Today, we started off with a lesson on Vietnamese history and culture (right after seeing copious amounts of puppies on the bus ride over to UEF). The history lecture was full of new information for me. Beforehand, I knew next to nothing about why French was even spoken in Vietnam or the influence wars with China have had on the country. Next, for the culture section, we saw a variety of traditional Vietnamese styles of dress. I was very interested in the differences between Southern and Northern styles because they were pretty significant. I was also surprised at how much fabric some of the outfits had – I can’t imagine wearing most of them in this heat!
After our lecture, we continued our Vietnamese language class. Today, we learned a lot about how we’re expected to bargain with street vendors, starting with an introduction to numbers. This lesson was definitely less involved than ones where we were asking each other for loads of information, but difficult nonetheless.
For lunch, we were all surprised (some more excited than others) to find out we were going to McDonald’s. The Vietnamese students had told us that it was a more expensive restaurant and had very good food, so I was very intrigued. Needless to say, this McDonald’s was quite different than, say, the one on Forbes. It had at least four floors and each one held a good chunk of people. It was nicely decorated, the food was all good, and it was in fact much more expensive than the dinners we had the past few nights. While I’m excited to try as many new Vietnamese foods as possible while we’re here, I still loved getting the chance to take note of these differences.
Finally, for our last group activity of the day, we headed to the War Remnants Museum. This was by far the most eye opening part of our trip so far. I’m the first to admit that I don’t know nearly enough about the history I’ve been taught, and my history courses have never gone into any detail about the Vietnam War. Parts of this museum were hard to take in – many of the pictures were very graphic and every single story was heart wrenching. I had no idea the extent that Agent Orange had affected the Vietnamese to. When I saw that 2,000 people in the fourth generation following were still being directly affected, I was completely shocked. It was hard to read a lot of the information because it was so emotional, but that is exactly what made it so powerful.