entry1: memories of vietnam

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

// hello all c:

what follows in the next two paragraphs are reflections. skip to the next subheading for vietnam specific content ~~

First of all, I want to apologize for beginning this blog a bit late. I didn’t realize that I’d be so reluctant to set up space and time in my week to do reflections and write about it, although now I think I’m realizing that I’m the type of person that really needs a space that allows my thoughts to fill it freely. It’d either be a big empty room, or a place entirely filled with people, but I think the main thing I need is to feel are my thoughts staying anonymous until what I’ve written becomes finalized and ready for other eyes to be seen. This kind of stuff feels pretty personal and has been hard to process, so the ideal is to be able to write uninterrupted, but, it’s all in all a small issue. Anyways, reflection times always feel freeing, so I’m grateful for this opportunity that FEA is giving me to force myself to make time and create space for this kind of thought.

I wonder what I’ll learn about myself in these next few months and what I’ll end up documenting here, but for now, let me tell you a bit about Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! Or rather, Saigon. There’s quite a bit of history behind the names that I could go into, but let’s just leave it as is for now.

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// first impressions: then and now.

Actually, this isn’t my first time coming to Saigon, or to Vietnam.

A bit of background about myself – I’m Vietnamese Chinese, born in the United States. My parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam over 20 years ago, but we’ve still got family here in VN, so we come to visit every 4 or 5 years or so. In my life so far, I’ve been back 3 times (I think? Honestly, memories from when I was small are blurry, haha), and this semester abroad will be my fourth time back!!

Coming back now though, I have a very different understanding of the kind of sights and activities that could be taken either as commonplace or completely different compared to what I knew 7 or 8 years ago. My first memories of Vietnam are actually from my second trip over, back when I was about 14. When I first landed and got off the airplane, the weather hit me hard. I’d never experienced such hot and humid weather, and I was so uncomfortable. At that point, I’d only ever really known the cushy temperate temperatures of the Bay Area my whole life, and the 90 degree weather.. ahh.. took some getting used to, to say the least.

Next was the intensity of traffic on the streets.

Vietnam is known for its motorbike culture, and when we were first driving around, I was completely amazed by it. I wow’d and whoa’d and had my eyes glued to the windows for who knows how long during that first van ride. Within the first few minutes of getting on, countless motorbikes were coming up close on all sides trying to push further down the road on the already crowded streets.

Our driver would stop just inches away from the car in front of it, braking suddenly, accelerating, and then weaving through the streets whenever there was a chance. And ohh, the honking. There was sooo much honking! Although, honking culture in VN is nothing like it is in the US. In VN, it seems that people usually honk to let others know that they’re there and trying to get past. It’s a good way of making sure you don’t get run over or have to stop really suddenly (and dangerously). Because the streets are so packed in Saigon, especially around the airport, the amount of honking noises that filled the air was innumerable.

the city is full of motorbikes – expect to find them all around you whereever you go – on the streets, on the sidewalks, in the shop where you’re looking for your new pair of slippers.. everywhere.

Anyways, being in Saigon now, I feel unsurprised seeing and feelings things things like that now. It’s super different, especially now that I’m a lot older and understand things in a different way. But I’ll get to that later haha. This is probably a lot for now ~

Next blog post I’ll tell write more about my program and initial feelings about that!

Catch ya on the next!! //

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(Sidenote: that time, we had to rent a 7 seater van despite only having 3 people because we had, and always will have, SO MUCH LUGGAGE. it’s customary to bring food and other things back from the US as gifts for family and friends. we travelled halfway across the world to get here, after all – might as well bring a few things //or a few large boxes// back to show our thanks and love to the fam!)