As we walked into the Diamond Plaza building, I was pleasantly surprised to see all kinds of stores like a mall, with a bustling market and many young people perambulating it. We took the elevator up to the 8th floor, passed security clearance, and sat down in the sun-filled open tech conference room.
As the two representatives from the consulate began their talk, I was fascinated with their work, and how they function between the American and Vietnamese societies, and work with both in a dynamic way. They are what’s called foreign service officers, dedicated to helping implement the foreign policy of the U.S. by going through one of the five tracks: Management, Public Diplomacy, Political Officers, and Economics. Within each track, they work in that area to improve Vietnam in an American way. For example, the Economics representative discussed who she works with people involved in Vietnam’s imports and exports with Vietnam, and how the Trump administration is affecting that. Also, the Public Diplomacy representative discussed how he runs the social media, helps American citizens in Vietnam, and all about his job. They were very knowledgeable about everything in general, and said when talking about their jobs, “You don’t need to major in anything in specific, you need to just know everything, that’s why we’re generalists.” They essentially know a little bit of everything, as their examinations test them on “a little bit of everything.” They detailed the application process and how incredibly difficult and rigorous it is. According to U.S. data, from 2001-2006, with the approximate 100,000 applicants, only 2,100 actually became FSOs. They must pass a very difficult SAT like exam questioning them on everything from Algebra to intricate world issues, then you must pass an interview, a group interview, a medical exam, and even a security clearance, which is, you guessed it, very extensive. These people are in almost every country around the world, and they dedicate their lives to helping other countries. They go around in “tours” which typically last 1-3 years and make the world a better place. They are the hidden heroes that don’t get enough credit for how much work they put in i.e. fixing the awful relationship between U.S. & Vietnam post-Vietnam war, to what the relationship is like today, which is incredibly great at a favorability rating of 93%.
At night, we went to a water puppet show, which was very fascinating. We saw many mini skits of stories paralleling the history of Vietnam, such as a king going fishing and having comical issues doing such. This experience was awesome and showed me how different our cultures are, firsthand. It was such a wonderful performance too, there was a live band providing music for the show, and the skits were quite funny, too. Things like these are what give a country it’s unique identity. This is one of those things.
Also, I sang My Way by Frank Sinatra in class. That was cool.