Day two in Vietnam has been characterized by many surprises.
Our day began at the University of Economics and Finance once again. Our group was receiving a lecture on Urban Development. I was giddy with excitement as this is a topic that I have always been very interested in. Last semester, I even had a period of time when I was thinking of switching to being an Urban Studies major. The lecture included a brief history of Vietnam which showed how far that Vietnam has come.
From ancient struggles with China to the recent war with America, Vietnam has persevered through it all. Our lecturer explained the many ways in which Ho Chi Minh City has developed through history. It started from the integration of districts coming together and mainly the migration of Vietnamese people to the city. When it was first developing, the city lacked solid infrastructure and organization. It was riddled with pollution and an overcrowded pollution. But as time went on, Ho Chi Minh City began allowing businesses to help organize the city.
After class was finished, a student came up to me saying that she had a gift for me. An, the student, opened up her notebook and handed me a small paper with a picture on it. The picture was a drawn portrait of me! I had just met this girl earlier before class and she decided to draw a picture of me. The picture had a distinct anime feel to it and I loved it. I was so honored and surprised that she would do something like that for me. I politely asked if I could hug her and she accepted. The more I interact with the students the more I realize how similar we are. They deal with the same stress and problems as we do. I am excited to continue to get to know more of them.
After our class on urban development, we visited a Vietnamese urban development company, Phu My Hung Corporation. The corporation’s mission is to urbanize the Southern Saigon part of the city. Already they have developed residential complexes, business areas, international schools and natural “reseverations”. A tour guide presented a flashy presentation that spoke on all the company’s achievements. The company claimed that they offered an affordable plan to the people of the city, but in reality it is pretty expensive. They told us that an average condo cost may be about $100,000 in U.S. dollars which seems cheap to us, but to the citizens of Ho Chi Minh City the cost is very high. This expensive price causes the gap between the rich and the poor of the city to widen. Those of low income status are not able to gain the same amenities and resources as those who can afford to live in the Phu My Minh section of the city.
The entire corporation pretty much owns everything in its landscape limits. This kind of control would never be able to happen in the United States because our government has strict laws over the immense power of monopolies like Phu My Hung. It was alarming to realize how much control the corporation actually has. Every building in its sector had large banners with the company’s logo. It just startlingly reminded me of one of a corporations that ends up controlling everything. It was just a very different kind of urban placement.
The company also claimed to follow certain environmental guidelines, but that aspect was not very present. When someone asked a question revolving around this topic the tour guide explained the sector’s usage of wastewater treatment centers and environmental building strategies. These systems are environmentally friendly, but the sector has numerous “reservations” or open marsh land that has not be touched. Just green space. The company says the green space is used to add a natural charm to the area. In reality, all the space is planned to be used for future development like the upcoming metro station stop. The Phu My Hung Corporation is a prime example of the importance of seeing what companies truly do firsthand. Ultimately, the company is trying to modernize and help Ho Chi Minh compete with all the other major cities of the world.
The spirit of perseverance continues to thrive in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Until tomorrow!
P.S. We also had some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. The shrimp tempura with egg and white rice from our lunch was out of this world. I was having an emotional experience with the food. It was just that good, I don’t even think that words truly capture the explosion of flavor that my taste buds were experiencing.