Exploring London through Food – A New Website

Elisa, Tomoya, Snehal, Me, Chenyun - the latest school project!
Elisa, Tomoya, Snehal, Me, Chenyun – the latest school project!

My dearest HanoianSnippets readers,

I’ll save you my lame reason of being too busy at uni to blog, though it has been truthfully the reason and I am very  sorry about it.

Nevertheless, I come back with much excitement to share with you my latest ‘school project’. No, I’m not becoming a chef. If anything, weird eating habits have taken me further from the kitchen…but I digress.

6 weeks ago, I along with 4 other students started a course in Online Journalism at the University of Westminster, without the slightest idea about web building. And yet, here we are launching our very own website!

And, what else was to be the common thread between a Spaniard, a Japanese, an Indian, a Vietnamese and a Chinese ? Why, London, of course! and being the ‘hungry’, pocket-torn student journalists that we are, FOOD!

So we came up with the idea of embarking on journeys to explore London through food, affordably- everything from the latest happenings in the culinary scene, to quirky food concepts, and the gastronomic culture of the city that we’re all taking on as students for the first year.

So without further ado now, let me present to you BITES OF LONDON!

www.bitesoflondon.co.uk
www.bitesoflondon.co.uk

I look forward to your support and feedback as we continue to improve the site and update stories throughout May and into the summer.

Please connect with us on Facebook

and Follow us on Twitter

Do also check out our classmates’ innovative website on cool, off-the-beaten-path spots to shop, eat and drink outside central London @ ALSO IN LONDON! Show them some support on their Facebook.

Thank you!

Much love,

Hanoian Snippets

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[Vietnam] A country – NOT a war


My first day of Asian History in a public high school in Washington DC, a pan of the room and I found myself a loner amidst a group of American Caucasians. Considering the content of the course, all attention veered towards the obviously Asian girl across the room, as the teacher asked where I was from. “Vietnam”, I replied, to which the teacher posed to the class “What do we all know about Vietnam?” Hands popped to the air, as 8 proclaimed “Vietnam War”, while one boy enthusiastically shouted “Rambo”, and that was the end of it.

Throughout my next 6 years of living and meeting people in America, I would come to realize that in most minds here, Vietnam is seen no more than the notion of the “Vietnam War”. It’s a historical period so engrained in the memory of Americans and so popular for the anti-war spirit it inspired in American and global youths during the 1960s, that it has become the only perception most people have of Vietnam.

I’ve met people, who, in our second or third conversation, would hesitate before reticently asking me “So, do Vietnamese people still hate Americans?” or stories of veterans, who fear ever coming back to Vietnam not purely because of the revival of traumatic experiences but mostly, because they unconsciously assume that Vietnamese people “are not over it”.

Terminology-wise, first off, Vietnamese people have never referred to the period between 1954 and 1975 as the Vietnam War. It was never our choice to bring war upon us and naming the intentional efforts of the American government to colonize Vietnam – the Vietnam War, to Vietnamese people, is incomprehensible. Given our 1,000 years of rule by the Chinese and 100 years of colonization by the French before, the American invasion would be known simply as the American war.

I don’t blame the general knowledge of Vietnam being limited to the notion of war. We are, after all, a nation shaped by war and resistance, losing generations of Vietnamese to the battlefield while our society, today, is still riddled with unresolved consequences from the war. 37 years after the guns have fallen silent, ordinances and mines still dot our terrain threatening to explode at any minute and children born today live still with congenital disabilities due to the effects of Agent Orange. While the war is an inseparable part of Vietnam’s identity, however,  it is not the whole of it.

Hundreds of years of colonization have taught the Vietnamese to fully embrace their achieved independence and nearly 4 decades have been enough to see the Southeast Asian nation forge ahead first off, economically and more so, mentally past the war.

In sentiments to Americans, when he was alive, my grandfather, a witness to and active citizen in Vietnamese resistance against both the French and American invasion, stressed how many Vietnamese during and more so, after the war understood that it was the then American government and not the American people that their generation was fighting. While Vietnamese people may hold resentment towards the war, and what it took away and left behind in its course of destruction, I believe I speak for many when I say, we don’t hold a grudge towards the US as a nation and certainly not as a people. Let me take half a step back on my word to also note that there is no divide between black and white here, we must understand that even though it was a war between Vietnamese and Americans, there were Vietnamese on the side of Americans and Americans supporting the cause of the Vietnamese.  That grey area alone offers space for many questions and analysis into how the war was perceived then and even now. The opinion provided here is therefore, my general prospective on Vietnam today.

There are the Americans who fought endlessly against the American war in Vietnam, actively so in the series of protests iconic of the 1960s. There are then are untold stories of American youths who came to Vietnam to volunteer and even American veterans who only realized the war’s lack of purpose when their fingers hovered over the trigger on the battlefront. Vietnamese people receive their stories and sentiments with an open mind and hospitality.

I won’t go into how the economic growth has affected Vietnam, the perks and downsides are 100 posts in themselves, but it has certainly changed the face of Vietnam – a nation constantly struggling to balance the concept of communism, which had pulled it through the war, with its aspirations now to compete with its capitalist counterparts in becoming an economically-thriving country. You could say, Vietnamese society like any other modern society has a range of multi-faceted issues to face with, everything ranging from rising petrol prices, to motorbike congestion, to support to the shrinking rurality, to your everyday tabloid story about celebrities showing too much skin. It has so much to look forward to and so much to deal with rather than hold itself in a standstill to lament the war. This is not to say it should neglect working upon resolving the aforementioned consequences of war.

The S-shaped nation is also a beautiful one, a melting pot of cultures with its 53 ethnic groups and call me biased, but it has one of the best cuisines in the world.  Vietnam is imbued with history and culture. It stands at a crossroad between the old and new, the oriental and occidental, tradition and innovation, it aspires to grow, it struggles to face with daily national and regional challenges, it is in its own right, a country, NOT a war.

PS: this was from a short exercise this afternoon in class – very much not well analysed, sorry 😦

[UK] Getting the terms straight

* UNITED KINGDOM or ENGLAND or GREAT BRITAIN or BRITAIN?

Now to some, all of this will seem quite obvious, but frankly, this has never occurred to me until I’ve set foot here. I’ve heard all of these terms used interchangeably to refer to the country here, and to some point, it just got quite confusing. Credits to not paying attention in high school European history *_*. Anyhoo, here’s the lowdown, and may this engrave itself on the back of my brain somewhere:

United Kingdom or UK: short for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  This is the only correct name to call the country or sovereign state that is the UK. It emphasizes the coming together as a nation of: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The southern part of the island of Ireland, as we know, is separately, the Republic of Ireland.

England:, therefore, is 1 out of the 4 main regions of the UK, not a country in itself.

Great Britain: the fact that it is part of the legit term states it’s not the whole of the internationally recognized country. Great Britain comprises of England, Scotland and Wales. It can be understood more of a geographical term referring to the main territory of the UK.

Britain: This dates back to the Roman ages, to include only England and Wales.

* ENGLISH or BRITISH?

My Hanoi-based friend from London preferably refers to himself as a “Brit” or “British”, citing the usage of “English” as somewhat “white-exclusive” and to some point, even “discriminatory”. My Portuguese landlady, however, has referred to her sons-in-law from different parts of the country as English men. But from the geographical lowdown above, to call someone “English” would mean he’s solely from England. And since England is not a country, it would be incorrect to say “English citizenship or nationality”. Calling people from the UK “English people” would also be excluding Welsh, Irish as well as Scottish people, whereas the term “British” encompasses all of these. In the national spirit of the UK, people proudly call themselves “Brits”. In the more regional spirit with some begging to differ that perhaps, their region should even become an entirely separately country, they’ll refer to themselves as English, Irish, Welsh or Scottish respectively.

As a professor has put it down quite bluntly for us yesterday, people of this land are “mongrels to the purest”. “England was invaded by the Anglo-Saxons, and then the Vikings, and then the French Normans”, he said.  “It’d be absurd to think anyone was still ‘English’ in this part of the world”. It becomes quite the interesting psychological, social and political case now how people choose to use these different terms. Definitely a note-down for anyone new to the UK.

In other updates, I’ve almost completed my first week of being here in London, settling in quite well and just loving the vibe. I arrived right in time for enrollment, so it’s been straight into classes (well, intro classes for that matter) since Monday, doing 6-hour lectures everyday. It’s been a rather intense opening, to be honest, sitting in class the whole day, but I’m warming up to the pressure. For one thing, I’m required to keep my blog updated for my course – a savior to my sporadically given attention to the blogosphere.

TGIF! I’m going to Brighton today. Toodles!