My Vietnam Experience

My Vietnam Experience - job shadowing

by Maria Sefterska

My name is Maria and I from Bulgaria. I work as a project coordinator in association Focus –European Center for Development. Thanks to project GLOBAL PLACE I spent 3 weeks in Vietnam for a job shadowing project. I stayed in a comfortable apartment provided by hosting organization – SJ Vietnam in the capital of the country – Hanoi. For me this was the first time out of Europe, first contact with culture so different from mine. Let’s describe this experience chronologically. The first thing that shocked me was the traffic. In this country people drive mainly scooters and the scooters are everywhere on the pedestrian street, on the pavement, believe me everywhere.

They don’t care much about the light colour of the traffic light and if you want to cross the street you need to be persistent and patient. Then I entered my 3-week home and I realized I will sleep on a matrass without the bed and it was a nice way to get in touch with culture. My first dinner was in a restaurant with my Vietnamese hosts and my Polish colleagues and we ate sitting on the ground with crossed legs. The funny fact was that European can’t stay long time with crossed legs as Asian people do. Even I didn’t succeed  in this I was pretty proud of myself because I handled with eating with chopsticks. These people can even eat soup with chopsticks.

Then the project started. It was so interesting to see this different reality and very inspiring to see how the organization was dealing with such big problems like poverty, lack of education, diseases and painful ways of treatment.
Then it came the best part of all – my free time. I spent a weekend on a boat in Halong Bay – a bay on the Pacific Ocean. The nature is so different there, nothing like Europe. Just one word – “The Beach”, the movie I mean / it was set in Thailand, but the nature is pretty the same/. A paradise on the planet Earth with big green /covered with vegetation/ rocks out of the water and an amazing cave. And then on the next day kayaking in the ocean. Sounds like once-in-a-lifetime experience, doesn’t it? And of course the food, I forget the food. Different cuisine, including rice in each meal, a lot of soy sauce, many different kinds of fish, fruits different from the ones we eat in Europe /my favorite dragon fruit, I miss you so much/.
The other fact I loved so much about Vietnam was that I was like a celebrity there, especially because I am a fair representative of European race. Many people stopped me on the street just to talk and to take a picture with me.
I have met a lot of international volunteers during my project there and together we discovered some parts of the Vietnamese mentality, different from our “western”  way of thinking. These people still remember the awful wars happened on their lands /the one with China for their independence and the one with The USA/ and they live their life like there is no tomorrow. But isn’t it the smartest way of living? We spend time regretting about yesterday and thinking about tomorrow and forget to live today.