The day’s tours and experiences were very unique compared to the previous. Rather than beginning the day with the usual lecture and Vietnamese language class, the group had the opportunity to visit the consulate. At first, I wasn’t sure what the difference between an embassy and a consulate was, but it was later explained that an embassy is only located in capital cities whereas consulates are located in other cities. What makes today’s consulate so interesting is that it is located in the fastest growing city economies in the country, Ho Chi Minh City. Just like an embassy, a consulate can act as a bridge of communication between the United States government and the Vietnamese government. For the citizens and travelers of the city, the consulate also handles distribution of visas to Vietnamese looking to visit the US as well as protecting the US travelers in Vietnam. The presence and work of both the embassy and the consulates in Vietnam are extremely important when it comes to building the relationship between the two countries after such a difficult history of conflict. In fact, the public opinion polls in regard to feelings toward the Unites States show a 93% acceptance rate of the entire population. In this area of their work, they have been extremely successful in rebuilding positive relations with the citizens but they are continuing to fund projects that fix the horrible affects of dioxin. The US government feels it is their moral responsibility to aim their efforts toward resolving the issues they implemented themselves as well as other national issues Vietnam faces with their surrounding countries. Not only was the discussion at the consulate another interesting view of the growing national economy of Vietnam and the issues that arise with it, but we also learned a lot about how interesting a job working as a consulate can be.
Later on, in the afternoon, our classes at the university consisted of the usual lecture and language class, but along with the lecture today we were given a fashion show of the traditional clothing of several areas in Vietnam. This show was interesting in that the explanations of where and why the traditional clothing is worn was different for all the different regions. Along with the show, the students at UEF treated us with a special dessert that consisted of jelly-like cubes sitting in ice and coconut milk. This dessert had such an interesting consistency and the jelly itself had no flavor. It seemed to just act as something to chew as you’re tasting the coconut milk. Although I was not particularly a fan of the experience eating it, the Vietnamese students love it. Later in the night, the students took us to a traditional water puppet show. If you’re having a hard time imagining what this might be like, we were in the same boat before I saw it (haha pun intended). The show, although the dolls were quite creepy, was really an interesting thing to see because they showed several very important aspects of the culture of the past along with live traditional music. It also touched on some of the beliefs of the Vietnamese and which animals are considered to be holy. The experience itself was very rich in culture and was definitely one of the best things we’ve seen so far in the trip.