Day 13: Tạm Biệt Saigon – 5/19/19 (Wait Why Am I Still Here?)

            After this amazing trip, I wanted to reflect on my experience and how it has shaped me. Overall, this trip has given me a whole new perspective through which to see the world. I have never experienced a city like Ho Chi Minh City before. With its charming mix of new high rises and old, modest shacks, I have seen firsthand how a city develops slowly, in little bits and pieces. The kindness and love that I have been shown from people who were complete strangers to me has helped me to open my arms to new people. I have seen how rural citizens live their lives, and now, I have much more respect for their work and their perseverance. I have seen pain and suffering caused by war that I cannot describe in words, and I am humbled by it. It has really put things into perspective for me because I have much more insignificant problems, yet I always thought they were the worst thing in the world.

The main skill that this trip has helped me to develop is flexibility and adaptability. From last-minute schedule changes to learning to live a new way of life for two weeks, this skill has evolved. However, the most prominent example of this skill was when my flight was cancelled. Instead of heading back to the US, I am going to Australia to visit family. My flight was scheduled for an hour before everyone else’s, and everything was working out wonderfully: I’d be able to get the bus with the group and hang out before my flight. Then, around 5:00, my aunt messaged me informing me that my flight had been cancelled. This is the first time I’m travelling alone, and my flight get cancelled? I had absolutely no idea what to do, and I started to freak out. After calming down, I called my parents and they gave me advice. I needed to call the airline help service, but I was informed that I couldn’t make international calls from the hotel, and the only place that I could was the post office (I had been there earlier, and it was a 15-minute walk). Luckily, my dad set up an international plan for the day. I tried calling and texting the airline help service, but no one answered, so I went to the airport. Bunny called me a Grab, and sent me on my way with well-wishes and told me to give her updates. I went to the airport and had to go to three counters and ask an Australian couple that I found about where to go. I waited two hours for the counter to open, and got in line behind the couple and a group of girls in their 20s. I wasn’t sure of what to ask for, since I’d never done this before. I strained my ears to listen what the others asked for. When I got to the counter, the woman told me that the option was to fly to Singapore that night, wait in the Singapore airport for 18 hours (with no lounge access and the inability to leave the airport), and then fly to Melbourne. I decided to ask if there were flights to Sydney and then to Melbourne. Luckily, after waiting 20 minutes for them to check, they said that I was good to go and just had to book a hotel for the night. I had no idea where to stay, and I was scared since I was alone. The group of girls I had seen before was standing near me, so I went up and asked them where they were staying. We then decided to all stay in the same hotel, which was the hotel that two of the girls had stayed in during their trip. We got a Grab together and got to the hotel, grabbed dinner, and walked around Ben Tanh Market. Now, I’m going to hang out with Alice (one of the Vietnamese students) for a bit and then hang out at the hotel pool until we have to leave for the airport tonight This situation helped me to become more adaptable because I learned that everything will end up working out alright. I learned to deal with the fact that I had to make a last-minute booking and change from a direct flight to a 1-stop flight. I also learned to put myself out there by talking to complete strangers and making friends with the three girls.

The next skill that I developed further was time management. I have always had a very busy schedule, so I am typically good at managing my time. However, this trip was more difficult to do that because I wanted to experience as much of Ho Chi Minh City as possible before leaving. In addition, the WiFi at the hotel was very slow, so I had to learn to account for the hour it took just to upload the photos and submit the blog on time. On the second Tuesday of our trip, our day was packed. We went from class to a Buddhist temple to lunch to the War Remnants museum to Ben Tanh Market to UEF to dinner. All of the bus rides were pretty short as well, so I didn’t have much time to work on my blog. In addition, the War Remnants Museum made it a heavy blog. Right after dinner, the Vietnamese students wanted to hang out with us. I felt badly saying no, but I knew that I had to complete my blog. Since everyone else was on the WiFi, it took me in between 2 and 3 hours to upload. Luckily, since I had declined hanging out with the Vietnamese students, I submitted it on time, and I was able to get a decent amount of sleep. This situation helped me to budget my time. On each bus ride, I wrote a few sentences. In addition, while we were waiting to try on our tailored suits, instead of socializing, I worked on my blog. It also helped me to balance my wishes to do well in Plus3 and to socialize and get the most out of my trip.

Finally, I developed my communication skills. Since many people that we spoke with had English as their second language, I had to learn to rephrase my questions so that they understood and so that it still had the same essence and message as my original question. I had to learn to do this on the spot, so the quick thinking helped to develop these skills. I also learned to communicate extremely basically with people in Vietnamese. This helped me to increase the number of people that I could communicate with. The most prominent example of developing my communication skills was when we went to the mall at VSIP. Julia and I broke away from our little group of people to get milk tea. The cashier didn’t speak any English at all. We each pointed to what we wanted, but when the cashier showed us the total, it was incorrect; she had added an extra drink. I shook my head to indicate it was incorrect and gestured my arms in a “no” motion. Luckily, a few days before, we learned how to say different numbers in Vietnamese. I told her “32” in Vietnamese (she had told us 64). Then, we pointed at the drink and said “one” in Vietnamese and held up one finger. She then seemed to understand what I was saying, and the order ended up being correct. This taught me to not only use my newly learned verbal skills, but also my non-verbal communication skills. I learned to give a universal sign and I effectively used my new language knowledge and correctly (more like correctly enough) pronounced the numbers. This situation also helped me to learn to improvise and think quickly when it comes to communicating because I had to remember how to say the numbers quickly and how to adapt to a situation in another language.

Throughout the trip, I have developed many transferable skills and seen many new perspectives of life. This has helped me to develop overall as a person. These skills will help me throughout my life and will give me an advantage in the workforce. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip and experience new things. And, although I had a great time, I am excited to arrive in Australia for my next adventure. For now, I am ready to say goodbye to Saigon, but I will not forget the beautiful people and amazing things I have learned from it.

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