Our first day consisted a series of extremely interesting and fun events that really brought me out of my comfort zone in an extremely exciting way. Starting with breakfast, it was a combination of, in my opinion, a Vietnamese style of our usual American cuisine and other Vietnamese dishes. It was quite a way to start the day as the breakfast was delicious.
One of our main events was the welcome ceremony. First of all, the students and faculty of the University of Economics and Finance (UEF) were incredibly kind and welcoming. We received flowers and other gifts as the morning persisted. The morning’s ceremony was strikingly beautiful. It was filled with traditional Vietnamese dances and songs. But then it took another turn. It went from strikingly beautiful to youthfully fun. We played games with our Vietnamese counterparts at UEF and even sang and danced along with them. This all happened within a relatively normal-looking building in the city. With this said, it is clear that all though, the city can have a dilapidated look throughout many of its streets. Inside the buildings, however, one can see the development of the city. UEF was an up-to-date, well-functioning university with an absolutely spectacular view.
One surprising thing is that it is in fact possible to learn Vietnamese. A tonal language with letters and sounds that you’ve never been experienced with can be pretty intimidating. After one twenty-minute class and some help from our Vietnamese friends, learning the language not only seems possible, but also interesting.
Next in our day was our bus tour of Ho Chi Minh City. On this trip we learned the architectural beauty of the city, specifically the French district and the big market. The post office was designed by Alexander Eiffel, the same man who designed the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. In fact, a lot of the French district was impressive with the combination of age and beautiful architecture.
Finally, we went out for a traditional Vietnamese dinner. This was my first hostile encounter with the Vietnamese cuisine. It put up good fight but in the end, my body prevailed. I’m sure as the trip goes on my tolerance of the new cuisine will improve. All in all, it was a great meal for the first night and experiencing the local food.