Coffee Talk and Making Friends with the Locals
These past weeks have also been great because we are starting to branch out and make new friends. We were able to go to a coffee talk that was hosted by one of our roommates clubs. The issue on the table for discussion was gender issues in Vietnam. This was an eye opening experience for sure. The Vietnamese youth are modernizing with a more western mindset, yet the country has such a generational divide that these young adults feel frustrated. They can’t break free from the traditional old values, yet want to desperately explore being young and free. In the United States we certainly take all aspects of our education for granted. They do not have health class here in Vietnam, which was a huge issue that was discussed. I wish in the United States more students were inspired to go and just talk about issues like this that pertain more to the States or even other international issues. We had a great time at the talk and at one point they had to dress a boy as a girl and a girl as a boy. With no one volunteering, I raised my hand and the girls had a great time making me a tie and mustache. Since that talk we have seen some of those girls since and we went and played lazer tag with them.
This past weekend all of us went to Mui Ne for a fun beach excursion. It was nice to get out of the bustling city life. We got to sit on the beach and take a cool tour of the Fairy Springs, the Red and White sand dunes, lotus lake and a fishing village. All the sites were pretty cool, but the Vietnamese sand dunes could not compete with the ones in Dubai. Although in Vietnam we got sleds to go sliding down the dunes. I was completely covered in sand by the end of the day. Mui Ne was very beautiful and we all had a great time.
I have now also been on a motorbike! It is truly terrifying the first time you do it, but there is a method to their madness. You just have to go with the flow. I met the girl who was taking me on her motorbike only seconds before hopping on the back of her bike. I was clutching her so tightly that I think at one point she turned around and asked me to loosen up and I was like please just look at the road. After surviving my first ride, Khuyen was excited and decided to take me on a night ride to see the city light up. While traveling by motorbike is not my first choice, it is certainly is an experience.
These past few weeks have been so amazing. I have now been out of the country for a month and time is flying by. We just booked our spring break trip to the Northern cultural hotspot Sapa. Our midterms are just around the corner as well. While all of these sites have been so cool to go to, some of the most amazing snippets have been just looking out the window on our bus as we travel from place to place. Witnessing every day life and seeing the rural workers in the fields gives you a better sense of the unique culture of Vietnam. The poverty level is astronomical and some of the images are very depressing to see. Children in the streets begging, large families living in small one room houses and old women laying in garbage are just a few of the sad images that I have seen. Interestingly today in our Vietnamese studies class a communist party member came to speak to us about the Vietnamese political system. He trains party members and his outlook on the poverty level was quite interesting. He claimed that the party has policies installed to help these poor people, but there needs to be poverty for the economy to grow. Personally I haven’t seen a lot of efforts being made to help these people out and neither has my roommate Khuyen who has spoken adamantly about how much she hates the government here. This trip is continuing to broaden my horizons and I am enjoying every moment of it.