After the indescribable and amazing welcome ceremony, where I was immediately immersed in Vietnamese culture, and learned about the legacy of the Plus 3 program, I got to partake in a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. Seeing the hammer and sickle on street signs, where it was not feared was the most striking part of the tour. American propaganda has created a negative connotation with the logo, and I felt very uneasy seeing it in such a normal place. Especially because the street on which the logo was displayed was booming with businesses and shops-there was even a McDonalds just a block away! The McDonalds, Popeyes, Pizzahut, and Starbucks I saw on every other street corner show the integration of Vietnam with the rest of the world, and how globalization has put the same brands that I can walk to from my house in Chicago within walking distance from my hotel in Vietnam. There was also construction happening in conjunction with Japan and I could hear buildings being built from my hotel room which shows that Vietnam is creating space for even more businesses. The barges with loads of cargo that I saw during the Welcome Dinner show further prove there is lots of activity happening in this economy and that it is growing.
The Welcome Dinner and the introduction ceremony surprised me because Culture Smart gave me the impression that the Vietnamese were shy because they were so polite. However, just because they are polite does not mean that the Vietnamese are shy-they are the most outgoing people I have met. During the dinner the service and format of the meal was pretty similar to an American meal-except that there was a lot more food and the food was unlike anything I would normally eat in America. My favorite course was the Chicken mixed with honey. The most different aspect of the meal was the use of chopsticks, something that I struggle with very much.