Tuesday, June 14, 2011

preparation and paperwork

Hello :) Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I have been keeping very busy. My goal is to update this blog twice a week before leaving for my trip. I just recently learned that I need to be in Hanoi starting August 30 for our in-country orientation. EEEE!!!!! How exciting. Still working on some logistical issues such as the rather important question....where am I going to live? I heard there was a guest house at the place that I am going to be working, so that is a possibility. However, I heard that it is better to "fully immerse" yourself in the city and rent an apartment somewhere. However, that would require me to buy furniture--not a lot...but I would need a bed, mattress, table and chairs, etc. I am not sure how I would go about doing that. Especially considering the fact that I speak VERY little Vietnamese, it would be rather challenging for me. And as I picture myself lugging around a mattress in extremely humid 90 degree weather through the crowded, chaotic streets of Vietnam, I have to admit it is not a pretty one. So the guesthouse is starting to sound quite nice.

I have had it up to HERE with the paperwork, that's for sure. And it just keeps coming. First it was the medical exams. Trying to organize those, finish college, and graduate all within three weeks was rather stressful.  I received another packet just the other day that included all of my grant information and how I would like to receive it, etc. Then it has a sheet regarding my flight information...AHH. I have to book that within the next few days but I am not sure yet the exact days that I am arriving in Vietnam and leaving to go back to the USA.  That is another thing, I will be flying into Hanoi for the orientation, but I need a way to get back to Saigon. And its not exactly close (~1000 miles). This would require an additional flight or train ride I think. So boring paperwork updates aside, I have been doing other nifty things to get ready.

1) I started taking Vietnamese classes...for FREE!! The Vietnamese Cultural Center in Chicago offers a free class once a week. It is actually a pretty good value considering the fact that it is free. Before taking the class, I did not know a drop of Vietnamese. Now I feel as if I am not going to be as overwhelmed when I step off the plane. I know I can get away with English at my job. Most scientists speak English. It is mostly the wandering-the-streets part that worries me a little. But I am making progreess, slowly but surely.
It has been extremely interesting, thus far. I look forward to each class. My teacher (we call him Mr. Long) is quite the character and is very invested in each student. There are about 10 students in the class. About four adults and the rest are Vietnamese children whose parents want them to learn the language. They are way better at speaking it than me!  There are five basic rules to the language: 1) 29 letters in the alphabet. Most of the letters in the alphabet make the same sounds as they do in English, which definitely makes this language easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese. It is phonetic so there are no characters (meaning symbols). Just letters with different markings over the top. 2) 28 consonants...pretty easy. 3) 12 vowels.  This is difficult for me because depending on what symbol is above the vowel will result in the sound that the vowel makes. It is hard to remember what each marking and sound are!.  4) 5 tones. I think this is definitely the hardest part to any English speaker. A different tone for a word spelled exactly the same can change the meaning completely. It is very difficult to differentiate between each tone. For example the word "CAM" (pronounced "kham") and "CÁM" (pronounced "kham?" as if you are raising your voice like a question) mean two completely different things. The former meaning "orange" and the latter meaning "vitamin rice/food for poor people". So it is challenging to pay close attention to this. And finally 5) C + V = W --consonant + vowel = word. It is very simple. Once you learn the pronunciation of each letter, you know how to say and spell everything.  Every letter is pronounced how it is supposed to be, unlike English. Another cool thing is that there is no Vietnamese word that is longer than 7 letters. Pretty cool! Unlike English...where the longest word is 28 letters: antidisestablishmentarianism. But wait...I just googled it and it looks like this word has been surpassed! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_word_in_English The longest word in the dictionary is now 45 letters long and there is a word that is allegedly 189,819 letters long. It gives me comfort in the Vietnamese language. Most words are only 2 or 3 letters. It is just the pronunciation that makes it complex.

Okay, on to the next thing:

2) I bought myself a fancy-schmancy pair of binonculars for the birdwatching/field portion of my project. This will involve surveying different areas to gain an understanding of the current status of different bird species.  I have never been birdwatching before so I am going to spend the summer trying to learn. But I absolutely LOVE my new ones. I would recommend this pair to anyone. I never realized how awesome binoculars are.
 There they sit!

3) Finally, my last new piece of equipment I have purchased for my pre-departure preparation is a new camera :) I got the Nikon Coolpix L110 12.1MP Digital Camera with 15x Optical Vibration Reduction (VR) Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD. It came in red :) This will be used to not only take the photos of the birds that I need for my database, but also to document all the cool, awesome things I see in Vietnam :)

Okay, that is all for now. I will update later this week :)


1 comment:

  1. Just fyi - most apartments in VN, esp. in the cities for "foreigners," come fully furnished or you can have them furnished for a ridiculously low price. Ask your landlord and they'll usually do anything.

    Also, last year Fulbright paid for plane tickets and hotels for the people not based in Hanoi. I would suggest coming a bit early to Saigon(?), settle down, and then fly round trip on FB's dime. Thus you won't have to lug around your 100 pounds of luggage around Hanoi and then Saigon. The train will take 20 hours--I say just take the 2 hour flight since it is only like 60 bucks.