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.
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.
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 :)