My unseen neighbour

When Nhất Linh died, I was only a one-year-old girl, but I had just met him in my dream! Just the thought that he knew me gave me goosebumps.

When Nhất Linh died, I was only a one-year-old girl, but I had just met him in my dream! Just the thought that he knew me gave me goosebumps.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 Words – Experiences of the unexplained.

Recently, I came across a Vietnamese article about An Đông market where my family used to live, and it mentioned the fate of the owner of the famous Siu Siu restaurant there. For years, Saigon residents and celebrities as well as important politicians and military officers, enjoyed the fragrant and tasty Hainanese chicken rice of Siu Siu.

In 1978, during the eradication of bourgeoisie by the Communist, Siu Siu’s owner lost his three-house restaurant. He then was the sole survivor after a boat of hundred people – his family included – trying to escape Vietnam tragically sank. He lost his mind, and became a beggar who slept in front of his big restaurant night after night. But wait there’s more!

Liberty T-Shirt

The shirt had a photo of the “Statue of Liberty”, the famous icon of the United States showing the ideal of humanity: Freedom and Democracy.

The shirt had a photo of the “Statue of Liberty”, the famous icon of the United States showing the ideal of humanity: Freedom and Democracy.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 Words – What I was wearing.

After the Vietnamese Communists occupied South Vietnam, being a Lt Colonel in the South VN Army, I was detained in various labor camps in the far mountainous areas of North VN for nine years. Then I was released in 1984 but remained under the close supervision of the local security service for two years. Finally I was acknowledged as a new citizen of the new Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and basically had the right to vote.

In 1987, a general election for the National Assembly was initiated across the country. Unfortunately all candidates were required to be primarily selected by the local communist branches, that means no independent candidate was approved, something that was strange compared to my experiences of elections in the free world. Disagreeing with that policy of election, I voted blank in protest. But wait there’s more!

A Silver Bar Tears Up The Paper

Call it an ancient wisdom that yields serious consequences when applied in Australia.

Call it an ancient wisdom that yields serious consequences when applied in Australia.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 Words – Advice.

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the Vietnamese proverb: “A silver bar tears up the paper” but it was repeated so often in dramas, comedies, newspapers and Vietnamese literature lessons, … The proverb means that money can break protocols, prohibit justice, bend the laws, …

The powerful lesson transmitted by the proverb was entrenched deeply in my mind as I witnessed what went on around me, especially under the tyranny of Communism.

My Chinese neighbours told me that bribery had helped their sons avoid conscription during the Vietnam War, as well as during the war between Vietnam and China in 1979. But wait there’s more!

Harder Than Acting

They're the sand embedded in my shoes that wear me out, and yet all I can do is grit my teeth and smile.

They’re the sand embedded in my shoes that wear me out, and yet all I can do is grit my teeth and smile.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – Faking it.

It is easier to act in a play than fake liking ‘them’! To me acting is genuinely living as the character, thinking and reacting as if I was them. When my facial muscles want to contract, my hands shake and my heart beats faster and louder, I find it is actually harder to betray my body, my feelings and put on a happy face in front of ‘them’.

I often wonder, “Why did you have to marry into my circle, so for the group’s sake, I have to keep the relationships in harmony?” Then I remember the time my father was incarcerated in the torturous communist jail, the maltreatment the Communist gave my family and my deadly escape from Vietnam.

Passing through the threshold of the door, I felt relieved that I had held my façade, successfully giving a strong handshake and a warm smile to ‘him’. He migrated here under the sponsorship of his sister. But wait there’s more!

The Fairness of Money

I grew up vowing never to follow the custom that I saw as unfair and corruptible.

I grew up vowing never to follow the custom that I saw as unfair and corruptible.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – Shaped by childhood.

It was nearing the end of a meal, and people were still busy chatting to each other. Suddenly I heard the steady, pounding noise of someone running, then I saw a strange scene unfolding between Mr Frugal and Mr Opportunistic inside the restaurant by the cash register. The two men, red-faced and smiling, were grabbing at each other’s hands and pockets. Each was preventing the other from paying for the group’s meal. Money was shoved back into each owner’s pockets and hands were moved away from the till. The two men were heard shouting things like: “No, let me!”, “Please don’t do that, you are so weird!” Strangers may appreciate how eager and obliging both men were in displaying their hospitality.

I was still young at the time, but I realised why the two men wrestled with each other to foot the bill. It was a cheap restaurant and would not cost a lot for someone to fork out for the group. On the contrary, everyone dreads paying at an expensive venue, where those who are selfish, inconsiderate and know that it would not be their turn, would freely order an excess of dishes and drinks. But wait there’s more!

The Fairness of Money poem

image

(Blues-style poem)

<<Story related to the poem>>

It’s the tradition, it’s the custom,
That you have to follow,
Oh, why you look so glum?

Those past get-together,
Where were you?
Your turn to pay now, don’t be a dodger!

The eating house is all cleaned up,
No trace of the lavish party,
Your modest monthly wage is too burnt up!

Image credit
by David Woo.

image

The White Magic Wand

I wish I had a magic wand so I could turn myself into a white person and then indulge in my hobby.

I wish I had a magic wand so I could turn myself into a white person and then indulge in my hobby.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – My other life.

AVT was a famous band in Vietnam. It was formed in 1958 to entertain servicemen and its name was made up from the initials of the three original band members who were political warfare recruits of the South Vietnam Army. The band disassembled when one member committed suicide on the fall of Saigon and another was evacuated to America, leaving one in Vietnam.

I loved listening to AVT’s satirical songs, where the members represented three regions of Vietnam dressed in different regional costumes, spoke in different dialects, played a mix of modern and classical regional music on traditional instruments.

In their song ‘The History of Hair’, they observed the way Saigon unstylishly copied the hair styles of Western film stars. The waving and receding hairstyle of American Robert Taylor was imitated, but looked more like ‘cow horns’. Brigitte Bardot’s hair was reproduced but resembled a bird nest. Gina Lollobrigida’s ‘frisé'(curly) style was replicated but appeared like a big hair ball. Women dyed their hair blonde to be like Marilyn Monroe and men who worshipped Yul Brynner shaved their heads. But wait there’s more!