Photojournal #3: When we last met Hà, he was managing a cocktail bar in the French Quarter of Hanoi. Burnt out from activism, he was taking a break and, by the sounds of it, not planning to go back to it any time soon.
This trip, we’d emailed to say that PPC was coming, and that we’d love to meet up and introduce Hà to the group. When we didn’t hear back, we were concerned, but wondered if he’d moved on from the bar to a new job outside activism.
We were half right; Hà had moved on from the bar and straight back to activism! Taking inspiration from us (how weird is that?), Hà had founded It’s T Time, a transgender community organisation founded by transgender people to create safe spaces for their community. Using art, It’s T Time brings together members of the trans community, their friends and family, creating a safe space for conversation and exploration.
Along with his friend, Duong, we met at The Ann to hear Hà’s story, to hear of the work he is doing, and to receive his invitation to any of us to return any time to share our skills with the group in whatever artistic field we practice, to further encourage conversation and understanding. If Hà got inspiration from us, it was nothing compared to the truckloads of wisdom which every PPC member who turned up for that special conversation in the hotel cocktail lounge carried off to bed that night.
Members of PPC with Hà and Duong
PPC Photojournal #2: Rehearsals for Pacific Pride Choir 2019 all took place in the small hall at the Vietnam National Academy of Music. The ornately carved wood panelling and plush velveteen chairs created an air of sultry luxury in the summer humidity. This photo tells the story of PPC’s first meeting with Hanoi’s Diversity Choir; DC was less than one year old at this time and its members were drawn from various minority communities, including ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+, people with living with disability, and, to make it truly diverse, some kids and community elders, too. Lisa’s snap of tenors and basses from both choirs mixing shows the instant way our two choir families blended.
Photo: Lisa Chanell Photography
If you'd been following our blog up to July 2019, you might have noticed something was missing - say, any posts at all about our actual tour to Vietnam and Cambodia? Having blogged enthusiastically on our scoping trips, we'd planned to blog every day once the tour itself got going. ‘It’ll be easy, we know what we're doing now,’ we said to ourselves as months of planning finally came together & the last few things were packed in our suitcase. We had a good schedule; the right balance, we felt, of rehearsals, performances, sightseeing & free time. Surely we could find an hour or so each night, after we ‘clocked off', to gather our thoughts, reflect & blog?
In a word, nope.
Arriving the weekend before the tour officially started, we planned to spend those few days shaking off the jet-lag, reacquainting ourselves with Hanoi & tidying up a few loose ends. We should have known. So much more happens in direct face-to-face contact than ever occurs over email & by our first Sunday night (a full two days before any official PPC activities were scheduled), a lot had changed already. There’s always more to a tour than just being on time for breakfast & taking the daily roll call as everyone boards the bus.
No matter. On Tuesday evening we gathered in the Ballroom of The Ann, our home for the next seven nights, & welcomed PPC 2019. Old friendships were renewed & new friendships began. With 25 singers, equally distributed across the parts, we were a chamber choir & a diverse one at that: LGBTQI+ & our allies. We were grateful for every single singer who embraced this tour & who, by coming with us, committed to diversity, equality & change. Our mere presence is a statement.
We might not have been able to blog during our tour, but our dedicated tour photographer, Lisa Chanell, was rarely off duty. So now, while we're confined to barracks thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, we're going to share some of Lisa's beautiful photos with you in a photojournal. The memories might not be in order, but we'll use each one to tell you a tiny story about one of the many special moments on our tour.
To begin, here's our first group photo, from the morning of Wednesday 17 July 2019. Ably led by tour guide Ruby, we set off to tour Hanoi: Ho Chi Minh’s Mausolem and former residence, the beautiful yellow house, the One Pillar Pagoda, Temple of Literature, & a rickshaw ride through the Old Quarter. And all before lunch... we were off to a good start.
Ho-Chi Minh Mausoleum. Photo: Lisa Chanell, Lisa Chanell Photography