After five days of embracing sweat as a state of being, the Hanoi weather seemed to cool off (to a cool 90 degrees) just in time for our first day of work. On the way to catch the bus for my morning commute, my host mom and sister showed me how to order xôi đậu phộng from a woman in their neighborhood. Once the bus finally appeared, I enjoyed my breakfast-on-the-go as motor bikes dodged around traffic. By 9am, my GESI team and I were settled into our organization, iSEE.
This acronym stands for the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment. Our NGO works to “support and empower all communities and individuals to promote and protect their own rights and the rights of others in their lives”. Within this work, iSEE focuses on campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights, ethnic minority justice, gender justice, and civil society engagement.
Though we previously discussed the focus of our work with our supervisor, Son, on Friday, we gained further insight into iSEE’s newest project on victim blaming in Vietnam. This project falls under the organization’s Gender Justice team and is centering around support for survivors, confidants, and working toward more supportive discourse regarding gender based violence. This topic is incredibly important and as little progress has been made on the issue, iSEE is leading the movement toward education and support. For this reason and more, I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s work and share this experience with my GESI teammates. Our work has just begun, but I feel confident in our ability to work creatively together and engage with the wider community to support iSEE’s valuable work.
Within our pre-departure work, GESI instructors prompted us to “listen first” in our work in-country. I found this teaching important today as we learned more about iSEE and worked to gather questions we may use in continued listening and exploration of our project’s context. However, this notion has shown even wider resonance. Life in Vietnam has felt overwhelming thus far: Our days have consisted of running from place to place, meeting many new faces, and navigating the tones and sounds of a new tongue. It has been easy to get ahead of myself in all of the new and feeling that I should be at ease by now. In these moments, however, it feels important to return to these words and return to listening. This new place and new work has so much to show me, but first I have to remember to listen.