First Impressions of Vietnam

Written by Hannah Le, (Student Correspondent) University of Washington
CET Public Health & Service-Learning in Ho Chi Minh City, Summer 2015

72 hours ago my brain was flooded with cancer inheritance patterns and genetic map distances as I was cramming for my last Genome final.

48 hours ago I was sitting on an airplane, recovering from the stress of finals week and last minute packing, taking deep breaths as I was mentally preparing myself for what was to come in the next two months.

36 hours ago I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, sleep deprived and not quite sure what I was getting myself into.

36 hours in and the truth hits me for the thousandth time that I finally made it to Vietnam. I’m still not really sure about what I am getting myself into, but definitely keeping my eyes wide and in awe of everything that is around me. Saigon, at first impression, has blown my mind over and over again. Surprises loom around every corner and every minute feels like a movie scene. For instance, one minute I will be sweating my makeup off from the scorching sun, and the next I will be drenched from head to toe in the monsoon rain. Today, I went to the market to buy a bag of bananas and out of no where, rain started pouring from the sky, streets started to flood, and inevitably, I got soaked. I can’t say it was a bad feeling though, Vietnam rain is extremely refreshing, although it literally feels like standing in the shower fully clothed.

I’ve always heard that crossing the street in Vietnam is quite an experience. Since my arrival here, I now understand how unique of an experience it really is. Its somewhat of a mixture of absolutely terrifying yet extremely exhilarating. The first time I made it across without clutching onto my roommate’s arm for dear life, I literally felt like I was ready to conquer any challenge in the world. Traffic in Vietnam is difficult to describe, besides that there are thousands of motorbikes coming from every direction. Today, I got to experience the streets from the perspective of being on a motorbike with my roommate. Despite the fact that I was screaming right in her ear half of the time, she was a great, calm and skilled driver. I realized that drivers here must be extremely fearless and skilled at maneuvering around pedestrians and other motorbikes.

2015 summer-video2_Hannah Le

But anyways, I am completely enamored by this city. I love its people, food, and culture. My roommate Vy has been tremendously helpful to me, as I’ve been adjusting to this new environment. She is an international relations major from the local university and has taught me everything I need to know about surviving in Saigon–where to find the best eateries and shops, how to cross the street, how to operate the AC in our room (thank goodness!), among many other things. She definitely knows the city inside and out and I am excited to get to know her more as we spend the next two months together!

Me and my roommate, Vy.

Me and my roommate, Vy.

Within the past 36 hours, I’ve got a little snap shot this city that I will call home for the next two months. I am optimistic of what is to come because everyday is a new adventure full of exciting new experiences and surprises!