voices from abroad

What a week! June 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hanh @ 7:05 am

My first Kiva Fellows Blog was posted today.
Please visit http://fellowsblog.kiva.org/2009/06/22/close-to-home/#more-5235 if you want to see video from my journey thus far…and feel free to leave questions/comments if you wish!

And now, as promised – here’s an update about the week!

The train ride
Well my 3.5 hour train ride from Hanoi to Thanh Hoa was quite a journey – with some difficulties brought on by myself. To begin, I brought luggage entirely too large for the train. I blame my mom for sending me off with loads of “American” toothpaste and shampoo for the family. “Don’t they have shampoo in VN?” you ask. “Yup- they sure do.” 😦

And to make matters worse, I ended up on the wrong train and had to lug the heavy luggage to the other end. 😦

After finally settling into my seat, I looked up and suddenly saw rice paddies – in all shades of green (the color change was stunning), and women wearing the traditional cone hat, usually cliche, but in this setting – beautiful. Hundreds of people working in the fields, and yes, water buffalo too!!

The Food Corner
The street where I am living is full of dogs. If you know me, you know I am deathly afraid of critters of all sorts, including dogs. Now, these particular dogs look like they have Rabies. Seriously. Unfortunately, that is the only shot that I failed to get before leaving. 😦

More difficult than avoiding dog bites in this part of town, is avoiding the consumption of dog meat. Yes, it is stereotypical, but this area of Thanh Hoa is well known for its specialty – dog. I believe I have managed to avoid it – but you can never be sure.

In other food news – everything here comes with the head attached. I accidentally ordered bird soup (don’t ask why) and was served an entire bird. UgH – Well, since then I’ve learned to say “Khong Dau” meaning “No head.”

I had my first training session at work and to my surprise, a microphone was passed around and everyone had to sing a song. Karaoke. SO embarrassing!! They refused to begin the meeting until everyone sang. See the video clip below for proof! p.s – if you think it’s me singing, think again!

It is hot and humid!
Since I have yet to succumb to wearing long gloves during the summer time (like the ladies do here to avoid tanning their skin), I am getting quite a nice tan. As a result, people here are now convinced that I am from Laos. They refuse to believe that I am Vietnamese. I’m mistaken for Chinese in America and Laotian in Vietnam. Can’t a girl get a break?!?


The Borrowers
I go on my first borrower visit this week – please check out the blog next week to meet some of the women entrepreneurs who have taken out loans from the Thanh Hoa Fund for Poor Women!

I miss you all loads and hope the summer is going fabulously! P.S. please send me your mailing address when you get a chance. :


greetings from hanoi! June 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hanh @ 8:31 am

After a 16-hour flight from LA to Taipei and a 3-hour flight from Taipei to Hanoi, I’ve arrived – jet-lagged, but well. 🙂 In fact, an adrenaline rush hit me after I realized that I’ve been transported across the world!

I am spending the next 2 days in Hanoi, a bustling city – full of non-stop traffic, before heading to my Kiva placement in Thanh Hoa. There is very little you can find about Thanh Hoa online or in travel guides. I’ve always been told that it is an “interesting” Kiva placement to get. What that means? I’ve no clue. Here’s what I do know –

Thanh Hoa is the second poorest province in Vietnam with a population of 3 million people. It is located 153 kilometers south of Hanoi, approximately a 3.5 hour train ride. Few foreigners ever visit Thanh Hoa, unless they are crossing over from the Lao border. This means that I will be one of few English speakers in the area this summer.

One historical tidbit I found quite interesting while doing my research on Thanh Hoa – It was the site of the Lam Son uprising in 1418, where Vietnamese forces expelled the Chinese and reclaimed the country’s independence. Visit the blog next week for an update on my first impressions of Thanh Hoa!

Don’t forget to sign up on Skype so we can keep in touch! http://www.skype.com.
My Skype ID is hanh_tran1


Almost there! June 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hanh @ 7:03 am

Thank you to all who were able to attend the fundraiser! To those I was unable to thank in person visit this link.

Your donations combined with online fundraising efforts have brought me much closer to my goal!

I expected to travel alone to Vietnam, but during the past month, I’ve come to realize that this journey is not an individual one – your support inspires me to do as much as I can during my three months as a Kiva Fellow. All of us coming together and giving back is what will create real change and enable people to better each others’ lives here and across the world.

The following people have contributed a combined $1970 to my fellowship!!

Amy C.
Amy W.
Brian D.
Brian S.
Crystal W.
Damon B.
Dan H.
Danielle L.
Daria H.
David H.
Dennis T.
Diana Y.
Dotto M.
Erin W.
Gordon W.
Grace A.
Hung T.
Jannie B.
Jen C.
Joanne L.
John B.
Julie S.
Keisha L.
Kristy V.
Kulwa and Jerry M.
Lee B.
Lisa N.
Liz L.
Maria S.
Matt B.
Maulin M.
Melkis A
Mfon E.
Michael P.
Mike K.
Mike L.
Missy B.
Nadre G.
Nick A.
Nicole B.
Nikita U.
Parimal P.
Rebecca W.
Rodolfo M.
Ryan W.
Sandra W.
Sarah P.
Stephanie C.
Susan C.
Takisha D.
Tara H.
Tara N.
Uzo E.
Vijay L.
Yvonne G.
Zeb B.

THANK YOU. 🙂 Only $130 to go! If you would like to help me meet my goal, click on the “donate” button to your right. Every bit counts!