Saturday, June 11, 2011

Arrival in HCMC

[Day 1]
[Location: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)]

Hello everyone -- Xuan has given me the honor of writing the first post for this blog. At the moment, it is right around the time when the Vietnamese avoid the hottest part of the day by taking naps, but jet lag is really messing around with my circadian rhythm, and somehow I'm still managing to operate on last night's four hours of sleep.

I flew into Ho Chi Minh City from San Francisco, with a transfer in Seoul, Korea. In total, I sat on a plane for about 17.5 hours and went delirious from watching three movies in a row. Surprisingly, the flight attendants on Asiana Airlines mistook me for being Korean, and so there were several instances where I would have to guess what they were asking me. It's kind of funny -- in comparison to all the flight attendants with their pale, flawless skin, I tan easily and will probably be quite their opposite by the time I depart for my return flight in August.

Our intensive Vietnamese classes do not start until Monday, so for now our group has been given plenty of time to relax and recover from jet lag. We are currently staying in guesthouses across the street from HTV in Ho Chi Minh City.

So far, the biggest problem my roommate Allison and I are facing is the family of cockroaches that continue to pop up in our bathroom without warning. To get a sense of our situation, imagine spending a whole day out in the city and returning back to your room intending to wash off of the grime and sweat, except you can't even enjoy properly this shower because you are paranoid that some six-legged peeping tom is going to lunge out at you in your most vulnerable state. For some reasons, the cockroaches don't seem to visit anyone else except us. I guess it's just our charm.

Despite the cockroaches, the guesthouse is pretty nice. All the rooms are air-conditioned, and we figured out how to use the wifi here. Moreover, it really is conveniently located, because everything we'd need is within a ten minute walk away. We had brunch at a noodle shop on a nearby street called 18A, where there are a lot of food stands and restaurants. I have had pho back in the States, but the pho there can hardly compare to what we had here. Unlike the powdered broth they use in the US restaurants, here the broth is cooked overnight.

Tomorrow is our last free day, since Vietnamese classes start on Monday. I actually can't wait to start learning some of the language. When we went to Ben Thanh Market this afternoon, we stopped by a smoothie stand and the only way I could communicate was by pointing at pictures. Body language is useful and all, but not exactly the most effective way of communicating. Our plans for tomorrow are still up in the air, so we'll see what happens then!

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