This summer I began to plan my annual trip to Vietnam.
It was now nearly 9 years ago since I met Tamay. When she taught me how to make the Red Dzao embroidery. It turned into a magical three months of delving deep into embroidery. A skill that I had touched on with my Grandma but I had never been particularly interested in. I didn’t really understand it. I saw it as beautiful decoration and had always loved textiles and quality pieces but it was not something that I ever really thought about or knew much about.
The process of learning was what interested me so much because I was an anthropologist and I was interested in what relates people with objects. What is art? Why do people have and need creative practices? What is it that makes a piece so beautiful and how does this in return make a person beautiful, or does it? And how does this connect one person to another person or whole community of people?
Through Tamay I was invited deep into her world of embroidery and deep into Dzao culture through the process of embroidery. I was invited to make and to sit with a group of women for months. I couldn’t speak Dzao but I could understand an essence of what was going on, Tamay would often translate. I saw the children coming and going, the gossip, the dynamics between friendships, the pace of work, so many subtleties that you get when you just hang out. This was the foundations for Tamay and I’s friendship. I was given permission to be part of her world for 3 months.
Ever since I have visited Tamay and the Dzao community on a regular basis. Each time feeling more and more included in the Dzao world and their culture. It has been a privilege that I could never have wished for, I wouldn’t have know what to wish for.
I love the evening times in Tamay’s home, when everyone comes back from busy days out and about, supper is cooked and shared. Conversations are shared. Friends drop in. The kittens play. The dog sniffs about the kids cry and play. I feel part of Tamay’s family. I have seen her kids grow up.
My trip to Vietnam this year would have been a time to collect more stories, develop another product but it wasn’t essential. Tamay and the team know that they are doing with jackets now. They are happy and pretty set up. What we really needed this year was to grow and spread awareness of our brand. To tell more people about what we do, share our story and our products far and wide.
This was when I had an idea… Would it not be better and much more interesting for Tamay to come to the UK? The more I thought about it, the more it felt like a great idea.
If Tamay could come to the UK we could tell our story together.
I wanted people to be able to meet Tamay. To hear her stories directly from her. Chat about culture, chat about textiles, chat about sustainability, chat about being women. This made perfect sense. It is much easier for our followers to come to an evening in Bristol or an afternoon in London that to fly to Vietnam to meet her.
Plus, having spent so much time at Tamay’s house, it was time for Tamay to come to my house. To meet my family, to see how we spend our evenings! For Tamay to learn a bit more about Western culture, for her to see it in action, with her own eyes, beyond seeing stories on the TV or to talking to tourists she meets in Ta Phin. She deserve this and I wanted to make it happen, she can have the right to travel and learn just as I have.
It was decided I was going to apply for a visa, pay for Tamay’s flight and invite her to my house. Into my culture, into my life, just as she had given me for all those years.
What I had not realised was the privilege to have a UK passport.
It is not easy for Tamay to visit the UK as for me to visit Vietnam.
We applied for a Visa. We provided letters, explanations, banks statements, all sorts of documents. Tamay went for an interview in Hanoi, she stayed the night in the hotel, her sister, who has a Canadian degree, helped with all the paperwork.
Tamay and her sister reported back after the interview. It was good. They felt it was all very friendly and her passport had been taken, to get the visa, they had understood. Tamay’s sister recieved an email to say Tamay’s passport was on her way back to the Village. She had understood that she had the visa. I was delighted! I booked the flight immediately. I shouted about it on social media. Tamay was coming to the UK!!
A few days later … I got this image on Facebook messenger
I felt stupid. I should have waited to see a photo of the visa.
We were in now. Financially and emotionally. We had to keep going. With one month to try again. There was time if I did another fast track visa application. More money. This is when once again the panic sets in …. Hannah you should go and get an ordinary job.
Calls around the world, emails to anyone who might be able to help.
A consistent message came back. It is really hard to get a visa for someone like Tamay.
This made me more determined than ever to try.
With the help of more letters from around the world, I compiled a document like a phD and booked another visa interview.
Our last hurdle was to get this document printed for a Monday morning in Hanoi. Again more favours. It was stressful. Lucy Patterson in NZ held my hand through kind messages though messenger as I panicked about time differences and paper and enough ink and document file types. Thank you Lucy Patterson I am so looking forward to meeting you one day. This bit was the worst I think!
When it was done, we waited.
I wrote one more email to my MP in Bristol.
Then we waited.
SHE GOT IT !!
We only found out in the middle of last week.
Now Tamay is coming tomorrow!!
Life can be exciting!
We haven't had a very long time to organise and publicise our events,
Find all the info about out events in the previous blog post.
Help to spread the word, come along, bring your mum,
it is going to be very special !
I am going to be posting daily on Instagram stories, follow how Tamay gets on, Luna my little one, wants to know what she is having for breakfast??