I have officially been in Vietnam for 12 days. Does not feel like that at all. So far, I have met a great community of people through my apartment complex (lots of expats), through friends of friends, through a nondenominational church that hundreds of fellow expats go to, and through Facebook groups. I am working on finding a balance between getting out
and exploring, meeting people, and doing work.
Since the last update when I road a motorbike and explored parts of District One (where all the touristy attractions are), a few things have happened. First and foremost, I booked my first photo job this past weekend. There are tons of resources for expats living in other countries, and Facebook happens to have a few pages that thousand upon thousands of people use. Through those groups, people recommend doctors, cleaning services, restaurant recommendations... anything and everything. I have started offering my services through those and have had success already!
A lovely family with three boys hired me to photograph their portraits. Immediately, I realized I would need to familiarize myself with Saigon much more because I need to be able to offer recommendations for locations for photoshoots with directions. This was easy in Washington, DC with so many national landmarks at my disposal. But here, I want to be able to recommend to clients places that are accessible, fit their style, and help capture what it is they want in the shoot. Some families will want traditional landmarks and iconic buildings, others care more about having floral backgrounds or just simply want photos of all their kids looking at the camera.
We found an outdoor cafe between where we both live that was perfect. I went early, confirmed it was ok to photograph among other patrons and tables of people enjoying the gorgeous ambiance, and of course, they didn't care if I moved tables and chairs around, whatever I wanted.
It felt nice to get back into something that is comfortable for me to do, and it was awesome doing that in a new country.
SOMETHING ELSE THAT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME IS WORKING WITH GROUPS AND ORGANIZATIONS DOING FANTASTIC WORK. I HAVE WORKED WITH A FEW NONPROFITS OVER THE PAST DECADE, AND REALLY WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I AM FINDING ONES TO WORK WITH AS I TRAVEL AND LIVE ABROAD.
I STARTED COLD RESEARCHING NGOS AND NONPROFITS HERE IN VIETNAM, AND ONE POPPED UP THAT LOOKED FANTASTIC: VINACAPITAL FOUNDATION. THEY ARE TECHNICALLY A US-based 501C3, HAVE SOME CORPORATE BACKING WITH A LARGE GROUP HERE, BUT ARE THEIR OWN ENTITY AND HELP VIETNAMESE CHILDREN WITH HEART DEFECTS RECEIVE NECESSARY MEDICAL CARE, SEND DOCTORS TO RURAL PARTS OF THE COUNTRY FOR CHECKUPS, AND BUILD CENTERS WITH UPDATED EQUIPMENT THROUGHOUT VIETNAM. AFTER SEARCHING THROUGH THEIR WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA, I HAD SOME SUGGESTIONS ON UPDATING THEIR CONTENT AND SENT AN EMAIL.
IMMEDIATELY I WAS IN TOUCH WITH ONE OF THEIR HIGHER UP'S AND BEING INVITED TO A MEETING. SO I MET with the recently promoted ceo.
AND WITHIN 5 MINUTES I HAD A JOB OFFER.
THEIR STAFF at the highest level ARE WESTERN, BUT MAJORITY OF THEIR STAFF ARE LOCAL VIETNAMESE. AND THE EXECUTIVE STAFF HAVE BEEN THERE FOR THE PAST 15+ YEARS AND are STARTING TO PHASE OUT AS THEY RETIRE. THEY WANTED ONE MORE YOUNGER WESTERNER IMPLEMENTED TO HELP WITH THE INTERNATIONAL FUNDRAISING AND DEVELOPMENT AS THEY GROW. AND OVER TIME, WITH A SUSTAINABLE MODEL, IT WILL BE EVEN LESS AMERICANS OR WESTERNERS.
HAVING JUST LEFT A NONPROFIT WHERE I DID FUNDRAISING, THIS WAS NOT SOMETHING I WAS PREPARED FOR OR EXACTLY INTERESTED IN. BUT WE HAD A GREAT CHAT, I TOLD HIM THE IDEAS I HAD AND COMMUNICATIONS WORK I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN, AND WE ARE WORKING ON A COMPROMISE!!
AFTER COFFEE, HE INVITED ME TO ATTEND THEIR PRESS CONFERENCE BEING HELD AT THE CARAVELLE HOTEL, WHERE THEY WENT OVER EXCITING UPDATES AND ABOUT ALL THE WORK THEY'VE DONE IN 2017/PLANS FOR 2018. VERY INTERESTING SEEING THAT. AND I WAS ABLE TO LEARN A LOT ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION VERY QUICKLY.
FUN FACT: THE CARAVELLE HOTEL (WHICH IS FREAKING GORGEOUS) WAS HOME TO THE AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY, THE NEW ZEALAND EMBASSY, AND THE SAIGON BUREAUS OF NBC, ABC, AND CBS DURING THE 1960S. ALSO, IN 1964, A BOMB EXPLODED IN ONE OF THE ROOMS, ON THE FLOOR WHERE FOREIGN JOURNALISTS OCCUPIED. LUCKILY THEY WERE ALL OUT ON ASSIGNMENT. LOVED BEING SUCH A HISTORIC BUILDING!
SO AFTER THE PRESS CONFERENCE, THERE WAS A COCKTAIL HOUR WITH LOTS OF HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS, DONORS, EXPATS, ETC. I MET A TON OF PEOPLE DOING REALLY AWESOME WORK. I was INTRODUCED AROUND AND the ceo KEPT JOKING I WAS MAYBEEEE THEIR NEW EMPLOYEE. MEETING CHILDREN THEY'VE HELPED, HAVING WINE WITH INTERESTING PEOPLE... THAT'S ONE WAY TO HOOK SOMEONE! I AM EXCITED TO SEE WHAT KIND OF COMPROMISE WE CAN COME TO, BECAUSE WORKING WITH THEM TO SOME EXTENT WOULD TRULY BE AWESOME. SO STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES THERE! (WE HAVE A FOLLOW-UP MEETING SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK TO DISCUSS IDEAS...)
OH! AND ANOTHER GUEST WAS A VIETNAMESE POP STAR NAMED ISAAC (THEIR VERSION OF JUSTIN BIEBER MAYBE?) WHO ALL THE YOUNG GIRLS WERE FREAKING OUT OVER. successful night all around!!
Danielle Desnoyers is a traveling freelance photographer with a focus on humanitarian, travel, and family photography. She currently splits her time between the United States and Vietnam with travels to other countries as well.