As I walked down the three flights of stairs to the breakfast of Hotel 184, a sudden rush of emotions hit me. I could not believe it; I had just spent the previous 18 hours on an airplane in a chair that was not built for a 6’2” person. I had this sense of warmth knowing that I was not alone in this journey, while feeling flustered knowing that I had no idea what these next three weeks would entail. Will I be any good at this? Will I make an impact or will the language barrier be an issue? And, of course, what about the monkeys with rabies that they warned us about in every trip preparation video… am I prepared for this?
The first day I learned that the monkeys with rabies were certainly not going to be a problem. However, the monkeys greeted me with a less than warm welcome.
For our initial lesson we were taught how to cross the Vietnamese streets. This sounds a little funny when you say it out loud, but you would not believe the amount of motorbikes they have in this country. As if the abundance of motorbikes is not overwhelming enough, the motorists drive like Bowser from Super Mario Carts. The rest of the day consisted of dodging motorbikes, eating bowls of Phô, bargaining in the markets, and going to the Vietnam-American War Museum and the Ho Chi Minh City Zoo.
The most entertaining and comical part of the day was our visit to the zoo. The best part was spent with the monkeys, and, oh boy, was I in for a surprise. Originally the monkeys looked cute and sweet but they had me fooled. It took about five minutes for the monkey to warm up to me, then he proceeded yell and throw things at me. I had never experienced an animal throwing something at someone at a zoo. I hoped that this greeting was not going to foreshadow the rest of my experience throughout these three weeks.
Thankfully, I learned shortly after that the Vietnamese are nothing short of generous. We have been greeted with open arms, making sure that each one of us is comfortable with the living circumstances. I am so grateful to be here with such an amazing group of people, I cannot wait to see what else it has in store for me and my fellow ACErs and Vietnamese students over these next couple weeks.