Vietnamese is quite a difficult language to learn. And while I’ve tried, so far I have not been able to learn more than to count till 5 and say thank you. Words tend to differ more in tone than in spelling. And depending on the scribble attached to the letter, it can be pronounced in at least ten different ways.
I’m staying on the campus of the Hanoi University of Agriculture, which lies about 7 km’s outside the city. The campus is like a little village full of students. And while they are all used to seeing foreigners in the city centre, I tend to stick out here. I have not met or seen another foreigner in this place, and now I would be as surprised to see one as my Vietnamese counterparts.
Few of them can or dare to speak English. So my life here can be complicated, but mainly funny to be honest. Fortunately there are two people I work with that help me to get things done. But after working hours it’s mainly pointing at things.
Most restaurants serve the same dishes, and I just eat whatever they are serving the people at the neighbouring table. Today I was therefore presented with a piece of corn, which I ate, to much amusement of the other guests, as a cavemen, while they pick their corn one by one. Next to that I was given a mug with three layers of … gooey really. It was slimy and hat pieces in it, for a moment I thought I had been given fish-eyes or some other stuff they only eat in TV programs or Asia, but it turned out to be fruits, exotic pieces of fruit I had never seen before. I was relieved it was fruit, but it’s still a no-go for next time.
5:30pm on a working day, a crisping sound comes from the speakers, then followed by a tune that must surely be the national anthem. The big concrete university building, the red flags on top of it, and the anthem that even with my understanding of the Vietnamese language sounds like it’s hailing the hard workers, the heroes of the nation. Why don’t we have that at home?
I’ll definitely get back to you soon, as there is plenty to tell you about, my campus life, my research progress, and the wonderful things I’m learning about Vietnamese culture.