Vietnam - Thao
My first two weeks in summer 2007 was a wonderful time. After the school had ended, I went back to my home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with my friend, Katie Wall, accompanying me. Our stay in my country was such a blast. We were one of the lucky pairs chosen for the "Take a Friend Home" Program (TAFH). The purpose of the program is to promote cultural awareness and mutual respect among domestic students and international students enrolled at Westminster College.
We left the US on Friday night, 04/06/2007, and landed on Ho Chi Minh City on late Sunday morning, 04/07/2007. I introduced Katie to my parents when we met at the gate. On our way back to my home, I briefly introduced my city to Katie. We spend our first three days to rest, unpack and explore the city. I also introduced Katie to my family, which is an extended one.
On one day, we went to the downtown area with my mom and aunts, and we shopped in one of the central market. On another day, we went to an amusement park which has 15,000 crocodiles, and we also went to Cu Chi Tunnel. The Tunnel System was hand-dug during the Vietnam War. We went around mostly by motorbikes, except when we went to the park and the Tunnel. Katie loves the motorbike so much. Later, we went to a tour for four days with my mom.
On our tour, we went up north to "Nha Trang", a beautiful city by the seashore in the central part of the country; then we would go to another city in the highland called "Da Lat". On the first two days of the tour, we always ate seafood. There were not any meats at all, which was good because Katie is a vegetarian. I was glad that Katie loved the food. During the day time, we stopped by different seashores, beach, and the ocean museum. We even went to one of
the main islands by cable cabin. At the bay where we went swimming, Katie got to hold a big squid. We stopped by the local market before we went to "Da Lat". My mom and I bought some dried fish there, and Katie got some souvenirs for her family. In all of our purchases, my mom was always the one who did the bargaining. Katie was so surprised to find how much cheaper we could buy the goods if we bargain. We left "Nha Trang" for "Da Lat". On our way up to there, we stopped by to see one of the remnants of the Champa Empire in "Phan Rang" town. It consists of three towers. They were built in the twelfth century, during the propitious time of the Empire. The Empire was a part of Cambodia; therefore the architecture of the towers had the sense of Cambodian culture. On the last two days of the tour, we ate a lot of fresh vegetables because "Da Lat" was famous for them. In "Da Lat", we visited some historic places, the Villa of the last King of the last Dynasty in Vietnam, beautiful gardens, pagodas, the old church and waterfalls. We visited one of the places where they make marvelous embroidered pictures. Katie and I also went to interact with one of
the minority tribes living in "Da Lat." We had a fun time talking and dancing with them. The weather was not on our side at nights, so that we could not do much except rest after long days traveling around. Katie fit in well with the group during our tour. I asked some of them to help me with translating when I sometimes got stuck trying to explain to her (the tour guide spoke in Vietnamese).
We came back to the city and rested for two days. Later, we went to my grandparents' house in a small quite town by the Mekong River called "My Tho" for almost two days. My granddad rented a small boat for us to have a tour in the Mekong River. We went around four islands of the river (Dragon, Unicorn, Turtle and Phoenix), and stopped by one of our far relatives' house. Katie got to taste the honey taken directly from the bee net by her index finger. We spent our last days of the program at my home. We went out to the downtown area more at night, and Katie got to meet my best friends before she came back to the US after two weeks staying with me. One of the things about Katie that my family remembered the most was that she loved w
The trip was so exciting. I got to show Katie my homeland, my family, and my culture. I got to understand how difficult it is to translate everything all the time. Katie got to know how hard it is to live in a different country with different language. She picked up some of my language though. She could guess what we were talking about even though she did not understand the details of the conversations. My family had a fun time having Katie with us. I felt that we were very lucky to be chosen for this TAFH Program.