5/11 US Consulate and Banh Xeo

Our first stop today was the American center, which is located right near the US Consulate. Here we had the opportunity to to talk to 2 foreign service officers who worked at the consulate. The consulate is a place where the Vietnamese can apply for American visas. The consulate in Ho Chi Minh City is one of America’s busiest and it issued around 1600 visas last month alone. When a Vietnamese citizen applies for a visa they have to do an interview to determine whether they are eligible. It was surprising to hear the foreign service officers say that they can do 100 interviews a day for visas.  After that the waiting time is largely dependent on the type of visa. Non-immigrant ones are much quicker. While immigrant visas can take a very long time. Other focuses of the consulate are security, trade and investment, trade balance, and human rights. The place where we met was called the American center and it is a place where the Vietnamese can come to learn about American culture. This is an important part of the US building a relationship with Vietnam because having an understanding of each other’s cultures will allow the countries to understand and communicate with each other better. This may also have benefits in business, as the countries will have built up a trust in each other.  There is proof that this trust is already being established, as Intel has invested $2 billion here in Ho Chi Minh City. Another thing that stood out to me about the economic relationship between America and Vietnam is how eager Vietnam is to do business. I am impressed by how they don’t hold any grudges about the Vietnam War or the US exiting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Vietnamese seem to be very good at moving forward and focusing on the future. Another interesting point that was shared was that the Vietnamese love Trump, but also loved Obama. That’s quite a unique view and not one you’d probably find in America. However, this speaks to the point that the Vietnamese are focused on business. If America helps them, then they will like that specific president. This visit was one of my favorites so far because the 2 foreign service officers seemed like they really wanted to talk to us and they were very enthusiastic about telling us what their job is like. It seemed like a very cool job because they only stay in a city for 1-3 years, so they get the opportunity to go to many places. Having this job would be a great way to not only gain a better perspective of other cultures, but to also try to make a positive difference in the world. After the consulate, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant (a lot better than McDonald’s) and had a great meal of bun cha, which is pork and rice noodles with a side of fresh herbs and dipping sauce. Next we went back to UEF for our class on language and culture. Today we were treated to some traditional Vietnamese food and desserts. My favorite one was the banh chung, which was a cake made out of sticky rice, mung bean, and pork. The Vietnamese eat this cake during the Tet holiday. After finishing at UEF, it was time to try some more street food. Today I decided to explore the area north of the hotel and went to a place that had banh xeo. The place was in an alleyway and we had to make a couple turns so at first I thought there was no way we were near any restaurant. The confusing walk to find it was definitely worth it as the banh xeo was amazing. It’s a fried rice crepe sort of thing that has shrimp and pork cooked into it. It’s also filled with bean sprouts and served with a side of fresh herbs and lettuce. I learned from the people next to us that the proper way to eat it was to take some of the banh xeo and wrap it in the lettuce leaf with some herbs mixed in as well. I was glad for the help because it was a delicious meal. 

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