I can’t really pinpoint where to begin with this beautiful city, but as my second week comes to an end I can only say this place has only amazed me more and more with each passing day.
Residing in the city of Ho Chi Minh and being surrounded by the locals has allowed me to have one heck of an experience thus far. Through the food, the culture and the people I’ve met, this experience has reminded me again how much I love traveling!
“I’ve pretty much mastered the art of crossing the street without getting run over by a flock of motorbikes.”
It’s hard to figure out where to start when all that’s coming to my head are rice and noodles. Don’t get me wrong, there’s so much more to this city than the food, but so far I have enjoyed every meal like it’s my last. One of the things I was really looking forward to was trying a bunch of new foods! Like any country, Vietnam is home to an abundance of delicious dishes unique to their culture. People here use only the freshest ingredients and often spend hours on end making just the perfect broth.
My favorite dish I’ve had so far was called bun cha — grilled pork patties with rice noodles served with vegetables — which originated from the northern part Vietnam in Hanoi. Something so simple had so much flavor, which is something I really admire about Vietnamese cuisine.
Simplicity can be used to describe many aspects in the Vietnamese culture. Only being in Vietnam for two weeks now, I’ve gotten somewhat of a feel of how life is out here. I’ve taken public transportation to my volunteer program every day for the past two weeks and I’ve pretty much mastered the art of crossing the street without getting run over by a flock of motorbikes.
It’s crazy how easy it is to get around the city here; You’ll be a local in no time!
Although what I might consider simple living is probably more complex as it seems. It’s safe to say that this country’s worth ethic is outstanding. You see workers working full work days five times a week, and they are lucky if they’re off on weekends. Some are working from the crack of dawn to half past midnight.
I feel that there’s a job for everything out here, but whatever it is I assure you that you will be always be greeted with a smile. When you don’t know a single word Vietnamese, something as universal as a smile can easily brighten up anyone’s day.
While exploring Vietnam and what this city has to offer I was also given the opportunity to volunteer at a special needs daycare through the Green Lion Program. Some of the kids at the daycare were born with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, A.D.H.D or autism.
A typical day goes like this: I wake up at 7 a.m. and enjoy breakfast before my 30 minute commute. Once at the daycare, I have playtime with the kids and then set up for lunch, help with feeding time and get blankets ready for nap time. While the kids take a nap, the other volunteers and I head back to the accommodation to have our own nap time/lunch break. Then we head back to the daycare for afternoon activities.
I’ve grown relationships with many of the kids at the daycare; some are easier than others but it’s definitely worth the time and effort. I’ve learned so much working with these kids and continue to do so with every new work day. In a short amount of time I’ve learned what toys each of the kids like to play with, what makes them laugh and if they like their rice dry or soupy.
As my program comes to an end in a week, I’m really not looking forward to saying goodbye to the kids or this city. This was definitely an experience of a lifetime that I will remember and cherish forever. I’m truly going to miss these kids as they gave me a reason to wake up every morning for the past two weeks. They brought such energy and every day was something new with them!
Vietnam has made a big impact on my life in such a short amount of time. For that I will be forever thankful.
Cheyanne Crisostomo is a third year public health major. She is volunteering in a special needs healthcare and food outreach program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam through International Volunteer HQ.