i know what you mean!

ngày sinh cuối năm …

Posted on: January 7, 2007

The first time I heard the song was in 4th grade. It was not something broadcasted on TV or the radio. Some of the kids in my class must have sung the song, and one or two of them must have taught the lyrics to me. It’s amazing how something I love so much and come to identify with so much has such a blurry begining. Sixteen years later, in 2005, I wrote about the song on Dactrung, and a friend came to identify its name as “Eskimo.”

It was a Russian song, originally, translated into Vietnamese the way many Russian songs were imported into Vietnamese pop culture in the hay day of the USSR:

mưa vẫn rơi
đường nhựa nước ngập trơn khó đi
mà những đứa lội chân cứ đi
lạng quạng như xe lắc lư

mưa vẫn rơi
một ngày mưa trời không sáng tươi
mà sao em thấy vui lạ quá
em không buồn, em không buồn

rồi em chơi đàn ngồi bên phong cầm
cạnh ông qua đường, mưa vẫn rơi
và đáng tiếc thay, ngày sinh cuối năm
chỉ thế thôi
tiếc hoài… như giấc mơ –
một hôm bỗng nàng tiên biết bay
ngồi trực thăng màu xanh đến đây

rạp xi nê, phim rất hay
là quà những ngày sinh đã qua
là 50 chiếc kem thật ngon,
kem thơm giòn, kem thơm giòn…

………. the rain is still falling
the asphalt street is filled with water, too wet to travel
but some still try to wade through
wobbling like joggling / carriages

rain still falls
on a rainny day, the sky isn’t fresh and bright
but I strangely feel happy
I’m not sad / I’m not sad

So I play music, sitting with my harmonica
next to a passerby on the street, the rain is still falling
and oh too bad, this end-of-the-year birthday
is only this much
like a dream, I yearn for it
then one day a fairy comes flying
sitting in a green helicopter
the movie at the cinema is very good
for all the birthdays which have passed
50 delicious ice creams
delicious crunchy ice creams…

When I sung these lyrics to Son, he found them to be disjuncted and funny. It’s true, I used to wonder to myself too, especially with this weird fairy stuff, but they were beautiful to me all the same.

Because I have a secret birthday, and it’s an end-of-the- year birthday. Mom came home from work one night towards the very end of December, and got herself to the hospital to give birth to me. On the birth certificate, Mom asked someone to enter my date of birth exactly 1 month later than my actual date of birth. What it means is, this fake date would bump my birth year, so that I would enter 1st grade being the oldest kid in class as oppose to starting 2nd grade being the youngest kid in the class. Mom was worried I wouldn’t be able to catch up. This story doesn’t go far. Most people I know are confused about my birthday. Even my own siblings get the date mixed up. Son got confused too, because I used to say “happy birthday” to myself on the eve of it, the reason being VietNam is 14 hours ahead of the US… I wouldn’t blame people for not remembering my birthday. They might have parties for me, take me out for lunch, but if I ask them, they would not be able to say what day is my birthday. I’m used to it, because Xmas pretty much blocks out everything else hiding behind it (Loy, my boss, is the only person who remembers to separately give me an Xmas present AND a birthday present, year after year. Then again, her birthday is right after mine, so probably we share the “end of the year” thing). So I have this song, on my birthday, to tell myself that everyone may not know it, the day may not look cheerful, but I am strangely happy. I am not sad. And it’s too bad, the end-of-the-year birthday is only that much… but I’m not sad, I’m strangely happy…
The Vietnamese translation, it turns out, is very close to the original. But in Vietnamese, it’s more poetic, I think. Here are the lyrics in Russian, along with the literal English translation:

Песенка крокодила Гены

Пусть бегут неуклюже
Пешеходы по лужам,
А вода-по асфальту рекой.
И неясно прохожим
В этот день непогожий,
Почему я весёлый такой.
Я играю на гармошке
У прохожих на виду…
К сожаленью, день рожденья
Только раз в году.
Прилетит вдруг волшебник
В голубом вертолёте
И бесплатно покажет кино,

С днем рожденья поздравит

И, наверно, оставит
Мне в подарок пятьсот “эскимо”.


Crocodile Gena’s Little Song

Let the passers-by run awkwardly
Through the puddles,
And the water [flows] over the asphalt like a river.
And its unclear to those passing by
On this dreary day,
Why I am so jolly.
I play a harmonica
In front of all who pass by…
Unfortunately, birthdays come
Only once a year.
Suddenly a wizard flies up
In a sky-blue helicopter
And shows a movie for free,
He wishes me well on my birthday
And, probably, will leave
Me a present of 50 Eskimo Pies.

I used to think the name “eskimo” was so random for the song, given the contents. It was also the reason why I thought the lyrics were made up by the Vietnamese, not translated. I used to think that the actual lyrics in Russian were probably about some eskimo living in Siberia (sic) with sleigh dogs or something like that. It turns out the “Eskimo” title comes from Eskimo Pies, which would make absolutely no sense in Vietnamese, so they were just called “icecream bars.”
You can listen to the song here (real player required)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

happenings right now


January 2007
« Dec   Feb »
%d bloggers like this: