Day 4: America in Vietnam

Like both yesterday and the day before, today began with classes at UEF. First, there was a lecture on the history and culture of Vietnam. We learned briefly about the early expansion of Vietnam and the different cultural regions of Vietnam. The UEF students put on a fashion show and dressed in traditional ao dai as well as clothing from diffrent regions of Vietnam. There are 54 minority groups spread throughout Vietnam. During our language lesson, we learned numbers and how to ask for the price of an item. Tomorrow we will continue to learn how to bargain in preparation for our trip to Ben Thanh Market next week.

In an interesting turn of events, the group went to McDonald’s for lunch. Sitting in Vietnam while eating my first Big Mac felt a bit odd. It is certainly a prime example of globalization to see American companies like McDonald’s on the other side of the globe. However, even though we were eating the same food as in America, it was interesting to hear the Vietnamese perspective. In the USA, most people I know see McDonald’s as a cheap, easy, and sometimes undesirable place to eat. In Vietnam, some students have told me that McDonald’s is expensive and that it is a treat to eat there.

After lunch, we went to VinaCapital for our site visit. However, due to miscommunication, the tour was cancelled and we went to visit the War Remnants Museum instead. At the museum, we read about the devastation of the Vietnam War on the Vietnamese people and landscape, and we saw photos of the gruesome effects of war. The use of Agent Orange and the cruelty of the soldiers was horrible. Two million Vietnamese civilians were killed in the war, and Agent Orange and unexploded ordinances continue to disable and kill Vietnamese today.

Before this trip, our teacher warned us that the museum might be unsettling and upsetting. Due to this, I entered the museum with the idea that there would be propaganda and biased information. However, in my opinion, the museum was nothing but truthful. The photos were horrific and the actions of the US government and soldiers were upsetting. What is truly unsettling is that when many Americans learn about the Vietnam War in high school, much of the cruelty of the the war is skimmed over.

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