Life in Vietnam

Thursday, 27/09/2018 09:13

’Warm hospitality sets VN apart’

Wheel-world diplomacy: Former US ambassador Ted Osius. — Photo courtesy of Ted Osius
Viet Nam News

By Dieu An

HA NOI — It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them, American author Ernest Hemingway once said. 

There is another American who has taken this advice and used two wheels to get a comprehensive understanding of Viet Nam’s nature, culture and people.

He is Ted Osius, a former US Ambassador to Viet Nam, who just finished a cycling adventure of 138km in the country’s most poetic city of Hue. 

Accepting the invitation of Nguyen Trung Truc, a brother-in-law of Viet Nam’s legendary music composer Trinh Cong Son, Ted spent late August participating in Coupe de Hue, a sport cycling event. 

“Truc is my friend, and he knows I love the beautiful, historic city of Hue.  The ride was spectacular, and a lot of fun. My family joined me for the event, and we all enjoyed fine food and the warm hospitality of the people of the city,” Osius said. 

It wasn’t his first long-distance ride in Viet Nam. Before Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday) in 2016, he covered 840km on a tour across Viet Nam. During his tenure from 2014 to 2017, Osius rode to many localities around the country, from the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang and the Red River Delta province of Ninh Binh to the central provinces of Quang Binh and Quang Tri and the coastal city of Da Nang. 

As his cycling photographs when viral on the internet, Osius became the best-recognised US ambassador to most Vietnamese people, especially youngsters.

His dedication and friendliness have been appreciated. In late July, Osius became the first US Ambassador to receive the Order of Friendship from the Vietnamese Government. 

“I was deeply moved and consider the Huan chuong Huu nghi (Order of Friendship) the honour of a lifetime. When he presented it to me, Deputy Foreign Minister Le Hoai Trung read a citation that described not only the major accomplishments during my tenure as ambassador, but also my efforts to show respect to Viet Nam’s people, language, history and culture. That was especially meaningful," he said.

Cycling towards friendship: Former US ambassador Ted Osius in the cycling race Coupe de Hue in August. — Photo courtesy of Ted Osius

Moving further

After the end of his tenure as ambassador, Osius and his family decided to live in HCM City, the country’s economic hub, 1,800km away from the classic city of Ha Noi. 

“We chose to live in Sai Gon [former name of HCM City] because I received an offer to work as Vice President of Fulbright University, which is located in HCM City. Also, it’s customary for an outgoing ambassador to stay out of the way of a new ambassador, so living 1,800 kilometres from Ha Noi seemed like far enough that we’d be out of the way," he lightly joked.

"And, we really love HCM City.”

Quitting the US foreign service, Osius chose to lean into the education field, starting first with Fulbright University, “the first independent, American-style, not-for-profit university in Viet Nam” as he described it.

He now chairs the Education Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Viet Nam and plays an active role in its Board of Governors. 

Whether in diplomacy, business or education, Osius sees many opportunities to deepen ties between the US and Viet Nam. Deepening educational and business ties, therefore, is the most effective way to ensure a long-lasting partnership between the two countries.

“Our committee has chosen three areas of focus: innovation in education; helping prepare Viet Nam’s workforce for future challenges; and student well-being. All committee members are fully committed to facilitating the highest quality contributions from US companies toward the goal of better education for the Vietnamese people. I’m inspired by the dedication of the entire committee membership and AmCham as a whole,” he said. 

Citing late US Senator John McCain as the symbol for efforts to build diplomacy between Viet Nam and the US, Osius emphasised strong ties between the two nations as a crucial part of his legacy.

“And they will last a long, long time,” he stressed. 

Having lived in Viet Nam for four years, as an Ambassador and now as an expat, Osius said that the country would always be part of his life and important to his family. 

“We would like to live here for at least another year, and possibly more,” Osius said. 

“Living in Viet Nam is different from other countries where I have worked because I speak the language. Speaking Vietnamese makes it feel not like I live in a foreign country, but rather in a second home. I have felt welcome in every province of Viet Nam, north, center and south.  That warm hospitality sets Viet Nam apart from other countries,” he added with pride. — VNS



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