Sorry for the length of the post, but there is so much to say!
Our plane didn't land until about 12:00am Monday morning. The night time provided the contrast needed to see the wide expanse of Ho Chi Minh city. After we retrieved our luggage we headed out to meet Dr. Berman who had arrived earlier last week. He was standing with our "guide" Trân; she is a short, young, well dressed individual who was eager to meet us. She rode back with us on the bus to the Victory hotel where we would stay for the next two weeks. Immediately after arriving we went to sleep, gosh were we tired.
At 8am I woke up to the sound of my iPhone alarm and after getting dressed Reggie and I headed down to breakfast. Imagine American Chinese food, now imagine having it for breakfast. This is much like the breakfast we had this morning. Stir fries, rice porridge, chicken, pork, and beef were all possible selections. Similarities with American breakfasts included fresh fruit and coffee. The coffee they have here is incredible strong. It's taste was mitigated by the large amount of sweetener I put in my cup. With the added flavor the drink was actually quite good, so much so that I decided to get a second cup.
We proceeded to the University of Economics and Finance where we were greeted by a news camera. The camera man shot us from all angles as we piled out of the bus. He frequently sprinted ahead 15ft or so to get a different angle as we walked to the welcome ceremony. In the welcome ceremony classroom there were many tables that sat three people each, we were to sit one American to each table and two Vietnamese. The table in front of me was empty so I had the privilege of talking to five Vietnamese before the ceremony. They asked me various things such as what sports I played and what I did for fun. Each of them spoke English on a different level, as well as helping one another speak more clearly. Talking to them was so fascinating. I was so eager to speak with them and they felt much the same way. We were asked to stand up and tell three facts about one of our Vietnamese friends, I chose a girl sitting next to me because she was helping me with my spoken Vietnamese during our time to talk. Her name is Vân, she is 21, and her major is business administration. She certainly didn't look 21 to me, I would have guessed her to be just around my age. She was also significantly shorter then me at around 5’. Vân introduced me as “Alice” who is a 19 year old computer engineer. I payed less attention to the speakers as I should have but speaking with my friends was so intriguing I couldn't help it. I started a Vietnamese dictionary on my phone of some simple frequently used words. Hello, goodbye, sorry, excuse me, happy, and rice hat were the newest words in my vocabulary.
We proceeded upstairs for our first language class. There we once again sat 2:1 at a table and our friends helped us with our pronunciation. The tones in Vietnamese can be difficult for native english speakers to pronounce correctly. Our language teacher uses her hand to visually demonstrate the change in pitch while speaking, this makes pronunciation much easier for us.
We then went to the us consulate in Ho Chi Minh city which is at the site of the original US embassy; the spot of the Têt offensive for those of us that know our history. While inside the US citizens that work for the state department gave us a tour of the facility and talked with us in a conference room about the political, economic, and social situation that Vietnam is in today. After a tour of the grounds proceeded to a welcome dinner hosted by UEF. We went to a traditional Vietnamese restaurant where I sampled everything from shrimp (be excited Zach) to jellyfish. Trân sat next to me and I had the pleasure of talking to her for a lot of the meal. She is terrible funny and she always helps us learn new words and interface with everyday citizens. She was dressed nicely once again and I complimented a cloth flower she had pinned to her dress. She started laughing and leaned in towards some of my Pitt friends saying "he's a boy but he likes flowers!" All of my Pitt friends laughed and Trân laughed even more saying "just kidding" repeatedly.
Today was tiring but all things considered It was one heck of a day.