue Foundation office
FHF team (L-R): Van Anh, Linh, Nathalie,
Ai (Children Shelter Director), Lisa and Rachael
Street vendor selling noodle soup
Xic lo driver