The embassies fuel the meager retail economy here, which is mostly found in East and central Hanoi, where a wanderer can walk into Lotte Cinema or department stores (the local expensive Wal-Mart) or find a contemporarily designed meeting space. The diplomats are everywhere; the three largest embassies, all next to each other, sustain local microeconomics with huge staffs of foreign and domestic workers.
The more foreign a country is, the more friendly the staff
will be. The U.S. Embassy ambushed me outside the gate, surrounding me with black-jacketed local security, and bussed diplomats around me. Pretty soon, there were two men with diplomatic immunity confronting me about taking pictures and trying to figure out how naughty I might have been. There were a few other people milling around, chatting. The Russian Cultural center put out a young woman my age to invite me to learn Russian.
The Australian embassy just ignores me when I walk by. There are a few other places to visit, like the U.S. Embassy’s English Education center. Here, anyone can come in to learn English. The walls are stocked with books about standardized tests. There are a few novels, the standard U.S. public high school reading list. I can spot a few about the rights of foreign women, and how they can be liberated from reproduction.
A friendly staff in the library tries to give me a tour and encourages me to speak with the manager of English teachers. One of the tables is a gigantic map of the United States cut out of some synthetic wood pulp product. I sat at North Dakota, and stared at the GMAT test books on the other side of the table. After handing out my resume to a few people, I left the embassy, to return later for a passport renewal.