Departed my family and friends in Ho Chi Minh, my flight arrived to Hanoi at noon, I could feel the heat and humidity even worse than Ho Chi Minh. A cab from airport to downtown Hanoi somehow eased the heat, it was a fixed price trip of 350.000VND (around $15). The host family was so nice, she reminded me of my señora in Salamanca, so welcoming and friendly. That weekend, she took me to her friend's house to make moon cakes. It was my first time experienced with making moon cake.
Making the moon cake
Moon cake in action
Piggy Moon Cake
Mid Autumn Festival in Asia is just as popular as Thanksgiving in the States. Kids celebrate excitingly, a whole city transforms with the vivid red from lanterns, moon cakes, dragon dance…
Vibrant Night Market
I was lucky to make it in time to experience things that I have never seen before. Even though I was born and raised in Vietnam, however; I spent major of my life in Ho Chi Minh city and the culture is so different between the South and North. Things like making moon cakes at home, line up for hours to wait for buying moon cake from a "Traditional" store, or even dragon dance to households that hang up a "Li xi". I've been away quite a long time from home. 6 years abroad and I feel like living my childhood once again this time. The feeling of getting lost in the crowded night market, making my own piggy cake, and being loved by the neighbor kids.
"Pha co" in Hai Duong
The first MFI that I work with is East Meets West, EMW is an innovative foundation based right around the corner from Kiva HQ (well, in Oakland) with operations focused in SE Asia and India. The first product that Kiva is launching with them will be loans for rural households in Vietnam to build sanitary latrines. EMW is employing an innovative 'Output-Based Aid' approach to provide financial incentives for families that adopt healthy practices and use the latrines. They've been running WASH programs in Vietnam for years, but were not able to extend these products to the poorest families without the help of Kiva capital. They already have over 100 households signed up and in the words of Minh Chau, EMW Vice President for WASH Solutions, the families are "crying for loans everyday". Took me a while to find out EMW office after getting lost. It locates by the small corner in West Lake, surrounded by lushly green lines of trees. Different from the noisy streets of Hanoi, I enjoy the peaceful here. Before this trip back to Vietnam, I already set my goal higher. I don't want to allow myself time to experience the jet lag or culture shock, it's an advantage to be familiar with the country.
As I headed to Hai Duong for the training with the local Woman Union, met me there was Tuan Anh, the PA of EMW for CHOBA program of clean water. Hai Duong is located between Hanoi and Hai Phong, it's only an hour trip from Hanoi to Hai Duong. There was a small change in the last minute when they decided to switch up department that in charge for Kiva project. Just like the saying from Kiva's training: Kiva fellows expect the unexpected. Things happened but as we progressed, we finally was able to set up a process for Hai Duong. Most of the loans in Hai Duong will help low-income women to be able to afford sanitary latrine for their families. Lien Mac was the first commune that we visited. Despite the fact that any kind of fruits that produce in Lien Mac have better quality and taste, the commune remains poor. Chi Ngoc, the Vice Chairwoman of HDWU, said that with the loan from Kiva will be a motivation and help pushing more creative in productivity in order to pay off their loan.
Meeting with the HDWU before heading out to visit borrowers[/caption]
At the end of that day, we managed to have our first three profiles collected and ready to be on Kiva.org, you can click here to check out those profiles. Also, if you are interested in Kiva project with EMW, you can join the lending team "Friends of EMW" to contribute and follow for more stories.
With Group 8 at Lien Mac, Hai Duong
Short clip for the first two profiles in Lien Mac.
Bonus from local: Vietnam is well known for its food. Even autumn has it taste, too. Below are my top picks of the week. You can share in the comment section your favourite also.
Autumn fruit with green tea
"Cốm" and banana - must try combo in autumn
Organic lunch from the garden in Hai Duong
Eat well, work hard, and enjoy the journey