Thursday, July 27, 2017
I can’t believe it’s already been a week. It hasn’t flown by though. Last weekend feels like a year ago. Every day is so packed full with new experiences that it feels like each day is a whole week of its own.
Our first interview of the day was with Trang’s friend, who she and Thu affectionately call cousin. She attends school in the U.S., also. I interviewed her and she focused a lot on feminist ideals. She is a very outspoken person and, even though she’s happy in a relationship with someone, she maintains such a strong sense of her own independence. She was also really funny and made me laugh the whole time at the café we first met at and then lunch at a Chinese dim sum restaurant with Thu afterward.
The Chinese food was really good, nothing like the fried buffet food at home. We had chrysanthemum tea, wonton soup, rice roll-wrapped pork and shrimp, dumplings with a sugary egg custard inside that tasted like cupcakes, and xiu mai.
After lunch, we went to a salon and Trang got a haircut. I sat on the couch next to a sleeping guy and wrote for awhile. It was another moment that made me feel even more like a journalist, just pulling out my laptop and writing anywhere like that. We went home and rested before Trang’s mom took us for a snack, a thin, mini baguette with pate and chili paste, before our second interview with an attorney for the bank where she used to work. This interview went really well. The woman was very accommodating (gave up time in a busy schedule, ignored all her phone calls and her secretary just to talk with us) and engaging. We started out the interview with me interviewing her in English, but she struggled some and at one point asked Trang to translate some words for her. It wasn’t that her English was bad but I could just tell she would be much more comfortable speaking in Vietnamese. But I didn’t want to say that without sounding rude or dismissive of her. Trang, behind the camera, noticed as well, asked the woman in Vietnamese if she would prefer for her to interview her instead and we switched roles. After the interview, we decided that this is how we will handle the situation in the future, by Trang first asking the interviewee before we begin what language they prefer.
We ran to the next meeting place at a floral book café and it was a magical place. It’s common for restaurants and stores to be multiple stories, and this one was had floral arrangements on the first floor and a spiral staircase made to look like a tree leading up to the second floor, a book café. It had a “vintage library” with dim lighting and lots of bookshelves, plenty of table and bar-type space, a room for sitting on pillows on the floor and two balconies with seats outside overlooking the street. A dream. I wanted to order a drink called the Obama, but you had to order something else to go with it. I went with the Hanoi Specialty Coffee, which ended up being black coffee with sugar on the side to add in. It was the closest think I’ve ever had to black coffee and enjoyed. The coffee here isn’t bitter at all. And, yes, I was shaking again an hour later because of how strong the caffeine is.
Our third interview was at this floral book café with a banker/beauty blogger. Trang interviewed her and I had fun filming. While behind the camera, I pulled out my notebook and started jotting down ideas for shots I wanted to get: a close-up of a woman’s heels on a motorbike, women selling fruit in the market, laundry hanging on clotheslines on balconies (signifying the female domestic tradition). I jotted a few more ideas for b-roll footage that I wanted to get at the café when the interview was finished: an over-the-shoulder shot of our interviewee scrolling through her blog on my computer, the view from her back looking over the balcony. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more creative or limitless. It hit me, there, that I have a purpose during the month while I’m here, and by fulfilling it I am in turn being fulfilled by this experience and giving my very best. There is one other time I can think of this past year that I felt like I was taking a step toward self-actualization, the top of Maslow’s pyramid. But this was the first time a wave of it overtook me like this while single and in a place in my life where I am prioritizing myself. To me, that’s what makes it real. I think it takes spending time alone to really know yourself and know your own potential.