Plain rice for six, please!






I have now been in Vietnam for four full days. In looking back at my journals from each of these days, some of the common words are “happy, cafe, and thankful”. My adventures have been filled with exploration, support, and smiles. From a scavenger hunt around Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), to a tour of Cho Lon (the Chinese district of HCMC; see photos below), our four days have been filled to the brim with new experiences. 

Phở. Not much more needs to be said here, other than “ngon” or “delicious”. 

We have been quite lucky to have the support that we do here. As foreigners, we do not know the customs, language, or ways of getting around the city. We have been mostly with either our Vietnamese “buddies*” or the staff at CET*. This means that we have not had to try too hard at communicating because most of them speak both English and Vietnamese. It has been easy, but perhaps too easy. When it was our turn to try things out on our own, we did not do as well as we had wished.

My first embarrassing moment happened when six of us decided to go to a broken rice restaurant this evening (Monday, September 4). To start, we know only a few phrases in Vietnamese so far: hello, thank you, sorry (the most necessary one so far), and may I take a photo? If we are not with our buddies, we usually have to point at photos or try to say what we want, though our pronunciations must be horrific. We wanted to order a few different dishes and share them between us, but quickly realized that we needed more food than we initially ordered. When the waiter came back toward our table, we pointed to the delicious dish we were eating, and tried to communicate via hand motions that we would like four more of the same dish. Instead of receiving this, we were given three huge plates of plain white rice.

The waiters were confused with us and could not figure out exactly what we were asking for. We tried to explain that we were sorry, and that we would just eat what we were given. They did not understand, so we happily ate the most white rice I’ve ever eaten in one sitting. At first, we were unsure of how to feel about the situation. I do not want to speak for everyone in the small group, but I was frustrated with myself. I was annoyed that I did not know how to say anything else but I’m sorry, and thank you. I was regretting the fact that I had not prepared more for this trip, and learned a bit more vocabulary before throwing myself into a new culture. It is quite funny now that we look back at it. I don’t know how they made even plain white rice taste so good!

Luckily, we start language courses tomorrow! I cannot wait to learn as much as I can in these short three months. I know that it will be an incredible feeling once I am able to speak with the people here, because they truly are wonderful. Thanks for checking in with me! Wishing everyone the best.

*What is the meaning of a Vietnamese buddy? Each of us have a partner who is currently attending National University here in Saigon, that hang out with us and helps us to understand Vietnamese customs and culture. My buddy’s name is Bao, and he is a sophomore studying Sociology at the university! 

*What is CET? CET Academic Programs is the organization that puts together our trip. Check out their page for more information!


Perhaps my favorite photo so far simply because I was able to test out my “chụp ảnh?”, meaning “take a photo?” This construction worker was happy to pose for me, as I walked down the streets of Cho Lon. 

Entrance way. The beauty of Cho Lon can be seen in the mixing of Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, which has been occurring for thousands of  years. 

Buddhist monks walk, collecting money for the monastery. Traditional and modern culture mix here, as the two men interact with the booming Saigon streets. 

To see more photos from this trip, please see my Facebook album here: