Monday, April 28, 2008 1 comments

1 Week left in Can Tho City

So one week left... Kind of sad really. I like this city a lot and my host family has been nothing but wonderful to me. I consider myself to be very lucky. I am now working on my ISP paper and I hope it comes out decently! I am having trouble of course but I just want to make sure I get something down first and then I can work on it more and more as my presentation day approaches. May 6 I go back to HCMC with Jenny. May 8 we do our ISP presentations. On the days leading up to our departure to the USA I am not so sure about what we are doing. We are probably going to do some 'wrapping up' and anything else that would entail that. I can't believe than in less than 2 weeks I will be heading back to America. It is such a bitter sweet feeling. I will definitely miss Viet Nam. However, I try not to dwell on my return too much. There was a moment where I thought of seeing my best friend Michelle's face once I got home and I swear I almost ended up crying of happiness. I hope that when I see her I don't end up crying (too embarrassing!). Well I will know when I get to Boston. I can't know how I will react until I am actually there. So my final destination is Boston not New York. Sorry if I confused anyone! This is why I am probably seeing Michelle first. I need to give in some things to the university and the following day my dad will come to help me take my things to NYC. Of course we don't have a car so he will take a bus to help me and then we will each take a suit case, as we will go back to NYC by bus. AHHH such is the life of someone who is low income hahah! But you know what? It doesn't bother me as it used to. Sure I would like to have more money but I know that in the near future if I keep working hard I won't have to worry about not being able to afford certain things. You know I was totally up front with my host family and maybe that's why they like me. I told them that the reason why I have bought so much clothes is well ok three reasons, 1. They are way too expensive in the US (dress shirts, pants and dresses), 2. Therefore, I can't afford to spend money on such things when there are things that are more important 3. I can find clothes that fit me easily here(I am considered a Large here and my shoe size is the biggest size that they have but that's fine with me!)
I think I lost weight while I was here. My pants seem to fit more loosely now. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if I lost weight, the diet here is so healthy and I tend to ride my bicycle almost everyday here.
Coming here to VIETNAM not Japan AT THIS TIME I believe was the best decision that I have made so far. It was the best place to go given what I am studying and in addition, the amount of money that I had available for expenditures. In addition, I think we have all learned many valuable lessons while being here. I have learned things about myself that I am not sure that I would have otherwise. I am more patient and I have gained a greater appreciation for all the people that are so dear and special to me (friends and family!) I think Henry has learned a lesson too *wink* I think he's learned how lucky he is to have me as his girlfriend! I guess that saying is true, you just don't know what you have until you don't have it anymore.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 0 comments

The Lack of Environmental and Sanitary Awareness is Scary!

At the Floating Market Eating a Pineapple Boat Operator
My Khanh Alligator Pond
Can Tho City Bridge

There is a story behind this bridge and it is actually quite sad. Last year the Japanese provided funds for the building of a bridge in Can Tho. Instead of overseeing the project themselves they let the Vietnamese take care of it (first mistake). Therefore, the contractor who oversaw the project was Vietnamese (not to say Vietnamese contractors are bad). However, it is well known in Vietnam that when it comes to bridges and any infrastructure made by a Vietnamese it is generally ill/poorly made because of their lack of either, education or technological expertise (though it is usually this one) (2nd mistake). The result of these mistakes was: the bridge collapsing and killing around 50 people. The Japanese prime minister had to come to ask for forgiveness and now the Japanese are rebuilding the bridge, and they are NOT (believe me) committing the same mistakes twice!

On to today's Post!

Today I woke up at 5:15 am to go to the floating market. Tho picked me up at 5:30 am. When I got to the floating market I interviewed two sellers, a couple who lived on a boat (and who sold pineapples), and our very friendly boat operator. I think that I got a lot of interesting data today. For example, did you know that the people on the boats use the river water for domestic affairs ranging from washing their clothes to brushing their teeth?! The man that we talked to on the boat told us that he got sick and that it wasn’t until he went to the doctor that he began to boil his water before he drank it…. Though, I am not sure if that is sufficient (the boiling). When I talked to our boat operator I found out that he washes his boat with river water (where then the soap and dirt go into the river, but I didn’t tell him that). While on our way back his engine made some strange noise and I asked him what was wrong. He said that it was nothing it was just some GARBAGE that was caught by the engine. He said that ONCE A WEEK he has to remove garbage from his boat's engine. I don’t think that he realized how valuable his information was for my ISP but I am sure glad that he was willing to be interviewed about his job. In addition, we went to My Khanh garden. It is a man made garden and the place resembles a little cottage like getaway. I found out that most of the tourists are Vietnamese and that foreigners don’t like to go there because it is not “natural enough”. In a way I also felt this place was a bit…barbaric? They had something called “alligator fishing”. They have a pond full of alligators and the person can “fish” for an alligator. After that guess what happens? The alligator becomes a purse or a belt! When asked about the environment they said that they try to "help out" by BURNING their garbage. If I recall correctly burning garbage is not something one wants to do if it's just done with an incinerator because one isn't using heat energy to make electricity or steam rather, one is simply getting rid of the garbage and releasing harmful things! Oh well, a point that should be made is that, people need to be educated more on these sort of things (environmental and sanitary). Above are some pictures of today’s trip!
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 0 comments

As Expected, There is a Light at the End of This Tunnel

I knew that if I just kept my cool that everything would be alright. So today I met with my advisor and two of her assistants. Well one is her research assistant, Loc (27) and the other is a recent graduate (undergrad), To (22). We sat down and worked on my questionnaire a bit and then wrote down a tentative plan for this week. It is still a work in progress but things seem to be looking up. I definitely have more data after just today. Today we went to Phu Sa (an island), we interviewed someone there as well as at the travel company Vietravel (Can Tho branch office). Later at 4pm we will interview someone at Saigon Cantho Tourist. It should be interesting as they are a state owned tourist agency. I must say that the distinction between the private agencies and the government agencies must be made as the differences between them seem to be great. Tomorrow I leave at 5:30 am for one of the “floating markets’. I will talk to a rower and probably some of the vendors (along with me buying fruit). Then we will go to My Khanh village fruit garden and probably talk to some tour operators and maybe a manager if it is possible.
“My assistants” are quite friendly, helpful and nice. However, I think both of them may have crushes on me! Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT conceited or think of myself like that. However, I KNOW when a guy is hitting on me even if its subtle. To kept mentioning how I looked so beautiful with Non La (Vietnamese conical hat). When I asked Loc about what he does for fun, he just sounded like a workaholic. So I asked him why he doesn’t go out with friends or something like that. He said it would be nice to take a girlfriend to ice cream. I said well why don’t you do that? Well he has no girlfriend….and he then goes and says, 'I didn’t get your phone number. I need it so I can call you if we go out'. HAHHAA!! Why am I even discussing this? Maybe I found it cute and amusing…I don’t know. Oh the hearts of young Vietnamese men! Here are some pictures of today’s research!

I met with the director of Saigon/Cantho tourist and first of all HEARTHROB! HAHA Maybe for once I am being a total girl! In addition he spoke very good English and so I didn't need my assistants to translate for me. Overall, it was a pleasant and I believe very helpful interview.
Monday, April 21, 2008 0 comments

Isn't Field Research Always Like This?

Deep down I know I want to freak out but I will NOT do so. So the people that I was originally counting on to help me were either the wrong people or, they are just extremely busy but are STILL the wrong people to talk to. However, I have met many people that are willing to help me and I believe that I may have found a couple of people who may be the "right" people to talk to. Today I finally met with my ISP advisor. Her name is Truong Thi Nga and she is a professor at the environmental studies dept. Her English is very good (thank God!!!).
Talking to her kind of gave me an idea of where I stand and I may be "screwed" by some people's standards as I only have 20 days left! However, I don't think it's so bad since I just have to figure out how I will react to my circumstances and what action it is that I will take. In the end it seems like the approach I am taking will now be different. I will not talk to travel companies and the tourism dept. but rather tourists and tour guides. It all goes back to "sustainable tourism" in Can Tho just a different perspective and approach. I am sure when this is all over it will all be okay. I just have to keep trying my best to be positive! I just need to write 20 pages (minimum), I can do that! My topic will be interesting and I WILL learn something!! Just through this experience I am learning of how realistic certain research projects can be given the time frame and budget that one has and how research in other countries (or at least Viet Nam) works out. So I am learning SOMETHING. I can't say that this has all been done in vain, otherwise I would be lying to myself. I hope that I am becoming a better person and that it is not the heat that is getting to me. I don't want to think that I am just more laid back because I am too hot!
Saturday, April 19, 2008 0 comments

A Week in Can Tho Already?!!

I get to live!! Can Tho is simply awesome. I mean there is virtually no night life here but that's ok as I have never been much of a nightlife kind of person. I have been working on my research but have only been ale to get 2 out of 7 interviews. So far what I gathered is that tourism in Can Tho is a failure and sustainability is the last (if it all) thought/worry on the Vietnamese's minds. The days seem to go speeding by now as the deadline for my ISP is approaching! I just gave in my final project yesterday night...thank goodness (one less thing to worry about)! I am enjoying every day that I am with my Vietnamese host family and I know that I will greatly miss them when I go back to the USA. I haven't been using my Vietnamese as much as I should but I realize it is not necessary at this point. However, I don't want to forget what I have learned. The Vietnamese people are so kind and generous (hugs them to me). If I had to live in Viet Nam it would definitely be in Can Tho City (though the sun is sooo hot and when it rains it's pretty heavy esp. during wet season hahaha).
Yesterday I went out with Jenny and our friend Thao. We ate dinner and I made some new friends. I got really excited when I heard someone speaking Spanish so I HAD TO talk to them. Two of the men were from Brazil and one was from Argentina. They are actually playing for the Can Tho Soccer club. I didn't know Viet Nam had money to spend on foreign players! Though apparently, they do! The players were telling me about their lives back home and how by coming to Viet Nam they had a better chance at life. The Argentinian told me that life in Argentina is very hard right now and that the price of food is increasing to the point where it is becoming difficult to buy food... Wow there is so much to learn from others!
Monday, April 14, 2008 1 comments

A Birthday Party, A Cancelled Appt. and a New Hobby

Thao, My Host Sister
Jenni, My Host Mom and I
Jenni and I

On Sunday my host mom, along with my sister celebrated my birthday (belated) as well as Jenny's. It was a very nice gesture on their part and I can say that Jenny and I both had a lot of fun. Monday I had an appointment with the vice president of a private tourism company. He is a French man who married a Vietnamese woman. They both opened this company together. He canceled on me because of some conflict but now I am meeting him today. Hopefully I will get some "useful" information out of him that will aid me in writing my ISP! Besides this I seem to have picked up a new hobby, kite flying. I seem to do it everyday. I have to ride my bike to the park near the river which is about a 15 minute bike ride which is not too bad. The difficulty of my trip is always going over this bridge that allows me to go there. The bike riding finally took its toll and this morning I am so exhausted! In addition, this may seem random but, I don't think I am digesting my food very well. I don't know why, but recently I haven't been able to eat breakfast which I always do since I have been here...

I know in the end things will work out with my ISP but I can't help but feel some anxiety because of it. Everyday is getting hotter and hotter and I broke out in a rash because of it. So even though I know things will work out today my mood is not as good as I would like it to be. I am grouchy, tired and uncomfortable but I am doing my best to not lose my temper at people who don't deserve it. I just say forget it and walk away. I have to control my temper today. Less than a month left till I go home! (I am so excited!)
Saturday, April 12, 2008 0 comments

Forms and Preparation

Yesterday was a very productive day. I met with Tam, one of my contacts. I also met with Angela Thao another of my contacts. I had dinner with her while I interviewed her concerning tourism in Can Tho.

Today I sent Tam my interview questionaire for the department of tourism. There are 3 sections within the department of tourism that I would like to look into and would like to interview if Tam can get me an appt. with a person in each respective department. I also sent Co Thanh my IRB form and ISP site form (all part of the protocol).

Later today I am going kite flying with my host mom and after that (at 6pm) I will go to Jenny's Host Mom's house to help Vietnamese students with their English (service learning as Co Thanh would say!). Things seem to be going alright for now. I am still a bit anxious about all of this (the interviews and the writing of my ISP). Let's hope this feeling will dissipate and that it will be filled with confidence by the end of the week!

P.S. This post was posted by Henry. Thank you! =D
Tuesday, April 8, 2008 0 comments

The Muong Village, Ha Long Bay and ISP begins tomorrow!

Ha Long Bay in the evening
Our group's ship
Me with my Ao Dai and Co Thanh, our academic director
Some of the group in Ha Long Bay
Down the Muong road on my birthday
Muong Home

Where do I begin? To think that tomorrow ISP begins is mind blowing! Last Wednesday my group and I went to Cuc Phuong National park. I didn't see the park but I still got some beautiful pictures that gave me an idea of what I missed thanks to my friend Quan. After that we went to a Muong village. Some info on them:

They are most closely related to the ethnic Vietnamese. While the Muong are believed to be related to the Vietnamese, some ethnologists theorize the Muong remained in the mountains and developed independently while the Vietnamese moved to the low country and became influenced by Chinese culture resulting from the 111 BC invasion by Chinese Han Emperor Wu Ti. The Muong and the Tai have had a mutual influence on each other’s culture. So, today the Muong are ethnically close to the Vietnamese, but culturally and socially similar to the Tai.

We stayed the night at the Muong Village and had some "cultural exchange". We danced, we ate, and sang both Vietnamese and American songs. It was a very nice experience. However, I was sad because that day was the 3rd- my birthday and I couldn't get any signal. Therefore, my parents and the rest of my family members were unable to contact me. Yet things got better and quickly! After this we went to Ha Long bay which is being nominated as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It was truly breathtaking and just so surreal. Sleeping on the ship was such a welcomed change. We all got to relax and to take things in for once. Our program is pretty intense because have a lot of readings and work but we also travel often (it is so exhausting). On April 5 (our first out of 2 day and one night stay) we had a party that night to celebrate 3 girls birthdays ( I was one of them). This moment will forever be in my memory. I think I bonded even more (if it is possible) with some of my classmates which I had become fairly close to (such as Jo, Wen, Von and Hai Minh).

Today is the last day for five of us in Hanoi. Since our ISP period begins tomorrow, five of us are off to our respective ISP sites. There are some others that won't be conducting their research in Hanoi but they decided to stay in Ha Noi a little longer (for various reasons). The only people going to Can Tho are Jenny C. and I. Tomorrow we fly back to HCMC in the morning but the following day we will take a 4 1/2 to 5 hour bus ride to Can Tho City. Jenny is doing something with shrimp/rice farming I believe, while I am looking at sustainable tourism from a Vietnamese perspective during the initiative known as "National tourism year 2008".

*I may post my proposal later on in the week.
Posted are pictures of the Moung Village and Ha Long Bay.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008 1 comments

Busy Day in Ha Noi /Plans Plans Plans!

So right now I am in planning and organization mode. I have just registered for Fall classes in case I don't get a coop, though I must say that right now a coop does look promising, and I am hoping that it works out! If I get this internship, I can intern at the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC)! It is a company that through marketing promotions is able to aid hispanic owners of small companies and large corporations to network while enabling the opening of job opportunities among the companies. They also help with policies affecting hispanic businessmen(women) and they also focus on developing and empowering the hispanic communities within Philadelphia. They asked me to send my resume after I had (what I believe) an awesome conversation with the woman who is in charge of small business development. This is such a great opportunity. I hope the door doesn't close on my foot but rather that it will open more and more with each passing day.

I also have to contact more people for my ISP. Among one of the people that I have to contact is a man by the name of Tam who has connections/knows people at the Can Tho tourism department. However, I really want to talk to the people who work at the subdivision known as the works company because I think that they will be very important sources to my research.

Today we went to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and it was depressing. I don't want to do that ever again if I can. I just felt it was so wrong to have him on display like that, when on his will he wrote that he wanted to be cremated, and that he wanted his ashes to be spread across the river and the mountains. We also went to the Presidential Palace. We got to learn more about Ho Chi Minh's life and it seems like he was a very simplistic, compassionate and intellectual person. Apparently he knew 8 languages and had friends from many different countries! Then we went to the Ethnology museum to learn more about the different ethnic minorities in Viet Nam. I found a book in Spanish. I think my dad will like this book because it focuses on "memories of war" and deals with history.

In addition, we also went to watch a water puppet show. You must see it! I recommend this activity to all and anyone who goes to Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

Tomorrow we are off to a Moung village (ethnic minority). We will sleep over at their communal house most likely.