Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam — The Semester at Sea ship is currently located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, but the people here still refer to it as Saigon. Vietnam is a consumer’s paradise. Knock-off North Face jackets are $35 USD, and things like backpacks cost less than $15 USD. Because of that, there are so many factories. If I looked through my closet, I would find that the majority of my clothes are made in Vietnam. We still have a lot to learn about the consequences of our actions, and I have now realized the value of travel and access to international experiences such as this.
San Jose, Costa Rica — This past weekend, we had a volunteer service day at an assisted living home. We painted a wall, painted fingernails, helped serve coffee, walked with people and pushed their wheelchairs and performed songs for them in English. It was really difficult for those who spoke softly, struggled to hear or were suffering from some sort of dementia. We all really struggled to know what to say and fully understand them, but there were some things, like painting fingernails, that were just intimate enough to connect, regardless of language barrier. It’s a beautiful thing to realize how universal volunteer and service work is.
Santiago, Chile — Nearly every movie poster I've seen in Santiago has advertised a Hollywood production, and the major movie theaters only show American films. The radio plays many imported American songs, although I have also heard a good bit of Argentinian, Brazilian, Spanish and Venezuelan music broadcast as well. What intrigues me most about the Latin radio jams is that many of them, predominantly those located within the Latin pop genre, have an accompanying dance. The majority of the Chilean youth knows the steps to these dances, and nobody is too cool to join in.