Extreme Couponing: Vietnam Edition

Today I got to check something off my personal bucket list that I had been looking forward to ever since I heard that it was something that we were going to do on this trip. We got to go to the Ben Tanh Market and actually barter for the things we were buying. That is a crazy and hectic environment, as I literally had women pulling me by the arm to try and convince me to buy there merchandise. I can see how it is very easy to get overwhelmed in that kind of environment, but personally I loved it and feel like I did pretty well at actually getting a good price for what I bought. I pretty much immediately went out on my own without a Vietnamese student to aid me because we got separated about as soon as we walked in the door. So I managed to get by speaking English with the sellers, but the little Vietnamese I stumbled through I felt impressed them and helped me get a lower price. This is pretty different than shopping in the United States where to get a discount, you either have to wait for the store to have a sale, or be like my mom and coupon like crazy to save dollars wherever you can. This method is cool and exotic, but in comparison I feel like it would get old after a while and I feel like it’s easier to get taken advantage of if you don’t know what to do, so I’ll stick to the way of buying things in America. Bartering itself I feel applies to the business side of the globalization and development of Vietnam, as they have to often perform these face to face transactions to get the deals with foreign investors done for an appropriate price.

We also went to see the Xa Loi Pagoda and learn about how Buddhism works in lecture today which was interesting as I’m not very religious but had only ever been exposed to Christianity before today. Just overall the different outlook they have on how to attain peace with ones self really gave me a new viewpoint on how I deal with some of my problems. From what I learned today in lecture about how the government handles religion I didn’t really hear that they directly restrain it, but I felt that the amount of people that identified as nonreligious seemed a tad out of place in comparison to my understanding of how the countries surrounding Vietnam handle religion. Learning about the location we visited and how the man burned himself alive in protest of the war was confusing at first but began to become crystal clear as we moved on to the War Remnants Museum.

My entire life I had never really seen the general actions of the United States as evil or wrong, but today while standing and looking at horrific pictures in the museum, my understanding on what I thought I was well versed on started to become distorted. I don’t know what to think anymore as I understand that some of what I saw today might have been propaganda by the government against the Americans who halted their spread of communism, at least for a while but I can’t simply pass off all of the things that I saw today.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I have only felt that kind of sorrow in a museum during my visit to the Flight 93 Memorial but in different ways. In the Flight 93 Memorial I was basically brought to tears listening to the final words of the heroes on that plane that prevented whatever they had planned for that day. Today was different as it was more guilt I was feeling as I looked at pictures of the outcome of a preventable conflict that to be honest should have never happened. I know that what happened can’t be undone and from what I hear from the Vietnamese students they keep it in the past and look towards the future, I guess it’s just the way the government portrayed the US soldiers as demons really rubbed me the wrong way, because in reality most of them were just following orders and had no idea what they were really fighting for. The choices were made though, now we live with the consequences and there is nothing I can do about that.

A statue made out of bomb shrapnel from the Vietnam War.

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