Thursday, February 28, 2008 0 comments

My Vietnamese is Improving and I Have Vietnamese Friends!

I can now say that I can "get around" the city! I can order food, introduce myself and can even ask some questions (no matter how simple they may be). After a month things are starting to "click" more and this makes me very happy. In the meantime I am making and maintaining new contacts/friends/resources and am trying to work towards my ISP and my future academic endeavors. At least, I am even more focused than before (to be honest I was losing some steam). I lost one of my batteries for my digi cam (they are rechargeable AA) this is one of the biggest reasons why I haven't posted pictures, but hopefully soon you will all get to see who I am meeting, where I am going and how I am doing!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 0 comments

Graduate School...

So I am wondering what I should do after college; work and save and then go to grad school or just go directly to grad school and hope that I can get some sort of scholarship/fellowship... Today we got to speak with a professor at Ohio State who told us about some of the grad programs that are being offered there such as in south east asian studies, international development studies and communication and development; these all sounded very appealing to me and I am beginning to think that these could be potential options for me. He also told us about SEASI which is I believe the south east asian studies institute.... where one can go to study any south east asian language over the summer and could qualify to earn a FLAS scholarship to do it. I believe that I will come to a conclusion as to what to do with a little more time...
Monday, February 25, 2008 0 comments

The Pressure and Stress Comes to a Boiling Point

So I went to the opera house in Saigon. It is very well known due to the fact that it was built by the French, therefore having their influence when it comes to architecture. I feel that so far my English since I have been here is actually worsening. The Vietnamese language’s structure is so simple in relation to English that I now understand why they would have trouble/issues with English. In general from what I have gathered from studying Japanese and Vietnamese is that their structures are very simple and very different from what we Americans or the English are accustomed to. I miss home as always but I don’t think that this feeling will really fade, not that I expect it to. Though I always miss home and the many things that I took for granted for so long, I don’t cry anymore since that first time. I am kind of angry right now and I know that I shouldn’t be but it seems like little things are adding up and getting the best of me. I don’t scream no- and I don’t make a scene but people can tell when I am upset/sad anything the like…because my demeanor changes quite drastically; I wish this wasn’t so but this is who I am. I am trying to adapt to this environment that I currently find myself in and have been for the past month but there are just times that I get so annoyed! For example I know how RIDICULOUSLY thin people are here but I don’t appreciate people telling me that I am “a LITTLE too fat for that dress”, excuse me I BROUGHT this dress with me! How am I a little too fat for my dress? All I eat is tofu and veggies anyway (because I don’t trust the meat or especially the seafood to be fully cooked or sanitary most of the time), don’t know how that’s going to make me any “fatter”. Today when I got back from the opera it was 10:30pm and I wanted to go to the internet café near the house that is currently my homestay in Saigon. However, I was told that it was too late and so I didn’t go; now this shouldn’t anger me but I don’t know- I just felt really upset. I was also told that it’s really expensive but expensive here is like 2 dollars for a glass of coffee, and given what the café looks like I wouldn’t mind paying; it’s very clean and “modern looking” (it doesn’t look rundown and I would actually feel comfortable there).

By the way, I tried riding the bus today to get to and from school- it was to say the least, an experience. In the morning riding the bus wasn’t so bad, however in the afternoon it was hell. First of all, the way that the buses are built is quite a hazard and kind of dangerous with all the people that they try to cram in there. Secondly, when you get on and off the bus, the bus tends to start moving even if you haven’t gotten on, so if you are not fast enough you have to run and literally jump on (don’t try this please). Lastly, on my ride home the bus kept making abrupt stops thus making all the people within the bus to propel forward and so I hit a chair and that’s when I decided that was the last time I was taking the bus. However, I live kind of far from dai hoc kinh te (university of economics) and so getting a taxi everyday would add up. I feel kind of bad because now my host sister’s aunt is taking me by motorbike (VERY popular mode of transportation) to school (though I am paying her). Here I don’t feel comfortable enough and don’t feel that I will be able to ask the things that I did in Can Tho…o well, experiences are all worth living through right?

I am not in NYC, I am in Saigon Viet Nam; I just need to accept this and more so that I am living with a family that is nice but doesn’t speak much Vietnamese like my last homestay in Can Tho. I LOVED Can Tho and honestly if I am going to be in Viet Nam let it be there. I can’t wait to come back in April to do my research there and to be able to spend time with Trang, Thao and Tinay again….


I was given an assignment today a sort of midterm paper which should be between 6 to 10 pages in length and I have 2 weeks to write it (I am not looking forward to it). I don’t like that this paper that I am to write is so open ended, it’s like ‘hey you can write about whatever you want as long as it has to do with development’ and I’m like…’wait what…?’ The worse part is that whenever I ask questions my classmates make me feel like an idiot and if I ask them to explain again (because they really aren’t any clearer or helpful most of the time) , they always tend to give me a look or they say…wait how do you not understand?’ Well, excuse me for not being able to understand the professor(s) (most of the time) who has/have a VERY thick Vietnamese accent when speaking their English so much so that I can’t possibly understand them when they are talking about soil erosion and alluvial soil in Mekong delta (which I thought they had said aluminum)!

The Vietnamese language class is beyond a crash course- it’s pretty intense. I seriously feel like passing out after every class ( 3 hours everyday- mon-fri in the mornings). Sample of what I can say off the top of my head (kind odd looking to me without the accents…)

Toi ten la Emmania. Toi hoc dai hoc kin te tan pho ho chi minh. Toi hai muoi tuoi. Toi hoc tieng viet. Toi tich kem yua. Buoi sang toi an sang. Toi tich an oplah ban mi. Toi tich nau an.

I am Emmania. I study at the National University of Economics in ho chi minh city. I am 20 years old. I study Vietnamese. I like coconut ice cream. In the morning I eat breakfast. I like to eat eggs with bread. I like to cook.

That’s about it for now…

Saturday, February 23, 2008 1 comments

Tram Chim National Park and My ISP

Right now I am sitting in front of a building on the stoop trying to update my blog so I will make this short before someone decides to steal my laptop! I am going back to Can Tho during April (time of my ISP) to do my ISP on the Floating Market. It will probably deal with ecotourism/economics. Before we got back we were in Tram Chim National Park, very beautiful but too many brown hoppers (they are bad for the rice fields...). Here are some pics of me in Tram Chim and a hanging toilet, which is not good for the environment specifically the water because essential all the human waste goes into the water and is fairly often eaten by the fish...
Sunday, February 17, 2008 1 comments

I am still in Can Tho

at least until this Friday. The people here are very friendly and inviting. My two host sisters are great. The oldest who is 15 is a doll and the little 2 yr old is so precious!

she calls me "chi my," which in Vietnamese means older American sister, because she can't say my name. Today, after the little one dropped me off at the university with her mom, she cried and I was told by her mom that she told her to pick me up.

I came home and she (the little one) said to me "chi di tam" which means sister go take a shower.
I thought it was so cute! I'm so sad that I have to leave this family. I am starting to become familiar with them and the city, however I must move on to the next place usual. I really am not liking how this program is being run. I enjoy the things that we do but moving around so much, at least for me, is very bothersome.

This Thursday we are to go to the national park. We are going to stay the night there camping. Earlier (last week) my director had asked if I am OK with going, but now I am not so sure. I want some down time, but most of all I want to spend more time with my host family!

Today I went to church with my host mom. She is Catholic. It is interesting to see how things are so similar, it's just in a different language. All I understood was the phrase "lay chua" which means praise God, but even so I didn't feel odd. I felt at ease and I enjoyed taking part in this.

I think Viet Nam isn't so bad. I still miss my friends, bf and family but I am not so scared anymore...

I am having some difficulties when it comes to my Independent Study Project topic, however I am sure things will work out. I am trying to be more positive and stronger now. I must live in the here and now. It just like the Khmer (Cambodian but is an ethnic minority in Viet Nam) Buddhist monk said, "there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way."

btw I want to thank Henry who posted this for me!
(updated pictures of my new hairstyle, the Khmer monk and some members of my host family!)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008 0 comments

The Ties that Bind Us

So apparently not all was taken care of for when I left for Viet Nam. I worked hard to make sure things that I couldn't pay for before I left could be paid for electronically. I called sprint to make sure that I was on a vacation plan however as ALWAYS they messed up; now they are charging me 122 dollars for a plan that I am not using. The most that I can do from here right now is to email them and hope that I can fix it though I am not in the states. I don't want my dad to deal with this...he shouldn't have to and he doesn't need to pay a dime to these crooks! So right now it's midnight and I should sleep but I rarely get to go online; I needed to check my email, any remaining bills (citibank and stupid sprint), but also I wanted to start looking more into my ISP (independent research project). Anyway tomorrow we are going to visit a center that houses (i think) and helps disadvantaged children. My group and I will bring some necessaries things (toothpaste, toothbrushes) and some not so necessary things (like toys and candy) to them. I hope I don't cry... I really can't believe that so many children are in such a predicament...
Monday, February 11, 2008 1 comments

Da Lat, The Pagoda and Lang Bian Mountains

At the Top of one of the Peaks of the Mountain

Some of the Group During a Rest, Playin Hacky Sack with Two Lat Teenagers

Da Lat at Night

The Pagoda

Vietnamese students and I at a Carnival in Da Lat

So I went to Da Lat for 4 days. I stayed with a homestay family and two of the people in my group were also in this homestay with me; Duncan and Wen. The people that we stayed with were so kind! I will truly never forget them. The family consisted of father, mother and two daughters-also the girls aunt who turned sixty three on the first day of the lunar new year. They were flower farmers and had beautiful flowers. Da Lat is a beautiful "resort town" with a lot of french architecture. We also went to one of the most famous Pagodas in Viet Nam and met the Master. It is a truly peaceful looking place. We also hiked the Lang Bian mountains, boy was that difficult. They had said we were going "trekking" but I think this term was quite misleading considering what we had to endure and how steep the mountain was! I fell 4 times by the way, so I wasn't feeling so great. Then after the mountains (on the same day) we walked to the Lat village (they are a minority group in the central highlands of Vietnam. The music, dancing and drinking was awesome...the sleeping in the communal house wasn't so much-but that's okay! Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are off to Mekong Delta and we will stay there for 11 days. I am still debating whether or not I want to take my laptop with me ( I probably won't). While in Mekong Delta we will stay with homestay families and will bike ride to the university.

Boy, this program has a lot more rigorous physical activity than I had ever anticipated... I am not only pushing my comfort zone waaay over its limit but also my body. These experiences are definitely giving me a new perspective on a lot of things that I used to take for granted. Though sometimes I want to give up, I just keep reminding myself of why I came here and of the people I would be letting down if I gave up. I can now say that I can introduce myself in Vietnamese like saying what I study, my name, where I go to school and my age (not bad huh?)
Wednesday, February 6, 2008 2 comments

Call Me!

Llamenme! 011 84 955274578. Call me here! Henry, Kesia, Mom and all who I hold dear and would like to call me please do; that's my cell. Right now I am in the Central Highlands in Da Lat. Porque es que mama no me llama? Yo le di mi numero y no me ah llamado! Tampoco Henry. Kesia si estas leyendo esto llamame si tienes tiempo o si quieres! Henry call meeee! I miss talking ;___: I love you all! I am having fun now in Da Lat we are about to go to a Pagoda and it is new year's day today. I will put up pictures of Da Lat later when I am on a faster internet connection (back in HCMC). Kesia I corrected my mistake when mommy calls there is NO 0 is front of the 9! Thanks...and I am glad you got into college- good job!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008 1 comments

Antibiotics and Things Look Better

Von and Nick

A Vietnamese Public Phone and The Mai Flower Tree

Diamond Plaza!!

So apparently I had a virus. I am on antibiotics now and am feeling MUCH better and more optimistic. It is difficult to be sick in a foreign country without your family around...but I am getting through it, and the people in my group are generally understanding. I am starting to form friendships especially I believe with Jo, Von, Hai Minh and Wen. Last Friday when I fell ill Wen who knows a little about Chinese medicine tried her best to take care of me and yesterday she went to the clinic with me. As soon as I took the antibiotics I felt really sleepy so I slept from 8 pm till 7am and I believe it helped immensely. I am trying to focus more on my ISP (independent study project) and have thought of a subject that may work better for me and that I am more passionate about. Right now all I know is that it will probably entail Japanese investment/investors in Viet Nam and a specific market (maybe Honda?). It is interesting to see how the cheap laborer has also become a market for the Japanese as well. I will also have a chance to practice my Japanese through this.

On another note:
So far this experience has not only taught me more about myself and about what matters to me but also has shown me what path I may want to take in the future. I think I definitely want to do something business related. I will do my best when I come back and will aim for UPenn's dual Master degree program in business and language/culture. However, I may focus on Latin America; I need to focus more on my roots! (my cousin Carlos would probably agree with me on this) I should be proud to be Latino. I won't be embarrassed anymore. I am a wonderful example of what we Latinos are capable of!