Today was such a brimful day.
Following an entertaining and informative lecture on Buddhism, our group ventured to the memorial of the famous monk who had publicly emulated himself as an act of protest in recent history. We spent some time here, then made our way to the Xa Loi Pagoda. What I found most interesting about these lectures, visits, and religion in Vietnam as a whole, was that over 80 percent of the population doesn’t hold any faith. Though, Buddhism has the greatest following out of all of the religions held within the country.
Next in our all-encompassing schedule was lunch. We were each able to order for ourselves while there, and Ellie pointed out that everyone had gotten something reflective of their personalities. If it helps at all to prove her observation, I got a rainbow roll – which was delicious, fish scales and all.
Stomachs full (as they always are on this trip), we walked down the block to our next site visit, VinaCapital. One mission of VinaCapital, among so many, is to help children in Vietnam to be healthy, so that they might one day be able to give back to Vietnam, themselves. A prime example is their program that organizes open heart surgery for young children with CHD. Our speakers – one featured on Shark Tank Vietnam – explained that 1,600 children are born with this condition every year and 85% of those diagnosed suffer and die before adulthood. They explained, too, that children’s illness is a leading cause of poverty, which in turn inhibits women and development as a whole. It is this reasoning that gives context to VinaCapital’s final statement and their role in the development of all of Vietnam – “It’s all about building up the middle class.” If VinaCapital lessens the burden of medical costs in families, they reduce one of the greater causes of poverty, in turn allowing for greater savings and (slowly but surely) higher qualities of life.
(Almost) Finally, we wandered the Ben Tanh Market in search of deals on souvenirs. Brian had challenged us to bargain for the cheapest pair of chopsticks, so Blaise spent his time angering and offending every storeowner with low offers for only one set in a pack. Our first attempt resulted in a woman chasing us down and hitting him with a calculator. But, I got the cutest dragonflies, so I consider it successful overall (Brian was just as excited). We then went back to the hotel to try on our traditional Vietnamese clothing, followed by a girls trip to the nail salon. Finally, Hanna, Maddie and I went back to the market to shop with some experience under our knock-off Gucci belts. After I purchased even more dragonflies, we ran into Peter, Clay, and Blaise, and made our way back after Peter once again showcased his worrisome bargaining skills (he paid over the initial list price).
Though at first I was emotionally abused, by the end of the night I was a bargaining machine. I’ll add it to my list of lessons-learned on this trip – maybe it’ll come in handy again someday.