Archives for the month of: July, 2012

La 21a de julio, okazis la leciono de kuirado en U kafejo

kun minoritatanoj Catu kaj NPO FIDRanoj.

Ili nun planas por inviti vojagxantoj al ilia vilagxo.

Cele al malfermi restracion

ili estas entuziasme kunkuiris kun ni.


My neighbour is already half way across the River Hoai with excitement. He looks back towards me looking worriedly at the water below. The water is deep blue reflecting the Quảng Nam sky on a good day, but today the colour resembles ca phe sua da – Vietnamese thick-milky coffee. I can see bits of market leftovers in it and don’t want to go anywhere near the water.

This is the second outing with my neighbour. As tourists wave from their boats to the sandy Cua Dai beach, I swim across the river traffic with the waves reaching towards my mouth. With cornfields and buffaloes to our backs, we dig for shellfish in gooey mud on the river island. Once we swim back, he gives me all the shellfish we’d caught.

His sisters too come up to grill our catch in the cafe kitchen. Some shells don’t pop open on the flame and turn to charcoal, but he laughs and insists they are good to eat. His younger sister, who works at a restaurant in the ancient quarter, shakes her head and says we shouldn’t. “He’s different from other people,” she smiles.

After a vegetarian pho at the Phap Bao Temple, I walk through a herd of mopeds on the corner of Le Loi and Tran Hung Dao for my shot of sweet silky ca phe sua da and a chaser of lightly bitter green tea.

Coffee is a serious business here. Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer after Brazil and the coffee sector provides a livelihood for around 2.6 million people, 3% share of national GDP. Over 90% of the produce is for export and farmers struggle with coffee prices set by corporations and trading demands. Deforestation and pollution are concerns that lie in the shadows of businesses like Nestlé lurking to expand their shares by “trying to shift consumption patterns” in Vietnam.

Sustainable coffee farming is growing too. Thanh Dat, a farming group in Cu Kuin, Dak Lak, harvest and roast their organic beans and supply coffee lovers and cafes directly. U Cafe is organising a coffee-dyeing workshop during the Hoi An Japan Festival (weekend of 24-26 August) with members of Thanh Dat and SOY+. There’s a lot to be done with coffee.

Located on the edge of the city is a mountain of bright-coloured plastic bags, food scraps, shattered glass and everything else we throw away. Off Le Hong Phong, around 4 km from the picturesque town centre and behind a graveyard, it isn’t an easy find. It just quietly puffs grey smoke into air with a warm whiff of rotting waste, letting the ground soak up streams of slop garbage bags leak out.

Welcome to the Hoi An landfill. You might not find its postcards in giftshops and the approaching roads aren’t signposted with the World Heritage logo. The 9000㎡ dumpsite gathers around 50 tonnes of rubbish daily, collected and driven from hotels, restaurants, cafes and households in Hoi An. Local residents of Cam Ha had to abandon their wells and rely on bottled water, and face higher health risks, because of the issues we don’t get to see.

Among women collecting plastic bags near the peak, I look for the sandy beaches. Trees block my view of the nearby beach but the summit offers a great view, with a little haze of smoke. It has become a few truck-loads taller since I started photographing. The mountain could soon be seen from the beach, as it gets higher to climb everyday.

N.B. There will be an open discussion on this topic at U Cafe on Tuesday 10th July, from 6pm ish.

Various people cycle by the cafe – commuters, snapshooters, eco-tourists, sweetcorn and dumplings vendors, and an occasional language student on a trans-Vietnamese bike ride. Bicycles are popular in Hoi An, and people collecting plastic bottles, cans and cardboard boxes for recycling also make brief stopovers outside.

It was at 14:40, around 35°C, when a recyclist passing by asked if there were plastic bottles in the cafe. It had been a while since the last collection and she paid us many Đồng with numerous zeros (Đ10000 is around $0.5 or €0.4). They never collect glass bottles but I don’t know why.

Soy milk vendors reuse plastic bottles, and in restaurants, mineral water bottles are filled up with distilled rice wine, which is again consumed like water. So what happens at the Hoi An landfill? It may not be on any of the tourist maps, but it’s probably a place I should to visit.