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VIETNAM: Colourful encounters
Second stage of my adventures in Northern Vietnam: I chose to set the tea aside for a little while, the time to share a special moment with the children of Nam Hong primary school. I met them within the framework of a project dedicated to bring arts to children in remote areas, and I am very committed to make this project durable.
A new day begins at Hà Giang: still a bit jetlaged, I am up at 5 AM, but it worth the inconveniences. Everything is still silent, apart from a few roosters awakening in the distance. The sunrise amongst the mist of the mountains is stunning, the moment is so peaceful... I seize the moment, and feel so lucky to be so warmly welcomed in such a beautiful place.
A myriad of small remote willages are scattered in the mountains nearby, in which several tribes are keeping their traditions alive. Each family lives in a big one-roomed wooden house, next to a private freshwater pond filled with fishes. Three generations live together under the same roof, and tasks are clearly assigned. The parents work outside all day, while the grandparents take care of the house and children. I was staying in homestay accomodations, and everywhere I went, I was delighted by the way I was welcomed. Vietnamese are gentle, discreet, smiley and were so kind to me. This country and its inhabitants have totally won me over!
Each house has its own freshwater reserve - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
That is why I am particularly enthusiastic with the day that begins. In my mind, "L'Autre Thé" must rather be based on mutual exchanges than only on solo abroad adventures. Along with Mr Menh, I found an opportunity to realize this wish. We joined forces with a local association whose purpose is to broaden local children's horizons through encounters and activities connected to Arts that they would not have the opportunity to practice otherwise. L’Autre Thé is now a partner of this association and we are very proud to fund a first project this year, in line with our values of sharing and respect of the local ways of life.
We have invited a professional artist, who also teaches drawing in Hanoï, and bought thirty drawing and painting kits for the children of Nam Hong, whom we meet at last today.
Nam Hong primary school - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
The little pupils are 7 to 10 and come from the mountains villages in the area around the school. A bit intimidated, they are curious to meet us. Some are wearing the traditional outfits from their tribes, whereas other are dressed in a Western style. All tables have been pushed along the walls of the classroom: we are more than waited!
First contact - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
The gorgeous traditional outfits, with bright colours - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
Assisted by the teacher, our art teacher explains today's workshop: each pupil will have to draw his own portrait, using his new drawing and painting tools.
A few practice exercices are needed to make everyone feel confident, but our teacher definitely broke the ice when he drew his self-portrait on the blackboard. He will then explain techniques and give great tips to the children to encourage them to make the most of their new equipments.
Our art teacher in action - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
Our young pupils are very focused and diligent. Following the teacher's directions, they start by tracing the outlines of their portraits with a pencil. Two steps will then be required to colour the drawings: with the coloured pencils first, with painting then. The little portraits are coming to life: Mr Menh and I go from one group to the other, thrilled to see the children's joy and creativity. Some made very accurate drawings of themselves, down to the very last detail. Others created a brand new outfit for their paper alter ego.
With Mr Menh - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
Once the drawings are done, each pupil introduced himself to the class and explained his work. Give such a speech in front of everyone was quite intimidating for most of them, but they all made it.
The finished drawings are exhibited in the classroom - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
I am iimpressed by some of these drawings! - Photo: @L'Autre Thé
I can't wait to come back next year with a new activity! We also would like to spread the initiative to other local schools. I really wish to see this project grow, that is why L'Autre Thé will support the association in the long term.
For now, Mr Menh has a surprise for me: he cooked his speciality, a succulent chicken marinated in banana tree leaves. A delight I will not forget anytime soon!
During the meal, we plan the next stage of our journey. We plan to visit the Banlien cooperative, where L'Autre Thé Imperial Jasmin tea is made. Have you already wondered what the difference between our "Grand Jasmin" and this "Jasmin imperial" was? See you in the next episode, I will tell you everything about the "enfleurage" technique, that needs great cares and can produce exceptional teas.