By Rex ’18
As we left Ha Long Bay I enjoyed observing the rice farmers we passed while riding back to Hanoi. I try to imagine what their life is like living simply and farming every day. There appears to be no other options for them other than to farm or to sell goods to tourists. I wonder if the children have options in terms of work or if they are just following their parents. Back at the Skylark Hotel in Hanoi, we prepared to meet with the U.S. Ambassador at his private residence. The house was beautiful and full of remarkable artwork. The art was influenced by President Barak Obama’s message of unity and cooperation with the U.S. and Vietnam.
The Ambassador’s partner, Clayton Bond, the cousin of Julian Bond ’57, a social activist and George School alum, welcomed us. Clayton is an incredible person who spoke eloquently. We sat around a beautiful table for tea with him and his staff, and everything had the American eagle on it. Listening to Clayton speak was amazing; he was engaging and personable and you could tell that he truly cared about his job and the Vietnamese people. I was surprised to learn that Vietnam practiced self-censorship within the government and news. My host family had been very open about issues in the government including the recent minister who was kicked from his house for using bribes to buy his wife expensive gifts. Another major issue that was controversial was the Taiwan fish incident in which pollution from a Formosa company caused many fish to die suddenly along the coast. There is not a strong protection of the environment in Vietnam. My host family told me about the incident and they did not know why it happened.
Clayton had also invited three people from the Embassy to talk to us about their work experience in Vietnam. They were very concerned about trying to increase the human rights and I was so impressed that as a gay couple, they are able to represent our country and shake off any negative comments that they receive. He was an inspiration to us for his ability to be a force for change in this developing nation. In a way, he reminded me of President Obama due to his charisma and passion. We asked questions about their jobs and issues that they face. The Ambassador himself finally arrived and met with us at the end of our meeting. He spoke like a politician and had that perfect politician smile, in a good way. I was pleased to hear that he spoke Vietnamese and gave speeches in Vietnamese. I was sad to hear that this was his last year as an ambassador, specially, since we need someone like him to represent our country with our current administration. I feel like they have promoted a lot of good in Vietnam.