Day 9: Today, first we went to the Ben Tanh Market, then had our last Vietnamese class and history class, traveled to a Buddhist temple and finally visited the War Remnants Museum. Today started out pretty standard as a learning experience, with the visit to the market being a little different, but ended out pretty deeply as we visited the War Remnants museum, it was a lot to take in.
First off, bartering at the Ben Tanh Market was at the same time fun and very tiring. At the beginning, I was buying a couple of shirts, negotiating prices without the use of any students. It was slightly exhilarating, trying to get the best price without deliberately angering the shopkeepers. I pulled out all the tactics, negotiated prices until it seemed that an ultimatum was met. Then if I was still aiming for a lower price, I’d start to walk away, and of course they’d always grab my shoulder, tell me something cheesy like they’d give me a lower price because I look like a relative they have and agree to my price. I have had experience with bartering before when I traveled to Rome and London because they have little markets there too, but not really on this kind of scale. I do like this form of bargaining over some of the fixed price sin the shops at the US, simply because you can almost anything, if you’re good enough at what you’re saying. One day I’ll be able to get by when I hone my skills. But for now, I ended my day with three t-shirts and a gong, paying half price or less for each.
In the afternoon we had a lesson on Buddhism, as well as visited a Buddhist temple. The entire experience seemed very surreal, I felt like there was something special about the temple as I walked through it. They kept many animals around, like turtles and fish in little ponds. The area felt quite tranquil, even given the fact that we were all talking. It felt like a true sanctuary. Despite many communist countries usually forcing their citizens to give up religion entirely, Buddhism is widely practiced in Vietnam, as well along with many other religions and beliefs. The Vietnamese leans towards practicing the Theravada form of Buddhism, opposed to the Chinese way of Mahayana Buddhism. Religion fits in a lot of ways culturally, from passing down stories to temple worship being a common social activity to wish for things like love and prosperity.
Finally, we visited the War Remnants museum. I’ll be honest, I didn’t take the situation too well. The way we perceive the Vietnamese war back in the US is always seen as numbers and vague pictures. Nothing seems to be real, it all seems so far away. However when I entered that museum and started to look at some of the things the US military committed to, it hurt. It made me bitter about war itself and why we believed we had to put so many lives in such a horrible place, just to enforce ideals. Anyways, the museum itself was very well put together, and highlighted the horrors of war very well. Both the government and the citizens of Vietnam seem to agree similarly that while the war was very bad, we have passed by and have grown our relationships very well. There may be a few unanswered questions, but no war has all conflicts fully solved out.