Day 9, whoop, whoop! Today was a very eventful and emotional day. The big activities were visiting a Buddhist pagoda, figuring out the origin of swastikas, visiting a market, visiting the War Remnants Museum, and attending our fitting for our custom suits!
I had already known the basics of the Buddhist religion, but I had never been to an actual pagoda where people worship. The pagoda was beautifully decorated and had shrines dedicated to Buddha with offerings of fruit, flowers, and water. It was a spiritual place that helped me gain new understanding.
I was shocked to find a few swastika symbols in the city. After researching it with my roommate, we discovered that the swastika was originally a Buddhist symbol for peace. Ancient Greeks later used it and the Germans then adopted it to mean “Germanic Pride.” Of course, then it was used expansively as a symbol of nationalism for Germany during a very dark period of history.
I am sorry to say that the overall tone of the blog doesn’t get lighter because now I’m going to talk about my experience going to the War Remnants Museum. I knew right off the bat that going through this museum was an experience that I needed to do alone, so I quickly detached myself from the group and went about observing. The visuals that I saw of the effects of Agent Orange made me sick to my stomach. And while all of the photos were disturbing, the exhibit that will stick with me the most is, “The Effects of Agent Orange Through the Eyes of Children.” It is hard to describe, but it felt like something out of my nightmares. To see such colorfully drawn pictures of death and suffering physically hurt as I learned of all of the pain that those children endured. At that moment, I was frustrated that people were hurt and that there was nothing I could do to help them. It was eye-opening to see the war from the perspective of the people living in Vietnam.
On a lighter note, I got to try out my Grade A bargaining skills at the market. I expected the market to be slightly overwhelming and knew that bargaining was common, so I made sure to keep a stern facial expression. I bought a jade pendant, and I think that I got a pretty good deal on that. I then went around and helped other people bargain for their deals. We figured out that the best thing to do was to have two people go in and one play good cop and the other play bad cop. If the shop owner didn’t want to cooperate then we’d start walking away. Ninety-nine percent of the time they would re-approach us. Despite this tactic, most of us still paid top dollar….oh well, we tried. At least I got a pretty piece of jewelry out of it.
After the market, we went to UEF to get fitted for our custom suits. Buying these suits was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life. I got two beautiful custom suits for $260 USD combined, and in the United States, I could only get one for about $400. If you come on the Vietnam Plus3 trip, make sure to get the custom suits! You will not regret it.
After that everyone went out to dinner at a Mexican place and it was surprisingly good! I thought it was hilarious because this entire trip the Vietnamese kids have had to help us order food, and tonight the role was reversed. We are in the final stretch of this trip. Ugh, that’s too sad to think about. I will see you guys tomorrow!