We began today with classes at UEF again, but rather than focusing on development we discussed Vietnamese history and culture. Vietnam has such a long history that we were unable to focus on small details in the allotted time, so we did more of a general overview. Vietnam has been influenced or controlled by many other countries, so the culture is very interesting because it has some influence from China and France, but some aspects are uniquely Vietnamese. We also learned about traditional music and clothing. Dr. Ha explained the cultural importance of the ao dai while modeling the beauty of one on herself. It looks very elegant and comfortable, so I am excited to try on the ones we were fitted for later this week. I continued to struggle in language class, but I do think I finally know how to count to ten. While this is not a very useful conversational skill, it does seem like a cool fun fact.
After another delicious lunch of beef pho, a plate of toppings, an extra egg, and coconut water served in an actual coconut (all for the equivalent of roughly six US dollars), we headed to VinaCapital, our third site visit. VinaCapital is an investment firm that focuses on Vietnam’s emerging real estate market. Mr. Kokalari’s presentation did not focus on the details of the Vietnamese stock market, but he had many interesting comments about where he sees Vietnam’s economy moving forward. He explained that Vietnam’s economy is on an upward trend compared to the rest of the world’s economy due to the location’s desirability for foreign investors, a young population, and good relations with the United States. He explained that the work force has one of the best skills to wage ratios due to a low minimum wage and good education system. The young population will keep the amount of people aged 45-50 (the most productive part of the population) increasing into the future, so the economy will not reach stagnation. Additionally, he explained that some other countries in southeast Asia may face tariffs from the United States in the future, but it is unlikely that this will affect Vietnam because this is one of the only countries in the region that has not been “bribed” by China. He also explained that Vietnam is a great place to live and work because of the government’s care for the people, resulting in a relatively high standard of living for all. I had previously thought that Vietnam struggled with poverty somewhat, especially in rural areas, so I would like to do further research to see how Vietnam’s poverty level compares to other countries.
After this, we heard a presentation about VinaCapital Foundation, an organization closely tied to VinaCapital that helps poor sick children have access to medical care. The organization helps children afford heart surgery that would otherwise be unable to. In addition, they fund education for girls of minority groups in the hopes that they can be leaders in their communities and be an example for others. It was very interesting to hear about the work the foundation does to improve lives. Hopefully, the educated girls in minority communities do provide an example and change the futures of younger children.