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Saigon begins long haul to normalcy post-lockdown

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Many Saigonese are thrilled to witness the city’s gradual return to its usual hustle and bustle after the four-month lockdown, though some are gingerly tiptoeing toward normalcy.

Nguyen Danh drove around HCMC on Sunday morning to breath in some fresh air after months of being cooped up inside.

The 29-year-old freelance photographer’s first destination was the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in District 1.

He said: “It has been many months since I drove by this area and the grass in front of the church has grown taller. There are even squirrels climbing up and down trees to find food.

“I think that everyone is excited to go out again after four months of being confined to their home. It is fun driving around the city.”

He feels happy to again hear the sounds of cars honking and people chatting on the street.

HCMC a week after reopening

 
 

Saigon begins long haul to normalcy post-lockdown

HCMC a week after reopening

HCMC a week after reopening. Video by Tuan Viet, Khoi Mai, Nguyen Diep

For the last couple of days he has been driving by Notre Dame, Nguyen Hue Street, Thi Nghe Market, and alleyways around the city.

He sought to capture the city’s gradual revival through images of delivery workers bringing food, people exercising outdoors and families taking children to parks.

When he woke up early one day, he even managed to photograph roads filled with vehicles during the morning rush hour, a “strange yet familiar scene,” as he called it.

“I was very excited to see an ice cream vendor driving around the other day”.

On Sunday morning he visited the Nguyen Van Binh Book Street near the Central Post Office. The street was still quiet and had just a few customers buying books and taking pictures to post on social media before quickly leaving. No one lingered for long.

Nguyen Van Binh Book Street on Oct.10, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Danh

Nguyen Van Binh Book Street on Oct.10, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Danh

Though HCMC eased Covid-19 restrictions on Oct. 1 after over 120 days, many people still seem cautious about going out. The fact is that more than 1,000 new infections are found every day.

The fourth wave has infected over 411,000 people and killed more than 15,000 in the city.

The pandemic has changed many things in the southern metropolis, Danh said. Though streets are crowded again, overall the city has not fully recovered with many places still deserted and the fear of the pandemic being palpable, he said.

Hoai Thu, 30, lives in District 7. On Oct.1 her boyfriend texted her asking her to go for a walk, but she refused, saying she was “still afraid to venture out”. That sparked an argument and it ended with the couple breaking up.

“He texted me as soon as the city opened,” she said. He had wanted to drive from his home in Tan Binh District, “meet [her] face to face” and take her to the pedestrian square on Nguyen Hue Street in District 1.

Though fully vaccinated, she does not want to go out except if necessary and wants to avoid crowed places.

“My company does not require employees to go back to the office until mid-October. Until then I’ll just stay at home”.

Beside the fear of contracting the disease if they venture out, people are also not too keen to return to office after getting used to working from home.

Families hang out around the water fountain on Nguyen Hue Street in downtown HCMC on Oct.1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Maison de Bil

Families hang out around the water fountain on Nguyen Hue Street in downtown HCMC on Oct.1, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Maison de Bil

Ngoc Tram, 25, of Go Vap District, said “I would like to work from home” for a survey done by her company’s human resources department.

After months of remaining at home, she had felt both excited and worried about the Oct.1 reopening.

She sells air tickets and handles visa applications for guests and so is not required to be physically present in the office.

“I’m afraid to go back to the office. Most employees in my company prefer to work from home,” she said.

Besides the fact “working from home is more comfortable,” she is also afraid of coming into contact with many people since her young children have not been vaccinated yet.

HCMC has reopened, but getting sales and customers back to pre-pandemic levels is hard for business owners to achieve.

Hoang Vy, 28, of Binh Thanh District, a lawyer and owner of a children’s fashion store, has been busy with the reopening of the store in the past few days, contacting loyal customers, checking the inventory and planning for promotions and advertising campaigns on e-commerce platforms.

The prolonged closure caused sales to plummet and consumers to be wary of spending on non-essential items while tailors at her garment factory have not returned from their hometowns.

“Reopening after the pandemic is like starting a business all over again,” she said.

While waiting for her old customers to return, she has been selling some other things to people living in her apartment block.

“I sell vegetables and fruits. These days people only buy food and nothing else”.

At first she had thought selling vegetables would be easy, but is now drowned in work like loading, packing, compiling orders, delivering, and cleaning.

Saigon is reopening but many people still feel sensorily deprived and long for the “busy, noisy” sounds of cafes and restaurants.

Tran Tam, 27, a media industry worker waiting in front of a coffee shop in Phu Nhuan District last Sunday, said: “During the social distancing period, I just wished eateries would open so that I can pick up a drink. But now I realize what I really need is not coffee, but sitting in the ambience of a shop.”

Tam said as an introvert he had felt comfortable staying at home last year though many people were complaining about being cooped up for too long.

But the past four months have been very different, he said.

“I haven’t been on the street for a few months, now I just want to go out and meet people. I am not satisfied with the current situation because I still have to sit at home and order takeout, instead of sitting in restaurants to have the foods or coffee.”

Customers in front of a coffee shop on Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1, on Oct.10, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tran Tam

Customers in front of a coffee shop on Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1, on Oct.10, 2021. Photo courtesy of Tran Tam

Vo Mo, a preschool teacher in Binh Tan District, said she is still unsure about the future after being unemployed for five months.

“A fully vaccinated 30-year-old female looking for a part-time job at home” was the message she posted on a job search group in HCMC on Oct. 8.

She has to find a job for until January next year, when the city will allow schools to reopen, to cover her living expenses.

“My husband and I have had no income for the past few months, so we have to borrow money from relatives and friends to stay afloat. I’m looking for a temporary job working from home, like processing files and documents. Since I have small kids and cannot go out, finding a job has been very difficult.”

The mother of two hopes to return to teaching soon, but is not too hopeful since “there are still a lot of Covid patients in the city.”

Despite worries about the pandemic and shortages and inconveniences in daily life, Saigonese are generally happy about the reopening.

Vy said: “Looking at the positive side, the pandemic has taught me to adapt better from being a lawyer to selling clothes and vegetables. Now I can do it all.”

It is going to be a long grind for her clothes business to get back to normal, but she said she would keep trying hard.

“At least I’m still healthy enough to be able to work and make a living.”

For Danh, the lack of bus horns and the sound of planes flying in the sky are things he misses now.

“But I am glad the city is slowly reviving.”

Source: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/life/trend/saigon-begins-long-haul-to-normalcy-post-lockdown-4370556.html

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Vietnamese students of Chinese universities yearn to resume offline classes

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Vietnamese students of Chinese universities are desperate to get their higher education back on track as online classes are rife with difficulties including disruptions and lack of access to textbooks.

Nguyen My Duyen, 25, is feeling unsettled and uncertain about her immediate future.

The native of Quang Ninh Province is pursuing a master’s degree in tourism management at the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in Fuzhou City, China’s Fujian Province.

She returned to Vietnam in January 2020 to celebrate the Tet (Lunar New Year) festival with her family, intending to return immediately after.

However, the international border closures because of Covid-19 have prevented her from returning to China for almost two years, during which period she has been taking online classes.

She was initially encouraged and comforted by her professors who said she would be able to return to China in September. But two Septembers have come and gone, and she is still at home.

“Waiting without an exact return date makes me feel really unsettled,” she said.

Nguyen My Duyen during during a hike in Guilin City, Chinas Guangxi Province. Photo courtesy of Duyen

Nguyen My Duyen during a hike in Guilin City, China’s Guangxi Province. Photo courtesy of Duyen

Nguyen Thi Hai of Hanoi’s Hoai Duc District has recently begun her second year in International Economics and Trade at the Zhejiang Sci-Tech University in Zhejiang Province. She was granted a partial scholarship from the Chinese government last year. She has never attended in-person classes and has only been studying online.

Hai has lessons on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Classes begin at 7 a.m. every day and end at around noon. Her class has 40 students, only five of whom are learning remotely.

Hai says the two years have been a struggle. There are days she finds it difficult to log back into the online class because of bad Internet connections. And even if she manages to log back, she has no idea what the professor was talking about. She said some professors have refused to email students the power points used, so she has to ask a friend to film the lecture and email her afterward.

“When I listen to the video, it doesn’t seem clear and is difficult to comprehend. I have to continuously text and ask the teacher, but I’m worried about asking too many questions…,” Hai said.

With just online classes, Hai has a hard time keeping up with friends and feels she still has not gained much knowledge even though she is already in her second year. But she can’t bear to give up and start again at another university because it would be a colossal waste of time.

Nguyen Thi Hai. Photo courtesy of Hai

Nguyen Thi Hai. Photo courtesy of Hai

International students like Duyen and Hai have been unable to attend in-person classes after China closed its borders to most foreigners from March 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Last August, China restarted issuing visas for South Korean students, who make up the largest number (10 percent) of all international students in the country. Meanwhile the majority of international students from developing countries have not received any information about their return. In February, thousands of Indian medical students staged a protest on social media, with the hashtag #TakeUsBackToChina.

Tran Ngoc Duy, who is taking online classes for his master’s degree in Chinese Teaching at Yantai University in Shandong Province, said international students have suffered “many deadlocks and interruptions,” because of the pandemic.

Duy is the admin of an online group of international students studying abroad in China, which has around 54,000 members.

Adding to the worries and frustrations of foreign students was recent information that China’s Ministry of Education and universities was planning not to support online learning with scholarship funds.

Some schools have also said they find it difficult to organize online classes because they do not find them effective.

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Duyen (pink jacket, second from right, top row) and Vietnamese students at a cultural event at Fuzhou University, China’s Fujian Province, November 2019. Photo courtesy of Duyen

On hold

Many students have been forced to put their academic programs on hold since they are struggling financially to cover living expenses while paying full tuition fees.

Online learning has also meant that some subjects have not been taught yet, and Duyen said this is affecting her chance to retain her scholarship. Each term, the school reviews a student’s academic performance and in order to retain her scholarships, Duyen can only have two subjects with less than 80 percent scores.

In September, when she began the first semester of her second year, Duyen received an email from the school, suggesting that international students reserve their seats with the current program, but temporarily suspend their studies till the pandemic situation stabilizes and they can return. She did so without hesitation.

When she was in China, Duyen studied materials in both Chinese and English. But after returning to Vietnam, she has not been able to find the books that her lecturers suggest. After reserving her seat and suspending classes, Duyen has begun working part-time for a Taiwanese website, teaching Vietnamese online to earn an income.

Duyen’s case is not an exception, Duy said.

Results from a quick survey in his online group show that of about 60 participants, five students had temporarily suspended their academic program, three had dropped out and the rest were studying online.

Most students said they have “ineffective” lessons and have “extremely frustrating” experiences because of poor internet connections, lack of practice and interaction with peers.

Some students have actually given up their scholarships and looked to continue their education in Vietnam.

Pham Phuong Thao won a Chinese government scholarship this year to study marketing at the China University of Petroleum in Shandong Province. She wanted to experience a new learning environment and meet people from different cultures, an important factor in deciding to study abroad.

She spent a week deciding between studying temporarily at a school in the countryside while studying online in China or giving up her scholarship and returning to Hanoi.

“Instead of living with the uncertainty of returning to China, I can complete my studies in Vietnam. Online learning is not suitable for me, so I gave up the scholarship,” she explained.

Thao is a student majoring in Chinese at Thang Long University now. Since she scored 6 points in the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK), a Chinese proficiency test, she was able to advance to the second year.

China currently ranks third in the world for the number of international students after the U.S. and the U.K.

According to December 2020 statistics compiled by Chinese social network Tencent, Vietnam has 13,549 international students in China, the fifth-largest contingent after South Korea, the U.S., Japan and Thailand.

The Chinese government said in July that it always valued international students and would consider “synchronous” arrangements for their return to China in keeping with pandemic-related safety requirements.

Since there has been no mention of possible dates mentioned, Vietnamese students of Chinese universities continue to remain in limbo.

Source: https://e.vnexpress.net/news/life/trend/vietnamese-students-of-chinese-universities-yearn-to-resume-offline-classes-4374269.html

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Comics illustrated by Vietnamese painter published in Japan

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The Vietnamese version (left) and the Japanese version of the comic book Friends. Photo courtesy of Kim Đồng Publishing House

HÀ NỘI A children’s comic book called Friends featuring illustrations by a Vietnamese artist, has been published by Japan’s Sunny Side Publishing House.

The picture book, or Ehon in Japanese, was written by Aihara Hiroyuki, a Japanese writer who has published more than 100 Ehon books, and illustrated by Vietnamese painter Đôm Đốm. The book, a project by Hà Nội-based Kim Đồng Publishing House, was released in both Vietnamese and Japanese in 2020.

In the letter to readers Hiroyuki wrote: “As a Japanese, I wish to become friends with Vietnamese readers, and that we could travel together to explore Việt Nam’s nature like the two main characters Brown Bear and Black Cat in this story. It would be so much fun if that wish could come true, and that’s why I’m writing this story.

“Artist Đôm Đốm has illustrated my feelings with wonderful paintings. I really like her paintings and hope you do too. Have you seen the images of the Japanese through the calm Brown Bear and of the Vietnamese through brave Black Cat? Beginning with an accidental meeting then embarking on a journey together, two of them gradually understand and support each other, and finally win each other’s trust. I would be very happy if children of the two countries would also share such a strong bond of friendship in the future.”

After reading the Vietnamese version, the author expressed his wish to have the comic published in Japan by Sunny Side Publishing House. He presented his book to the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan when the Japanese version was released.

 “I hope this wonderful book will be read by many Japanese children and therefore more Japanese and Vietnamese kids could be friends,” said Vietnamese ambassador in Japan Vũ Hồng Nam.

Previously, the copyrights of two other books published by Kim Đồng Publishing House, Chang Hoang Dã – Gấu (Saving Sorya – Chang and the Sun Bear) and Đúng là Tết (This is Tết), have been purchased by two publishing houses in the UK and Germany respectively. The latter is also in the process of being negotiated for publication in France.

Vũ Thị Quỳnh Liên, Deputy Director and Editor-in-Chief of Kim Đồng Publishing House, said: “More Vietnamese books have been copyrighted and published abroad, which show the increasing interest of international readers in Vietnamese authors’ topics and expressions. This is a great joy for people working in the field of creativity in the country.”

Artist Đốm Đốm, real name is Vũ Thủy Ngọc Hà. Photo thethaovanhoa.vn

Đốm Đốm, whose real name is Vũ Thủy Ngọc Hà, is an illustrator of children’s books and comics. Some of her illustrations have since been published, including Hoàng Tử Rơm (The Straw Prince), Bàn Tay Của Bố (Father’s Hand, Cuộc Phiêu Lưu Của Jenny Ở Vương Quốc Ham Chơi (Jenny’s Adventures in the Gluttony Kingdom), and Chuyện Này Chuyện Kia (This and That Story).

She was awarded the first prize at Scholastic Picture Book Award 2019 for her book The Girl on the Roof and the Boy on the Beach. The book has been recently published by Scholastic Corporation, an American multinational publisher.

Source: https://vietnamnews.vn/life-style/1063161/comics-illustrated-by-vietnamese-painter-published-in-japan.html

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Appointment decision presented to Vietnam’s Honorary Consul to Switzerland

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Vietnamese Ambassador to Switzerland Le Linh Lan on October 21 presented a decision to officially appoint Dr. Philipp Rosler – former Deputy Prime Minister of Germany, as the first ever Honorary Consul of Vietnam to Switzerland.

Appointment decision presented to Vietnam’s Honorary Consul to Switzerland hinh anh 1

Vietnamese Ambassador to Switzerland Le Linh Lan presents the decision to Dr. Philipp Rosler. (Photo: VNA)

Vietnamese Ambassador to Switzerland Le Linh Lan on October 21 presented a decision to officially appoint Dr. Philipp Rosler – former Deputy Prime Minister of Germany, as the first ever Honorary Consul of Vietnam to Switzerland.

In her speech at the handover ceremony, Ambassador Lan congratulated Dr. Rosler on his new role and emphasised the importance of Switzerland to Vietnam and the potential for cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

Especially, 2021 will mark the 50th founding anniversary of diplomatic relations, and 30 years of development cooperation between the two countries, she said.

In recent years, the Vietnam-Switzerland cooperation has developed strongly, with Switzerland becoming an important trade, investment and economic partner of Vietnam.

Appointment decision presented to Vietnam’s Honorary Consul to Switzerland hinh anh 2

At the handover ceremony. 

In 2019, two-way trade reached 3.6 billion USD. About 140 Swiss companies including world-class names such as Nestle, ABB, Novartis, Roche, and Holcim, have invest in Vietnam and reaped success with a total investment capital of nearly 2 billion USD.

Switzerland is currently the sixth largest European investor in Vietnam.

Talking to the Vietnam News Agency’s correspondent in Switzerland, Rosler said many Swiss companies want to make field trips to Vietnam to explore business opportunities in the Southeast Asian nation.

Swiss businesses pin high hope on the upcoming visit of Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Switzerland, he said.

At a roundtable on business prospect and opportunities in the field of digital transformation and startup ecosystem in Vietnam which took place after the handover ceremony, representatives from Swiss businesses shared their experience in doing business in the Vietnamese market.

They said that Vietnam is a dynamic country and an open market for foreign investors.

A number of Swiss businesses that have been operating in Vietnam such as Zuellig Pharma and Bellecapital believed that Vietnam’s economy will continue to maintain a fast growth rate in the next 10-15 years.

Algerian Ambassador honoured with friendship insignia

Appointment decision presented to Vietnam’s Honorary Consul to Switzerland
Algerian Ambassador to Vietnam Mohamed Berrah (L) receives the “For peace and friendship among nations” insignia.

Algerian Ambassador to Vietnam Mohamed Berrah has been honoured with the “For peace and friendship among nations” insignia for his contribution to promoting the friendship between people of Vietnam and Algeria.

At a ceremony held in Hanoi on October 21, President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) Ambassador Nguyen Phuong Nga said the Vietnam-Algeria friendship and cooperation have flourished during Berrah’s six-year term.

The two sides successfully held the 11th meeting of the InterGovernmental Committee which provides the basis to effectively implement joint activities and cooperation projects.

Bilateral economic and trade relations remain stable despite the difficulties triggered by COVID-19 for the global economy.

Nga spoke highly of the Algerian diplomat’s contributions to enhancing solidarity and people-to-people exchange between the two countries, as he had regularly worked with the Vietnam-Algeria Friendship Association to discuss measures to bolster cooperation, and met with Vietnamese experts who used to work in the African nation.

Of note, he has been working with relevant agencies in Vietnam since early this year to adapt a famous Algerian author’s work on President Ho Chi Minh into a play, in a hope of bringing the warm feeling of Algerian people for their Vietnamese counterparts and for the late President of Vietnam to the Vietnamese audience on the occasion of the 60th founding anniversary of the diplomatic ties in 2022.

For his part, the Algerian Ambassador pledged that in any future position, he will continue to contribute to the friendship and cooperation between people of Algeria and Vietnam.

Honorary Consul General of Vietnam in RoK honoured

Appointment decision presented to Vietnam’s Honorary Consul to Switzerland
Vietnamese Ambassador to the RoK Nguyen Vu Tung (L) presents certificate of merit to Honorary Consul General Park Soo-kwan

Vietnamese Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (RoK) Nguyen Vu Tung on October 20 presented Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s certificate of merit to Honorary Consul General of Vietnam in the RoK’s Busan-Gyeongnam region Park Soo-kwan in honour of his active and effective contributions to bilateral economic, cultural and educational ties.

At the ceremony, Park pledged to do his best to continue contributing to the Vietnam – RoK relationship.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam, Park actively joined in pandemic prevention and control, and offered suggestions to the Vietnamese Government, together with the RoK business community, to ensure the dual goal of fighting the pandemic and restoring economic development.

In his capacity as Honorary Consul General of Vietnam in Busan-Gyeongnam region since 2010, he has worked closely with the Vietnamese Embassy in the RoK to bolster bilateral trategic cooperative partnership, especially friendly ties between twin cities of Ho Chi Minh and Busan via trade-investment promotion and exchange activities, and sharing of information on culture and education.

He also supported activities of the Vietnamese community in the RoK. Notably, Vietnam received martime training ship Hannara donated by the RoK Government, thanks to his assistance.

Earlier in 2021, Park was also awarded with the Friendship Order of the Vietnamese State./. 

Source: VNA

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/vietnam-world/appointment-decision-presented-to-vietnam-s-honorary-consul-to-switzerland-785043.html

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