Tea and driving

Da Bac district, Hoa Binh province

Buffalo Surf spent a week in northern Vietnam doing field visits for work. One of the provinces I went to was Hoa Binh and it reminded me a lot of Vancouver Island where I last lived. Hoa Binh is mountainous and in the winter, rainy and foggy. One night coming out of our small wood hotel’s restaurant, I looked up and thought the mountain range was on fire. A red sheet of light glowed ominously in the fog at the top, but it turns out it was just the spot lights around a giant statue of Ho Chi Minh pointing the way to freedom.


As you can see, there is much poverty in Vietnam that needs to be tackled. There are cook-stove initiatives afoot by the government to reduce the respiratory ailments that come from a lifetime of wood or charcoal smoke in your home. Some kitchens I stood in were so smokey that my eyes smarted and it felt like something was sitting on my chest.
I also thought often of toilets—as I do—because there is much tea and driving when you’re visiting project sites for work. Much tea because the government officials are very polite and refill your cup unhesitating, but there are many officials and many small offices that need to be acknowledged. I was surprised by how many of those offices had such crap toilets, if you’ll pardon the expression. Government workers with no running water themselves. The stench at times was unbearable. 


There is much driving because northern Vietnam is spacious with rough terrain and the people are a little more spread out than in the crowded south. I thought often of rural woman at home with small children having to manage with some of the toilets I saw and used.  

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