May 16th – A Morning at the Market


Ben Thanh Market


I was really excited to get up and get going this morning because we were headed to the market to get souvenirs and use our Vietnamese language bartering skills.  When we got to the market I was a little on edge because the sellers call out to you and are very persistent when they’re trying to make a sale.  I went into the market with a few souvenir ideas in my head, but I also wanted to shop around to see if anything else caught my eye.  It was difficult to look because as soon as a shopkeeper saw you looking at their goods they would run over and ask what you wanted or start suggesting items that they wanted us to buy.  I like to think when I shop and these high-pressure situations were not catered to me.  I tried to use my Vietnamese language skills in the beginning to say “too expensive” but right after she started throwing prices and asking what I wanted to pay or what the maximum I could pay was.  She was going so quickly, I could barely think in English, so my Vietnamese did not stand a chance.  However, I did finish each sale with a “thank you” in Vietnamese.  I felt that I was very successful in my bartering tactics.  I would always at least get 50% off of the price they wanted in the beginning, but usually, it was a lot more than that.  I didn’t really rely on the UEF students too much, but only once when I was trying to buy a horn I asked for assistance.  The shopkeeper was trying to explain that I was her first customer of the day, but as I do not speak Vietnamese, I needed a UEF student to explain what she was trying to say.  The UEF student explained that I was her first customer of the day.  By being the first customer, if she could make the sale to me, she would have good luck with making sales to customers all day.  So it was really important to her to sell, and therefore she was willing to take a very low price.  This is fairly different from usual shopping in the U.S.  However, I go to yard sales in America with my Mom who is a PRO at bargaining.   So I thought I was prepared for it, but people in America take a lot of time to mill over prices, and here they move so fast you typically can’t think as fast.  I think I would prefer this way of bargaining in the U.S. if it was slower.  The seller will not sell to you if they aren’t at least making a little profit so it generally works better than the way Americans just overprice everything.  I think the cultural values of family and trust in each other is a foundation for bartering because everyone wants to meet in the middle and typically Vietnamese to Vietnamese, no one gets ripped off with prices.  This cannot be said for tourists.

After buying all our souviners, we returned to school for our final Vietnamese language class.  It was really sad because we had lucked out with an energetic and fun teacher.  He taught us another song, and he reviewed a lot of what we learned in all our other classes.  I am really glad I had the opportunity to learn some Vietnamese, and practice a little with the students.  We ate lunch at UEF again and then we went back to class to learn about Buddhism.  We learned about Buddhist’s five precepts which are: no killing, no stealing, no sexual misbehavior, no harmful language, and no use of intoxicants.  It seemed to have the same basic values as Chistianity which are loving each other and peace.  Religion fits into Vietnamese culture extremely well.  From what I have been able to tell, a lot of Vietnamese people belong to some form of religion and it is a way they are able to pray and come together with other people under common beliefs.  The government encourages this religious freedom to let every citizen choose what religion they want to be.


The front of the Buddhist Temple.


After class we went to a Buddhist temple: Hùa Phuóc Hai.  It was really eyeopening to be there amoung Buddhists who were praying and honoring the Buddha.  We got incense to light and use to pray for whatever we wanted and we got the chance to slowly walk around and just take it all in.  During class, I asked what more can we do to be respectful in the Pagoda besides covering our knees and shoulders.  Our teacher said that we should remain quiet inside.  Quietness shows that you are thinking inside, which is the main goal of being in a Pagoda, to think, reflect, and pray.  The Pagoda we went to was one people go to to pray for children.  It was a unique experience to view people praying to Buddha and watching their rituals of gifting incense, food, drinks, and flowers.  They typically prayed for happiness, health, luck, and fertility at this Pagoda.


War Remnants Museum front.


After the Pagoda, we drove to the War Remnants Museum which highlighted the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese government’s perspective.  I felt very open-minded walking into the museum.  However, I did not expect to feel so defensive of my country during the tour of the museum.  The pictures were acurate, but some of the descriptions really started to get under my skin because I felt that they weren’t correct.  After talking with one of our instructors, I realized I just had to keep reminding myself that this museum is from the Communist government’s perspective, and so the quotes and descriptions cannot always be accurate.  The affects of the agent orange chemical were just as devestating as i had heard and learned before.  It was terrible to see what it had done and is still doing to this population.  I wish there could be more for us to do to clean it up and rid it from the country.  I felt as though there was some propaganda from the government about the war, and a more unfavorable view of the United States. Which, as we have seen here, is completely different than the citizen’s 94% favorability rating of the U.S.A.  All in all, I am glad we went.  It is really important to study these views and learn how to have a more global perspective.


A propaganda sign by the Vietnamese Government outside of the war museum.  


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