I've been back in Saigon for five days since my return from two weeks travelling in Thailand and Myanmar. It's good to have some time and space to myself, and besides, my neglect of my project work has been gnawing at me during my time away. Lily left yesterday to spend a week travelling around Vietnam; I was going to join her for some of the journey but in the end I cancelled my tickets. I've got back into work now, primarily reading and researching, and have laid my aims and aspirations for February. I hope that by the end of this month I will have much greater confidence in the direction and implementation of my project and will have started work on my book. By the end of February I will only have three months left in Indochina, time which I'm sure will fly by once I have serious work to get done. I am making arrangements for a presentation evening back in Leeds in August to allow me to share my experiences from my year away with friends and family. This gives me a solid deadline by which my work must be finished.
And so, with a strict plan of hard work and self-discipline in place for the month, I must remember to make time for the blog. Jessica reminds me that the purpose of this blog is, by our original project contract, to be a space for daily reflection, rather than a diary of the day's events, which should, if I stick to my work, be quite boring. Therefore I will use this blog to reflect on a day's learnings or to share new information I've found.
Recently I've been reading Vietnam: Rising Dragon by Bill Hayton, a comprehensive study of Vietnam's development over the past thirty years (I will review this book soon). It is very readable and I wish I'd picked it up earlier. I'm sure the information I'm taking from it will be very useful research for my own book, which will cover contemporary social, political and environmental issues in Indochina and their potential solutions, focusing on the work of NGOs and individuals. Today I read a chapter about media censorship, which mentioned a couple of newspapers that were bravely vocal about a case of corruption within the Party in 2006, so much so that they landed themselves in trouble. One of these was Thanh Nien, which, by coincidence, I had looked at online in the morning over breakfast, thinking that I ought to get into reading national news stories. Hayton concluded this chapter by talking about blogging becoming a new medium for Vietnamese to share news stories in a way that is much more difficult to censor. Nonetheless, I sometimes worry about the things I type here. Living amongst the modernity of Ho Chi Minh City and, by default, associating mostly with expats, it is easy to forget that this is a country tightly controlled by those at the top and is still far from free.