The Sixteen Project travels to Vietnam + Laos!

8 Jun

Ms. Fay and I announced this past spring that we will be traveling to Vietnam and Laos this summer, thanks to a grant we received from the Fund for Teachers for our work with The Sixteen Project. We’ve both become even more interested in anthropology and fieldwork through teaching this class, and we proposed this trip as a way of doing the same type of work ourselves (filmmaking, participant observation, ethnography) that we ask our students to engage with in our classrooms. When we return in September, we expect to bring back a dramatically different perspective on Sixteen (the age and the class), and we look forward to reimagining it again as we do every term.

Why Southeast Asia? We actually began by looking at the possibility of visiting the Maasai in Kenya, and the the Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea, because of their connection to western anthropology. We decided on Vietnam and Laos after scaling back a longer trip so we can learn more about the Hmong culture, which is less “famous” in anthropology texts but which has a more complex relationship with the United States. (Though Hmong people have lived in the US since the late 1970s, many Americans were probably first introduced to the community by Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.)

So we’ve been getting ready for the past month – immunizations, hiking equipment, tickets – and will be leaving on July 5 for Vietnam. We’ll begin in Hanoi, where we hope to meet students taking the annual university admissions exams. Then, we’ll travel to Sapa, in northern Vietnam, where we’ll visit Hmong villages. We fly to Luang Prabang, in Laos, to stay with another Hmong community, and will return to LA on July 25.

We can’t wait!

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