i know what you mean!

Posts Tagged ‘vietnam


Viet Nam beloved land of the bold

We are like rising water overflowing, we will not be put out
The infinite road ahead only means our laughter will reverberate
Dragging behind our feet are the chains of passed times
Our eyes shine bright to the rhythm of the chains jangling

We rattle the chains in the face of the world
an everlasting smile is a not a smile of joy
a distant smile is a smile of seething grudge
Our trides rush forth, flinging chains in the face of Man

Our blood was pressed from Văn Lang’s citadel
same flesh and bones our forefathers had forged
with each passing day
we laugh defiantly in our seething grudge
we’ve become a corps of bold people
on grounds of spikes we sing-laugh-jest
as long as there’s Viet Nam
these million hearts continue to hold infinite valor yet.

we are a race flowing forth on fired kiln
our faces cool as bronze,  gazing to a faraway
the hides of our feet drip with sweat, enfolding veins
holding bleeding wounds we laugh under the heat

We teach our children – keep on being humans
being a glorious people – must keep on being Viets
being a bold people in the face of this world
To all those who have fallen: sit up then bravely walk again

———————————–
Nguyễn Đức Quang, song writer, visionaire
spouse, father, grandfather, brother, son, cousin, relative, friend, neighbor, citizen
uncle, grand-uncle
human, and many more.
1944 – 2011
In memoriam.

————————————————————-
Việt Nam Quê Hương Ngạo Nghễ

Ta như nước dâng dâng tràn có bao giờ tàn
Đường dài ngút ngàn chỉ một trận cười vang vang
Lê sau bàn chân gông xiềng một thời xa xăm
Đôi mắt ta rực sáng theo nhịp xích kêu loàng xoàng
Ta khua xích kêu vang dậy trước mặt mọi người
Nụ cười muôn đời là một nụ cười không tươi
Nụ cười xa vời nụ cười của lòng hờn sôi
Bước tiến ta tràn tới tung xiềng vào mặt nhân gian
Máu ta từ thành Văn Lang dồn lại
Xương da thịt này cha ông ta miệt mài
Từng ngày qua
Cười ngạo nghễ đi trong đau nhức không nguôi
Chúng ta thành một đoàn người hiên ngang
Trên bàn chông hát cười đùa vang vang
Còn Việt Nam
Triệu con tim này còn triệu khối kiêu hùng
Ta như giống dân đi tràn trên lò lửa hồng
Mặt lạnh như đồng cùng nhìn về một xa xăm
Da chân mồ hôi nhễ nhại cuộn vòng gân trời
Ôm vết thương rĩ máu ta cười dưới ánh mặt trời
Ta khuyên cháu con ta còn tiếp tục làm người
Làm người huy hoàng phải chọn làm người dân Nam
Làm người ngang tàng điểm mặt mày của trần gian
Hỡi những ai gục xuống ngồi dậy hùng cường đi lên

– Nguyễn Đức Quang – Saigon 1966

Image

I had a dream last night of listening to Trần Tiến performing his popular Vietnamese pop song mặt trời bé con. It was one of the most emotionally vested dream I have had thus far. I have had happy dreams, peaceful dreams, exciting dreams… but they were not as intense as my dream last night, they did not evoke complex feelings and brought me to tears. The emotions I experienced in my dream last night brought me to tears. The song was sung so beautifully that every single word made sense, and every single sound evoked a kaleidoscopic (damn, I was just guess-spelled that word and I got it right!) set of images and memories. I think probably this is what it feels like to approach another dimension – that, or being high on mushrooms (Mildred described a very similar experience when she got high and read Alice in Wonderland). And you know what, the sense of having experienced something life-changing is with me still, almost 4 hours after I have woken up.

In reality, Trần Tiến performed a horrible rendition of his own song. It’s so bad that I cannot bring myself to listening to it again. Ugh. Quang Dũng’s version is just OK, maybe a 6/10 rating, mostly because the music sucks. Will I ever find the music that I have heard in my dream? Is it a message from above that I should start singing ?? Do you even know which song I’m talking about???

In the 80’s Trần Tiến wrote this song, and it was very popular in Viet Nam. It was performed regularly on Weekly’s Requests program, and it was actually very well sung by someone I can’t remember. The lyrics are simple, but it’s experience-dependent. If you have grown up listening to your neighbor’s music as daily source of entertainment, then this song would be for you. Think of dirty alleys with laundry criscrossing, narrow houses crowding next to each other so that just normal-volume radio music from one end of the alley can be heard 5,6 houses down the alley. If you were a child with just some rusty tin cans and bamboo popsicle sticks sitting in the house trying to catch some flies, the music would float by your windows like a breeze in the afternoon, a patch of white clouds drifting across the blue sky, a delicious scent of food rising above whatever’s rotting down in the alley – an inadvertent gift from life, giving itself indiscriminately.

Here are the lyrics, in Vietnamese and translation respectively.

mặt trời bé con – sáng tác: Trần Tiến

Ngoài kia có cô bé nhìn qua khe nghe tiếng đàn của tôi
Ngoài kia có chú bé trèo cành me mắt xoe tròn lắng nghe
Đàn tôi hát câu gì mà sao cô bé cười ngộ ghê
Đàn tôi hát câu gì mà sao chú bé ngồi mơ màng
Hạnh phúc quá đơn sơ, đời tôi đâu có ngờ
Từng đêm cô bé chờ như chờ từng giấc mơ

Ngày xưa cũng như bé tuổi còn thơ tôi vẫn thường trộm nghe
Nhà bên có anh lính rời xa quê hay chơi đàn rất khuya
Đàn anh đã cho tôi trời xanh như ước mơ tuổi thơ
Đàn anh đã cho tôi dòng sông mang cánh buồm khát vọng
Tuổi thơ đã đi qua, giờ đây hát bên em
Từng đêm đứng quanh tôi những mặt trời bé con

Trời mưa quá em ơi, bài ca ướt mất rồi còn đâu
Trời mưa đến bao lâu mà sao em vẫn chờ vẫn đợi
Hạnh phúc quá đơn sơ đời tôi đâu có ngờ
Từng đêm em vẫn chờ, vẫn chờ đợi dưới mưa

Little Sunshines (cantabile)

Outside there’s a child looking in listening to me
Outside there’s a child on the tree listening to me
What songs my dear strings can sing to make her — smile
What songs my dear strings can sing to set him dreaming
So simple’s the joy, of little girls and boys
Upon dreams they wait, wait for me each night

Long, long time ago, as a child, I eavesdropped like them
A soldier nearby played his songs yearning for his home
The songs of his trings did bring dreams like high blue skies
The songs of his strings sailed me through rivers of hope
Childhood has gone by, now I sing each night
As children come by, these little sunshines

It’s drenching with rains, the song’s soaked through my dear
How long will it rain, how long will you still wait there
So simple’s the joy of little girls and boys
Each night as you wait, waiting in the rain

I should add a disclaimer right now that I have also had a different set of experience: my elementary school teachers, who were VietNamese Idol wannabe’s, used to play the guitar and sung their lungs out every afternoon horrible horrible songs that no one in my house wanted to hear. This craziness had forced my sister Tram to stick her head over our balcony and screamed over to the school “Thôi đủ rồi, khổ quá!” “Oh my god, enough already!” That brought the program to an immediate halt for the day, but picked up the next day all over again. This song was in their repetoire. Badly. So it brings to my mind both the pleasant and the funny memories.

By the bye, the picture up there is my 3 hours’ worth of messing with photoshop without a clue what the heck I was doing. Coincidentally, I love it, it’s exactly what I wanted. So please don’t take it from me, I’m sure I won’t be able to reproduce it again – ever.

Posted on: April 28, 2006

city of cat ...

while searching for the correct version of the fairy tale Son told me a few nights ago, I came across Irina Zheleznova’s translation of Latvian and Estonian folktales, with illustrations by Anatoly Belyukin. How I know which book these stories came from, how I know these illustrations too well!

A long long time ago, 18,19,20 years ago, my dad brought home a book jull of those images, a thick, shinny, beautiful book, with words incomprehensible to us all. That book was in English, and it’s the same Irina Zheloeznova book that I saw. It stayed with us until 1990, when we left VietNam. Now I don’t know which of our relatives have it. The picture I saw brought to mind the cool air of one late afternoon in VietNam, I sat with that book on the balcony, flipping through each page, looking at each picture longingly, searching for clues to what the words would not tell. I made up stories sometimes, just to make sense of the pictures. The pictures seemed bursting with meanings, beckoning for interpretations. That afternoon was basked in golden sunshine, slight breeze, green leaves, clean tiles, happy mom, adorable baby brother, blue sky, white clouds … a beautiful world. I was always sitting in the balcony like that, many afternoons, committing those pictures to my memory so that I can recognize them at first glance years later, and finally understand why I love Kandinsky’s “riding couple” so much.

The feelings upon seeing these pictures and the mystery of the words revealed at last are mixed. First came the nostalgia and remembrances of golden afternoons. Then came a sense of overwhelming love for … myself, for the child that sat on the balcony many afternoons ago, tracing the geometric pictures and searching for meaning in the eyes of princes and cats. I could see that child all over again, I wanted her to look up at me so that I could tell her, so this is it at last. Then came the waves of sadness, ebbing, crashing, ebbing… What ideals did my dad have when he came upon that book? Did he like it for the pretty pictures and bought them just to selfishly read and then discard? No. He must have imagined how his children would sit around him, as he translates the tales to them line by line, word by word. He never got around to doing that for us. He never got around to do many many things for us, which should have been done. Instead, he did get around to doing so many things to us which should not have been done at all, so that in old age, we have no longing to come home to him, to seek his advise, his approval, his anything. It’s the sadness for my father’s life that I felt, the sense of irretrievable loss, of seeing his good intentions in the past, and knowing too, that when meeting the forked road, he did fail us all.

You can experience the mysteries of the world here

Some years ago, perhaps when I was in first grade or second grade, I felt nauseated for the first time in my life.  I was upstairs in our house in Viet Nam, reading or playing or doing whatever I used to do, and breakfast came back to haunt me.  The most logical thing that I felt needed to be done was to run out of the room, through the corridor, down 30+ flights of stairs, pass the open courtyard, into the kitchen, so that I could report to my mom the gut feelings and ask for permission to puke.  Of course it didn’t work that way, I got down as far as 1/3 of the stairs, could not hold it any longer, so I stuck my head through the bannister looking down to the window below, which opened to the courtyard and therefore could carry the sound of my loud report to my mom in the kitchen:

– Mother I want to pu…. BLEAAAHHHHHHH……………..

… straight down at Chau, who was sitting on the steps by the widow, enjoying her lunch.  It didn’t pour on her head I think, just splattered onto her and into her bowl.  And she being the cleaning lady of our house, had to wipe all that up!

This incidence just goes to illustrate how much I was driven in my childhood by permission-asking.  Permission to take a shower, permission to wear which clothes before I could dress myself, permission to eat meals, and what to eat during meals, permission to eat a banana, an orange, or anything.  Permission to watch TV, permission to play, permission to help out with cooking, permission to play with certain toys, permission to read certain books.  I don’t remember being taught specifically that I needed to ask for permission at all times, but probably it was through modelling, with me being the youngest girl and just following all my sisters’ suit.  Our household was strange in that my mom was not a rigorous authoritarian, but we did have all sorts of crazy practices such as asking for permission to puke or pee and so on, which means we must have made up those rules as kids and figured that if we must ask for permission to eat or dress, we must ask for permission to puke too.  I remember my mom’s grumbling that day: “If you need to puke, then puke… why must you ask ??”

Tags: ,

Son got 2 emails in his mailbox last night, with big ass file attachments.  His brother forwarded to him Bonjour VietNam.  We opened the file and listened to it, and both of us were like, whatever, and turned off the file.  Afterward, I checked my mailbox, and Son’s dad sent us a file, Bonjour VN again.  blah.  This morning, the song is all over the internet, probably fueled by the same dilligent forwarding email network.  The emails were a bit misleading, because they said something like the song was written and performed by an 18 year old VNese who was born and still resides in Belgium.  With her background, I was slightly touched:

Racontes moi ce nom étrange et difficile à prononcer
Que je porte depuis que je suis née

Racontes moi le vieil empire et le trait de mes yeux bridés
Qui disent mieux que moi ce que tu n’oses dire…

But other than that, I didn’t really care for the song, which wasn’t melodious nor has much musical value as far as I’m concerened.  The lyrics were just whatever if the subject was China or something else, but since it was VN, it touched a soft spot in me.  But wow, the slideshow that accompanies the song – super cheesy, cheesy to the point of me feeling as if I’m being forced to sit through a long moral lecture or a VIRTUE-of-a-Communist class.  The final insult was achieved when I finally reached these lines, which I especially hate

Un jour, j’irai là bas, un jour, dire bonjour à mon âme.
Un jour, j’irai là bas / Te dire bonjour, Vietnam.

Ugh.  Gives me a nauseating feeling for some reason.  I hate the phrase “good morning VietNam” or “Hello VietNam” or “Xin cha`o Vie^.t Nam” or any kind of greeting belonging to the sort.  hate it.  I can immediately sort you out as an outsider if you say bonjour VietNam to me, it makes me think of the foreigners coming in VN and say “hello ladies!”  Even Son doesn’t say foolish things like that, and he’s pretty close to what this young woman is in terms of background.

It turns out that the young Belgian-Vietnamese woman didn’t write the song.  Some french guy wrote it for her.

There are thousands of VNese all over the world, and they have written/spoken much more touchy things about VN.  There are people who were born abroad, yet would sit and with their distinct regional Vietnamese dialect learned from their parents, they would say a regional slang in their sentence as if it’s perfectly natural for them to know a line like that.  I feel such a strong sense of kinship with them, even though their VNese is not fluent, and they don’t have soul searching bouts bursting into songs.  You see, that’s natural to me.  Don’t give me sentimental craps to make me feel like you know where I’m coming from, and then the next line you say “bonjour VietNam” – it’s a slap in the face.  I know you, you over there in disguise.  You say it dirty the way they said it to the women and the land before they ravished both.

Oh great, yahoo 360 just ate up my whole blog entry, and can only recover less than 1/2 of it. Sighs

Wonderful weather over here: breezy nights, cold, crisp mornings, warm afternoon, cool evenings.  All the ornamental plum trees are blooming in unison at El Cerrito Plaza BART, their scent is quite faint, but whenever I catch a wift of it in the wind, it makes me happy.

Tet passed by quickly, we did have a nice one this year.  I made an effort to celebrate it a bit, but I don’t think it has ever really been “in” me since my neighbors left and we ceased to make ba’nh tru+ng (roughly an idea, don’t follow the recipe).  Those neighbors were true pains in the ass back then, but they knew a lot of things we didn’t.  Everyone in the family on my mom’s side left VN before I was born, and my mom being brough up not knowing how to cook; thus Tet came to me from our neighbors’ ba’nh tru+ng pot.  My mom would give them money every year when they made their ba’nh tru+ng, and us kids would hang around all day long, until all the ba’nh’s were wrapped neatly in the evening, and a big fire was started in either ours or their courtyard.  First the smokes would fill the entire house, smokes that made everyone’s eyes watered.  Then eventually, the smokes died down, and the night watch began.  The pot they cooked ba’nh tru+ng in was roughly the size of a trashcan, the old fashion aluminum one. Someone needed to watch it at all times, continuously through the night.  Most of us kids only lasted until around 11 p.m., then we went inside to sleep.  In the morning, I would wake up early to find our share of ba’nh tru+ng sitting on the old table inside our kitchen, drying.  There were always at least 12 or 15 big blocky ones for the adults to eat / give away as gifts, and then a few mini’s for the kids.

We lived in a special window of time back then, a time preceeding changes that made VN into what it is today.  The US embargo was still in effect, people were still buying meat by the ounces, and sandals disappeared if you didn’t guard them vigilantly.  Then once a year, you’d have a fire infront of your house, and everyone’d know you were making ba’nh tru+ng (whatever that meant to me back then).

I recount everything about making ba’nh tru+ng now like an eye witness, no longer a participant.  Only the smell of ba’nh tru+ng gives substance to my memories.  It lingers.  It resembles the smell of brewing beer, the smell of the steam that breweries give off.  My mind only captured a moment in time when I sat in front of the fire at night, staring at the darkness just beyond the fire a few days before Tet, feeling the vastness of time and space all around me, not knowing what would come.

Sometimes with that memory, i saw that child, and wanted to tell her this is what it has become, this is the future that child was staring at.  But she just sat there without a care, precious and distant, outside of me.

I like this picture from tearoom a lot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tearoom/62152684/ .  I like Tearoom’s pictures in general.  She sometimes uses these old cameras to take pictures, and the result are these dreamy photos.  They make me think of distant cherished memories that the rememberer can only look in from the outside, but can no longer participate.  hazy dreams.

Tags:

feeding time

… while it lasted.

I dreamt last night of going back to Viet Nam with Son and meeting up with my childhood friend, Lan Phuong, at last. She was the one true friend whose friendship i would always hark back and treasure. She has given me so much richness in life, and her subtle influences continue to shape me into who I am today. It wasn’t that she did anything dramatic or BIG, but she was just being herself, a kindhearted, trusting 10 year old who believed the best in people and had nothing to hide. She was friendly and approachable, was always willing to help, and spoke whatever that was on her mind tactfully. She shared with me whatever she had, and our friendship lasted from 2nd grade into 5th. I was only in the same class with her twice, once in 2nd and once in 4th, but we remained good friends because we were in Sunday to school together from 3rd grade through 5th grade.

In my dream, I went back to see her parents, who seems to have done well for themselves. They were still living in the same house, but no signs of a struggling economy for them. Her youngest sister, is now a high school kid (it’s true in real life i think, she must be 18 by now). I spoke to Phuong’s parents and sister, the whole time I was wondering where Phuong was. Finally I asked her parents, and they said she was inside, trying to emotionally prepare for our meeting. She came out, and we gave each other a long long hug. A sense of contentment filled me, a kind of contentment that is essential, but reassuring, like coming home everyday and finding that your house hasn’t burnt down, that kind of thing. I looked at my friend, who has somehow grown stocky, but that didn’t matter much. We touched each other’s arms, and we talked about things. She’s doing well, working as … (she told me in my dream, but I can’t remember now). Surprisingly, she did not finish college, something to do with working to help putting her 2 younger sisters through college. I told her how I often think of her in my waking hours, imagining her married and settling down with kids much sooner than me; imagining her struggling to make do with everyday’s life, the way everyone were struggling to make ends meet when we were together in VN. But no, she said, she’s doing quite well financially. I suggested that we should go out and eat a meal together, so that we can talk one on one. I told her of my dreams about her, of dreams I had about her parents opening a coffee stand in the dark alley near her house, and she was smiling the whole time. I told Son to stay at my parent’s house in VN (in reality, that house has been confiscated by the government and given to some commies) while I go out with Phuong. Just when we were about to leave, I woke up.

The whole dream was so realistic that at one point, I was telling myself that I’m really in VN at last, that it’s not a dream because I can remember a dream I had about Lan Phuong, andthus i recounted it to her to prove to myself that I was not dreaming. I wanted so bad for it to be a reality, because I saw my friend well and happy, everyone were happy, it was just … perfect.

Strange how people shape one’s life like Lan Phuong has shaped mine. It was her kindness that made this world nice to be part of. I will definitely look her up, some day.


happenings right now

Later!

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30