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Recap: Reunion & Revelation

Recap: Reunion & Revelation

From the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Building, tallest in HCMC

Over a week since that first plate of rice at 3 AM  half-way across the world from Chicago, there have been far too many stories and topics to address in a single post. For the continued duration of this blog, I will attempt to address posts by specific topics rather than try to create a chronological narrative of my adventure in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City is a fascinating city; a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and smells that are both familiar and bizarre. Its people continue to surprise me everyday with their hard work, determination, and character. I feel that my experiences for these next 4 months will be undoubtedly shaped by my interactions with the Vietnamese. However, ever present in my thoughts will be the Vietnam–both the idealized and the actual–that my parents raised me by. I only hope that these juxtaposition of these two dynamics will enrich my study of Vietnam.

However, in my first few days living in district 1 of HCMC, I’ve been able to explore a great deal and meet a lot of remarkable individuals. Foremost, all of the Vietnamese roommates that we Americans have been paired with are incredible. They are each intelligent and talented in their own ways. Some of them have worked for the Argentine Consulate, others have traveled far from home to seek higher education, one teaches English 7 days a week to foreigners, and there is still more to learn about each of them. My roommate, An, has essentially become an adopted little brother to me. We have similar majors, and family stories and its just been wonderful to explore this city with him as a guide. Sometimes we know we’re going (because of his leading), and other times we end up discovering new diamonds hidden in the rough.

HCMC itself is host to a vibrant culture and city life that strikes a balance between the sleepy-town of my parent’s past and the bustle of a metropolis like Chicago. Many businesses are still managed by family, and they often close near dinner time, leaving the nightlife to commercial ventures and specific districts. By nighttime, many retire and if you are a night owl you’ll have to venture out to districts such as Pham Ngu Lao (Backpacker’s District) which cater to a foreign crowd used to a nightlife that wanes when the sun rises. Even though I’ve only extensively been through District 1, I feel like I haven’t seen nearly half of it yet and there’s still 20 other districts to visit!

To avoid rambling on in a single post, here are some pictures of my first week in Vietnam. With each picture is a story that will be expanded upon later.

Collection of Snake and Scorpion "wines" at Ben Thanh Market

A HipHop (B-boy) dancer landing a freeze during the Converse Street Festival

Vendors selling goods in the streets during "Night Market" near Ben Thanh Market

Reuniting with some of my uncles

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