This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds reshaping the country’s future. In episode 7 we talk to Quyên Lưu.

Bitch better have my money… you know that song?


You should know me well enough.


We talk to Quyên about spiritual inspiration, making government accountability a hot topic and Facebook’s worst feature.

It’s not about Rhianna’s song it’s about dancer…

The dancer’s skills and professionalism make Quyên want to better herself in what she has chosen to pursue.

Spiritual things… yoga is one of that, meditation, or work in an NGO.

Quyên grew up in Lào Cai, a mountainous region in the North of Vietnam.

I was born in 1993. My memories in Lào Cai is not something special.

Her family has a small groceries store. They sell candies and cosmetics. There wasn’t much else to do besides studying.

It’s not really boring, because I love studying.

Her path seemed clearly laid out. A stable job, a good salary, an annual holiday, a husband, a son, a daughter… But Quyên had other ideas.


All of my teacher, all of my friends, my parents, my sister, my younger sister put some invisible pressure. Wow this girl has very bright future in their definition.

I studied International Finance in Foreign Trade University. After four years, I realized that I don’t like finance very much.

At university, she volunteered in environmental projects, sustainable development, teaching in mountainous area, the Live and Learn initiative, communities activities and the Think Playground.

That kind of opened my eyes totally.

After a year volunteering with NGOs, she started questioning their effectiveness.

They have the pressure to spend all the money of their budget. If they don’t do that, they will have lower amount of money in the next year. That’s why at the end of the year, many NGOS they have some bullshit activities.

She looked at her own life for a place where she could make changes.

My life is full of things that satisfy me. I think that there is someone suffering something…

…for you to have the things that you have.

Yes. That’s what I guess.

Quyên turned to spirituality, something she hadn’t believed in until now.

Being a good student she approached her spiritual search with a scientific mind.

The more I read the more I think that it’s just something that science couldn’t explain yet.

This is her reading list.

You know that book? Mostly it’s about philosophy. Secrets of Happiness. Biography of a Yogi. Revolution of a Straw. What is Happiness…


Thích Nhật Hạnh

The road she had just discovered wasn’t easy to follow.

If I imagine that I have a life just like some yogi that I read about. They pray all the days. That kind of life is not something ordinary. I’m afraid that it’s too hard to live that kind of life. And I am afraid that’ll disappoint my parents. Frankly, I still love buying things, but I reduce my money a lot.


We were impressed with this young woman’s mind and we told her halfway through the interview.

When I talk to my friends and they have compliments for me. You are so interesting you are so. You know many things. And I don’t really like that. That makes me focus on… I want more compliments. And that kind of greed, just some part of me still follows some unreal value.

I had first heard about Quyên when a friend of mine told me about a project she was involved with called the One Eyed Nation, an initiative to call on the government for more accountability when it came to the way that they were spending their budget. It took a form of a comic book which told a story of a couple living in a nation where everybody has one of their eyes bound shut.

The way that people know about the state budget is similar with that people have one eye blind. Frankly it’s not a very easy topic to do…

Because it’s complex or because it’s not something you should be talking about?


They did end up doing it in a way that a lot of people found out about it is that people started to change their Facebook avatars to comic character with one of their eyes bound shut. And the petition that was started with it ended up having about eleven thousand signatures. The comic though is no longer online.

Did you have to take it down or you just took it off?

No no no, we don’t want to give money to maintain that so we back up all the data offline.

By we she means her and her boyfriend Khuyến with whom she had been creating educational videos about all source of topics.


For example, it’s about dog meat, LGBT, or masturbation.

British NGO Oxfam approached them to do the One Eyed Nation comic as part of a larger campaign to call for transparency in how Vietnam’s state budget is being spent.

We have the right to know. The more we read the more we think that people, our friends, should know about that. We know a lot of things and if we do not share it, we’re gonna ‘boom’ with our head.

It’s kind of cool if we do something good and we have money at the same time.

Making money while doing something you care about is a topic she comes back to when we met Quyên again a few weeks later.

So far I don’t know how to make money if I am an expert of spiritual life.

 We were in her favorite cafe. Nhà Ấm is tucked away in an alley in the Đống Đa district. It’s decorated with old propaganda posters, antique fans and tape recorders. And there are some live baby turtles living in a shoe box. And they serve green tea and sun flower seeds.

I am sitting in Nhà Ấm. They are like the style before Đổi Mới because it’s kind of vintage. I prefer Trịnh Công Sơn music in this place.


Maybe it’s the cosy atmosphere at Nhà Ấm or that we had dinner with Quyên between our interviews but our second meet up starts to turn into a girls’ night out. And we talk about dating in the age of social media.

In some very complicated way I feel that he liked me to. And so I write a… very look note on Facebook. And I was really nervous and then he’s seen… without saying anything. That just broke my heart.

She’s talking about a past crush who… no surprise, she met in a debate team. Eventually he did reply with a message saying:

I will reply later and now it’s three years after that and fuck him…

 That kind of needy online behaviour is not what a good relationship is built on’, she says. Her current boyfriend Khuyen actually fits the description of what she wants out of a relationship.

My father always tells me about being independent in finance with my husband is the key of life long marriage.


Respect privacy and sharing values so we can talk.

Just to clarify…

Real love is when I don’t need you, but I want to be with you.

Yes, yes yes yes yes.

Day by day we have much more independent girls.

A bit like the four young women you’ve been hearing in the background, sitting around a table that was once a sewing machine, playing cards, chatting, without a care in the world.

Where does Quyên see herself ten years from now?

Master in Yoga. Less talkative and maybe still attractive and sexy. I think it’s the same.

There’s still a way there yet as Quyên continues to question everything she believes in….

When I think of some kind of value that I believe in… Immediately there is some critical thinking. For example, if I believe in individualism and right after I think of there is something that cannot be done with just one person.

This is being The Renovation Generation. Follow us on SoundCloud or subscribe to The Renovation Generation on iTunes, Stitcher or Mixcloud to never miss an episode.

Boom boom boom chachacha boom.

It is produced by Eliza Lomas and Fabiola Buchele. Our production assistants are Trang Nghiem and Trang Ngo. Jacques Smit is our photographer and research is done by me, Maia Do.

An & Of Other Things production.