Expat's sorrow

"I have met in Paris and Marseilles, Vietnamese in the 60s or 70s who left the country before World War II.   They recalled fond memories of the homeland while voicing the concern that to their grandchildren, the Third Generation, Viet Nam may well become just another geographical name.


Our children grow up here and we try to keep something of Viet Nam for them.  Keeping it in order to lessen our sorrow and our frustration.  But the children what do they know about Viet nam to make them feel attached as we are attached to the country?   For us, the faintest smell of leaf mould after the rain may bring tears to our eyes because it reminds us of Saigon.  An air of Vong Co heard in the evening may keep us awake the whole night.   The Ngoc Lan tree by the well at the back of the house, the fragrance of the Thien Ly flowers in the mornng air, pattering of rain on the galvanized iron roof, the voices of street hawkers at midday in summer, the resulting of bougainvillea on a moonlit night.   Memories of all that may make us crazy.

Village kids will laugh at the sight of a poor old man asking his way, sepaking with a stammer, just like in a poem by Ha Tri Chuong of the Tang Dynasty:

"Going away young I returned when very old
My local accent hadn't changed but my hail was all gone
The Children I saw did not know me
'Respected visitor, where do you come from?' They queried."

I'm no overseas Vietnamese and I have my own question:   "In the face of the frantic onsalught of a market economy and a  pitiless modernisation what should be done to save our genuine traditional values?"

Jan. 1994

Wandering Through Vietamese Culture

Huu Ngoc