Today was an interesting day, and not just because we saw a man with a whole litter of puppies on the street this morning. We started off with a Vietnamese history and culture class, taught by our usual language teacher. We learned about the demographics of the country, including the fact that there are a total of 54 different ethnic groups in Vietnam. Once we got to the culture of Vietnam, our teacher brought out several of her students and they put on a fashion show for us. They modeled and described several traditional outfits from different regions and ethnic groups.
In our language class today, we learned how to count and talked about bargaining at the market. Today seemed a lot more manageable than previous days, but we did cover less material and didn’t practice many conversations. I’m excited to put my bargaining skills to the test at the market next week, even though I foresee myself giving in too easily.
For lunch, we were surprised with a trip to McDonald’s on the way to VinaCapital. In Vietnam, McDonald’s is an expensive treat. One of the Vietnamese students told me yesterday that since the Vietnamese government taxes McDonald’s so much, the company has higher prices than other local restaurants. We asked her what she thought of McDonald’s and American food in general. She told us that since McDonald’s is so special, she and her friends assume that all American food is delicious and fresh. I couldn’t help but laugh and break the news to her that an American McDonald’s is about as least fresh as food gets.
The actual meal was unlike any McDonald’s experience I’ve had in America. Since we are such a large group, we did not wait in line and order for ourselves. Instead, we were seated on the second floor and were brought trays with Coke, Big Macs, fried chicken wings, and French fries. From my conversation with the students yesterday I assumed that the food from McDonald’s here would be better than in America, and I agree. I have never eaten so much McDonald’s in one sitting in my life. Interestingly enough, that was also my first ever Big Mac. Who would’ve thought I would have to travel half way around the world just to try a Big Mac for the first time!
In the afternoon, our meeting with VinaCapital was rescheduled and things took a sadder turn. We spent the afternoon in the War Remnants Museum. Both my world and American history classes just barely skimmed over the Vietnam War, so I went in with little background knowledge. The museum seemed to be very factual and accurate, and less biased than I thought it would be. I was underwhelmed at first, because the first floor contained only photos and propaganda posters from protests against the war. However, walking through the second and third floors was eye-opening. They were full of pictures of American soldiers torturing Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. I learned that there were thousands of tons of unexploded bombs left in Vietnam since the war, which have killed or injured hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese since the war ended. We flipped through a picture book meant to teach children what to do if they found a bomb, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have to educate such young children about that. Another exhibit showcased the effects of Agent Orange. The multitude of birth defects and health problems caused by Agent Orange were mostly unfamiliar to me, so it was shocking and heart breaking to see what so many people have gone through as a result of the war, even generations later.