Monday, August 23, 2010

DAVIS TRAN - HAI QUÊ HƯƠNG - TWO HOMELANDS

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“Vẫn thấy quê hương đêm ngày réo gọi
Vẫn thấy trong tim canh cánh đường về
Vẫn thấy nơi đây chỉ là đất tạm
Thầm hẹn ngày về chết giữa quê hương”
Nhật Ngân




DAVIS TRAN
WINNER OF THE "GIẢI KHUYẾN HỌC" 2010
FROM THE VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY OF DC,MD,VA



April 30, 1975: a day long to be forgotten but forever imprinted within the mind of every Vietnamese American. It was on this day when countless Vietnamese citizens gave up their daily lives to become boat refugees, waving good-bye to their homeland in hopes of a better life and a brighter future. I could never wrap my head around the dark events of that day as my mom retold her “vượt biên” account, nor could I imagine the rippling effect that would entail a mass exodus of Vietnamese immigrants for the next 35 years.

Sitting here in America, in a land where the principle of freedom is so sacredly held, offers me a distinct perspective on the war and its aftermath. As part of the 1.5 generation, reading about the war in American textbooks and watching historic clips did nothing to fill that empty void, to better connect myself with the communal suffering of my heritage. Music filled that void, thanks to the many Vietnamese composers that transcribed their feelings. From Trần Thiện Thanh’s “Rừng Lá Thấp” that brought me the emotions of a solider to Duy Khánh “Xin Anh Giữ Trọn Tình Quê” of nostalgic feelings, these songs bridge the gap of my generation and that of my mother’s. This genre of music not only captures the feelings of those that directly experienced such tragedies, but enables me, the later generation, to truly grasp what occurred. Just listening to the emotional lyrics provokes me to think about how fortunate I am, to think of the men and women who have endured so much, and to be proud of my Vietnamese roots. The Vietnam War has left a scar, but the Vietnamese community is thriving, transforming such adversity and pain into inspiration for success- something I long admire and follow.

My mom not only lives by this mantra, but exemplifies it to the fullest. Starting her life anew on foreign soil, without knowing a word of English to communicate, demonstrates the utmost sacrifice and perseverance more than any song. She speaks little of the war, only asking that I do well in school. As a child, I considered myself a spy in training, and only through my eavesdropping skills did I hear her retell her journey. I remember asking my mom why. Why would she give up her youth, jump into a boat among 60 others, and risk her life at sea when she couldn’t swim. She looked at me, stared into the void space and said, “vì tự do.” This made me think about my life, how I really don’t have an excuse to whine or complain about anything for the rest of my life. Only a few years ago, my mom dropped her barber profession to take care of my bed-stricken grandmother, a stroke survivor. My mom is truly the embodiment of the Vietnamese fighting spirit. Her account, along with other stories of suffering and endurance through both songs and tears, has taught me the true value of freedom as well as the meaning of sacrifice.

As Lan Cao ends her novel, Monkey Bridge, she’s reminded of home by the crescent moon in the shape of a dangling seahorse, the shape of Vietnam. I, too, am constantly reminded of my ethnic heritage thanks to the songs and stories. While I call America my home, I know my mom does not see it that way, but yearns to return back to her home, the land she calls quê hương, Việt Nam.


DAVIS TRAN
WINNER OF THE "GIẢI KHUYẾN HỌC" 2010
FROM THE VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY OF DC,MD,VA




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