Apr 2, 2012


Remember the time we you visit Cu Chi tunnel and you could get jam from the underground kitchen there? I remembered it from a long time ago. The jam wasn’t anything fancy, yet still made me happy after all the crawling in the tunnels. Nowadays, the little simple treat was replaced by a shooting range and the souvenir shop. It was really a disappointed to me. Among all the excitement from being to visit home after all this travelling, I faced different frustrations with my own family and country.

As a part of the voyage, the ship stopped in Saigon for 5 days. For me, I got another extra week after everybody else left for China. I guess I am at the age to realizing what happening in the country and beginning to feel the urge to do something for it. The ship gave the privilege for Vietnamese and Vietnamese refuges to go out first when the ship docked. We were all excited and nervous at the same time. Even before the gangway got set up, I already ready to go out. I was running around the ship, pointing at all the building and telling people what and what. I tried to point out the direction of my house to my friends. I was standing on the balcony looking down to the port tried to find my parent and brothers. As soon as I heard the ship was clear, I grabbed my bag, Anthony and Ryan to head for the gangway. I was in Vietnam last summer, it have only been around half year away. However, my heart was racing still as I stepped out of the ship. I heard the people on the top deck cheering my name and other Vietnamese students. I introduced my friends to my parent, for the first time. In the past, I tend to not bring friends home at all. Because I think friend is my personal life, which I don’t want my parent to interfere with. This time though, I brought a whole crew back to my apartment. I expected around 20 people, however, the number got out of control. I ended up having around 30 people at my place that day. My mom and my aunt were busy cooking for everybody. The tailor came later to take measurement for my friend’s suit. Shit got crazy after that. My brain was confused with switching back and forward between languages. On top of that, the patriarchy in my dad personal rose up. He yelled at me for something I did not do. So used to be able to talk back, I argue with him for at least 30 minutes. He kept being a stubborn man that I felt super frustrated and overwhelming. The feeling of being home, my confused brain, the heat and everything turned me into a fragile piece. I ended up cry my eyes out. I could not help holding back and started to cry for a quite amount of time. I have to admit it was somewhat farcical when looking back.

Anyway, I showed people around the city the rest of the day. We wanted to go karaoke that night, but I was exhausted and other people had to return to the ship that night. So we didn’t go.

Usually before arriving in a country, the ship will have interport student who would introduce about the culture of the country for us. This time, we had an incredible Vietnamese girl to present the country. I was proud. She was funny and energetic. Her presentation was informative and lively. She made everybody laugh at the pre-port meeting. I also got a lot out things I never knew before about Vietnam.

At the end of the meeting, 2 Brazilians came up to me and asked where could they get married in Vietnam. Because apparently rumor said if you get married in Vietnam, it will not count. I was shocked. In oriental culture, not only Vietnamese culture, we do treasure the value of marriage and family even more that Western culture. We don’t just get marriage and divorce later. Even family situation not working out, we still stay as family. I was offended by these questions when people asked about places for them to get marriage. I told them that I don’t know and left the room without any explanations. Later, they announced on the board the location of their wedding reception. I was seriously pissed. I understand that they throwing these things for the party. I am not against party, get fucking wasted all you want but don’t bring a serious matter in the culture to joke around. Even though I don’t believe in marriage, I still don’t just randomly throw a wedding reception in another country to joke around that concept.

I am ashamed being on the same ship with these people for their action. Are they being culturally sensitive? I want to know their purpose of being on this voyage. Are they going on this expensive voyage to learn about culture, or to find a place where they could play their kid’s dream, and toss around traditional culture.

On the second day, I had to go to the Japan consulate for my visa. Once again, I was disappointed. Not with the Japan consulate but with my own people, the Vietnamese that work there. I expected that the people work in these consulates would be smart and friendly and all kind of flowery fancy. I was wrong.

The man that greeted me in the consulate was mean. He kept instated me that I did not understand Vietnamese and all kind of stuff.  He refused to take my application to the actually diplomatic for evaluate. He turned me down twice even though I tried to explain to him about the program. He refused to let me talk to the ones in charge. He kept saying that I don’t understand. But the ones not understand actually is him. I was not sure what to do so I left with a huge disappointment. Semester at Sea is not a program from Japan. We simply just stop by Japan for observation. He kept on telling me that it is still exchange culture program, and demand for Japanese sponsor For the love of God, read the fucking letter from the Deans and look up the program online.

Too upset with not being to explain myself clearly, I lost interested in other activities while at home. Marissa, my roommate also sprained her ankle in Singapore. My mom took her to an acupuncture center for athletic. They did all kind of strange and magical things, however it helped. Marissa’s feet got better day-by-day. She also slept over at my place on the 4th day also. The rest of the time while the ship docked in Saigon, I just showed people around different places.

On the last day, I came by the port to see the ship off. It was an unusual feelings standing outside while other students rushed in. Cory and I waited there for a quite of time, until Ryan said goodbye. It was an undefined feeling staying back.

Until now I am still not sure if taking another week in Vietnam is a good idea or not. The week after that was intense and filled with family dramas. I don’t know about other families, but my family, even though with only five people, we have a bucket full of theatrics.

Between my mom and dad, between my brothers and I, we have a shit tons of things to throw at each other. How do other families do it? How to they get along with each other without have to yell to each other faces? I wonder…

My dad. I don’t know what to say. He is a workaholic. My mom always complains about him. Every times I go home, there will be more things about him that I have to hear. Mom told me that she wanted him to stay and home and help. But he likes to work and won’t quit his job. Because of that, every year my family needs to pay income tax for him. We lost some money with it. My mom would say all kind of shitty things about my dad, calling him useless. I don’t know what to do when hearing about it. What should I do? Is there something I can do?

My mom. She has done a lot of wonderful things for my life and I am in debt with her forever. But still, there are sides of her that always brought me to the edge of killing myself. My aunt told me that I should be understandable and generous to my mom. I tried. However, I have my limit. And when I reach hit that limit. It is when I could not handle her anymore. She always talked to me about responsible of being a sister. I am well aware of those chores, and I always tried my best to fulfill that duty. But happened to do all the things that brother supposed to learn to do independent, my brother turned lazy and relied on me too much. When I told my mom about my brother being lazy and not helping out with stuff, she would say I am too Americanize and that I lost my sense of living with family. She told me that I am heartless and all I care about is myself. And that I am a selfish person. She told me that I should be taking care of my brother more because he is my brother and as a big sister, that is my responsibly. What if one day I won’t be there anymore, I might die somewhere and he won’t have anybody to do things for him. Who would he call? Can you teach somebody to be independent? Is this the downside of tradition in oriental culture? I would never go home and enjoyed a peaceful moment ever. It always ended up with me being frustrated over some things at home. I’d get upset with either my dad or my mom, or my brother. Would it be a day when everything in my family work out and everybody work together to live happy? I am not too sure. May be it is a part of some sort of cycle?

The night before I left Vietnam, Thien, one of my really long time friends took me out for dinner. It was great seeing him again. We’ve been friend for the longest of time. I knew him since we just started to study English. After that, we accidently came on the same English program to Australia and Long Beach, and the airport sometime. He already finished his BA last December and now working for his family. Different from me, he likes to stay close to his family and like the lifestyle in Vietnam. However, he did tell me that he is missing the freedom in America. We had dinner at a small restaurant named “Cuc Gach”. The food was all right! I ordered a Singapore Sling though! Later that night, he called one of his girlfriends out to showed me. I long knew the history of player of my friend (and friends). I get used to them showing and telling me about their trophy girlfriend. Boys will be boys. I have nothing against it. I am just questioning myself if I should say something about it. Should I tell them to stop breaking hearts? Or I should just leave it the way it is right now. After all it is not my life.

We sat at a late coffee shop outside, where they also served hookah. It was such a nice feeling after not smoking for a while. The minty taste of shisha was amazing. I was happy and contented. It would always be nice to see and old friend and catch up. I appreciate those moments. We parted off before midnight.

I went home and collected all my belongings remained around the house. I was not sure if I actually felt upset or released. But I do know the fact that every night before I left, my brother would cry his eyes out in his sleep. And when he cries, I cry. I guess no matter how much drama going on, family still family. When you part from them, emotions will run wild. There is an emotional string that unseen tights you with members in your family. It made you weep like a child, or at least I did. It doesn’t matter how many times I whined about my family, I still have conscious of all the things that they gave me. My parent gave me my life and this entire world. My brothers gave me respect and taking care of me. You know, regardless… I love and in debt to my family. Forever.