Sometimes I have been feeling lightheaded. At first I thought it was food poisoning.However the source of the issue turned out to be the air I was breathing. On days of high humidity the air is hard to breathe in and off itself. The air pollution level here is intense. I have never felt anything like it before. There are so many fumes from the thousands of motorbikes driving around that locals often wear masks to filter the air that they breathe. These masks resemble surgical masks but are made of cloth. Today during lunch I asked my friend where I could purchase a mask and he offered to get one for me. I replied "càm o'n. Tôi vôi" which literally means "thank you I happy".
Today in language class we learned the number system. Coupled with the phrases we learned yesterday we should now know enough to negotiate in the market.
At lunch I spoke with my friend about our plans for tonight. A group of Vietnamese are taking us to dinner and they asked if we wanted to ride in a taxi or take a motorbike. I could take a taxi back home so the choice is obvious. I want to experience what it would be like to travel by bike on the congested roads. While driving there seams to be only one rule. Fill all empty gaps. If there is an empty space on the road of any size, expect a bike to fill it almost immediately. They drive very close together by way of our standards. However their method of transportation by bike is quite effective for their situation in my eyes.
When I introduce myself to Vietnamese (tôi tên là Alex:my name is Alex), they always pronounce it "Alice" without fail. I even talked to Trân about the chronic mispronunciation and she told me that the x sound is very hard for them to make. I know how they feel!
After lunch we took a trip to the urban development company Pho My Hung. Ho Chi Minh city as designed by the French with a population of 400,000 in mind. Today the population of the city is just under 8 million. The resulting effects of overcrowding in the city have many negative effects for its residents. As a result the city is looking to expand southward. This is where Phu My Hung comes into the picture. They specialize in city planning and they gave us a presentation on their work so far. There are so many details,facts, and figures to discuss that I could never explain them all here, so please ask me in person if you are interested. They have devised interesting strategies to combat the problems faced by the residents.
A few of us expressed interest in having a suit or shirts custom made here. In America the price of a custom suit could easily be thousands of dollars. Here however the prices range from $50-100. Trân talked to some of her friends and she found us a good tailor. We were going to go to his shop but when he discovered our interest he offered to come to the hotel to measure us at our convenience. It may sound shocking at first but remember the amount of business he will get from us. Our appointment is at 9pm tonight, and we are all pretty excited for that.
At 6:30 we are going to go to dinner with our friends, and ride on their bikes. I am incredibly excited for that as well and I plan to take videos from the back of the bike. Once again, a fabulous day.
Update: dinner cost $2.95 (we had tons of food) and ice-cream was also $2.95 (at least $6 in America). I rode on the back of my friend Mÿ's bike. However, I felt my hands should be holding on not holding a camera. When i feel more comfortable with the situation I will film a ride.