We arrived the other day in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) in Vietnam. We flew in on my birthday ... which was celebrated with delicious cake and lovely surprises like furry sweater vests and Sox tickets and yogurt. (Thank you for all the cards, too!)
Ho Chi Minh is an unbelievably busy city; no matter what time of day, you've got to dodge thousands of motorcycles to cross a street -- and even if it's marked as one way, don't expect it to work that way. Christmast is already everywhere, even in early December; all the shops are heavily adorned with gaudy decorations, and horrible techno versions of Christmas songs blare out of every door. But it's great; I'm glad we'll be spending the holiday somewhere withs lots of Christmas cheer, even if somewhat peculiar.
We're living in a dorm-style guesthouse; the girls in two large rooms, and the boys in doubles. We're working closely with CET, a study abroad program, and their office is fairly near the guesthouse. We've spent the last couple of days at the office, having lectures on Vietnam's history and economy, taking crash courses in Vietnamese (which, believe it or not, seems more difficult than Chinese), and having TBB seminars.
Tomorrow we'll start our work with our local NGO, Enda, Environmental Development Action. Our focus is waste management, and we'll know more about it once we start.
The best part of Ho Chi Minh so far? The iced coffee -- a local favorite, served usually with thick condensed milk. Easily found not only in cafes and restaurants, but also on stools on the sidewalk, it is more abundant even than Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, a blessing after its scarcity in China.