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Hanoi puppeteers get out of the water to stay afloat


The Vietnam Puppet Theater in Hanoi recently resumed operations after a three-month closure owing to the pandemic. However, since foreign tourists, its main audience, cannot enter the country, the theater runs just one show a day, and this is mostly non-water performances for kids.

Earlier, two to three shows a day was the norm, and this would go up to eight shows when demand was particularly high. As water puppetry is a popular art form in Vietnam the theater is well known within the country and abroad.

Nguyen Tien Dung, director of the theater, said the number of water puppetry shows have never been as low as this, even lower than the non-water shows. Earlier, the number of non-water puppetry performances was only one third of the water shows.

The theater, in Thanh Xuan District’s 361 Truong Chinh Street, used to welcome 600-900 visitors a day, but this has shrunk to about 300 now. Its turnover in the first half of the year was just a third of the same period last year.

The Thang Long Puppet Theater in Hanoi is in similar dire straits. After reopening, the theater runs three performances a week, compared to three to five performances a day. Located by Hanoi’s iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, the theater usually has a large number of foreign visitors, who accounted for 85 percent of its total admissions.

Before the pandemic struck, the theater received more than 1,000 visitors a day, but now it takes a week to accumulate the same number of visitors. It used to have a turnover of more than VND100 million ($4,300) a day, but now finds it difficult to manage that in a month.

Although the revenue is not enough for operations and overheads, the theater remains open.

“We had never imagined such a situation. Covid-19 has made us miserable. Thankfully, the theater has a standby fund which is used for essentials like repairs and paying salaries in this difficult time. But if this situation lasts for another year, we will have to close,” said Chu Luong, deputy director of the Thang Long Puppet Theater.

Trying new things

With their main audience missing in action, the puppetry theaters are trying to attract more attention from the domestic audience, especially children.

This month, for instance, the Vietnam Puppet Theater has focused on performing at schools for their year-end ceremonies, allowing them to have a show almost every day.

Dung said this was a very positive sign as it shows they can still perform regularly and that puppetry is still appealing to local people.

Artists of the Thang Long Puppet Theater have also been actively introducing their shows to new audiences. They have been rehearsing and tailoring their puppets to better appeal to children. They are also performing in schools.

To boost the art’s profile, the theater has started to perform two promotional sessions right in front of the theater at 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday at 57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street in Hoan Kiem District, around the walking street area that thousands visit every week.

While the theater operators say they look forward to the return of international tourists, they also hope the domestic audience will pay more attention to the traditional art.

They are doing their best to make the latter happen.

Vắng khách quốc tế, nhà hát múa rối tìm hướng đi mới

Artist apprentices rehearse with their puppets at the Vietnam Puppet Theater. Video by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.



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Vietnamese in Australia face upheavel as coronavirus lockdown returns


For Nam Bui, a Melbourne resident for over 10 years, the second lockdown “resembles a dream since everything got upturned.”

Since Wednesday, Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, and capital of Victoria, will be locked down for six weeks as authorities try to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infection following a record rise in daily cases across the state.

Restaurants and cafes will only sell takeaway food, while gyms, beauty salons, and cinemas will be closed again. Nearly five million people will no longer be allowed to leave their homes unless it’s for grocery shopping, caregiving, exercise or work.

The whole state of Victoria was placed under strict lockdown in early March, seriously affecting those working in the hospitality and restaurant industry like Nam as the number of customers fell sharply, leading to a decrease in his income.

In mid-May, Nam felt happy and relieved as the Australian government relaxed lockdown measures, allowing restaurants to reopen and his job started returning to normal.

However, Victoria has been facing a second Covid-19 outbreak, prompting the government to reimpose a lockdown on metropolitan Melbourne and some parts of the state to contain the flare-up of cases.

Australia has so far reported over 9,300 infections and 106 deaths.

“Luckily, I work different shifts at more than one restaurant. My income is still fine even though I’m struggling to survive the pandemic,” Nam said.

Nhung Le Farrell, manager of a restaurant at Melbourne Airport, has not been able to return to work since April 23. Melbourne Airport was planning to resume flights on July 17 when the second lockdown order suddenly changed everything.

Victoria closed the border with neighboring New South Wales, isolating itself to curb the spread of the disease.

“I’m sad Melbourne is under lockdown again,” said Nhung, a resident since 2012. “95 percent of flights were cut, the airport was empty and restaurants closed their doors because there were no customers.”

“My income has reduced by 90 percent,” Nhung said, adding as a permanent resident, she was fortunate to receive government support for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Only permanent residents or Australian citizens are eligible for the government support package.

Nhung takes advantage of this opportunity to spend most of the time at home with her 3-year-old son. Her husband, a high school teacher, still goes to work because high school seniors must continue their learning program.

For many, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on livelihoods.

Lan Huong Tierney, owner of a wedding dress shop in Melbourne, also lives amid worry and stress.

“My shop was closed for several months, reopening just as the new lockdown was imposed,” Huong said.

“I certainly support the decision to place the city under lockdown since human life comes first. The unemployed, like me, are also supported by the government. However, I am still worried about the future as my income has been greatly reduced.”

Huong’s husband and children are now studying and working online from home. Prior to the renewed lockdown, her family restricted going out to avoid large crowds, with the Australian government yet to contain the pandemic.

“During the first lockdown, which lasted two months, people rushed to hoard necessities, but this time most only stock up for a week to limit going out,” she said.

Like Huong, Nam now hardly stores any goods as supermarkets remain open. “It is really sad that Melbourne has to reimpose the lockdown, but it was necessary to completely stamp out the coronavirus outbreak,” he maintained.

Nam blamed the recurrence of the second wave for slack anti-pandemic measures and poor public awareness.

Australia only encourages people to wear masks in public, though they scarce and very expensive, at up to $25-30 a box.”

I worried about my health amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Hopefully, thanks to strict police inspection, residents will comply with anti-pandemic measures, and the crisis would soon pass,” Nam added.

Huong also wishes the pandemic would end soon, though she accepts she will have to deal with its impacts until that time comes.



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Vietnamese passport among world’s weakest


By Nguyen Quy  &nbspJuly 10, 2020 | 07:54 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese passport among world's weakest

A Vietnamese passport. Photo by Shutterstock/Andy Tran.

The Vietnamese passport continues to be among those enjoying the least visa free access, placed 89th out of 109 in the latest power ranking by Henley & Partners.

Those holding a Vietnamese passport are able to access 54 countries and territories, according to the Henley Passport Index 2020, updated for the third quarter and released by the British global citizenship and residence advisory firm this week.

In Southeast Asia, a Vietnamese passport is slightly more powerful than that of Laos (93) and Myanmar (96), with visa free access to 50 and 47 destinations, respectively.

Singapore and Malaysia hold the most powerful passports in the region with the former ranking 2nd with visa exemption to 190 destinations and the latter 14th, exempted from 178.

Japan has the most powerful passport in the world, with its citizens able to visit 191 countries and territories without applying for a visa. South Korea shared third position with Germany, with visa free access to 189 destinations.

With the Donald Trump administration pursuing a hostile immigration policy, the U.S. lost its throne as the most powerful passport in the world, standing at 7th alongside the U.K.

The index ranked passports of 199 countries and territories based on the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa though temporary travel restrictions are still imposed in many parts of the world amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The standard ranking does not take into account temporary bans due to the impacts of the pandemic, Henley & Partners said.



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Two-time lottery winner beats life of tragedy


In the early morning, visitors to Phu Cuong Park in southern Binh Duong Province’s Thu Dau Mot Town often see a man silently meditating beneath a tree, jogging, or doing a headstand using only his right arm.

“If I hadn’t won the lottery twice, I would still have my left arm. I wouldn’t have spent a decade hooked on drugs,” confessed Do Hoang Toan, 65, who works out daily to prove his commitment to healthy living.

Toan, one of eight siblings, grew up reliant on a small grocery stall set up in front of their tiny family hut.

Toan could drive and carry tables, desks lent to his patrons. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

Toan arranges tables and desks lent to patrons. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

Having completed primary education, Toan helped his parents run the grocery stall, selling lottery tickets and tobacco, among others. Prior to 1975, with lottery results quickly made known and tickets inexpensive, both Toan and his family members would sometimes retain a few lucky numbers.

In September 1970, he managed to win the jackpot and two consolation prizes, totaling VND3 million. With no ID card, 15-year-old Toan asked his father to travel to Saigon and collect the money on his behalf.

“A civil servant only earned several thousand dong at the time. With VND3 million I could buy houses and cars,” he recalled.

Instead of investing the money, the youngster opted for partying with his friends, buying an expensive Japanese motorcycle while on a fun filled trip to Saigon.

“They called me big brother, which meant I had to take care of them, lend them money and hold parties.”

With his funds starting to dwindle, luck once more smiled on Toan.

In December 1970, Toan again won the jackpot of VND4 million. Overjoyed, his parents spent VND1 million on the plot of land they had been renting, erecting a prestigious two storey, 50-meter-square house with tiled floors.

“My family moved here from the North after 1975. All we could afford was a small hut. Toan’s house was by far the biggest in the then,” said neighbor Nguyen Quang, 70.

Considered rich for the time, Toan let his parents manage the winnings, only to disappear with his friends for days on end.

Toan works out in the park. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

Toan works out in the park. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

Once, while hanging out, a friend gave him a cocaine-laced cigarette.

“I didn’t know about the side effects, they simply told me to try it and that I had nothing to lose, who knew I would get hooked,” he remembered.

Le Van Nghia, Toan’s childhood companion, confirmed Toan started using drugs after winning the lottery.

When Toan was 18, he cohabited with a woman and had a son. Two years later, his addiction had peaked and his money run out.

To fund his vices, the young man became a thief, but got caught. Then, while attempting a jailbreak, he got shot in the left arm. Learning about the incident, his wife grabbed their child and fled.

“Coming home with a disabled body to find my wife and son gone, I had little solace but for drugs, whether by smoking or injection,” he said.

“At the time his dependence was severe. Of all the drug addicts in the neighborhood, only Toan had survived,” a neighbor recalled.

Sleeping under a bridge, he would beg rice from nearby villages to sell to local restaurants, spending whatever he earned on drugs. At the time, he rarely came home.

In 1986, Toan, aged 31, was injecting thrice a day and “looked like a monster.”

Once, attending the funeral of an addict friend, the sight of the lonely coffin placed in the middle of the room made him suddenly think of his own demise.

“Is the death of a drug addict that embarrassing?” he asked himself.

After witnessing another friend inject soy sauce into his veins, later succumbing to addiction, a fearful Toan decided to stop his destructive behavior.

“At the time, I just wanted to live, though it meant giving up on drugs.”

Hearing addicts are afraid of water, he locked himself in a room and doused himself whenever withdrawal threatened his resolve. After one month, Toan could safely venture out.

He started earning money delivering up to five water bottles at a time to needy neighbors in an attempt to prove he had been cured.

“No one believed I could give up on drugs, saying they would die if it was true.”

Nghia said it took him and several neighbors years to finally believe Toan had gone clean.

“Since winning the lottery, he had acted like a prince, learning nothing. After giving up on drugs, he focused on working, which was a welcome change,” according to Nghia.

Thanks to his water delivery job, Toan saved enough money to buy a tricycle to transport other goods. While some charged VND10,000, he only asked VND5,000, fearing no one would hire him due to his disability.

Toans wife (R) works at a electrical supply store nearby, so he cooks and prepare meals for the whole family. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

Partner Le Thanh Thuy works at an electrical supply store nearby, leaving Toan in charge of cooking for the family. Photo by VnExpress/Diep Phan.

In 1998, after several months spent dating, he married Le Thanh Thuy, 17 years younger than him. After 22 years together, they now have a daughter and son.

“My life is like an arrow. I was pulled back to gain the motivation to step forward,” Toan said, adding he is luckier than many of his deceased friends.

He now rents out tables, chairs and cutlery for local events.Toan wants to focus on his family, especially his little daughter, now in grade 7.

According to Nguyen Thanh Son, a local official, Toan’s family has provided free sugarcane juice to pagoda visitors during Lunar January in the last four years.

“Toan is not rich, but he has a big heart.”



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Saigon youth swept off their feet by $120 sneakers


Saigon youth queued up as early as 4 a.m. outside two malls to try their luck at buying “Converse x Fear of God ESSENTIALS” sneakers.

The sale of the sneaker model via raffle tickets on Thursday had been announced by the American shoe brand at its two outlets in District 10’s Van Hanh Mall and District 1’s Saigon Center.

The plan was to randomly hand out 100 raffle tickets and pull out “lucky” numbers for the chance to buy a pair for VND2.8 million ($121).

Saigon youth wait to buy new sneakers outside the Van Hanh Mall in Saigon’s District 10 on July 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Van Hanh Mall.

Saigon youth wait to buy new sneakers outside the Van Hanh Mall in Saigon’s District 10 on July 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Van Hanh Mall.

The announcement attracted many urban sneakerheads (those who collect sneakers as a hobby) to the malls, but a noisy ruckus broke out before the distribution of the raffle tickets, prompting the stores to announce at around 9 a.m. that the sale was being postponed. This disappointed many who’d waited for hours.

“Converse organized the event badly. When they saw the chaos, they asked only one staff member to go out and tell us that if the commotion continued, they would stop selling the new shoes,” a sneakerhead told local media.

Converse Fear of God x Chuck 70 High “Essentials”, a brand created in collaboration between U.S.-based Fear of God (FOG) and Converse, has become a hot item among sneakerheads.

It is not only due to the shoes’ design but also the reputation of FOG, a luxury streetwear brand preferred by several Vietnamese celebrities, including singer Son Tung M-TP.

A pair of FOG shoes normally costs more than $500, but Converse co-branded sneakers are much more affordable at $121. Many buy the shoes and resell them at two or three times the original price.



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Saigon fans queue from 4 am to buy Converse x Fear of God sneakers


Saigon youth queued up as early as 4 a.m. outside two malls to try their luck at buying “Converse x Fear of God ESSENTIALS” sneakers.

The sale of the sneaker model via raffle tickets on Thursday had been announced by the American shoe brand at its two outlets in District 10’s Van Hanh Mall and District 1’s Saigon Center.

The plan was to randomly hand out 100 raffle tickets and pull out “lucky” numbers for the chance to buy a pair for VND2.8 million ($121).

Saigon youth wait to buy new sneakers outside the Van Hanh Mall in Saigon’s District 10 on July 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Van Hanh Mall.

Saigon youth wait to buy new sneakers outside the Van Hanh Mall in Saigon’s District 10 on July 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Facebook/Van Hanh Mall.

The announcement attracted many urban sneakerheads (those who collect sneakers as a hobby) to the malls, but a noisy ruckus broke out before the distribution of the raffle tickets, prompting the stores to announce at around 9 a.m. that the sale was being postponed. This disappointed many who’d waited for hours.

“Converse organized the event badly. When they saw the chaos, they asked only one staff member to go out and tell us that if the commotion continued, they would stop selling the new shoes,” a sneakerhead told local media.

Converse Fear of God x Chuck 70 High “Essentials”, a brand created in collaboration between U.S.-based Fear of God (FOG) and Converse, has become a hot item among sneakerheads.

It is not only due to the shoes’ design but also the reputation of FOG, a luxury streetwear brand preferred by several Vietnamese celebrities, including singer Son Tung M-TP.

A pair of FOG shoes normally costs more than $500, but Converse co-branded sneakers are much more affordable at $121. Many buy the shoes and resell them at two or three times the original price.



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Saigon boat owners stay afloat with river tours


After three months suspension due to the Covid-19, An Son Lam, general director of Indochina Sail Co., Ltd, returned four of his Indochina Queen boats to service as Vietnam lifted its social distancing campaign in late April.

Formerly hosting meetings, lunches and dinners on boats, the firm recently launched Saigon River tours to compensate for the pandemic lack of business.

Before Covid-19 hit, Lam’s boats served dinner to at least 100 guests a day, falling to about 50 over the weekend. Besides, docking fees of up to VND400 million ($17,300) a month have placed a further burden on the struggling company.

“Neglected boats will quickly degrade. This season, customers rarely travel far due to the pandemic. The river tours will increase the experience value for visitors and Saigon residents. It is also a way to promote HCMC river tourism,” Lam said.

He noted the city had many attractive destinations like the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, and Cu Chi Tunnels but that there is a lack of new products to entice visitors back.

The 90-minute sunset tour departs from Saigon Port Service Center at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, District 4 at 5:30 p.m. Guests can sip a drink and enjoy a light meal onboard while taking in Saigon’s bustling skyline.

Tickets for adults cost VND100,000 ($4.3), and half for children. All prices are 50 percent less than what had previously been decided.

“After the tourism market returns to normal [reopening to international tourists], we will consider cooperating with travel agents to do more,” said Lam.

After only five days in operation, Indochina Queen has welcomed 500 visitors, which is a positive sign, Lam said. “Water tourism is a feature of Saigon often associated with boats and water life. Opening related services for tourists and citizens can help businesses reduce losses in difficult times.”

On Friday, another firm, Greenlines DP Company, will also debut a cruise along inland waterways, departing from Bach Dang Wharf on Saigon River toward Thanh Da Peninsula, then passing Binh Hoa Wharf bound for Thu Dau Mot in neighboring Binh Duong Province, before continuing to Tiamo Wharf and Cu Chi Tunnels, totaling 60 km.

The line will run four trips a day with a capacity of 96 passengers per trip. The cost depends on each leg of the journey, ranging from VND120,000 to 220,000 ($5.2 – 9.5).

Le Hoa Hiep, an expert in travel management, said such new products could add competitive value to HCMC. “The city has no strength in attracting domestic visitors. While the foreign tourist market remains closed, having such attractive new products will be a plus point to attract [domestic] travelers.”

With Vietnam’s borders still closed as a Covid-19 preventive measure, the country’s foreign visitor numbers in the first half of the year dropped 55.8 percent year-on-year to 3.74 million.



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The bucolic charm of a Hue summer


A visitor strolls on the road along the north bank of the Huong River amid fallen leaves.

Locals consider the river a heritage. The north bank is a place to walk, play and exercise. It also links other destinations such as Phu Xuan Park, Nghinh Luong Dinh relics, Thuong Bac Park, Truong Tien Bridge, and Dong Ba Market.



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Bird-eye views accentuate paradisiacal beauty of Lan Ha Bay


The emerald and jade green hues of the bay make it an exquisite work of art by nature. Several caves add a sense of mystery.

A tour of Lan Ha Bay should include the Luon Cave, the Cai Beo fishing village, the Viet Hai fishing village, Nam Cat Island, Monkey Island, Van Boi Beach and Chuong Island.

When night falls, visitors can put their feet up and enjoy a great meal of grilled otter clam, salted roasted crab or poached lobster with a glass or two of wine.



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Vietnamese students in the US under threat by Trump’s new visa rule


Le Hong Hanh, a 21-year-old Vietnamese student at the University of Southern California, could not sleep during Monday night, having no idea what awaits her this summer and coming semester.

In a news release on the day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division said: “The U.S. Department of State will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will U.S. Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the U.S.”

Students with F-1 visa (international students who are attending an academic program) and M-1 visa (international students attending vocational schools and technical schools) are under the new rule.

The move may affect thousands of Vietnamese students like Hanh who come to the U.S. to attend universities or participate in training programs, as well as non-academic or vocational studies.

“I’m like a cat on hot bricks. It’s very frustrating,” Hanh lamented. Enrolled in an undergraduate program at the university, she commenced online courses last semester due to the spreading novel coronavirus in the U.S., planning to do the same next semester since the university announced it would shift operations online.

ICE suggested students currently enrolled in America consider other measures, such as transferring to schools with in-person instruction or hybrid classes, a mix of online and in-person lessons. If not, students will risk deportation.

Harvard University, one of the institutions holding online classes this Fall. Photo by Photostock/Marcio Jose Bastos Silva.

Harvard University, one of the institutions running online classes this fall. Photo by Photostock/Marcio Jose Bastos Silva.

Nguyen Huy Hoang, a graduate student at Wilmington University, which plans for its summer and fall 2020 classes to be “conducted 100 percent online, said: “I feel disappointed and worried, many of my friends have started looking for schools with hybrid models or on-campus classes.”

Since the outbreak hit America, Hoang has attended online classes and stayed home to avoid Covid-19 infection, now, at the risk of deportation.

Universities in the U.S. are beginning to make the decision to transition to online courses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. At Harvard, for example, all course instruction will be delivered online, including for students living on campus.

Looking for new on-campus or hybrid courses at other schools is not easy since transfer deadlines are over, with the next semester only one month away and relocation cumbersome.

“It is just like dominos, one factor changes everything,” Hoang said.

In many Facebook groups run by Vietnamese students in America, a myriad of netizens have expressed surprise and confusion after ICE’s new move on Monday.

They have called on others to sign a petition aimed at the White House, urging authorities to “treat international students with the same respect due to any college student” in the U.S. The petition has attracted nearly 90,000 signatures in one day, with the ultimate goal being 100,000 in 30 days.

“Online classes are the safest choice for us, even if they deport us, how can we return to Vietnam when flights are limited,” Quan Nguyen, a graduate student at George Washington University, lamented.

Many worry they will have to wait a very long time to access government repatriation flights since commercial flights to Vietnam are not allowed, with their visas also needing extension before the next semester.

Vietnam has suspended all international flights since March 25 and has only granted permission for some special flights to repatriate Vietnamese citizens stranded abroad and carry foreign experts and workers needed in major economic projects.

Since April, the country has implemented dozens of repatriation flights taking its citizens home amid the pandemic, including around 5,000 Vietnamese students in the U.S. This means over 20,000 are still in the Covid-19 hotspot.

“We are in a dilemma,” Quan maintained, adding he has always known that a full online course is not allowed if international students want to apply for the F-1 visa but we are in a pandemic, why can’t the administration be more flexible?”

No Utopia

Many Vietnamese students have contacted their institutions in the last two days, hoping for clarification and chances for blended or on-campus classes, regardless of the Covid-19 risks they may face.

According to Linh Tran, student at the University of Washington, the institute’s international student services office had sent an email to reassure F-1 students, stating they are working with state’s congressional delegation and federal officials to reach a final decision.

“If you are in America, just stay calm and consider feasible solutions, do not panic or be confused,” she wrote in a 6,000-member Facebook group about studying in America, quoting her university’s email.

With hybrid classes a Hobson’s choice to help international students maintain their nonimmigrant status, several universities have recently sent an update on the combination of in-person and online instruction in the next semester to reassure students.

Georgia State University, Spoke Community College, Colombia University, New York University, which has the highest number of international students in the U.S., etc. are all on the list.

But for many Vietnamese students, who have been stuck in the U.S. since March, returning to campus could be risky amid spiking coronavirus cases across the U.S.

“I am afraid the open campus attract a large amount of students this fall, I’d rather stay home and practice social distancing,” said Duc Nguyen, sophomore at Georgia State University.

As of July 8, there have been over 2.9 million coronavirus cases in the U.S., with 130,133 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The line keeps going up and now youngsters like us must return to campus to maintain our status amid the raging pandemic, that’s ridiculous,” Duc commented, adding he has been waiting to fly back to Vietnam and plans to attend online courses next semester.

Several universities have criticized ICE’s decision, saying it disregards the health and well-being of students.

Those staying in Vietnam and planning to leave for America for the fall semester are also facing an upheaval, having no idea when they could continue their American dreams.

“I can stay in Vietnam and study remotely to avoid the pandemic, but I do not know when I would receive my F-1 visa to experience academic life in America,” said Nguyen Anh, newly enrolled at Georgetown University, originally planning to go to the U.S. in August but changing his plan later as classes switch online ahead of fall.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Thao is still waiting for her university’s decision, and looking for hybrid courses at several institutions is Los Angeles. In the worst case, she said, she would think about going to Canada “since flying to Vietnam now is such a pipe dream.”

“I want to attend online lessons to avoid the coronavirus, but now they tell me that could cause me to be deported, how cruel is that?” Thao asked.