Monday, October 01, 2012

Oak Park

SO I'M WAY BEHIND. And by that, I mean I'm home from Vietnam, am living near Chicago and am going to graduate school. I also have a dog, live in my own apartment, and half of my friends are living in Eurasia right now because they want to prolong the inevitable adulthood phase of life {not that this is a bad thing, I'm doing the same thing by going to grad school}. But couldn't they have done this while still living in 'Murca?! Come on people, stay by me!

Anyways since I usually post a photo on these blogs, I'll give you a look at my puppy, Yoshi. He's a year old and is my favorite dog in the whole world. Everyone agrees with me {if you don't, you die}.

This is his cage. Clearly, he is one spoiled puppy.

Recently, he's gone through his "cliche" phase in which he does typical dog things [i.e. drinks out of the toilet, tries to dig a hole through the hardwood floors, pees on fire hydrants etc...]

Eventually I'll post on the goings-on in OP, my new hometown {that's the slogan. How kitschy}

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mekong Delta

I'm behind on posts, but I wanted to write at least one post on the Mekong Delta. It was so different from anywhere else in Vietnam. These are the "boat people" that I've read about in so many books, that have been mistreated and marginalized in their costal U.S. cities because of their minority status. Instead of saving up for a new car for the family, these guys save up to buy a boat. On them, their children travel to school, they trade their produce and animals, and at times they even live on these boats. It's a stark contrast to Saigon which is a mere three hours away. 

Homes along the river because then the government can't steal their land.

This is a typical tourist boat, although ours was much smaller.

This woman was selling beets. 

The bamboo poles were attached to each pole, indicating what produce was for sale.

A view of the floating market from the roof of our boat at 7:30 am.

Hanoi, Vietnam

This experience in Vietnam has been completely unique. We've gone from sweaty armpit weather to having to wear every article of clothing in order to survive in a mere three and a half weeks. Hanoi has been different than the other cities. It's not nearly as Westernized, and the poor infrastructure is apparent from your first steps out of the hotel. Sidewalks? I believe you mean motorbike parking areas. Despite the foreignness of this city, I love it.

I find it endearing that on Valentine's day instead of couples spending $50-$100, they went to the Pho shop on the corner and spent $2.50. The family-orientated society is much more apparent here. It's rare to see a person my age without their significant other, or even their parents.

If I could go back, I would hope that the people who planned this trip would give us more time in each place. Just when I think I've got a feel on how the city works, on where my hotel is in relation to a coffee shop or restaurant, it's time to move on. I leave for Hong Kong on Tuesday. I miss my family, my friends and Greg, but I'll definitely always remember the time I've spent here. Maybe when I've had got a few more years under my belt I'll come back to Vietnam. I'd like to see more of the beaches and walk around more in Saigon. It feels weird to finish this blog post.

The entrance to the Temple of Literature

Balloons were the gift of choice this Valentine's Day.

Mother and child walk home after a Valentine's day dinner.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hue, or On [Almost] Dying

So we've been in Hue for approximately 24 hours thus far. In that time, I have indeed seen the holy body of Ho Chi Minh himself. He was encased in a tomb not unlike what I would imagine Snow White would find in her final resting place on the mountaintop. This includes engraved roses surrounding the glass case around the body. But I digress.

My friends and I (Rachel, Rachel and Neal) asked our tour guide, Ein (as in Mozart's "Eine" Kleine Nachtmusic) if there was a coffee shop nearby. 

"ah yes! No problem! Its five minutes" was his quick reply. 

Thinking ourselves clever for getting out of the hotel to do our essays (yes that's right... we have four due Friday) we quickly made for our rooms to gather our laptops and assignments. Along with these essentials, we took our maps. Ten minutes later we asked a friendly looking Vietnamese woman where to go. In our defense the maps are not to scale and they didn't tell me "recalculating" when we messed up. Five stops to ask for directions and twenty minutes later, we arrived at our destination. This is not the heart of the story.

It is Valentine's day. Thus, there are heart shaped and/or pink balloons everywhere. You've heard of the running of the bulls? We witnessed the running of the balloon men (yes, I just dropped an e.e. cummings reference). They were running from the police because they didn't have licenses. This is the backdrop of chaos that framed our walk home in the darkness of dirty Hanoi. Our savvy sense of direction got us back to the hotel in twenty minutes this time instead of thirty. 

The Rachels and I decided to walk on and leave Neal at the hotel in order to get beer (for $0.50 per can) and some oreos so we could fend off our hunger pains from lack of dinner. And then it happened: Rachel walked into the street without looking both ways (I know, Barney must not have stuck with this one). Blindly we walked behind her, the other Rachel and I. We looked to our right and I said aloud: "WE CAN'T STOP! WE CAN'T STOP!" as a taxi drove straight at us, never intending to stop. 

We made it out alive, thank the Lord. This is a cautionary tale. Don't forget what Barney taught: 

"Stop, Look and Listen before you cross the street"

The balloonmen running from the cops.

Hats for sale on the sidewalk.

The name of the game is "what's on my sidewalk". 

Round two. Sidewalk restaurant.

Neal waiting to cross the street. He's not as bold as I was... oh wait I almost got hit by a car...

Monday, January 30, 2012


Consider this the unfiltered version of my Augie blog. I don't want the administration to know my true feelings on some of these goings-on.

Vietnam is beautiful. With a population as large as NYC, Saigon is a force to be reckoned with. As we landed, I realized that instead of being built "up", it was built "out" because of the low cost of cement buildings. The sprawl went past the horizon when I looked out the window as the plane landed. They also have 4 million motorbikes in the city, so traffic is a little hairy sometimes. The group has learned the technique of crossing the street. It's called "show no fear". Basically, once you start to cross the street, you've really got to commit. Don't slow down, no matter what. See a dollar on the street? Leave it. A friend seems confused? Save yourself. You CAN NOT STOP. So yesterday when I was walking to the Vietnamese market (which seems awfully far when you're wearing sandals), this lesson was cemented in my head. They have a rough traffic law system here, which translates into "looks like there's more traffic straight than across my path. I'm going for it". So my friends and I stepped off the curb. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack when a motorbike started to turn right, subsequently, it would seem, into my path. I know to keep walking because they'll go around me. However my friends shout "Margaux!" so I freeze in place, because I guess that's my normal reaction? There I am, motorbike coming at me, another close behind. I nearly got run over (not that a scooter is really gonna be the death of me, but you get the gist). So. Do. Not. Stop. I'm alive to tell the tale, so don't worry. I just yelled at my friends to never talk to me in the street again.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


So the countdown has already begun for my study abroad term. I know that Vietnam seems like an unlikely choice, so in response to the numerous questions already posed and those that have gone unasked, I've decided to make a post on why I chose this particular foreign term.

LONG, LONG AGO... okay I'm lying. It was about a year ago. I signed up to go on Vienna term and Vietnam, ultimately choosing Vienna because of the musical/cultural experience that the term offered. I've always wanted to go to Europe and HEY it's freaking Vienna, for chrissake. Have you met me? It's right up my alley. However, I guess fate had other ideas in mind. It turns out Vienna term was cancelled due to lack of interest (probably because it was the most expensive foreign term Augie offers), and I was offered the opportunity to switch to Vietnam.

That being said, I did have my reasons for applying to Vietnam, and they still apply today. First, Vietnam is not somewhere I would choose to travel on my own. I pride myself on my traveling ability, having even helped my bf in his last minute attempt to pack (or rather unpack) for Brazil term. But even I'm not brave enough to travel to an Eastern communist country alone. My professors, God bless them, have much more gumption than I do and frequently travel to this far off land. My second reason might seem typical for a college student: I have friends who are going. Indeed they are, I'm sure, going to be my safety blanket throughout this whole term. My travel experiences consist of the United States and Ecuador, so being in a country where I haven't the slightest about what anyone around me is saying is a terrifying idea. The beauty of a study abroad program like this is that I have native English speakers to fall back on when I need it.

The third reason for this study abroad experience has really come together since I started the term. I've never been much of a history buff. I'll leave that to my Grandpa (who can, by the way, tell you where his family house is in Germany). Yes, it might be a shock, but the term "Tet Offensive" and "Tonkin Gulf Incident" meant little more than a dotted line to Asia and a shaky finger pointed at the Vietnam War as of a few months ago. I find this terribly sad. I've lived through one of the most atrocious incidents in American history. I know how appalled I would be if my children asked me one day "what's the big deal about the World Trade Centers?". And yet that is, more or less, how I treated every presidency and international incident from WWII- the Bush administration. This term has given me a more firm grasp on the history of my country, and for that I'm grateful. As one of my professors proclaimed after the first two weeks of class: "You now know more about the Vietnam War than 95% of Americans".

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New York

I recently (as in January 3rd) went to visit my good friend Josh in New Jersey. When I say New Jersey I'm not talkin Jersey Shore Jersey but I'm-a-half-hour-away-from-New-York-City New Jersey. The distance that has given me the opportunity to host Josh at my house multiple times so that he could meet and get close to my family had also robbed me of the opportunity to meet his family, even though we've been friends for nearly four years now. Besides meeting all of his friends at home, I also had the most amazing trip getting to go to his favorite places in the city, and some new ones. 

This is at the 9/11 memorial. It was a really beautiful, terrible sight. I went to New York City in the spring of 2002 and saw ground zero. Everyone there was very moved both of the times I visited the site.

the new/future 'Freedom Tower'. It'll be 1776 feet tall, making it the tallest building in America upon its completion. It's Tower One of seven that will be completed.

I found this extremely interesting. Every time I've mentioned going past the stock exchange, people have asked if I went inside. We couldn't even get close because there were guards and barricades. 

This was taken outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Apparently this is a private school. 

The classiest looking hotdog stand ever. Outside the Met yet again. 

Look how happy I am to be in New York!

A site that needs no introduction: Times Square. Note the happy young man in the hat. No, I don't know who he is. 

Hey! There it is again!

I love musicals, so I had to show you this one. [I've seen Phantom AND Wicked] (!)

I saw this sign on a wall in SoHo among movie posters and graffiti. I'm a fan.

A view of Little Italy and Chinatown way down the road. Note the back of Josh's head in the lower right corner. 

This place has been there for over 100 years. You just can't get those numbers in Chicago (or if you can, I haven't seen them). They also had the best cannoli ever, along with gelato, wine, espresso and other Italian baked goods.

For years [YEARS] Josh has been telling me that we Chicagoains don't know what a bagel is. I thought he was an idiot until I had a real bagel from Jersey. You haven't lived until you have a fresh bagel, still hot from the oven, first thing in the morning. Cream cheese and a side of coffee, too. The ultimate breakfast.