Semester at Sea

This semester I will be on a ship taking classes and traveling to different countries. I will visit Cadiz, SPAIN ~ Casablanca, MOROCCO ~ Takoradi, GHANA ~ Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA ~ Port Louis, MAURITIUS ~ Chennai, INDIA ~ SINGAPORE ~ Ho Chi Minh City, VIET NAM ~ Hong Kong/Shanghai, CHINA ~ Kobe/Yokohama, JAPAN ~ Honolulu/Hilo, HAWAII ~ San Diego, USA.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

11032010 - 11072010. Same Same...but Different

I didn’t write this right after Vietnam, but I wish I had because now it’s all kind of a blur. haha

The first thing we did when we got there was find a tailor to get custom made dresses. It’s a very popular thing to do there because it’s so cheap. Anyway after we went to an ATM, got some delicious (and strong!) Vietnamese iced coffee, and went in a few shops, we found a tailor and started the process. We picked out the dresses and the fabrics, they took our measurements, and we were all set!

After that we walked around for a little bit and then went to the Ben Thanh Market. I’ve been in a lot of markets on this trip, but that one was definitely overwhelming! The isles between the shops were very narrow and all of the shopkeepers grabbed our arms along the way and tried to pull us into their shops. We have had good practice at bargaining though because we got some good deals on North Face jackets and other fake stuff. We sat down for lunch in the market, and Ariel and Heidi got Pho, a popular dish in Vietnam. I didn’t get any because it didn’t look good to me, and they didn’t really like it either. After lunch we walked around a little more and got some more coffee. Then Shannon and I got $5 mani-pedis while Ariel and Heidi people watched. We met them after we were done and some local college students came up to us and wanted to talk to us so they could practice English. We talked with them for a few hours about all kinds of different things. It was really interesting, and they were all so nice!

The next day Shannon, Heidi, Ariel and I were all on the same SAS trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. They tunnels were built by the Vietcong during the war to escape the US bombings.  Climbing through the tunnels was a little scary! They had been widened to accommodate tourists but they were still really small. Our guide told us they spent almost all of their time in the rooms built underground – babies were born there and honeymoons were celebrated. It was crazy to think about what life was like for them. It was also sad because even if they were the communist enemy, no one should have to live like that.
A few days later we went to the War Remnants Museum and saw the war from the Vietnamese perspective. It was really hard for me, and I almost started crying. We didn’t have time to go through the whole museum, but I spent most of my time at the pictures that showed what happened when the American soldiers raided the villages, dropped napalm, and also the long lasting effects of Agent Orange (on a side note, I found out that there is a whole generation that is disabled as a result of all of the Agent Orange that was dropped. However, the Vietnamese government has taken them off the streets, put them in homes, and taught them to make crafts and other stuff that can be sold to benefit them. I was really encouraged when I heard that, so I hope that is actually what is happening.) It was so powerful. Not only was it sad to see what had happened, but also it was depressing to think about the American soldiers, many of whom didn’t want to be there, who were forced into committing such atrocities. After seeing those pictures, it’s no wonder to me why a generation a men came back from the war so broken. It made me realize how horrible and unfair the war was for everyone who was involved.
Vietnam was hard for me not only because of the tunnels and the museum, but also because on the third day we went to a home for girls who had been victims of or had been exposed to human trafficking.
It was simply luck that we ended up going – a girl had mentioned the possibility when we were in Ghana, but we only found out the morning of the trip that it would actually happen (the language barrier caused some confusion about what we wanted to do there). We went there that afternoon, but when we got there one of the women who worked there told us that all of the girls were at school and that we would have to come back later. It ended up working out because we took that time to go back to the tailor and have our first fitting. We went back later that night. It was pouring rain (like it did ever day we were there), and the dirt road off the main road that we had to walk down was completely flooded. We eventually made it there and met the rest of the group inside. All of the young girls (they were between 8-21 but they all looked half their age) were there, and we went around the circle and did introductions. After that we played a few icebreaker type games and had a lot of fun! The girls didn’t speak English well, but it didn’t really matter. We spent the rest of the night painting nails and making bracelets.
I had so much fun that night. The home was definitely a place of hope, but it was still difficult to imagine what the girls had been through. The director was very vague and would not say anything about it since they were all there. However after seeing a documentary last year about human trafficking, I can only imagine the worst. Like I said, it was a place full of hope, but I wish we could have learned more about it and about how the girls were rescued.
The next day we picked up our dresses. I was nervous, but they turned out really good! We spent the rest of our time in Vietnam exploring all of the markets. We bought shirts that said “Same Same But Different” because it was the running joke of Vietnam (and the whole trip really). When you are going through the whole bargaining/ buying process the shop keepers seem to say it a million times. I guess you have to be there to see the humor, but it’s been hilarious.
Vietnam was a lot more emotional than I expected, but overall I loved it!!

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