The electricity shut off again. So I’m attempting to type out this entry while it’s out and I’ll post it when I go to a coffee shop that is “legitimate” enough to not get its electricity shut off (if your store or restaurant is an expensive enough place, it may not have its electricity cut). This laptop is also low battery though, so I don’t know…
Click here to read a bit about the power cut.
So that didn’t really work out; typing with one hand while trying to fan myself with the other was not working out. I am now at a small coffeeshop that is also incredibly hot, but at least there are fans. Ok, that’s enough heat-complaint. One of my goals here was to really be able to take heat…
Real quick technical note that’s related to heat:
Tropical heat, fan-necessity, and a audio-recording equipment do not go well together.
What this means for me:
A few interviews with the annoying sound of fan wind interference.
Another technical note:
The sound of cicadas may be soothing to some, but on my camera, it sounds like a piercing screech in the background that overpowers my interviewees’ voices. Good thing I used the audio recorder throughout that outdoor interview. Cicadas destroyed my sound. (I'm being melodramatic, I still have sound and the interview was brilliant).
I’ve discovered that, in interview, there’s a way to detect if someone is linked to the education system professionally. Now, the effectiveness of this is debatable, but I’ve noticed it with several people now.
The other morning I went to the area in front of a University where the entrance exams were being proctored to interview family members who traveled from all over to wait hours at a time while their loved one(s) took their exams (most students take two series of tests, the content of the tests varying depending on the day). I filmed a bunch of random people to ask them about their views of the testing system and what it is like for them to aid their loved one through the process of taking “the most important exam of [their] lives”.
They all agreed to have their face filmed and most of them were very happy to… except one older sister who initially agreed and then midway, asked me to only record her voice and delete all the footage of the interview. This is after she explained to me that she is not only a sister of a test-taker, but also an elementary school teacher. She reminded me another 3 times throughout our 1 hour conversation to erase the footage, not wanting an on-camera appearance to negatively influence her profession, despite her uncontroversial opinions. Understandable. She told me that I would run into the same issue with a professional role in the system.
Just to clarify, while this more likely occurs with professionals, the ambivalence happens with all the “types” of interviewees I have.
The day after, I went to a Tapioca Milk Tea hangout spot for teens and interviewed a few high school/university students. I wanted to interview one of them a bit more so I set up a separate time to meet up with him. After I interviewed him the second time, he asks me (after some clear reflection and consideration) to delete everything he said at the tea shop. I ensured him that his safety is my first priority, although I don’t even recall him saying anything “risky”. He asked me again to only keep his second interview. No wonder he seemed more careful with his words in the second interview…
This type of backtracking has occurred several times now, with people calling me to delete footage/audio. I’m going to be honest, I’m not crazy about this constant caution I have to take (but then again, who loves censorship?) and I’m trying to rationally think through my project so that I can complete it effectively and still look forward to future trips to my homeland. I’ve been reading other Global Conversation entries, and I keep thinking about how I’m not researching something like Drug Supply Chains, yet that uncomfortable safety concern for my interviewees (and occasionally myself… but mostly my interviewees) comes up every day and every time I review the interviews.
I am hoping to grow more comfortable with the paranoia, although, I am pretty relaxed throughout all the interviews and pretty much all the time here. Just because the education system (well, the entire society) in Vietnam is more hierarchical than I’m used to, doesn’t mean that silence is the answer.
In 2 days I'll be heading up to Hanoi, where all the big wigs are. I’m hoping to get an interview with one of them while I’m there, and have already arranged to meet a very large group of students. The other day, I interviewed a Hue resident who studies in Hanoi. He was very open about his opinions and didn’t seem to care much about the fact that his opinions were ten times more controversial than all the people who have been expressing concerns to me about their recordings. I hope my interviewees in Hanoi are open about their views as well.
Post again when I'm up north, -Q