This week I received word that my work permit application was approved. Along with allowing me to work legally in Vietnam, the application process provided a few unique experiences.
First on my to do list was to get a health check. When I walked in to the hospital, it became clear I was not the first foreigner to go through this process. I was met by a translator who led me to each doctor and was my superhero of the day. The visit included: a blood test, a urine test, a x-ray, an ultrasound, and an eye, ear, and teeth check. After my ultrasound the translator told me she thought I was healthy because my liver looked healthy and a lot of foreigners have fatty livers. She followed that statement with “I’m not sure why”. I shrugged but I had a few ideas. I got to keep the x-rays and ultrasound results. I think they’re cool reminders that there are important things going on inside my body that I often forget to consider. I left the hospital with the stamp of approval from each doctor indicating a clean bill of health. A few differences between Vietnamese and American health care: these tests were used to determine I was healthy instead of solving a problem, all of these services were in one building, it cost me $50.
Next up was authenticating my qualifying documents. I booked an appointment with the US embassy and remembered to bring my college diploma, TESOL certificate, and US background check. About 5 minutes away from the embassy I cursed because I forgot my passport. When I arrived I was greeted by a security officer who took all my electronics and asked for my passport. I cringed and said I forgot it. She looked at me, asked if I was a US citizen, and let me in the embassy! I went to the office I had an appointment with and they asked for my passport. I cringed and said I forgot it. When asked if I had any other form of identification and I offered my high school ID (a perk of traveling with my high school backpack).
After about 15 minutes of will they/won’t they accept my ID, the verdict came back in my favor and I was soon on my way with my documents stamped with authentication. As I packed up to leave, the embassy worker says “well now you know that you need to bring your passport when you go to the embassy”, like after 4 months of this I wasn’t already aware. I deserved that.
I then had to get my passport authenticated, which was significantly less eventful but still a learning experience because lunch breaks are taken very seriously in Vietnam and as it turns out, they can last for an undetermined amount of time.
Last step was to get passport photos. That experience anywhere is traumatizing because no one photographs well with a blank stare. And apparently I needed all parts of my ears showing, which isn’t the easiest task when you have the amount of hair that I do. Add on the photographers giggling in Vietnamese and a broken printer and you get a scarring experience.
But as a result of all of this, I am a legalized employee in Vietnam and that feels pretty cool.