Category Archives: art
Well, Vietnam and I got off on the wrong foot.
Someone robbed me on my very first day here, but I am working really hard not to let that affect my perception of Vietnam the place.
First let me just say… Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is NOT Phnom Penh! And so it follows that Vietnam and Cambodia are in general quite different. On the surface, many things may appear similar, or even the same– but other aspects are worlds apart.
The overall “personalities” of Vietnam and Cambodia are noticeably different: Cambodians seem to be far more laid back, whereas the Vietnamese, while also very friendly, seem slightly more guarded. However, I’m staying in a place full of tourists; in these parts, I wouldn’t be surprised if any and all peoples were guarded. They are also more openly attentive to the expressions on your face– if you look confused or dissatisfied with something, they’ll ask you what’s wrong. I’m so not used to that anymore. In Cambodia, you could be crying on the street and most people will probably not ask you what’s wrong– not because they don’t care, but because they think it’s none of their business, that’s it’s rude to pry, even if you’re laying it all out there.
Holy smokes, there are a LOT of churches in this town! I mean, after being in Cambodia where it’s wat after wat after wat, I just wasn’t expecting it. Christianity has yet to catch on in any form in Cambodia, despite centuries of missions by various brands. There are Catholic churches, Baptists, JW, 7th Day, Mormons, etc. But none of them have much of a following.
There is some fantastic artwork, including wearable art like these really unique graphic tees (yeah I said it), paintings, weavings, jewelry, etc. which I so wish I could afford to buy, but of which I may just take pictures instead…
Speaking of pictures, there will be some forthcoming. I started uploading them last night, had a freak-out about my teaching session (which was today), and decided to quit and go to bed.
Teaching– ah, that’s why I’m here after all, isn’t it? The course is IMMENSELY challenging and EXTREMELY helpful thus far, and it’s only week one. I’ve had two teaching practices, both of which were okay, but lots to improve on. Our teacher-trainers are experienced, supportive, and full of useful, pertinent advice and feedback. And Vietnamese students are fun to teach!
We also have homework. Lots of it. In fact, I’m going to go do some now.
I broke it to my students today that I will be heading back to the States for a visit soon, so I won’t be able to finish this term with them. They were surprisingly upset! It felt like a compliment. “Nooooo, chur, don’t go!” (“Chur” is their word for “teacher”– as in, they are too lazy to say the “tea” part.) I was also surprised at how sad I was; I get attached easily, I guess. I’ve only been teaching them a month.
Our Take Back the Night art exhibit opens Wednesday evening. Nervous! Excited! I hope I don’t have to give a speech… I’m not planning on it. I’ll foist it on Eileen if it comes to it. ^_^
Getting nervous for Vietnam/the States. If my travels hither and thither go off without a hitch, I will have leveled up. In maturity, that is.
Also, I am still very subconsciously racist: I use a lot of smilies when I chat with people online and I was thinking to myself, “Asia is rubbing off on me– too many emoticons.” Tsk tsk. At least I caught myself that time. (Which, isn’t that a stupid thing to think? Have I ever had tasteful discretion when using emoticons? Doubtful. Very doubtful.)
I have been terribly neglectful of you. I will try my best to take more responsibility for you in the future, including providing you with regular updates. So sorry!
There is a reason for my lack of blogginess lately, though, apart from midterms at my school. My crazy colleague (and friend!) Eileen and I have been keeping quite busy with our second Take Back the Night project, which is coming up fast at the beginning of June.
Take Back the Night, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is an event to promote awareness of gender-based violence held around the world. Generally there is a series of events of the course of one day which provide a safe place for survivors to speak about their experiences, educate the community about gendered violence, and create discussion about how to end it, culminating in a night-time march and candlelight vigil. My school, Michigan State, usually hosts this event in April (which is sexual assault awareness month). MSU’s TBTN always has a “clothespin line”, where clotheslines are strung across a large area near Beaumont Tower. Upon these lines are hung t-shirts which have been recreated as artwork by survivors, friends and family of survivors, and allies within the community; they draw, write, and decorate the shirts to share their experience of violence, how it has affected them or someone they know, and how to end it. I have always found it to be a very cathartic experience, and also a powerful message to the community, showing that violence is not an isolated occurrence, that it can happen to anyone, and that we all have a stake in stopping it. Last year in Eileen’s village, we recreated the clothesline project. Although it was small, with only 100+ participants, it had an impact on the people in the surrounding villages and we received a lot of positive feedback. This year’s event in Koh Kong will be much bigger, as we have partnered with MTV Exit (an anti-human trafficking campaign in Southeast Asia) who are hosting a rock concert in the evening, following TBTN. We are expecting over 1,000 people!
Between trying to find funding, arrange a venue, locate partners and sponsors, organize volunteers, collect art supplies, etc. etc…not much time to blog or do much else. This event has prompted me to finally dish out the $4 for Photoshop, though, so I’ve been designing logos and flyers and such lately. In fact, why don’t you guys vote for the one you prefer! (It’s okay to say ‘neither’ if you think they’re both blah, by the way.)
Fundraising has probably been the most time-consuming aspect. Between two tabling events (5 days during the past 6 months), we managed to raise over $300– thank you to all the PCVs who helped table, contributed money, and just stopped by to chat! Also thank you to all the Long Islanders from Eileen’s hometown who contributed over $500, from her community and her mom’s church! Because of the generosity of these donations, we will be able to provide accommodations for our 7 Khmer volunteers who would otherwise not be able to afford to travel with us. We have also been able to purchase many art supplies which will make the TBTN t-shirt art event even more successful!
I am nervous and excited for Koh Kong, but the day-long event there won’t technically be the end of our Take Back the Night endeavors. Metahouse, a German-run art gallery/cafe/cinema in Phnom Penh, has agreed to include our t-shirt art project in an upcoming exhibition themed “Freedom”. We will select a portion of the most creative, expressive shirts that suit the themes of anti-violence and freedom from the Koh Kong event, and use them for a participant-engaging exhibit. This Metahouse exhibit is set to run from mid-July to mid-August. I must say… I’M TOTALLY STOKED! I was joking that it’ll be my first art exhibit ever…Only it’s not my art. ;P
Anyway, there will definitely be updates and photos from these events, I promise I will try not to post them 3 months late.
Til’ next time, to quote Red-Green, keep your stick on the ice. ^_^