Day Five started with a visit to the United States Consulate. We spoke to two Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), one of whom was involved in public affairs and one in economics. It was an interesting experience to hear from Americans living in Vietnam. We asked questions about their jobs at the consulate as well as their personal lives and experiences in Vietnam. One major aspect of the consulate is giving out immigrant and non-immigrant visas. To get a non-immigrant visa, a Vietnamese person has to travel to the consulate and be interviewed to prove that they won’t illegally remain in the United States. The workers who conduct these interviews hold an average of one hundred per day, so they are short and decisions must be made quickly. The process of getting an immigrant visa can be much longer. The wait time depends on the situation, but it can be over a decade. The US Consulate provides the Vietnamese people with other resources, including English classes and education about America.
The US is interested in working with Vietnam in general because they are a promising partner. Vietnam’s growing middle class and increasing consumerism mean that US companies will soon benefit even more from doing business in Vietnam. Surprisingly, Vietnam has a 93% approval rating of the United States, higher than any other country’s rating. The US is working to take advantage of this ally and make Vietnam a regional leader in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
After the meeting at the consulate, we returned to UEF for the second half of our history and culture class and another language class. In our language class today, we learned some words for traditional Vietnamese foods but spent the majority of the time sampling cakes and candies. Today was very dessert heavy- we also tried ice cream novelties with some of the Vietnamese students in between classes. The major traditional dish we had today was a cake that was made of sticky rice and pork. There was also a jello-like dessert, sticky rice balls, coconut candies, and bean candies. I had never heard of any of these foods, and needless to say, I was very confused when the cake turned out to be just meat surrounded by rice and wrapped in coconut leaves. The juxtaposition between the familiarity of the ice cream and my unfamiliarity with the traditional desserts illustrates the effects of globalization and how some cultures, namely European and American, have spread more globally than others.