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  • Tatianna Jasmine 4:10 pm on September 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bus, , , Jet lag, Pho, ,   

    First day in HCMC 

    This will be a simple journal style entry about my first full day in Viet Nam, with no fancy structure or catchy title.


    Today was challenging. For starters, I did not sleep at all last night. Jet lag has gotten the best of me, and I was super exhausted all day. During orientation I was trying hard to stay awake and alert, but I must admit that I drifted off quite a few times. During our walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), I felt super weak as if I had not eaten all day (although I did have breakfast). The humidity in HCMC is killer! I have never sweated so consistently in my life!! I tried my best to stay hydrated, but it seems that the only remedy for my ill feelings was a cat nap. Now that I have complained my butt off, I can talk about all of the awesome things I experienced today. After orientation, myself and the other students had a group lunch at a restaurant called Pho 2000. Pho seems to be the signature food of Viet Nam; Pho is a noodle soup served with either beef, chicken or vegetables. Based on my experience back in NYC with Vietnamese food, I decided that I did not like Pho. Although it is not my favorite dish, having the authentic taste in Viet Nam has made me much more fond of Pho. After lunch, I took my first bus ride back to my dorm hall. There are a few differences in the way HCMC’s bus system operates compared to the MTA in New York City. For starters, passengers do not hold metrocards/tokens, and there are two employees on the bus. The driver is solely responsible for driving, while there is a second person responsible for walking around the bus at each station and collecting cash payments of 4.000 VND (about the same quantity as 1 U.S. quarter) from each passenger. Navigating the streets of HCMC can be difficult. There are hundreds of motorbikes on the road at any given time; therefore the second worker must help guide the driver around the motorbikes as the bus pulls into each station. Getting on and off the bus is also quite the task; the bus never comes to a complete stop it simply slows down as passengers jump on and off. While there are differences between HCMC and NYC transportation, there are also a few similarities. Passengers can press a button to inform the driver that they need to get off the bus at a specific station. Passengers can choose to sit in very similarly styled seats, or stand and hold the silver poles. Passengers can enjoy the comfort of an air conditioner, or simply open up a window. One of the most profound similarities between the two systems is the use of the bus as an extension of the market place. Women sell their food products on the bus as they ride, or even before a bus pulls out of the main terminal. Initially, I was shocked by this and did not recognize that NYC public transportation is also an extension of the market place. On any given day in NYC, you can find children selling candy bars, performers show casing their talent for a quick buck, and bootleggers selling DVDs at super cheap prices. Because of my vast experience with public transportation, I felt silly when I assumed “transportation culture” would be a completely different experience in Viet Nam. Nonetheless, I am so excited about all of the experiential learning that awaits me. Stay tuned for more of my rambling on just about everything!

    • TJ
    • DougReilly 7:49 pm on September 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think there are a million different kinds of Pho, so it might be a matter of experimenting to figure out what you like best. Also the pho in Hanoi will be different than the pho in Saigon…anyway you’ll have a hard time not trying it many more times! I like your observations of public transport. It will be interesting again to compare to what it’s like in the north. Doug

  • Sasha 4:39 pm on September 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: flight, , Jet lag,   


    I wasn’t even in Japan yet and I was already experiencing culture shock. With my red JSL (Japanese Spoken Language) textbook open in front of me and my bed piled high with last semesters vocabulary and kanzi note cards (my entire body surrounded by nothing but Japanese words and characters) the only thought going through my head was “I’m screwed.” Thinking back I realize I wasn’t the only one who had neglected studying Japanese over the summer, but at that moment, it didn’t really matter. I had hundreds of Japanese vocabulary index cards splayed out before me and I could barely remember what half of them meant. Hisasiburi? Doo itasimasite? Okyakusama? I have to admit: these few forgettings made me glum. After 2 ½ years of Japanese, you’d think I’d remember the ritualized language that was drilled into us during the very first semester of our Japanese language course. Guess not. The vocab, though, was the least of my worries. The kanzi, oh the kanzi. Numerous amounts of lines with their own specific order in which to be written, with half the lines going one way, the other half going another. Upon our arrival at JCMU (the Japan Center for Michigan Universities) we are to take a Japanese placement test (this coming Monday). Pretty simple, right? No. The entire quiz is rumored to be written entirely in kanzi and hiragana (another form of Japanese writing). Maybe all that studying on the 13 hour plane around across the Pacific will pay off…. or not. Keep your fingers crossed!

    Apparently finding one’s way to Japan, or any place abroad actually, with the threat of a hurricane (and several tornado warnings) hanging over your head is quite difficult task to achieve. I ended up spending over an hour and a half on hold with Continental in the hopes of changing my flight to Japan for the day after my original flight was scheduled. I literally jumped for joy when a woman with a Southern accent picked up the phone and asked how she could help me. I ended up telling her she was a wonderful, fantastic person for helping me change my flight. I would’ve given her a giant hug if given the chance.  I think I scared her a bit.

    The bus ride from the Narita airport to the ANA plane was short but wildly entertaining. I was overjoyed at seeing the Japanese characters every which way I turned my head, seeing shrubbery shaped into kanzi (which was honestly the most creative thing I’ve ever seen. I wish I had had the time to take a picture!), and admiring the adorable uniforms of the airport workers (the blue hats made the outfits!). Despite being a minority (a fact I was actually thrilled about!), leaving home and traveling abroad for several months doesn’t seem that scary. Vienna said the country of Japan felt “familiar.” I think it feels like “home.”

    Milk tea! I’ve been waiting to devour this substance since I left Japan over two years ago from the Technos trip the summer after my freshman year. During my first trip to Japan, I had this drink EVERY SINGLE DAY! No exceptions. It’s delicious! It’s a mixture of sweetness with a bit of heaven. I currently have some in the apartment’s fridge so I can indulge whenever I wish. Nom nom nom.

    Guess who’s jetlagged? Yes, me. Sitting up late at night carrying my computer around my room at the JCMU dorms in the hopes of finding a wireless connection. Responding to letters from professors, deleting all the HWS campus-wide emails that no longer apply to me since I’m no longer on campus (Ultimate Frisbee on the Quad does sound pretty fun, though. Also, I wish Jamie Landi luck on his new Green efforts on campus—I got three emails from him in a matter of minutes. And my apologies for not being able to make the first LiberTango meeting of the year—that one, especially, I’m a bit saddened about). Time for bed? Zzzzzzzzz…..

    • DougReilly 6:39 pm on September 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I can’t wait to try this tea stuff! And…maybe you can find Tango in Japan? It must exist.

    • Annica (@crousemouse) 2:49 pm on September 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Nice entry! Glad you got here safely and can’t wait to see you guys soon! 😀 😀

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