You Only Turn 19 in Vietnam (And on US Soil) Once

Today was finally a break from the norm in terms of schedule. I got to sleep in an hour later before heading to the US consulate building here in Ho Chi Minh City, which was a very cool place to visit. I got to spend some of my birthday on US soil, which I appreciated. We talked to two employees of the State Department who work here in Vietnam. Their roles are to deal with economic advising and public relations here in Vietnam. They consult with the government of Vietnam on laws that will effect the economy of Vietnam, such as a new cyber-security bill, talk to the press, act as public diplomats and many other duties that one would expect a consulate/embassy to perform. They also deal with a lot of Vietnamese citizens, those who live domestically and expats, and help them with dealing with coming and going from Vietnam. Many Vietnamese expats are starting to invest back into their homeland because of the great strides it has made to develop into a modern nation. The consulate also does a lot of post-war clean up , both in literally cleaning up Agent Orange and unexploded bombs from the war, and in mending relationships with the Vietnamese people now that our governments are on good terms. Hundreds of millions of dollars and many long hours of work have been put into healing the wounds from the American War here in Vietnam. I also thought it was rather intriguing that the US also works with countries like Japan and South Korea on bringing money into Vietnam so everyone can benefit from trade and development projects.

After the consulate visit, it was another lunch of traditional Vietnamese food. My beef soup was delicious, but not quite as good as the normal Pho. With a full belly, it was time for the last culture and language lesson for the week back at UEF.

Upon walking into the classroom, Bunny, the sweetest and most enthusiastic host student wished me a happy birthday and the whole room started to sing Happy Birthday for me. Once they finished and I got settled, she and another student brought me a little gift. It was honestly so heartwarming that I have known them for literally only 5 days and they still are taking the time and effort to get me a gift on my birthday. Celebrating a birthday on this trip has just made it exponentially more special.

After class was over, I headed back to the hotel on the bus (on which I got another rendition of Happy Birthday. Thanks Meade.) Taking a little break in the room, it was time to head to the traditional Vietnamese water puppet show.

The puppet show was amazing. Filled with traditional puppets, music, and Vietnamese folk tales retold in puppet performance, it blew me away with how perfect every aspect of the performance was. My favorite scenes had to have been either The Phoenix Dance or Fairy Dance. Once the show finished, we headed to Pho24 again to get some dinner, which was amazing yet again, and then walked around some shops that the Vietnamese students like to go to for clothes and stuff.

Overall, definitely the most unique birthday I have ever had. After technically being in two countries and getting a deep dive into ancient Vietnamese culture, I would say it was a pretty good one too. See you tomorrow for Vung Tau beach day!

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