Read about how their adventures unfolded and what they experienced in these first days in a guest post by Johanna Berghorn.
“After getting very little sleep and logging many air miles, our group from seemingly all countries of the world met up bit by bit in the Hanoi airport. Some were heavily tanned, full of impressions and experiences from our time so far in Asia, and some were tired and happy to have finally escaped the German winter cold.
And indeed, the long-awaited sleep plus shower wasn’t an option yet. Nhung and Matthias immediately prodded us along through the city—in the end, we’re not on vacation, but rather a study trip. And it was worth it! After a little stroll around the lake and through our first little Vietnamese streets, we were finally guided by them both to a restaurant—and what a restaurant. A buffet that could compete with the biggest our uni has ever staged—and it would win.
Since the proof is in the pudding, we tasted our way through quite a few worlds of Asian delicacies, sometimes more, sometimes less clear about what exactly was on our plates. Tired and with full bellies, we went on a bumpy, swaying bus ride out of the city center toward the Village of Friendship.
After settling in there, we were officially greeted and welcomed by the director the next morning after a breakfast prepared by the women of the village. Afterwards, we got to know the different classes and the groups of children, including various task groups and academic subjects. With our three charming translators at our side, we then began what would continue for the next two days: we began our interviews and spoke with children, teachers and veterans about their lives, memories, duties and responsibilities and, with many, about the meaning of life. The warmth and openness of the people we encountered was unbelievable, whether in the interviews and discussions with former soldiers or in passing encounters with the children. We were greeted on all sides with waves and above all with warm smiles.
Once the first memory cards were full around noon, the village women prepared a traditional meal for us: every day something different, with fresh ingredients from the market and garden and always incredibly good.
In the afternoon, we were brought back to the city center by our bus, or should I say we were bumped and swayed there? We visited the local mausoleum and the temple of literature, and then strolled along the infamous train tracks, taking in the tremendous masses of people and consumption, the Asian traffic and all other colorful, loud and multi-faceted impressions.
At the beginning of this year’s Asian workshop, 20 students conducted interviews at the Village of Friendship near Hanoi.
They recorded numerous interviews with veterans and young adults suffering from the effects of the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War. These continued the long-term project “Lighter than Orange” (ongoing since 2011).
Matthias Leupold, Professor of Photography: “In the afternoons and evenings, we explored the city of Hanoi photographically. On March 14, 2018, the Goethe Institute showed the film “Lighter than Orange.”
The next stops are: Hoi An, a lively little city in central Vietnam, Vat Phou (well-known Khmer temple in Laos), Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh (the killing fields).”
It’s an exciting time for our students, and we can hardly wait for what they have to say after the whole trip.