Trip to Hanoi!, Swanky Clothes, and Seafood. Etc.

Today I spent sooo much money. More money than I thought possible to spend in one day in this country
I bought plane tickets to Hanoi. It wasn’t on our program’s schedule, which is both ridiculous and unfortunate because it is one of the few places I Really Want to see while I’m here. I booked a round trip leaving late Thursday March 29th and returning late Sunday April 1st.
(tip: If traveling within Vietnam, if you book the last flight of the day you save 30%. What would have cost me $200USD cost me $140USD because I was willing to get in just before midnight.)
I also booked my hotel, three nights ($24/night). The one I wanted is right on that famous lake with the pagoda in the middle, within walking distance to quite a few of the sights and places I want to see. I could have paid less and stayed in a dorm like situation, but I’ll take my AC and walking convenience, thanks.
After booking my flight at the place downtown, I wandered into a dress shop that I had passed on my way in… and dropped a little over $100USD on (all hand-tailored) black linen pants, a really nice blue linen shirt, and a summer dress with hand embroidered flowers up the front.
Then, in looking for the place I wanted to eat (that I never did find), I walked into another dress shop (this could be dangerous) and another $80 went towards (again, hand-tailored) a green skirt with off-white embroidery and a little black dress that swishes! This is all in addition to my khaki-colored linen pants, black tank top, and lbd from the other woman, which should be significantly cheaper.
Please don’t do the math, it makes me cringe just thinking about it. I can afford it, considering my general expenses run about $5/day (three meals, coffee, and smoothie). I am comforting myself with the fact that that’s *a lot* for the money I did spend.

Starting yesterday I am enrolled in a Vietnamese Culinary class that is not far from here.

(Because this ended up being a long ass entry, please click to read more about cooking, travel plans, and roommates:)
I have two more classes, and the program is paying for it because like, almost all of us are doing it. Yesterday I made spring rolls (minced pork, crab meat, minced prawns, spices, etc.), “Sour Soup with Snake Fish,” and “Caramel Fish in Clay Pot,” which I think we used a bass for. It was all very Fine Culinary, and I think the only one I could even remotely replicate at home is the spring rolls.
I will have to remember to bring my camera next time so y’all will actually believe this claim that I Cooked.
Those of you who are family members and have watched me grow up stubbornly refusing to eat fish and seafood will undoubtedly be amused by the fact that I am now eating it at least every other day. Shrimp (though not the scary big shelled kind, that still turns me off), Fried Squid, and Calamari are now some of my favorite kinds of food. There’s a place a block away from the hotel that makes the most amazing fried squid. I’ve been there twice in the past week, I think.

As I am no longer applying to the program in Cambodia – I can’t afford to not work the entire summer, though I could afford to stay (If that makes any sense). I am contemplating changing my return ticket and going to Laos for a week before heading back to the states.
My mother is convinced I am attempting to give her a coronary before I return. Or some other heart/stroke related disease, I don’t remember what it was she said on the phone earlier.
At least, if I went, I don’t think I’d make it out to the Plain of Jars (which would be awesome!), a trip that apparently involves a really high chance of being mugged and shot. Not to mention the unexploded mines and all.

Speaking of unexploded mines1, I’m going to the DMZ the weekend of April 5th. We even have a history professor/war historian from Cornell that will be leading our tour. This should be interesting.

So, after a month of living with our American roommates, five of them have finally moved out to their homestays and the rest of us should get our Vietnamese roommates tomorrow. I am not sure how I feel about it, really. I am kind of irritated that it took so long because now that we’ve gotten into a routine and all it has to be disrupted. Wasn’t CIEE’s fault, anyway. Gotta love large unwieldy bureaucratic systems. I’m going to miss having just about all of those homestay people around.
Not that most of you know how to pronounce Vietnamese words and therefore won’t get this, but my roommate has the “Ng” sound in her name. Which is one of the harder to pronounce sounds in this whole pronunciation business. Beginning Vietnamese speakers tend to sound like a cat vomiting through their nasal when they’re trying to say it. I refuse to be that American that gives the Non-American a Nickname, but it might come down to that. Better than me butchering her name every time.

In the past week or so I have been kind of mopey and anti-social. I was spending a lot of time in the hotel room, on the computer, and downloading tv shows (Xena, Warrior Princess does Vietnam!). Possibly a little bit homesick. Possibly a little bit sick of not speaking Vietnamese. Possibly a little bit sick of getting stared at all the time.
Then I got a little sick of being mopey and forced myself to stay at school because lunchtime is really the only time I meet non-program folks.
I now have three new numbers in my phone to add to the other Vietnamese folks who are really big on getting your number within five minutes of meeting them.

Tomorrow, we’re going to a museum and a restaurant with my Vietnamese class. I should have studied in the past hour rather than writing this entry, but my brain probably wouldn’t have cooperated anyway.

Two more pictures posted, of downtown Saigon. Neither are good examples of Saigon traffic, it was noonish and the Vietnamese have common sense and are not out at that gawd-awful hour. Rather, they power nap. Somewhere cool, usually. Then they go back to their work.
Us sweaty white people are only beginning to catch onto that trend.
1 No coronaries yet, Mom. I promise to stay on the well established path and not wander off to get a good photograph.

This entry was posted in Asia, Preparation, Vietnam 2007 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Trip to Hanoi!, Swanky Clothes, and Seafood. Etc.

  1. Jonathan says:

    Bring back some recipes from that cooking class, or post them!!!!

    PS – yeah, probably a good thing your grandparents don’t know about the unexploded landmine field trip…I’m guessing Ba would wig out just a little bit…..

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