Tuesday, September 6, 2011

back to "shai" gon

Hello all--

I just wanted to wrap up my trip to orientation with a few more pictures from Hanoi worth sharing. Before another big day of traveling around--I loaded up on a gigantic Vietnamese breakfast at the resort:

Vietnamese coffee (very strong), rice congee with shrimp (just like grits but not as good as grist :( ),various spices/peppers to put in congee, tiny pancakes, and of course, passion fruit juice

yumsies!
Throughout this trip I kept being bombarded with people trying to make me eat this strange fruit called longan. It is like a grape that you have to peel. Apparently it is in season now. Also, when you eat it, there is a giant seed inside which I didn't know and bit down on the whole thing and all the Vietnamese people laughed at me...teehee.

longan on trees

people harvesting longan

longan longan everywhere ahhh

This is what it looks like on the inside (stole this from google images) ...final verdit:  eehh okay

After all of our sightseeing around Hanoi, we had some time to sightsee/hang out in Hanoi. I was really surprised when it was suggested that we try to visit the lake in Hanoi. A lake in the middle of the city? Maybe a pond...but when we got there it was huge!

okay I didn't get a good picture of the size but there was a nice little bridge that led to this little island that supposedly inhabits a giant fossilized turtle but you had to pay to see it so we didn't go


Then An tried to teach me how to eat various Vietnamese things that are found on the street everywhere and I was too confused at what the heck to do with them so I had never tried myself. Example: this is how you eat a coconut:



Step 1: Have people open up coconut with giant scary machete and put straw in the coconut


Step 2: Drink water from the coconut--very tasty. 
Step 3: Have people use their giant scary machete to then crack open coconut so you can scoop out delicious goodness

There was a moment in Jungle Jim's, a giant international grocery store somewhat near my house, when my brother Scott and my boyfriend Mike were wondering, "why on earth would anybody buy an entire sugar cane stalk?" Well the answer is, if you have a sugar cane grinding machine, you can make yourselves everlasting cups of sugar water! As pictured below, the lady shoved sugar cane stalks into the grinder several times and out came an entire cup of sugar water. I wish I took a picture of it, but I have to say it was probably a one time experience. Sugar water tastes exactly how you think it would...

sugar cane machine
When it got dark outside, the lake and the bridge lit up!!! It was so nice! I didn't really feel like I was in Vietnam anymore. It was very relaxing!
Ahh, Hanoi. Carving a special place in my heart...
 I went into my trip to Hanoi with previously established biases, but I have to say I very much enjoyed my stay there. I was pleasantly surprised at how modern it was.

The next day I had my first taste of Hue food (a city in central Vietnam). My friend Emily's family is from Hue so she knew exactly what to order. I desperately wish I took a picture of it because it has been my favorite meal so far in Vietnam. It was very strange but very delicious. She gave me the recommendation of a Hue restaurant in Saigon so I am going to be seeking it out ASAP.

It was back to Saigon then. I started my Vietnamese classes yesterday and I have to say I think it is definitely worth the investment. They are 5 days a week for 4 hours a day so it is quickly submerging me into things I need to know.

Over the weekend I had dinner with somebody from the CBD. His English was minimal so the majority of the conversation was about trying to pronounce different names of birds and just basic words in general. I have to share this story though because it captures the quirkiness of this place. We friended each other on Facebook before we met and although we were not able to establish exactly his point (he didn't know which way to say it and was getting confused so the convo ended shortly after), but he meant either "you look fat in your Facebook pictures and slim now" or "you look slim in your  Facebook pictures and fat now". Although I am really hoping he meant the first meaning, I am happy Fulbright addressed this point in orientation: "DO NOT GET OFFENDED IF VIETNAMESE CALL YOU FAT" haha. Apparently their meaning of fat is not derogatory or something like that and they call people it all the time. Strange, I know. Aye aye ayee....

Also, a note on my title: in the South, people pronounce it "SHAI" gon not Sai Gon. :)

That is all for now, folks. Stay tuned for another post about my adventure to my first Mass in Vietnam...teehee :)

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