The adventure isn’t always a rush

Getting ready to go on an new adventure can be tedious, stressful, frustrating, expensive, depressing, and downright unpleasant. I’m experiencing some of these emotions as we prepare to move, live, and work in Saigon. The visa process is a bit of a crapshoot. Vietnam is not a democracy, at least as we know it, and the process can, at its worst, be arbitrary and capricious. My new boss suggests we apply for a one year multiple entry visa but not to expect one for more than 6 months. The application requires a cover letter for business related visas that explains “purpose of travel, duration and moral and financial responsibilities.” John had never heard of such a letter requirement and “moral responsibilities” is a quagmire. I find myself getting irritated, and then I try to sit on the ugly American in me.

Life has always been easy for us. The US in essence ruled the world until recently and we have allowed ourselves to assume an air of entitlement. Of course, a Vietnamese wanting to visit or work in America would be expected to jump through a innumerable series of hoops and time delays. Why should it be different for us? We’re spoiled because we have become accustomed to crossing borders without visas or even without passports until recently. The European Union has made it a smooth transition from country to country and Americans have been the beneficiaries of a soft immigration policy that gives most favored nation status to American citizens traveling in the EU. But, the world is changing. America has worn out its welcome in many parts of the world, and national pride has risen in emerging nations that are striving to establish boundaries and national credibility.

So, I’m writing a cover letter explaining my purpose, my sponsor, and my moral responsibility so I can live and work in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Never mind that my purpose is to help build the medical and educational infrastructure and/or deliver public health services to a portion of the Vietnamese population. I owe it to the people and the government of Vietnam to explain my purpose. So, I’ll suck it up and jump through the hoops.


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