By Photographer Michael Costa

Staring out of a car window as we drive to the east coast village of Hoang Hoa, a district located about 21 kilometers outside Thanh Hoa, one could feel like a tourist, looking out a window with eyes glazed over as scenes of a country village begin to unfold.  Yet, I have realized during this trip that as a photojournalist you see and observe local life much differently than when you travel as a tourist.

Bich at home with her husband and granddaughter

Once arriving at the home of our second Vietnam Hero, Bich, the Stirring the Fire team was quickly greeted with a smile and a cup of traditional Vietnamese tea by Bich and her husband Mr. Trung.  Bich is the classic example of a strong documentarian candidate–her life has strong visual opportunities that she is willing to share with us.   What a blessing.

All of the sudden, we were surrounded by kids!

Before we know it the whole village is in our presence. And I am not sure if the crowd hindered the production or enhanced it.  How quickly the word spread, actually faster than a tweet on the internet!


Bich in her home

After a short brief with Bich we are off to film her daily routine:

Wake up at 3am to pull fishing nets from the river with her husband

Go back to the village to sell her fish and shrimp catch

Go to the market to prepare lunch for her family

Take care of her grandchildren

Return between 2pm to 4pm to place the nets back in the river

Go home to prepare dinner for her family before finally having a few hours to rest.

Phew (wiping the sweat off my brow)…try being a photographer and keeping up with both her and Phil Borges.  It’s like running a short sprint around a track in less than a minute.

Bich fishing with her husband

The beauty of it all is the access to an adventure of a lifetime.  Being able to experience everything in one breath can be a little overwhelming, yet rewarding.  Even though there are many highlights to the experience of filming Ms Bich’s life–from sitting down to a traditional Vietnamese lunch to wandering around a curious and well-built village–what stands out in my mind is riding in a small fishing boat along the delta.  This moment to me has been serene and most memorable and very “ZEN”……it is what I consider..LIFE CHANGING.  What is glorious about an experience such as this is that it makes you a different a person.  So the question I propose to you and I challenge you to discover on your own, after a incredible experience such as this is to make your way into a foreign land, sacrifice your comforts, wrestle with your demons and then ask yourself….Would YOU ever be the same?

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