No. 75: Tree-lined Streets
No. 76: Terraces & Rooftops
No. 77: Leaving Hanoi (and Coming Back): How many times have you left Hanoi in anger, desperate to put this frustrating yet charming city behind you? And yet for every moment of irritation, for every departure made under a darkening cloud, how many other times have you left this city with regret or with a sense that you are leaving someone or something behind?
Let’s face it. Living in Hanoi is not an easy affair. No matter how much we fall in love, with its bad traffic, creaking roots, age-old traditions and dusty chaos, we always need to get out, to have a break, to reassess and look beyond.
Leave Hanoi. Recuperate and recycle yourself. Rid yourself of all that love and hate. You know you’ll come back. It’s one of those places that once smitten, remains forever etched on the soul
No. 78: Tailoring: “My tailor is amazing” - Sh*t Expats Say In Hanoi
No. 79: Massive Rain
No. 80: Convenience
No. 81: Donald Berger: Think the name Donald Berger and you can associate this restaurateur with many a Hanoi nuance. Take, for example, probably the best gourmet pizzas in this city. Then, of course, there are all those Cuban cigars and the moreish oysters he often hand-carries in from Hong Kong. But if there’s one accolade that really sets the king of ham ‘bergers’ apart, it’s his role in popularising Chilean wine in Hanoi. He didn’t do it single-handed — certainly not. But through wine tastings, wine dinners and showing how, when it comes to price versus quality, Chilean vino is in a league of its own, he helped to bring this South American product to this South-East Asian clime. He also has a pet Dalmatian called Batman.
No. 82: The Local Music Scene: There was a time when the non-traditional local music scene consisted of a Vietnamese pop diva performance in a theatre or nightclub, another ill-thought out orchestral symphony at the Opera House or a night out at Minh’s Jazz Club. It was dull, uneventful stuff.
It’s taken 10 years. But how that has changed.
CAMA, their festivals and their individual gigs are just the tip — their offbeat, leftfield performances from overseas bands and DJs have now become commonplace. Hanoi Rock City has come on board, providing venue, attitude and more, as have Synergy, the metal and rock of Ngu Cung and their contemporaries, the beat boxers and rap artists, the DJs, the composers and off-the-wall musicians, the cultural centres with their cultural fare, the branded MTV or Tiger Beer concerts and the non-branded, experimental Soundstuff. All in just 10 years. Ten very short years.
We now have a scene to be proud of. It’s not yet something that is being talked about the world over. But a seed is growing here and has already sprouted roots. Nurture it and it might just turn into something a little special.
No. 83: CAMA Festival
No. 84: The Art Scene: Hanoi is bursting with people, groups and organisations keen to make their mark on the city's creative landscape. In a list which could be as long as a wise-man’s beard, just some of those adding colour to the palette are L’espace, the Goethe Institute, the Japan Foundation, DocLab, In:Act, Nha San, Future Shorts, The Onion Cellar, Pecha Kucha, Noi Ha Noi, Art Vietnam… and by the time this goes to print, there will probably be at least ten more.
No. 85: Cinematheque
No. 86: Suzanne Lecht
No. 87: Performances at Dao Anh Khanh's House
No. 88: Nguyen Qui Duc
No. 89: Bookworm
No. 90: The Online Community: Yes we've got the internet and we're not afraid use to it (for the most part). From the insights of bloggers like The City that Never Sleeps In, Hanoi Ink, Our Man in Hanoi, Door to My Kitchen and Sticky Rice to the titillating Tweets of @thecomicalhat, @HanoiGrapevine, @RidicAlice, @missgillypants, @pechakucha, @brownmariannes, Hanoi has got its hands busy on the keyboard (or hand held touch screen devices). Also, the YouTube sensations of Oi Gioi Oi and Sh*t Expats in Hanoi Say are by no means one-time-watches and in no time at all are sure to be timeless classics.
No. 91: Hanoi Grapevine
No. 92: Link Hanoi
No. 93: The New Hanoian
No. 94: Wi-fi is Everywhere
No. 95: Backpacker Eye-candy
No. 96: "Dep!"
No. 97: NGOs: Vietnam is no longer a ‘poor’ country, a nation steeped in poverty. Classified as middle income, much of the once plentiful overseas aid has dried up. But while the source of the funding may have changed, together with the scope, the work of the NGOs continues on. A quick look at the VUFO-NGO resource centre website (www.ngocentre.org.vn) shows how NGOs, both local and international, continue to proliferate. Jobs, news, NGO listings, resources, events and more. It’s all here, like a mini community.
No. 98: Blue Dragon: Michael Brosowski started informally helping street kids in Hanoi almost 10 years ago with free English lessons. By 2004, Michael had quit his job as a university teacher and Blue Dragon was an official organisation. Today, the NGO is on the verge of opening its biggest ever centre to meet the huge demand for their services. Douglas Pyper caught up with Michael to find out how he has made Blue Dragon so successful.
What was the straw that broke the camel’s back to push you to quit your job and put all of your savings into Blue Dragon?
It was pretty scary but there were just kids coming all the time. I’d get home from work and there would be kids hanging around in the alley near where I lived. I don’t think there was one straw, but definitely the constant stream of kids coming along and asking for help — that was what caused it.
Why were they coming to you?
Really there was no-one else. There was no-one else and there is no-one else that I’ve ever found out about who was saying, “come on over here, and we’ll get you a meal, and help you get some classes, or get you some clothes, or whatever you need.” I guess they didn’t have a lot of choice.
Since then Blue Dragon has been expanding all the time. Does it still survive purely on funding?
Yes, and we always will. The idea of becoming self-sustaining has become really popular, but we work with little children. You can’t do anything to make them generate an income to support your organisation. We really rely on donations and grants.
How do you avoid donor fatigue?
In Hanoi we’re really concerned about that. You might notice that we don’t do any fundraising of our own in the city. [One] reason we don’t want to go out publicly asking for money is that we feel that Vietnamese NGOs need to be able to do that. We can ask someone in Australia to donate, but a local orphanage can’t, so we’re trying not to compete with them. Something like 90 percent [of the funding] is coming from abroad.
The range of programmes at Blue Dragon seems very comprehensive and far reaching, what is the core of the organisation’s approach to social care?
Education. Whether we’re rescuing a child out of trafficking, or finding a child who has run away from home and is living on the streets of Hanoi, the key common element is that they are out of school, and to go back to school they need a lot of short term and possibly long term intervention.
In a relatively short period of time Blue Dragon has gone from organising free English classes to rescuing teenagers from traffickers. Have you ever felt out of your depth?
No, because every single kid is different. For the sake of explaining what we do, we create a programme with a certain structure, but in a way it’s all the same — “what does this kid need to change their life?” That’s probably one of the things that has helped us to get good results — that we accept that every kid that we work with is very different, with different needs and different wishes for the future.
Is it difficult to get highly skilled, competent staff on fairly low wages?
We are permanently understaffed. One reason is that no-one else is doing the same work that we are doing, so we can’t just advertise and recruit someone with two years’ experience of rescuing kids out of factories. We’ve got a lot of staff who’ve been with us for four, five, six years. They’re committed to the cause. And because there aren’t a lot of other organisations working like Blue Dragon anywhere in the country, the staff are thinking, “I love doing this social work and individual case work like this, and I can only do it here”.
What does the future hold for Blue Dragon?
We want to extend our reach out onto the streets and at the same time we’re looking at developing our anti-trafficking work. There are lots of organisations that do anti-trafficking, so we have to look at what’s being done and ask ourselves what can we do that will help this whole field. We’ve done a couple of really successful rescue trips into China with the Ministry of Public Security. No-one else is doing that, so we’re thinking, “can this become a model to get girls out of brothels?”
Yeah, or a big opportunity.
No. 99: KOTO
No. 100: Meeting People From All Over The World and The Availability Of Friendship
No. 101: The Word: Well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?