Today was one of our more busy days. In he morning we returned to the Ben Tanh morning market to practice our bartering phrases we learned the day before. However during my shopping, I found myself not actually needing them as all of the vendors I interacted with spoke English. Using the strategy of starting really low and working your way up, I was able to get some gifts for my family discounted by tens of thousands of Dong. Despite my deals I still left the market feeling somewhat ripped off, even though all of my gifts were way cheaper than they would have been in the U.S. I really appreciated having the UEF students there, as they told us what an actually reasonable price would be for some products. The market was one of my least favorite parts of the trip, as I found it exhausting being hounded by vendors and having to negotiate a price. I’d rather just have a set price for convenience and time saving, probably due to my American sensibilities.
In the afternoon, we had our last Vietnamese Language class and ended on a high note with singing and salsa dancing. I’m really going to miss our teacher Danny, who was always entertaining. Our next class focuses on Buddhism and it’s prevalence in Vietnam. Buddhism is Vietnam’s most popular religion with 13% of the population. However the majority of the population is not religious at all, or follows other smaller religions. The government appears relaxed on the topic of religious freedom due to the diversity of religions followed in the country.
After class we visited the Jade Emperor Pagoda, also known as the Tortoise Pagoda with its pond filled with little tortoises. The pagoda is beautiful, with many different golden shrines to different gods and goddesses for love and fertility. After lighting some incense and hoping for good luck, we then headed to the War Remnants Museum.
The War Remnants Museum was tough, with graphic images and stories of the horrors caused by the Vietnam War. It’s so difficult to understand how it is possible to inflict such pain on others, and I felt ashamed that I didn’t learn as much about the other perspective on the war before. The museum was very eye-opening, and I’m glad I could experience it while I’m here.
It’s been long and somewhat emotionally challenging day, but the insights I’ve gained into this special place make it worth it.