This morning was a nice surprise – we got to sleep in! Even though the schedule for the week has been classes at UEF in the morning and then site visits in the afternoon, today was the opposite. We were all able to get a little more sleep before being in the lobby at 9:30 to leave for the American Center at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.
Upon our arrival, we were seated in a room with an amazing view of the city, and then two representatives, one from economics and one from public relations, proceeded to give us a detailed presentation that outlined not only the purpose of the consulate, but other aspects of the Vietnamese economy and demographic as well. The U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City performs many functions in Vietnam, the main function being to provide assistance to U.S. citizens currently residing there. The Consulate also performs many other functions where they not only work closely with the Vietnamese government but also the Vietnamese people as well.
From an economic standpoint, I learned that the Consulate examines and influences business practices and regulations, cybersecurity, and works to assist the Vietnamese economy in general. Since Vietnam’s economy is rapidly growing, there are many foreign investors who are looking to come to Vietnam to invest. If there are problems with the investment, or the investors need some sort of help, the Consulate also is there to step in and provide any assistance necessary. From a public relations standpoint, the Consulate works to improve the image of the United States in Vietnam, and resolve within the country regarding the United States. For example, there are many war legacy issues that the Consulate is currently working to resolve. One of these issues is bombs that were dropped during the Vietnam war that did not explode, and as such are left buried in the ground, posing a huge danger. Another “project” that working in public relations entails for the workers of the U.S. Consulate is war reconciliation issues, since the Vietnam war was as much a proxy war as it was a civil war within Vietnam. Today, there are individuals in the South who still view the communist government as an invaders and oppressor, and the Consulate works to bring about a time of peace and understanding.
After our visit at the Consulate, we headed over to lunch, which was a new and fun to try, as always. Lunch was followed by lessons at UEF where we finished our culture and history lecture, then had our Vietnamese language lesson. During our culture lecture, we had two different performances: a fashion show and a duet. The fashion show was amazing, as we were able to firsthand see some of the traditional clothing worn by the different people of Vietnam. The duet was sung by two girls, who both had beautiful voices. Additionally, at the end of the culture lecture we were given a Vietnamese dessert that was really exciting to try. During the Vietnamese language lesson, we learned some key phrases for bargaining, which was really fun. Since we will be going to a market next week, practicing our bargaining skills is very important!
After our site visit and lectures were over, we met up with students from UEF and went to a traditional water puppet show. Even though it was short, it was amazing to see traditional instruments accompanying the traditional puppets on stage throughout. It was amazing to explore a cultural aspect of Vietnam, and experience a practice that is many years old but still continues into today.
Overall, day five in Vietnam was another hit! Each day brings something exciting and new and I do not want these two weeks to end!