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Language Immersion Trip, part 1

We are in Vietnam for two weeks of language immersion. This an optional part of language training that many language departments at FSI hold. The idea is that we go to the country with one of our teachers, and while continuing our regular course work, we also engage with people in the community and practice using the language to do real-life tasks. 

Seven students and two teachers are participating this time. We have to pay our own expenses (plane ticket, hotel, food, etc), which is one of the reasons that not everyone decided to come. It’s a lot of money, but I have an “evil plan” for this trip. If I can achieve a high enough language proficiency score, then I will be eligible for “language incentive pay” from the Department. I qualified for that when I worked in China. That bonus would more than pay for this trip. 

The trip started out with some drama. We had a very mild winter this year. Then suddenly a winter storm appeared and threatened DC with a foot of snow. 


Our flight was scheduled to leave right in the middle of the mess. Some flights were preemptively cancelled in anticipation of the storm. We panicked for a few hours. Then we looked at the movement and direction of the storm. Based on our experience with weather in Michigan, we predicted that the worst would not hit D.C. 

We were right. By the time our flight left on Tuesday, it was raining lightly, with only a few inches of slush on the ground. 

The last time that I flew on Korean Airways was in 1989. I did not like it.  Back then, KA was a budget-travel airline with old planes and bad food. Since then, they turned around and improved immensely. We had plenty of leg room (we are not tall people), and the service was good. The food was,… well, it wasn’t the worst airplane food I’ve ever had (you win that “honor,” United Airlines). Enough said. 

Once we arrived in Vietnam, things went smoothly. Armed with the experience of having been here before, and with some language, we didn’t have any difficulties. 

There was some minor hotel drama, though. The hotel that we had reservations at had problems with their A/C, so they booked us at a “nearby” hotel. The desk clerk said it was a three-minute walk away, and a bell hop pointed us in the right direction. We started to walk. A minute later, he must have realized (correctly) that two jet lagged foreigners couldn’t possibly find it on their own, so he caught up to us and walked us there. 

We don’t have any activities planned for this first day. We are wandering around the city. We’re delighted that we can read a lot of the signs, and can converse with the local people. 

The coffee culture is well developed in Vietnam. This is iced coffee with a generous shot of sweetened condensed milk.

Thanks for the translation, but I could probably have figured this one out on my own.


I will post later, after I have inevitably done something ridiculous. 

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