Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pizza and a College Fair

            In sharp contrast to the first month I've been here, this week seemed to go by really slow - likely because I have a week-long trip coming up next week. But, besides focusing on my classwork, I also did a lot of fun things this week as well. I had pizza and ice cream for the first time since I’ve been here, I went to a college fair at a fancy hotel, and I met someone from my hometown, an admissions person from UCSB, as she was passing through Ha Noi. All that and more, this week, on andrew abroad!

            It is nearing the end of September, and as I've said in previous posts, time is going by fast. This was the last week of the month, and in just a few days I will be off with my classmates on our beginning of the year trip all around northern Vietnam; including Sapa, in the mountains, and Ha Long bay, along the coast. Time away from home in a foreign city is a funny thing and hard to explain, as it sometimes feels like it has been a really short visit, but it mostly feels like I have been here much longer than just a month - and even stranger is that sometimes it feels like both at the same time. I can definitely say that I'm settling into life in this crazy-busy city now; the taxi rides don’t scare me nearly as much, and the temperature has begun noticeably dropping from the hot, humid, sticky summer to a much more livable climate. I still have 8 months remaining here in Ha Noi, and yet I've already become so familiar with the city, its people, its traffic, and its smells (both good and bad), that it’s hard for me to even imagine how well I’ll know it in eight months time. And, along those lines, how strange and foreign Santa Barbara may seem when I first return home.

            On Tuesday I had pizza!! for the first time since I left America. I actually remember the last time I had it; my dad, sister and I ate at a pizza restaurant somewhere just outside San Francisco on our way to the airport, about 4 weeks ago (not that I've spent countless hours daydreaming about it...). But flash forward to present. I went to a place called the Pizza Company, located a convenient 2 minute drive from our school, with some friends. The pizza was actually pretty good, maybe because I hadn’t had pizza in a month, but I thought it was great. It was a combo restaurant of both Pizza and ice cream restaurants, the pizza upstairs and ice cream downstairs. The ice cream was made by a San Francisco company, I think it was called Swensons, and it felt for a short time like I was back in the US - everything in the restaurant was in English, including the menus and ice cream labels. I had a cheese pizza, did I mention that it was very had enough cheese and tomato sauce, and the crust wasn’t too gooey or too hard, just right! Also on the menu were other American staples, like pasta, chicken wings, fries, ect…

            Wednesday at school, our director told us that there was going to be a college fair that afternoon at a fancy hotel downtown, and that he would take anyone who wanted to go after school. So later that day around 10 of us piled in a couple of taxis and headed on over. The hotel experience was surreal. Walking out of the hot, fast-paced streets of Ha Noi and into the palacial, sedate and well air-conditioned hotel lobby was like walking from night to day. It immediately felt like I could have been inside any fancy hotel in the US. It had a large, multistory lobby, with escalators, elevators, and cafes and stores. Lots of tourists were sitting in the café, presumably getting ready to make the most of their visit to Vietnam, and there was a multitude of different meeting and conference rooms all over the first several levels of the hotel. We determined that the college fair was in the main ballroom, but we then had the task of figuring out just how to get there. After about 10 minutes of searching, we finally found the set of “express elevators” that took us directly to the ballroom. It was massive. There were rows and rows of tables with schools from all over the US. We were, of course, the only non-Vietnamese students there, so we attracted a lot attention from the recruiters. Everyone wanted to know what we were doing in Vietnam, so we spent some time telling them all about the program. At some point I looked through the directory and saw that UCSB was there, and I got so exited to talk with someone from home that I immediately went over to find their table. The admissions lady, Lisa, was really nice, and I talked to her about the SYA program and Santa Barbara for quite some time. It was really therapeutic for me, as it made me a little less homesick to talk with someone who was actually from Santa Barbara, and knew what Blenders is, what Rusty's is, or where and what State Street is...I could go on and on. She also seemed quite impressed with the SYA program and the experiences that I was having over here, and said that she would be reading my blog. I hope she remembers me if I decide to apply to UCSB next year - did I mention what a nice lady she was :) After talking to Lisa, I went around to look at some more of the schools. There were some well-known ones, some not so well known, and then there were some that made me ask myself; “does that school really have a large enough budget for international recruitment?”. So after a few hours, at around 6 or so, we headed down to the lobby, and boarded our separate taxis headed home.

Another week put into the history books. Week 4 down, 34 more to go!

A message for those of you that have actually read to the bottom of this post: My blog is being uncooperative and I am having trouble loading pictures right now, but tomorrow morning (tonight CA time) I will try again... Thank you for your patience and understanding.


  1. Even reading about pizza makes me happy! Glad you had a taste of one that satisfied! And ice cream too! Yea!!! You'll be back...

    Never hurts to put in a good word with the college recruitment folks.

    And I'm excited to hear about your touring around the northern areas of Vietnam. Be interesting to see if the food changes in the various know, like southern barbecue vs New England seafood.

    love you, mm