Just catty corner to the Hills' house, where I am staying in this summer, is a Baptist church. Lo and behold, this church plays host to a small Vietnamese congregation of about 60 members. Random!...or not.
Mrs. Barbara Hills kindly did some research for me, and I figured that I really had no excuse not to go attend the service and see what I could glean from the experience. In response to the trepidation I felt as I surveyed the room of people of whose conversation I could not understand a word, and above whom I towered by at least half a foot in most cases (why did I wear heels?), I told myself, "Calah, if you think this is bad, what are you ever going to do in a month and a half?" So, I marched in, slouching.
The experience proved to be both encouraging and intimidating; the people were incredibly friendly, the language...terrifying. Fortunately, I met a girl and her boyfriend who were visiting their family here for the weekend. She is an interpreter, and sat next to me, whispering in my ear throughout the service. I was invited to the home of a congregation member for lunch where we had a very refreshing soup and the strangest desert I have ever had--sort of like slimy bits of jello in chilled milk--a bit like a frappuccino. I learned that the weather in Hanoi is similar to here in Texas, though probably more humid, with less air conditioning. I also received a few pieces of advice, as follows:
1) Never buy anything at the price that is offered--always bargain. Go with a Vietnamese to observe first.
2) Try the fruit--there are many varieties that we do not have or that are very expensive here in the States.
3) "Do you like rice? I hope so! If you don't like rice, you're going to the wrong place!" ...Well, I don't have anything against rice, per se, but I guess I will learn to love it!
4) Learn how to use chopsticks!
5) Watch out for pickpockets! They are very good.
My own personal advice to myself: watch your posture. Slouching around won't help you stand out less.