We’ve made it! We wanted to share some main takeaways of our first couple of days. The first bit of information: WE LOVE VIETNAM! Of course, we’re in the honeymoon stage where everything is new, enjoyable and something to laugh about, but we’re also enjoying our new living quarters, campus, and the overall niceness of Vietnamese people (coming from a Minnesotan, that’s huge!).
The three major new ‘normals’ we are adjusting to are: the weather, the flora and fauna, and the commute.
We’ve been stuck in the rain several times as sheets of water poured on us. One person was late to greet us because, in her words, “Vietnam welcomed us with heavy rains.” Which was the first time we were in awe by the magnitude of the storms. What we have come to learn is that we are at the tail end of the rainy season. Everyday, we have seen the roads flooded because of the torrential downpour, but people keep going with their daily routine.
Here we are huddling under a pavilion with fifteen other people while we waited for the storm to pass.
Flora and Fauna
In some ways, Vietnam is exactly what you would think it would be: beautiful lush forests, banana, coconut, and palm trees everywhere, and the traditional waterways that make it so easy to grow rice here. Our four-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Tra Vinh consisted of crossing multiple branches of the Mekong River Delta. Some rivers we crossed would put the Mississippi to shame. It was expansive and breathtaking—our host said they just built some of the bridges over them. In previous years, we would have had to take a ferry. We also saw street vendors carrying large amounts of fresh produce picked form the land on their backs or in carts. We cannot imagine the feat of their normal workday, including juggling the fresh produce or whatever else they can carry.
Usually, when we talk about flora and fauna, we think it’s outside of our apartment, but in Vietnam, for us, it is surprisingly inside as well.
Our first night, we had the (dis)pleasure of meeting a scary spider. We had gone to bed and at some point I needed to use the bathroom. Doing what a person does in the bathroom, I peer off in to nothingness and spot a regrettable sight. Nestled between two flip-flops is the creepiest unwelcome guest I could see in that moment. About a foot and half away, the large, hairy-legged, brown spider was motionlessly staring at me. I swear it was staring at me. I had been raised by the Mississippi river and was accustomed to wolf spiders in the bathroom, but this looked like it ate wolf spiders for breakfast. I was able to wake Joe who made no attempt to remove it until he needed to use the bathroom hours later. This time, the spider was on the move. The concerning part was the spider had a hole in the wall that would give way to our bedroom. It is where the drainage tube from our washing machine goes. It was a battle of brawn and brains. In this case, the spider was the brains. He darted quickly to areas that made it difficult to kill from a distance. At one point, he even scurried towards the hole in the wall. The thought of that nightmare in our bedroom would be, well, a nightmare. Luckily, we moved him back towards the bathroom where he would eventually meet his demise. Enough about the spider, but it was quite an imprint on me for the first night. We also have a gecko in the bathroom light (still there) and one that crawls in during the evening through a fan in our bedroom wall. We’ll check back with you if it gets worse.
Our newest and most exhausting obsession is our bikes. Our apartment came with two bicycles, the common mode of transportation here in Vietnam, which we love. Most people ride motorbikes here, but the bicycles are about as much speed as we can handle as we get comfortable navigating our way around town. From what we can see, there is an ordered chaos to the traffic here. I was quite overwhelmed watching it from the ride to Ho Chi Minh City to Tra Vinh, but once we kicked up our bike stand and went for it, it comes naturally. The city is relatively flat so we are able to take in a large amount of the city without much leg power. The downfall is the downpour of the rain. As mentioned earlier, we have been stuck in the rain and the bike is not the smoothest ride home through the puddles. Yesterday, we biked to a famous square lake 8km away. With a couple wrong turns, we had gone about 18km on beach cruisers. Again, exhausting.