Good Morning Vietnam
This essay is loosely based on the journal I held during my three weeks in Kontum, Vietnam. It contains the journal itself augmented with my later remarks, along with a full introduction, observations of the trip, and thoughts it provoked. I really don't know what purpose I'm pursuing by writing this, most likely I'm just trying to exteriorise all the emotion that piled up within me during the trip. Hopefully this will touch some people out there, and a message will pass through. A message of warmth, of love, of humanity, of dawning comprehension, is probably what this is all about. Anyway, I hope you like it.
I will begin by talking about the organisation I owe this trip to: Nouvelle Planete, which literally means "New Planet" in French, is a Swiss non-governmental organisation that is politically and confessionally neutral. It organises amongst other things camps for students and people below the age of twenty-five in about twenty third-world countries, to bring humanitarian aid and create a cultural exchange. Since the camps last only three weeks, the goal focuses more heavily on sensibilizing us to a new culture and its needs than on making concrete advancement on any project. Groups for these camps are created many months before the actual departure (the formation for the CJ07 Kontum 2 camp in which I took part began in November 2006 for a departure scheduled in August 2007). The first step that everyone takes individually is to subscribe for a camp and show up at the next conference of Willy Randin, the founder of NP.
When I showed up at the conference I met some of the people with whom I was to depart ten months later. Randin gave us a speech about the foundation of the organisation and its mission in third-world countries. We also heard some feedback from a group that had gone to Madagascar that year. The girls who gave us the feedback speech presented their camp and showed us some photos of them with a smiling group of locals.
As time passed, the group started to form and began to meet regularly, under the supervision of a NP representative at first, then autonomously. People would come and go from the group at first, and our numbers varied from as few as seven to as many as fifteen, but with time the group consolidated into the thirteen members that would finally depart for the other side of the globe together.
A camp, or "work camp" as NP calls them, has two phases: the preparation (long), and the actual camp (short). The goal of the many months of preparation is for the group's members to get to know and trust each other. If you're going to spend three weeks on the other side of the world with a group of people, you'd better not discover once over there that you all hate each other. If a truly insoluble problem shows up, the members of the group have months to talk it over. The second goal is to raise funds. Since NP is an NGO and is involved in many other actions besides the camps (which constitute about 1/5 of its activities), we need to first of all pay our own plane tickets, and secondly raise the funds necessary for our subsistence in the country of destination. The ticket alone cost each of us 1'750 Swiss francs (about 1'470 USD), and the subsistence was set at 650 francs per person (about 550 USD), which made roughly 8'500 francs (7150 USD) for the group to collect. It turned out that several months was none too long a time for us to gather such funds! After several market sales of homemade food and Vietnamese handicraft, a large wine sale and a sponsored conference by , we finally made it just in time. Had we failed to close our budget in time, we would have either had to cut down on our visiting options in the country of destination, or if we were really too far from our goal, each member would have had to pay a corresponding part of the missing sum.
And so it was with enthusiasm that we prepared for our departure after our long months of preparation. The group was set, our friendship was solid, and our motivation was aflame.
If you're curious to know more about New Planet, here is their official website, available in English, French, and German: .