Our visit to the United States consulate brought us to the center of the city, at the site where the United States embassy used to stand. The difference? An embassy is usually located at the capital of a foreign country, whereas a consulate can be located elsewhere. We met with two officers, one in public affairs, the other in economics. The public affairs officer spoke of his job and duties which entailed anything relating to dealing with the general public of Vietnam and their reactions and issues with the United States government. He spoke of the processes of dealing with foreign exchange students, helping them organize whatever they required to be able to travel into the United States. He commented on the how delivering official statements in other countries worked, where officials will print physical copies of whatever the presidential administration had announced and walk the said printed copy to the involved country’s ministry of foreign affairs or, in the United States’ case, the State department. He would also be required to deal with and asses the feelings the Vietnamese had towards the U.S. The economic officer spoke of how the massive increase in foreign investment into Vietnam affected her job, as she guided and helped regulate American companies trying to move into the country, also talking of the strains the Trump administration put as some pressure was put on the Vietnamese government due to different acts made. They also both talked about the long process of becoming foreign service officers, a multi-step process involving multiple exams, written and oral, sets of interviews, background checks, and a trip to Washington. The long process has a high potential to require multiple retakes, as they both stated failure can happen any step and required a full reset. They explained how the assignment process worked and the kinds of incentives the government gave to get people to go to, generally speaking, less desirable countries.
We left the consulate to go to UEF where we got to see students in traditional Vietnamese clothing. The different cultural influences from the different geographical locations and the ethnic groups residing in them all had different types of traditional wear, where some were bright and colorful with matching headpieces, while others were simple, yet form-fitting and elegant using simple colors and designs. After our private fashion show, we ate a strange dish of various jellies, from taro-flavoured cylinders to square green… things. It was an interesting and, in my opinion, delicious new food to try, with a great variance of flavours and textures. Later the students took us to see a water puppet show, a traditional form of entertainment where multiple puppeteers used sets of rods to move puppets across a stage of waist high water, telling little stories and skits of different folk tales or simple stories of what everyday life could have been like in the past for the Vietnamese. As musician played beautiful music with strange instruments while also telling the story and giving the characters voices, the puppets danced across the water, from dragons breathing fire to small teams of men racing boats across the stage. We were all in awe of the complicated task the puppeteers performed, perfectly.
We left the rather short performance very much entertained, though a little confused as to what exactly had happened plot-wise.