Hello all tuning in to the blog as the program is coming towards its end this week. Today we took a small step back from the visits around South Vietnam and stayed in the classroom for most of day with lectures involving culture and Buddhism and our last Vietnamese language class. Afterwards in the later part of the afternoon, we drove around a few districts of Ho Chi Minh and visited a two Buddhist statues/temples. To end the day, we drove to the War Remnants Museum for the Vietnam War which actually was only about two blocks away from our hotel. I think today, with the events experienced, is a great opportunity to talk about the topic of individual or personal issues. Overall, it was yet again a fantastic (but humid) day in Vietnam and I was able to take a lot away knowledge wise when it comes to another religion so dominant in Vietnam and also with information of their view of the Vietnam War.
Starting at UEF, we finished up the second part of the Vietnamese Culture & History class with a lecture focusing on South Vietnam’s culture, the yin-yang philosophy of the Vietnamese and how it applies, and certain parts of the overall culture. We discussed how the South tends to be much more conservative and open-minded then the North. The culture in the South is more focused on international business and the North tends to have more individual leaders growing up. In addition, the lecturer explained how the Vietnamese have a nature that is rich yet most are poor because of the education that isn’t spread to the entire country. The yin-yang philosophy, which started long before any unification of Vietnam, has a strong effect in the history because of the sense of colors in Asia and infrastructure with the number system. He gave us a lot of information to take in about Vietnam and how interesting their culture can be so I am glad we can take the outlined slides home to read on free time.
Sadly today was the last Vietnamese language class which focused on the number system as yesterday and also going into ordering food in Vietnamese. I really enjoyed the instructor as she continued to make us stand up and move around the room to practice with other students the phrases she was trying to get across. I can easily say I learned the most from this class and I found it incredible to learn just the small bits of a language so different than English.
Lunch today was a little bit old styled. I compared it to the most famous shop in Oakland, Campus Deli. We had Vietnamese sandwiches with steak and lettuce (with a bunch of specific sauces) that made for a delicious sandwich. Luckily, there was a few extra so I was able to have two. I have learned that the food in Vietnam can be difficult to eat at first so food that is enjoyable immediately is crucial to eat just in case you run into that situation later in the day.
Our last lecture in UEF was the Introduction into Buddhism because of our visits of the temples right after the class. I had no knowledge of the religion so it was interesting to learn from the instructor about the foundations (dating back to the story of the woman who birthed Buddha) to the regulations of a follower now-a-days. Karma seems to be used when one violates (accidentally) a rule in the religion like let’s say kill an animal (even like an ant) because they believe that some consequence will occur because of the death to you even though you did not intend to kill the animal. The first worshipping area was decently big in the city with a beautiful carved metal in the back portraying the discrimination Buddhists have had in the past. The temple was colorful (nothing like a regular Catholic church) with a large statue of Buddha inside were individuals come in to “pray” or worship Buddha. In my opinion, it is fun to learn about other religions other than your own and one were you have to take your shoes off to worship definitely fits in that category.
The War Remnants Museum was arguably the hardest adaption during the trip just because of how difficult mentally it is to see the Vietnamese views from the war. With the help of a tour guide, we went through the three stories of history of the war from weapons, bombings, orange agent droppings (and its visual effects), techniques Americans taught the South Vietnamese for prisons, and air crafters/vehicles. Stories were told throughout the museum from deaths to how the war affected them. Pictures were unbelievably hard to take in because of the American cause and I honestly was speechless looking at the victims of the Vietnamese citizens because of the Orange Agent. However, I believe this was one of the best trips of Plus 3 in the country because it is important we see this side instead of being stubborn of the American side.
I’d quickly like to discuss personal issues so far in country and especially today. I would easily say the hardest cultural difference here is the language. Constantly hearing Vietnamese in the streets and not being able to understand any signs can be frustrating however it is something you must respect and adapt to as a foreigner from America. In addition, this applies to the recent trips out of the city, but the poverty is defintely a culture shock. You can see a family struggling to survive right next to a establishment and its nothing like a family struggling in the U.S. The people here with deal with conflict in a conservative way and don’t tend to be aggressive because of the Confucianism background. I have also seen a huge trend of welcoming foreigners in because of the business and attention to the company. They view Americans much better than I thought especially looking at the things we did during the war. I would say because of the younger generation (a large portion of the population) not living in the war and understanding the presence of the Americans in the international economy.
3 more days to go