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Vietnam

Finally

A made-up holiday that I can get excited about!

If you can’t be Batman

“SUPREME” is a pretty good second choice, I guess.

For some reason, I’m uneasy

Can’t quite put my finger on it, though.

Evidence for monolingualism

I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that this guy doesn’t speak a lot, if any, English.

Names are hard

My little game of lying to Starbucks when they ask for my name had another funny result. This time, I gave my name as “Ralph.” When they were little, my kids liked to tease their nonnative speaker mother for not being able to pronounce that name.  It was funny.  And I had to admit, I egged them on a little (sorry, honey).

Apparently, the “Ralph” name is not only hard to pronounce, it’s hard to hear, too.

Karma caught up to me later this week. I represented the Consulate at an educational thing.  This is what they did to my last name:

Meh, close enough.

Am I overreacting?

The video monitor in the lobby of the hotel broadcasts the names of their guests. Including the fact that some people are traveling alone.

Thanks for the grandly welcome, Indochine Palace Hotel, but if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather you not display my name in public like that.

As a physically fit white male, I don’t feel particularly vulnerable when staying in a hotel in a strange town. So I don’t feel that this violation of my privacy puts me at risk. But I wonder how I would feel if I were a woman? Would I want it public knowledge that I was alone in a hotel room? Would I feel like the hotel was advertising an opportunity to predators and criminals?

Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe my reaction is influenced by the current dialogue about sexual assault, and disregard for the rights of women not to feel like they could be victimized at any time. But maybe my eyes are being opened to the reality that women deal with every day. That they are vulnerable. That they have to be more cautious. That they don’t enjoy the freedom from fear that I do.

Am I overreacting? I hope so. But I fear that I am not.

Thanks for the humiliation assistance

Two separate parts of my life collided in a very unfortunate way today.  Unlike chocolate and peanut butter, the combination is neither delicious nor very cool.  It was pretty embarrassing, in fact.  Read on, please:

One of my things is to take a photo of me sitting in pretentious chairs.  With a pretentious expression on my face. Lucky for me, pretentious chairs are everywhere in Asia.  Unlucky for you, I like to post them on Facebook for fun.  Like this one from last year:

Unlike most times, I’m actually trying to look ridiculous here.

It’s just a stupid thing that I do for fun.  Ha ha.

OK, that’s thing number one.  On to thing number two.

Today I got invited to join a press conference. A grant program that the Consulate supports had a kickof event.  It’s a good program, training young people on entrepreneurship skills.  I represented the U.S. Government at the event.  I delivered brief remarks in Vietnamese, which impressed the participants.  I’m pretty sure I looked and sounded ridiculous, but that’s not any different from any other day in my life.

My famous coked-up look.  Would you buy a car from this guy? Me, neither.

Then the event turned into a talk show, where we discussed issues related to startups. As a diplomat, of course I am an expert in business, angel investors, and sales pitches.  Not.

My famous “thumb on chin” thoughtful pose. Man, am I ever learning lessons in self-awareness on this job.

It was fun for me, probably painful for everyone else.  But they got their revenge.  And I paid a stiff price for being a smart-alack.

The organizing group created a promotional poster to publicize the press conference.  They needed a photo of me for their promotional poster.  But they didn’t ask me for a photo, for some reason.  Instead, they went online and searched for a photo of me.

Are you starting to guess where this story is going?

Yup, sure enough, they managed to find a photo that totally captures my essence.  It was the most awesome photo that they could have found.  Then they posted the graphic on their website and Facebook page:

Can you spot the awesome-looking person in the picture?

Words fail me.

As always, my humiliation is your entertainment.

Well, that sucks

Nothing like a house fire to ruin your day.

I took these from my hotel window this evening in Hanoi. I happened to have my camera, so I could zoom in and see the source of the smoke.

Looking for the best of the best

My own Fulbright experience several years ago led me to my current job in the State Department. The Foreign Service officers who I worked with when I was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan impressed me, and got me thinking that the Foreign Service could be a career for me, too.

Now I’m in the Foreign Service, and involved in the Fulbright program from the other side. Every year we select a few bright graduate students from Vietnam to get a Master’s degree in the United States. I’m on the selection committee that interviews the finalists for the scholarship program.

We reviewed the paper applications, and are now interviewing the final round of candidates. It’s been an inspiring experience so far. The people that we’ve talked to are bright, have done some amazing things already in their lives, and look to the United States as the place that can help them go to the next level.

In my work in Vietnam, I have interacted with many people who have benefited from the Fulbright scholarship. After they earned their graduate degrees in the United States, they returned to Vietnam, and are now helping to build their country. They brought back skills and knowledge in various fields, ranging from journalism to public policy. The Fulbright program is a tremendously effective foreign policy tool. We are educating and training the future leaders of countries all over the world, sharing our values, and helping countries develop so that they can become contributing members of the international community.

I am proud to be involved in the process that will select the next group of international students to the United States. I’m also inspired by their enthusiasm, energy, and dreams for their future. Even though I have 100 unread emails waiting for me back in the office every day after interviewing, I’m happy to put in the extra time to catch up with my regular work, knowing that I have been doing something so worthwhile.

National Day

Yesterday was Vietnam’s national day. Last night I went to the roof of my apartment building and used my new camera to take a few photos of the fireworks.