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S E A T T L E , WA S H I N G T O N


CONTENTS 09 11 14 16 18 20 22 26 29 31 32


Bảo-Trân Trần


Kathy Hồ


Nhật Trần


Tôn Nguyễn



Juliet Đặng




Nhi Trần

Thảo Trần



Thảo Lê

36 39 40 42 45 46 48 50 51 53 56


Trang Lê


Tú Vân


Tịnh Vũ


Lan Trần








Francis Trần

Trysteen Trần

TâmAnh Lê

Lưu Phan

Bảo Uyên Chân

Tâm Đinh


Connecting the Vietnamese culture to ourselves and to the world.


Providing a platform to enrich the community and to inspire dialogue.

Thank you for taking the time to read the first issue of our magazine. If you would like to donate and/or contribute to future publications, please contact us at We welcome your feedback, suggestions, and comments.

Special thanks to Neighborworks America, Homesight, and The City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods for your support.

For more information on or a complete list of photos and article credits, sources, and references, please contact us at


S E A T T L E , WA S H I N G T O N




ne of the important social benefits for living in the United States is the right to express one’s ideas and thoughts even when the expressions are unique or, in some cases, go against mainstream ideologies. When opposing expressions trigger civil dialog that lead to new understanding, communities move toward unity. Suppressing unpopular thoughts result in conformity that only like-minded individuals survive, regardless of whether their beliefs hold true. As such, accepting differences in others is a key ingredient that leads to peace and harmony of true unity. The majority of Vietnamese-Americans have arrived and thrived in the past 40 years. Many private and public projects, led by Vietnamese-American leadership, bring fruitful contribution to the social and spiritual wealth of Vietnamese communities around the country. Successful stories of Vietnamese-Americans have been recognized and became the motivation for future generations to not only have big dreams but to also make the

effort of accomplishing their dreams. It is possible! After all, how would one determine what is “impossible” if he or she has not reached the border of impossibility? Growing up as young VietnameseAmerican, one has two major responsibilities: integrating fully into American society for making his or her dreams come true and keeping the Vietnamese traditions in order to preserve ethnic roots. Although being part of the two cultures enrich the lives of VietnameseAmerican youth and young adults, the differences between the cultures create competing priorities and conflicting behavioral norms. Without direction and guidance, Vietnamese-American youth can find themselves torn apart, emotionally and mentally. Should they conform to the demands of either culture or unify the beauty of both cultures in their being? Of course, the latter is more preferable, but doing so is not an easy task. Various scholars have attempted to study the effect of ethnic roots on the developmental process of American

youth born into ethnic families. Among those studies, very few have focused on Vietnamese-American youth. That leaves a major gap in understanding how young Vietnamese-Americans think and behave. Would they feel more Vietnamese, American, or both? Stories of earning high grades in school and occupying important roles in private and public sectors by Vietnamese-Americans only describe the success of a small subset of individuals. Knowing what young Vietnamese-Americans think and feel remain a mystery to many. This magazine project is designed to be the medium through which young Vietnamese-Americans express their thoughts and feelings. In doing so, the leadership team of the magazine accomplished an important main goal: to encourage Vietnamese-American youth to raise their voice and to share their thoughts in its truest sense. The love for their Vietnamese culture is tremendously demonstrated as they worked diligently on their articles to contribute to this magazine.

Editing this magazine was a daunting task as our contributors are not professional writers by trade, and preserving the originality and tone from each writer was of utmost importance. Fortunately, we were blessed with the tireless effort of members of the editorial team: Juliet Dang, Ph.D.(c); Nhi Tran, MPA; Savio A. Pham, D.M.(c); Tam Q. Dinh, Ph.D.; and Trysteen Tran, MiT. Our task was to guide and inspire the writers to structure their thoughts critically and to express themselves clearly through writing. Since the inception of this project, each and every member of the leadership team has worked together and contributed innovative ideas to produce this first magazine of its kind. Many existing magazines are in either English or Vietnamese and focus exclusively on the culture of the language. As you may have already noticed, this project was an integrated intention—using the English language to write about Vietnamese-related topics. Although members of the leadership team had differences while working

together, we turned those differences into a strength that helped us to publish this first edition of Xin Chao magazine. In a way, the leadership team exemplified a necessary unity in our work by embracing our differences and by creating long lasting friendships. Last but not least, we would like to express our sincere appreciation toward everyone who has been with us and encouraged us in every step of the production of this magazine. To the writers, you inspired us with your pieces and work ethic. To the benefactors, thank you for your financial and spiritual support. To the readers, thank you for taking the time to become familiar with our thoughts and feelings. And to the leadership team of Xin Chao, Lead On!


Savio Pham, D.M.(c) Editor in Chief

A NATIVE TOURIST BAO - TRAN TRAN is the seventh child of a crazy and loving family. She watches too many sitcoms and spends too much time on Reddit. Bao loves her mom’s laugh and her two dogs, Goku and Plato..


was born in Vietnam but was raised in the states. Thus, like most young Vietnamese - Americans growing up, the culture I wanted to identify with was American. I was still exposed to Vietnamese culture through my family and small community events, but nothing stimulated any desire to further explore or deepen my knowledge of my native country. Even month - long trips to visit family members failed to strengthen my interest. It was not until the end of my college career and with the help of a service  -  learning study abroad program that this desire to learn about Vietnam finally developed and still continues to grow. When I visited Hue for the first time in 2008, everything I saw was within a 10 - mile radius of my grandma’s home in the countryside. My view consisted of beautiful rice fields, yellow dirt roads, and bustling street markets. The scenery was breathtaking and the serenity is difficult to find back in Washington, but that was all Hue had to offer. I didn’t develop a desire to come back nor did I

feel any connection to the country itself.

to the environment where my parents spent their childhood, where they met their friends and learned how to live and love. I suddenly had an immediate urge to visit the country that my parents call “home.”

Toward the end of college, perhaps it was nostalgia or the fact that I was teetering on the edge of maturity when I started a deep reflection: I thought about life, past and present. As I dug deeper within myself, In the summer of I understood more 2012, I flew off to about my parent’s role Vietnam with 16 in my life — my mothother UW students er’s love is the foundaand my sentiment tion of my personal setoward the country curity and my father’s changed dramatically. wisdom serves as a guide for all of my deI had both great excisions. These thoughts pectations and doubts then presented quesabout this trip. This tions, such as “who program, half-educawere they?” and “ how tional and half-serwere they raised?” And vice learning, had surely, Vietnam–the previously served as country in which they a “life-changing” exBao Tran, Hue - July 2012 both lived for nearly perience for my two 45 years — played a significant part in older siblings. They came back with a their upbringing. As I started thinking strong, newfound love for Vietnam. I in this way, my thought process changed was skeptical that a similar experience from Vietnam as being just my birthplace would transpire for me, although I had


hopes for one thing: I wanted to at least like Vietnam. I wanted to like the place where my parents were raised. UW’s program took me from Hanoi, to Quang Tri Province, and finally to Hue with stops at many other cities along the way. We spent two weeks learning about the history of Vietnam, and during that period, we visited historical sites and tourist attractions. I explored masterfully constructed palaces and tombs, saw the unique contrast of French architecture next to Vietnamese buildings, and witnessed a culture that was simultaneously puzzling and pleasant. Above all else, I just had a lot of fun. I kayaked in Ha Long Bay, one of the world’s seven natural wonders; explored Phong Nha Cave, one of Asia’s longest underground water caves; and even participated in community-building work with the local people of Quang Tri, one of the world’s most devastated war zones. During the six weeks spent there, I learned and did something new every day. Time went by so fast and each experience felt surreal. I don’t consider my trips prior to 2012 as actually being in Vietnam. If I hadn’t gone as a tourist equipped with an eagerness to explore, I wouldn’t have enjoyed nor appreciated my homeland as much. Now I urge every Vietnamese-American to go with an open mind and an open heart — two things that I lacked during my previous visits. No doubt, you will witness heartrending poverty and you will encounter local people who try to take advantage of tourists. Putting all the negatives aside, visiting Vietnam will give you an experience that is fun, unforgettable, and perhaps even life changing. Although I didn’t leave the trip with a profound understanding of how the country has shaped my parent’s life, I can understand why my parents and even my


American-raised sister wish to return for work and to retire. Vietnam is a beautiful, little country. Despite only seeing less than half of it so far, I already fell in love and cannot wait to go back to be stunned by the rest.

Hue - July 2012

TOP 8 REASONS WHY IT’S AWESOME FOR THE VIETNAMESE TO LIVE IN THE EVERGREEN STATE! KATHY HO is the Development Manager at the International Examiner, the oldest non-profit, pan-Asian

American newspaper in the Pacific Northwest. Although raised in Westminster, California, Kathy has called Seattle home since 2002. Her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, organizing events, traveling, fishing, cycling, and eating.


Four Seasons. We clearly get all four seasons. It’s true! Fall visits us each September with rain, and by October, fall foliage is in full swing. The vibrant autumn colors make for a pleasant drive down any street. Winter brings along more rain, but the best part of winter is the snow. It is not uncommon for people to go snowboarding and skiing before work then go back right after. When snow hits Western Washington, it is never so deep that we would shovel the driveway endlessly, but there’s enough to build a snowman, go sledding at nearby parks and have snowball fights. Vietnamese living in many other parts of the country and world do not have the same luxury. But wait, there’s more. Springtime in Seattle is gorgeous. We have a good mix of rain and sunshine, and the cherry blossoms decorate the same streets that autumn leaves occupy in the fall, but only greener, more flowery and fruitful. Come summer, Washington is loaded with tourists who have avoided the rain all year, but while they’re strolling down Pike Place, true Seattleites will most likely be found swimming and jet skiing on Lake Washington. See? The weather in Washington is perfect in every way.


Strength in Numbers. Outside of California and Texas, Washington State has the third largest Vietnamese population in the United States. The Vietnamese population makes up 9.9% of the Asian - American and Pacific Islander population after Chinese (14.0%) and Filipino (13.5%), according to Washington State Commission on Asian - Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA). With over 66,000 Vietnamese - Americans, we have the bandwidth to galvanize and advocate for racial and economic justice or any kind of social issues that affect our community. With support from our local and state governments, the two - day festival Tết in Seattle attracts thousands of people every year, Vietnamese businesses thrive throughout the state, and the possibility of having a Vietnamese Community Center in Seattle is now greater than ever — currently, community builders and organizations are working hard to make this happen!


Kathy Ho, Lake Chelan; by Michael Mai - 2007


Education and Opportunities. With the majority of Vietnamese parents wanting their straight - A, precocious piano and violin - playing child to become a doctor, we are definitely living in the right state. The University of Washington is ranked 2nd in primary care according to the 2013 US News and World Report. Do your parents want you to be a lawyer instead? Seattle University Law School has the #1 legal writing program, and its part - time program is ranked 12th in the nation. The rest of us who are stereotypically good at math can all go work for Microsoft and work for one of the richest men in the world: Bill Gates. That is a lifetime of bragging rights for all parents. And you know how much Vietnamese parents love to brag.



Philanthropy and Community Engagement Opportunities. Volunteering is associated with increased well being, lower depression rates, and a 22% reduction in the risk of dying, according to a study published in September 2013 by the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom. Lucky for us, Washington is home to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Foundation and many other well - known philanthropic organizations. For Vietnamese - Americans who are interested in donating their time, money, and/or skills to organizations that directly and indirectly serve the Vietnamese community through counseling, youth education, health services and cultural preservation, check out Asian Counseling and Referral Services, the Vietnamese Friendship Association, International Community Health Services, Tết in Seattle, Miss VietNam Washington among others.


Cultural Diversity. Our naturally overprotective and conservative parents do not want to admit it, but they are becoming increasingly accepting of people from different backgrounds. The Rainier Valley zip code 98118 is considered to be one of the most diverse zip codes in the nation with over 59 languages spoken alone. Because the majority of the Vietnamese community live in South Seattle and have been surrounded by many different ethnicities, we have been more accepting and even appreciative of other cultures. No, our parents will not stop making embarrassing, judgmental remarks in public that make you want to run and hide in the car for fear of getting beaten up, but it is a start.


Exotic Fruits. Okay, they are not technically available in Washington, but at least they are accessible. How many of us make the annual two - hour pilgrimage to Vancouver, BC, Canada to enjoy the fresh fruits from Chinatown? Sure, you can settle for frozen -over fruits at local grocery stores, but nothing beats the real FRESH taste of longan, juicy rambutan, sweet mangosteen, and my personal favorite, savory dragon fruit. It’s like a taste of Vietnam right in your own backyard. Enough said!

Fresh Mangosteen in Vancouver BC - August 2013


Vietnamese Music and Popular Singers. Sure, you can fly all over the world to follow Paris by Night each year, but what if you did not have to wait once a year for it? There are plenty of places and events held in Washington where you can go to see singers like Đàm Vính Hưng, Như Loan, Lynda Trang Dài, Don Hồ, Khánh Ly, Tràn Thái Hòa and others who frequently visit Seattle. In many cases, we can even hop on stage to take pictures with them without being charged red carpet prices or get tackled by security (or was that just me?). Yes, here in Washington, we can actually touch the superstars and talk to them. Additionally, the appreciation for Vietnamese music at these concerts is one of the few things that could keep both the younger and older generation together. When I go to music concerts and see a group of 20-somethings cha-cha-chaing among a group of 60-somethings, I can’t help but smile. You know what also makes me smile? Knowing that many of the casinos in the area serve pho 24/7. Alleluia.


And the #1 reason why it is awesome to be Vietnamese in the Evergreen State? FISHING and SEAFOOD! Fishing in Vietnam was a way of life and a means of survival for many folks. My grandpa and his brother were both fishermen in Binh Tuy, Viet Nam, each owning a fishing boat. This occupation eventually saved their lives, as they packed up their boats with 100 people and sailed to Malaysia’s refugee camps after the Fall of Saigon. Fishing is still a major part of the culture today in America, and you will most likely run into Vietnamese people when you are fishing off of any pier in California and Washington. If you are not fishing in Washington State, you have no idea what you are missing! We are absolutely spoiled here to be surrounded by rivers, lakes and ocean that carry all types of delicious seafood. We can go crabbing, geoducking, or clam - digging within just an hour’s drive. We can catch any type of salmon, tuna, sea bass, halibut, and lingcod. The adrenaline (not to mention the arm work - out) of reeling up a 20 - 30 pound fish is addicting. We have one of the greatest resources of fresh fish, which makes our seafood options plenty and our sushi… amazing. Come on, we have Shiro’s!


“WHAT’S IN A NAME?” GROWING UP IN AMERICA WITH A VIETNAMESE NAME NHAT TRAN is a simple man who loves his family, sports, romantic walks on the beach, and sarcasm, in that order. Nhat often tells himself that he is ruggedly handsome, charming, talented, funny, generally awesome, and extremely humble.


our name. It’s been with you since birth. It identifies and separates you from others. It’s what makes you, you. In the Vietnamese culture, oftentimes, a person’s name has great meaning. They either stand for something great, cool, mythical, beautiful, etc. Names like Dragon, Phoenix, Griffin, Sun, Moon, Ocean, Mountain, Orchid, Jade, Rose, Spring, Autumn, Peace, Strength, Unity, Courage are definitely names one can take pride in. That is, until that awkward moment when the substitute teacher in your biology class struggles to say your name during roll call, and everyone turns around to look at you as you slowly raise your hand while wishing you had been named Jim or Bob, or perhaps even Jim Bob. I was one of those people. My name, Nhat, means “the bright sun.” It’s a great name. I like what it stands for and I love the way I got it. My parents were struggling to come up with a name, all the way up to the night before my birth. Then somehow, when they reconvened the next morning to discuss, my mom, dad, and grandfather all suggested the same name, and that’s how I became Nhat. I am very proud of it. Unfortunately, our names are not pronounced well when they are Anglicized. When our names are spoken to non - Vietnamese ears, they are often followed with “How do you say that again?” and “How do you spell that?” and sometimes, “What did you say to me!???” Depending on who is saying my name at the time, I was either a negative expression, “Not,” a weird type of hat, “N - hat,” or a tiny flying insect, “Gnat.” Being a 4 - foot nothing, 81 - pound soaking wet, high school freshman, “Gnat” was understandably most fitting and a lot easier for kids to make fun of. As if that wasn’t enough, my love interest at the time was a cute Vietnamese girl named Thu… Thu Luong (“too long”). And whenever we were seen together, kids would say, “There goes Thu Luong and her boyfriend Too Short.” That phrase haunted my dreams and was probably the reason I


Lý 1% Dương 1% Ngô 1% Hồ 1%

Họ Khác 11%

Đỗ 1%

Bùi 2% Đặng 2%

Nguyễn 38%

Vũ/Võ 4% Phan 5% Huỳnh/Hoàng 5% Phạm 7% Lê 10%

Trần 11%

stopped hanging out with her. I can’t help but wonder if our names were Mike and Katie, would we have made it? Would we have become high school sweethearts, go to college together, get married, and live in the suburbs with two kids, a dog, and a cat? Most likely, we would have dated for three weeks and then broken up because one of us was taking too long to respond on AIM or to a “143” message on our pager, but still, there was a chance. Surely, there are fellow Vietnamese - Americans who have been through these ordeals. When our beautiful names are Anglicized, they become body parts : Nhi (“knee”), Tho (“toe”), Hiep (“hip”), Chinh (“chin”), Ai (“eye”); or positions : Hai (“high”), Lo (“low”); or numbers : Oanh (“one”), Thu (“two”), Thuy (“three”); or pronouns : Mi (“me”), Du (“you,” which by the way, could be a very confusing conversation if Mi and Du were speaking to each other… in third person). The best thing is to embrace our name, have fun with it, and be proud of it. After all, there are a lot of Jim’s and Bob’s, but there is only Oanh of Mi. And you better believe that there is only Oanh of Du Thu.


OPERATION: SOCCER BALLS & PRETTY DOLLS TON NGUYEN, a UW Biology graduate, is a humbly hardworking individual. Aside from being a youth counselor, he mentors a numerous amount of youth in academics and other aspects of life. He aspires to one-day change the world, one youth at a time.


ow are you going to change the world?” I first heard knew was that I needed my life to change. this question from the lead singer at a Christian concert that I attended. Little did I know, this When I first arrived in Haiti, I was blown away. First of all, I simple question would ultimately lead me to start my own had no idea who I was meeting there or how things were going non - profit organization. The moment I heard that question, to play out, but I was excited. I met the team at the airport, it pierced my heart and got me thinking long and hard, but and that night they all sat me down with curious eyes and I could not come up with an answer at that moment. What asked, “Who the heck are you?” We spent the evening talking frustrated me most was that, about how I ended up there there I was, a youth leader who and how glad they were to have pushes all his kids to be the me on board. best version of themselves and to give all they could, but yet I I found out the next morning had no idea how I was changthat the goal of the week - long ing the world. On that same mission was to build two playnight, I looked at pamphlets grounds: one at an orphanage that illustrated children who and another at a school/village. needed sponsorship in Africa. We stayed at an orphanage Somehow, I found myself called “Love A Child” and I drawn to Kopa, a child who was amazed right away at how lives in Lesotho, South Africa. awesome the kids were. They Maybe it was because we had came from different parts of the same birthday or because he Haiti, but they all loved each Ton Nguyen, Haiti; by Bud Gragg - 2013 resembled my godson, but on other like brothers and sisters. that night, I decided to sponsor I met a group of them and Kopa, a decision that would start a chain of events that was learned that they don’t encounter Asian people much. They beyond my wildest imagination. began to look at me closely, played with my hair, and decided to call me Jet Li. So for the next week, I was known as Jet Li. A few months afterward, I found myself in a position where The kids loved it and I truly think that they thought I was the I felt lost. I didn’t feel anything and I didn’t know what to do Chinese action star. I remember a specific time when I was with myself. That’s when I received an email that read, “One passing out tiny little clapper toys that no one in America likes week that will change your life forever.” It was an advertisement to play with. They swarmed me like a mob wanting one! They for a mission trip to Haiti, and without even thinking about would pull at my shirt, go into my pockets, and grab my hands, anything else, I signed up. I had no idea what the organization doing whatever they could to get a hold of one. Their favorite was, who I was going with, or how I was getting there; all I thing there, I figured out, was soccer and little wristbands that


we like to accessorize ourselves with in America (well, at least the basketball players do). Michael, a guy who has participated in this mission trip several times before, would packed a bunch of soccer balls and everywhere we went, he would blow some up to throw out to the kids while we were on the back of a pickup truck. The sight of a soccer ball rolling down a village or an orphanage with kids running after it with big smiles and hearty laughter was nothing short of amazing.

to say goodbye to them. They made me realize how miniscule my problems were compared to theirs. A break - up? What is that? They have to worry about how they are going to eat that night, where they are going to sleep, and if they would have access to drinking water that day. Those are real problems for them. They changed my life and put it back into perspective so I could appreciate everything more.

Then a question occurred to me: why can’t I give them someAs we finished building the two playgrounds after a week, I thing to do, something to love, and something to cherish? The didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was answer hit me instantly: that so many of the kids there have been Operation Soccer Balls & waiting for so long for an area of recrePretty Dolls (OSBPD)! I ation. Hundreds of them would sit around will start charity organizawatching us work from 7a.m. to 6 p.m. in tion set up to collect soccer 90 degree weather. That’s how excited they balls, teddy bears, and all were for this. It was all worth it in the end types of toys to be delivered because once that ribbon to the playground to the villages, orphanages, was cut, the kids went crazy! They loved evand hospitals of Haiti. I can erything about it and every create a week - long mission inch of the playground was trip that allows high school occupied. It was so overstudents from the U.S. to whelming that the swing we travel to Haiti with me to built started to shake loose experience what I did in from the ground, so we had to May of 2013. They can feel what I felt and love stop the kids from playing on these kids that way that I love them for changit until after it was fixed. Later ing my life. It would be a special delivery to that night, we heard the most all the kids in Haiti when we hand - deliver all amazing thing: the director at donated toys. But we won’t stop there. Haiti is the village and orphanage injust the beginning! What about our beloved formed us that the kids played country of Vietnam, or our neighbors in Ton Nguyen, Haiti; by Bud Gragg 2013 in their toy land for six hours Cambodia, the Philippines, and even Africa. straight. Six hours! Can you Operation Soccer Balls & Pretty Dolls wants imagine that? They didn’t want to leave but had to only because every child to have a toy in their hands that they can call their it grew dark. own because every child deserves to play. That’s when it hit me: this playground was probably the first toy that provides them with something to do. So many of these kids in Haiti are without something as simple as a toy. Think back to your own childhood for a moment — didn’t you have a favorite toy or teddy bear that you absolutely loved? Or maybe you had a blanket? Whatever it was, we were fortunate and blessed enough to have the feeling of comfort in a toy. My heart broke thinking about what these kids didn’t have. When I returned to the U.S. after that week, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Kids like Illiana, Sonita, Pierre, Johnathan, and Moses, all made me well up inside when I had

I’m proud and humbled at the support that OSBPD has gotten and I couldn’t be more excited. We currently have seven clubs in high schools and three youth groups involved in toy drives for this coming summer’s mission trip. Mother Theresa said it best, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” So I ask you, “What made your childhood worthwhile?” It’s time to share it.



Ngo Bao Chau, mathematician, the

Leyna Nguyen, Emmy award winning

sixth Asian to receive the Fields Medal, best known for proving the fundamental lemma for automorphic forms

anchor and founder of Love Across the Ocean, a nonprofit that benefits children in Vietnam

Chloe Dao, fashion designer, winner

John Tran, the first Vietnamese-

Andrew X Pham, prominent

of the second season of Project Runway

American Mayor in the United States

American author of Catfish and Mandala, and The Eaves of Heaven

Nguyet Anh Duong, U.S. Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Division Director, received over 21 performance awards in the field of explosives and weapons


Jacqueline Nguyen, U.S. Circuit

David Tran, founder of Huy Fong

Christine Ha, the first blind contes-

Judge, the first Asian-American to sit on the federal appellate court

Foods and the maker of Sriracha Chili Sauce

tant of MasterChef and the winner of Top Chef ’ third season in 2012

Maggie Q, half-Vietnamese animal

Viet Dzung, popular songwriter, po-

Eugene Trinh, NASA astronaut, the

rights activist, fashion model and lead actress in Nikita, Mission Impossible III, and Around the World in 80 days

litical commentator, and human rights activist

first Vietnamese-American to travel into outer space



Before I was born, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - circa 1980


have yet to read Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” where Chua discusses how she was raised by extremely strict, Chinese immigrant parents. Apparently, her upbringing was quite brutal. Being born and raised as an only child in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with refugee parents, I also had a strict and disciplined upbringing. I was never allowed to attend sleepover parties or go to the mall on a Friday night with friends. My curfew for parties, up until the age of 18, was 10:30pm. Back then, I am sure that I would have labeled my mother a “Tiger Mom” as I was entirely frustrated with the feeling of being locked in a jail. All I heard from my mother was “no” every time I asked to do something that was normal to everyone else except her. Upon reflecting on my behavior while growing up, I am sure I would be considered a spoiled and self - entitled brat. At the age of six, we moved into a middle - class neighborhood that mainly consisted of Caucasian people, and it was not until my adulthood did I realize that it was predominately a Jewish neighborhood as well.


JULIET DANG PhD(c), MS, RDH is an environmentalist and animal lover who adores how Seattle allows her to take her shiba inu, Yuki, with her everywhere. Apparently, her laugh can be heard a mile or so away, which conveniently is also the length of her dress closet.

Even though I felt such animosity towards the strictness within the household, I had a very comfortable lifestyle. I took piano and ballet lessons, played the flute throughout junior high and high school, and was outfitted at the Gap for the new school year, which included brand new school supplies plus a new backpack. I did not have a worry in the world or a care as to how I was able to acquire all of my shiny new items. I even made an agreement with my parents that I would be paid a nice sum for all of the A’s I received in school. My mother went along because my education was her number one priority. The Bachelor of Science degree I obtained in 2002 was paid for by my parents, and I felt that to be entirely normal. This is what all parents do for their children, right? Back then, I never fully realized how lucky I was to have parents that had the ability to raise me up in a middle - class society and who were extremely supportive in my academic endeavors. My parents never really spoke of the past, thus I was not aware of the details

of how they escaped Vietnam. I asked them to tell me their story of how they came to Canada and the hardships they had faced. I wanted a better understanding of what they went through. Sacrificing our own for the second generation (in my mother’s words): In 1974, your father was among thousands of South Vietnam soldiers who fought against the Communist from the North. I was a very young English teacher who was 22 years old and got a teaching job in Saigon where I taught at a junior high school. On April 30, 1975, the Communist government declared its victory over the South and to end the civil war. Everything changed under the Dominant Regime. The Communists controlled our lives. People fell into hardships. The rights to freedom of speech, self - employment, business, personal property, and belongings were taken away. This was the case especially for those who had a history of being involved in the military government of South Vietnam. Soldiers were captured and put

into re - education camps where they were imprisoned and forced to give up their rights. Some were sent to North prisons and died in captivity while some were sent to the marsh where mosquitoes could give them malaria and where they would eventually die. Luckily, your father fled back to his birthplace, Rach Gia - Kien Giang and hid himself in a hideout by the shore. His life was miserable and desperate but was still better than the life he would have had in a re - education camp. Two years later, with your dad’s determination, he was very brave to connect with the local fishermen who always sailed back and forth to earn their living. He talked to those men regarding his dream and ambition of helping his family to find their freedom in the new land. They taught him how to survive while boating on a small fishing boat. He used the money that he had left, bought a raft and helped his two younger brothers escape. The brothers were lucky enough to succeed and landed right on the Thai Gulf. While in the Thai refugee camp, they got sponsored by the Australian government and have lived there since 1977. A year later, in 1978, your dad received money from his brothers, so he continued to help his other family members. To equip for going aboard, your dad traveled to Saigon for supplies, and that is where he met me. We lived together and your dad continued to find freedom for himself and for his new family. In April 1980, he set out for his adventure with 22 people on a small fishing boat. Your cousin’s parents and her siblings were so lucky to board with us. After five days of floating on the water, Thai fishermen captured our boat. They took

us to the Thai Gulf where local policemen robbed our belongings, but all the women were safe. After a month in a refugee camp, LIMPSIN Thai, the United High Commissioner of Refugees, interviewed the refugees and we gained our pass to come to Winnipeg, Manitoba under a Canadian government sponsorship.

our freedom and everything we dreamed of in a modernized country. Hard work does pay off for we have raised a beautiful and wonderful daughter and our dreams have come true.

I have always known that my parents sacrificed much for me, but I realized neither the depth nor the terrifyOn June 25, 1980, a Boeing 727 brought ing details of their escape. The strict us to Montreal and there we got our imand disciplined environment I grew migration papers to live in Winnipeg. up in was not in vain. The degrees I have obtained include a Bachelor of Science, a Dental Hygiene Diploma, and a Master of Science in Oral Biology. In 2010, I continued on to the PhD of Oral Biology program and am currently in my fourth year. Also, being able to perform on stage at a young age gave me the confidence to take on acting and modeling professionally. The environment my parents provided is what allowed me to build my natural skills and talents in order to be a successful and amBefore I was born, Winnipeg, bitious individual. Their love and Manitoba, Canada - circa 1980 support gave me the confidence and discipline to do absolutely We stayed in the Balmoral Hotel for a anything I wanted to do. I never underweek, due to it being Canada day. The stood how I had the self - esteem, gall Government lent us an apartment and and drive to follow my dreams, and to gave us food along with money to survive be fearless about life - changing steps, for a month. I could understand English so such as moving into a different country I went out to search for a job in the sewing to study. All of the wonderful things I factory at $3.50 an hour while your dad have done in my life were all due to the took English lessons for six months. I unconditional love of my parents. worked for a few months and got pregnant with you. After giving birth to you, Thank you so much, Mom and Dad. Je I decided to go back to school for five years t’aime! to get my teaching certificate. Of course, life wasn’t easy at the beginning but we tried very hard to adjust our lives and to the freedom in Canada for our daughter and for our family members. We have been happy ever since because we have


FROM VĂN LANG TO VIỆT NAM 12,000 B.C.E. – 10,000 B.C.E.

(Before Current Era) | Paeolithic Age – Hòa Bình Culture

10,000 B.C.E. – 5,000 B.C.E.

| Stone (Neolithic) Age – Bắc Sơn Culture 5,000 B.C.E. – 2,000 B.C.E. | Bronze Age – Phùng Nguyên Culture 2,000 B.C.E. – 200 C.E. | Iron Age – Đồng Đậu, Gò Mun, and Đông Sơn Culture 2879 B.C.E. | Văn Lang, the first kingdom of Việt Nam, rules as a royal dynasty by the Hùng Kings. 257 B.C.E. | Thục Phán, the leader of the alliance of u Việt tribes, invades Văn Lang and defeats the last Hùng Vương. He unites the two kingdoms, names the new nation u Lạc, and proclaims himself king An Dương Vương. 207 B.C.E. | Triệu Ðà, a military governor for China’s Qin Empire, defeats the Vietnamese state of Âu Lạc and establishes the kingdom of Nam Việt 111 B.C.E. | China’s Han Empire conquers Nam Việt; introduces Confucian ideas 40 C.E. (Current Era) | Trưng sisters (Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị) lead a successful revolt against Chinese Han rule and restore Việt Nam’s independence. The older sister, Trưng Trắc, became queen (Trưng Nữ Vương) for 3 years.

Trưng Sisters

Photo Credit: Thái Nhi


43 C.E. | China reconquers Việt Nam. 300 C.E. | Spread of Buddhism to


Việt Nam, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia from India 939 C.E. | Ngô Quyền reclaims Vietnamese independence and proclaims as King (Ngô Vương) of An Nam

Tượng Ngô Quyền Photo Credit: Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên

968 C.E. | Đinh Dynasty | Đinh Bộ Lĩnh’s multitude victories over the other eleven feudal lords earns him the title Vạn Thắng Vương, which means “King of Ten Thousand Victories.” He renames the country “Đại Cồ Việt.” 979 – 1009 | Early Lê Dynasty | With the heir to the Đinh Dynasty throne an infant, the Dowager Empress Dương Vân Nga threw rule of the country to Lê Hoàn, who defeats a Chinese Song invasion and later invades Champa


1009 – 1225 | Lý Dynasty; “1st Golden Age” | Changes the country’s name to Đại Việt; creates the first noble university “Quốc Tử Giám – Temple of Literature,” hold examinations to select capable commoners for government positions once every three years, produces Việt Nam’s first proclamation of independence Emperor’s Garb “Nam Quốc Sơn Hà,” Lý Dynasty establishes humane treatment of prisoners, promotes Buddhism as the national religion

1225 – 1400 | Trần Dynasty | Renowned for its brilliant military victories by the king’s brother, Trần Hưng Đạo, against three major Mongol invasions. Under the rule of the Emperor Trần Nhân Tông, the Vietnamese language is use for the first time as the second Imperial Consort language in official Trần Dynasty scripts of the royal court 1400 – 1407 | Hồ Dynasty | Introduces a country-wide paper currency; invades Champa and prompts the Champa king to cede large territory to Việt Nam 1407 – 1427 | Ming Chinese invades and occupies Việt Nam 1428 – 1527 | Later Lê Dynasty; “2nd Golden Age” | Lê Lợi leads a resistance movement against the Chinese and liberates the country. The Lê Dynasty rules Việt Nam for a total of 360 years, making it the longest one in Việt Nam’s history. Lê Lợi expands literacy and scientific studies, divides Việt Nam into thirteen provinces, and creates a legal Hồng Đức code, which provided civil, legal and property rights for women. 1527 – 1771 | Political struggles between the Mạc Dynasty and the Trịnh/Nguyễn clans Early 16th Century | Arrival of Portuguese and other European traders and missionaries. In 1651, Alexandre de Rhodes improves on earlier work by Portuguese missionaries and develops the Vietnamese Romanized alphabet Quốc Ngữ. Later Lê Dynasty

Lê Dynasty


Peasants led by the Sơn Tây brothers defeat the Nguyễn and Trịnh clans, unify the country. The chief principle and main slogan of the Tây Sơn revolution is “seize the property of the rich and distribute it to the poor.” 1750 – 1919 | The Period of Division with its many tragedies and dramatic historical developments inspires many poets and gave rise to some Vietnamese masterpieces in verse, including the epic poem The Tale of Kiều by Nguyễn Du, Song of a Soldier’s Wife (Chinh Phụ Ngâm) by Đặng Trần Côn and Đoàn Thị Điểm, and a collection of satirical, erotically charged poems by a female poet, Hồ Xuân Hương. 1802 – 1945 | Nguyễn Dynasty | Surviving heir of the Nguyễn clan, Nguyễn Ánh, defeated the Tân Sơn forces with help from French missionary Pierre Pigneau de Behaine who appealed French military aid. Nguyễn Ánh adopts the reign name Gia Long to express the unifying of the country – Gia from Gia Định (province in Saigon) and Long from Thăng Long (Hanoi). As a symbol of this unity, he changes the name of the country from Đại Việt to Nam Nguyễn Dynasty Việt. For the Chinese, however, this is too reminiscent of the wayward General Triệu Ðà (Zhao Tuo). In conferring investiture on the new government, the Chinese inverts the name to Việt Nam, the first use of the name for the country.


1862 – 1945 | The French Societe des Missions Etrangeres reports 450,000 Christian converts in Việt Nam by

the mid-19th century. While King Gia Long tolerates Catholicism and employs some Europeans in his court as advisors, his successors brutally suppressed Catholicism and pursued a ‘closed door’ policy, perceiving the Westerners as a threat, following events such as the Lê Văn Khôi revolt when a French missionary, Fr. Joseph Marchand, encouraged local Catholics to revolt in an attempt to install a Catholic emperor. In response, the missionaries step up their pressure on the French government to intervene militarily and to establish a French protectorate over Việt Nam. 1858 | French ships attack Đà Nẵng 1867 | French forces annex southern Việt Nam 1875 | French forces attack Hà Nội 1884 | French imposes protectorate status on Việt Nam, and divides the country into three regions: Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin-China 1860 – 1900 | Popular uprisings led by scholars against the French

Capture of Lang Son by French Army in 1885 Source: Musee de l’Armee

1904 – 1908 | Patriotic movements led

1940 | French colonial government collaborates with Japanese military forces 1940 – 1945 | Japanese invasion and domination 1941 | Hồ Chí Minh forms League for the Independence of Việt Nam (Việt Minh) 1944 – 1945 | Famine in Tonkin and Annam causes between 1.5 and 2 million deaths 1945 | Following the surrender of Japan to Allied forces, Japan transfers all power to Hồ Chí Minh’s forces and emperor Bảo Đại abdicates. On September 2, Hồ Chí Minh declares Việt Nam independence under the new name of the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam (DRVN). He later pursues American recognition but is turned away by U.S. President Harry Truman. 1946 | French seeks to regain control of Việt Nam, attacks the native quarters of Hải Phóng and kills more than 6,000 civilians. The Việt Minh resists. First Indochina War begins.

Artist: Nancy Duong

1771 – 1802 | Tây Sơn Revolution |

Last Emperor 1949-1955

Princess 1931

by Phan Bội Châu and Phan Chu Trinh 1919 | Nguyễn Ái Quốc (Hồ Chí Minh) attempts to present U.S. president Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference a proposal for Việt Nam’s independence, but is turned away 1930 | Hồ Chí Minh found the Indochinese Communist Party and emphasizes the need of a union among Việt Nam, Laos, and Cambodia to overthrow the French colonial regime in Indochina



1950 – 1954 | U.S. provided a total of $2.5 billion in aid to the French for the war in Indochina; provides 80 percent of all war supplies used by the French. 1954 | Việt Minh forces defeat the French at the Battle of Điện Biên Phú as nearly 10,000 French soldiers are trapped by 45,000 Việt Minh. The French and Việt Minh sign the Geneva Agreements. As part of the agreement, Việt Nam provisionally divides at the 17th parallel until nationwide elections are held in 1956. The United States does not accept the agreement. 1955 | Ngô Định Diệm is brought to South Việt Nam from the United States to be prime minister. In October 1955, Diệm proclaims himself President of Republic of Việt Nam after winning 98.2% of a rigged national election. 1956 | French leaves Việt Nam 1957 | Ngô Định Diệm’s anti-communist campaign led to the arrest of more than 65,000 suspected communists and the killing of more than 2,000 by the South Vietnamese government 1959 | The armed revolution begins as Ho Chi Minh declares a People’s War to unite all of Việt Nam under his leadership. The Second Indochina War begins. 1960 | Eighteen distinguished nationalists in South Việt Nam send a petition to President Diệm advocating that he reform his rigid, family-run, religious bias, and increasingly corrupt government. A failed coup against President Diệm in November by disgruntled South Vietnamese Army officers brings a harsh crackdown against all perceived “enemies of the state.” Over 50,000 are arrested with many civilians tortured then executed. 1962 | U.S. Military employs Agent Orange to expose roads and trails used by Vietcong forces 1963 | Diệm’s special forces raid the pagodas of the major cities, killing


many Buddhist monks and arresting thousands of others. Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức protests by burning himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on June 11, 1963. Photographs of his self-immolation circulate widely across the world and bring attention to the policies of the Diệm government. In November, Diệm is overthrown and killed in U.S. backed coup.

“the greatest purveyor of violence in the world;” the number of U.S. troops in Việt Nam rises to 500,000 January 1968 | North Vietnamese launch Tết Offensive and sweep down upon several key cities and provinces in South Việt Nam, killing thousands of civilians. Within days, American forces turn back the onslaught and recapture most areas. From a military point of view, Tết Offensive is a huge defeat for the North Vietnamese troops, but turns out to be a political and psychological victory. The U.S. military’s assessment of the war is questioned.

Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation in 1963 to protest against the Diem administration. Photo: Malcolm Browne

1964 | Gulf of Tonkin “incident.” U.S. Congress passes resolution allowing president Lyndon Johnson to take steps “to prevent further aggression.”

VIETNAM-AMERICAN WAR 1965 | The first U.S. combat troops

arrive at Đà Nẵng; United States bombs the North; China and Soviet Union supply the North Vietnamese troops

U.S. paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Sept. 25, 1965. Photo: Henry Huet

1967 | Anti-war rallies staged in U.S. cities; Martin Luther King speaks out against war, calling the United States

Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking against the Vietnam War, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota. April 27, 1967. Credit: Minnesota Historical Society

March 1968 | Men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, American Division employ their “search and destroy” strategy and kill over 400 civilians at Mỹ Lai village 1969 | Nixon begins secret bombing of Cambodia without the knowledge of the U.S. Congress or the American public for fourteen months; massive antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C. 1970 | U.S. Senate repeals Tonkin Gulf Resolution, as it became apparent that the U.S. White House and the Pentagon had deceived the American people over a staged event that never actually took place 1973 | Cease-fire signed in Paris by Henry Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ. April 30 1975 | Last Americans evacuate as North Việt Nam takes control of Saigon and Hue.

POST-WAR CONFLICTS 1975 – 1976 | Exodus of refugees

begins by boat and land. As the result of the Việt Nam-American War, an estimated 3 million communists and civilians, 250,000 South Vietnamese troops, and 58,000 Americans died. Several hundred thousand former military officers and government workers from the former government of South Việt Nam are rounded up for “re-education” in camps across the country. An estimated 165,000 people died in these camps. 1978 | Việt Nam invades Cambodia and overthrows Pol Pol’s Chinesebacked Khmer Rouge government 1978 – 1986 | Việt Nam isolated from the West; receives Soviet support February 1979 | China, with U.S. blessing, launches invasion of northern Việt Nam March 1979 | Chinese forces withdrawn from Việt Nam 1986 | Vietnamese troops leave Cambodia; the Vietnamese government initiates market reforms called Đổi Mới (Renovation)


1995 | United States restores diplomatic ties with Việt Nam 2000 | President Clinton becomes the first U.S. president to visit Việt Nam; America pledges more help to clear landmines left over from the war - an estimated 40,000 people have been killed by unexploded munitions

U.S. President Bill Clinton during his official arrival ceremony in Hanoi Nov. 17, 2000

Photo: Gary Hershorn

Former US First Lady Hillary Clinton on her arrival at Noi Bai Intern’l Airport in Hanoi Nov. 16, 2000.

Photo: David Guttenfelder

2005 | Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Văn Khải makes the first visit to the United States by a Vietnamese leader since the end of the war 2006 | Senior officials are investigated over the alleged embezzlement of millions of dollars of state money in the transport ministry. As part of an anticipated political shake-up; the prime minister, president, and National Assembly chairman are replaced by younger leaders. 2007 | Việt Nam becomes the 150th member of the World Trade Organization 2008 | The ratio of population in poverty has fallen from 58 percent in 1993 to 14.5 percent 2009 | Jailed journalist Nguyễn Việt Chiến is among more than 15,000 prisoners freed early under a Lunar New Year amnesty; Việt Nam calls on China to stop preventing Vietnamese fishermen from working in what Hanoi says are its territorial waters amid growing tensions over fishing grounds 2010 | According to 2010 census, near 1.8 million people of Vietnamese descent live in the United States, constituting about a half of all overseas Vietnamese. 2011 | Việt Nam begins joint operation with the United States to clean up contamination from the toxic Agent Orange defoliant. The Red Cross of Việt Nam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have

health problems due to contaminated Agent Orange. 2012 | Results from Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows Việt Nam’s 15 yearolds perform on par with their peers in Germany and Austria and better than those in 2/3 of the participating countries. Việt Nam surpasses Brazil to become the world’s largest coffee exporter; the communist-dominated parliament votes to require elected leaders, including the president and the prime minister, to face annual confidence votes.

A classroom in Tran Van On High School, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

2013 | New decree bans Internet users from discussing current affairs online; Việt Nam becomes the largest cashew nut and pepper exporter and second largest rice exporter in the world; the Government Inspectorate and the World Bank in Việt Nam launch the Việt Nam Anti – Corruption Initiative Program 2014 under the theme “Transparency, Integrity and Accountability.”

Vietnam Anti-Corruption Initiative Program Launched.



ave you ever wondered about your values and deeply held beliefs? Questioned where these values and beliefs came from? Or reflected on how the influences of family traditions, societal norms, and personal experiences may have on them? When did you last discriminate or pre - judge someone because of his or her skin color, religion, or political affiliation? As a Vietnamese - American who has spent half of her life in Vietnam and half in America, I find myself often consumed by the atmosphere of mistrust and alienation by Vietnamese  -  Americans and Vietnamese nationalists – against each other. And I cannot help but wonder: will we ever overcome? The Fall of Saigon took place 38 years ago, yet we still have not realized that the enemies are not each other, but rather, the ideology, ignorance, and misunderstanding within each one of us.


Today, the majority of overseas Vietnamese NHI YEN DO TRAN was born in Đồng Nai province and immicommunities continue to grated to Washington State at age ten with her family. She received a yearn for a “free and libmaster’s degree in public administration from Seattle University and erated” Vietnam. Many currently works for the Seattle Human Services Department overlobby local U.S. governseeing the New Citizen Program. Nhi is fluent in Vietnamese and is ments to make the former passionate about cultivating compassion, wisdom, and inner peace in South Vietnamese flag her and in others. Nhi can be reached via instead of the current flag of Vietnam the symbol of Vietnamese in the United States. When visiting Vietnam, most Vietnamese expatriates tend to look down upon any Vietnamese government officer and may never take one step inside the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. On the other hand, many Vietnamese nationals who were born during or after the war are proud patriots. They love their motherland and idolize Ho Chi Minh. When chance allows, they would puff up with pride that a small country could defend her people from foreign oppressors for thousands of years. Some would even consider South Vietnamese troops who fought alongside America during the Vietnam - American War as “traitors”.


Whenever I think of how much my father suffered during his seven years in prison (also known as re - education camps) after the war, I can feel his pain. I could also empathize with his aversion toward the current Vietnamese government. How could he not when they tormented him every day and forced my mother to raise two young children all on her own? Whenever my friends in Vietnam express their patriotism to Vietnam and admiration for Ho Chi Minh, I can also see where there feelings come from. They have been indoctrinated with Vietnamese - centric narratives all their lives. What nation on this Earth does not promote nationalism and encourage cultural unity? Knowing that we are often the product of our own experiences and upbringing though, we should not let what happened 38 years ago continue to torment us.

Our “enemies” are never the people. They are the intolerance, ignorance, misunderstanding, and discrimination that lie within the hearts and minds of people: all of which can be transformed.

Vietnamese women, men, and children in My Lai village on March 16, 1968, we may also be more likely to join Ho Chi Minh’s “ liberation” struggle against “ foreign aggression.”

As individuals, we cannot change the past, we may not be able to control our surroundings or other people’s actions, but we have the tremendous power within ourselves to control our own reactions, actions, and inactions. In all situations, it is up to us to decide whether to let go or cling on to our perceptions. And more often than not, our perceptions are the product of our surrounding and our experience.

There are more than seven billion people on Earth and each has his/her own perspective, his/her own experiences, and his/her own “truth.” We cannot and should not prejudge any group of people or particular person because we have not walked in their shoes. We do not know how they were raised or what they have witnessed. We may become an expert on topic A, but we may have to learn from others on topics B, C, and D. We can find a hundred friends who will agree with us on one ideology, but we can easily have thousands of others who will disagree with us on the very same ideology. This is all because while everyone is born equal, circumstances make us different.

Think about this for a moment: If we were born in India, most likely we would be Hindus. If we were born in Afghanistan, most likely we would be Muslims. If we were born in America, most likely we would be Christians. If we were born in Vietnam and witnessed the massacre of more than 400 unarmed

University of Washington Study Aboard Students and Hue University ESL Students, Hue City, Vietnam 2007


In the past century, the Vietnamese people have suffered tremendously due to wars, due to our own ignorance and the ignorance of others. It is time for us to let go. When we linger onto anger and hatred, anger and hatred linger onto us. As Thich Nhat Hanh explains in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation, “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, anxiety, or possessions—we cannot be free.” It is also time for us to use our resources, energy, and minds to create common visions and work together for a brighter future. Letting go of political, racial, and religious prejudice is not enough. We have to transform neutral conversations into true dialogues. It is only through genuine and open dialogues that we can learn from one another and embrace shared attributes. It is only then, that we can contribute significantly to the livelihood of our communities and ourselves. Ultimately, change is inevitable. We are not the same person as we were five years ago, five years from now, ten years from now. Every time opportunity allows us to nurture a trait or characteristic, it is up to us to decide whether we want to change for the better or for the worse. Should we choose harmony or animosity? Compassion or intolerance? Liberation or suppression? Hate or Love? We should always choose love.


A Vietnamese Boy in Quang Tri Province Checks Out UW Student Alan Gibson’s Tattoos, Vietnam - 2007

Nhi With Her Loving Parents and Younger Brother, Dong Nai Province, Vietnam - 1991

A SENSE OF HUMANITY THROUGH COMMUNITY SERVICE THAO TRAN was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and graduated from the University of Washington in 2010. Her family is her strongest support system, encouraging her to always dream big.


he sky was a yellow  -  tinged bruise. It was 5:00 a.m. The Vietnam Health Clinic (VHC) team had been up well past midnight packing medicine for the 300 patients we were going to see at the clinic. A couple hours into the drive, we reached the edge of the village. Our 45 - seater could not make its way through the narrow dirt path so we ended up trekking the last few yards to the site. A hundred or so patients were already waiting for us when we arrived.

VHC Volunteer T. Quach Measuring a Patient’s Heart Rate at the Vitals & Triage Station, VHC Clinic, Vietnam - 2011

On one of the clinic days, I met a 12 - year - old patient. Her mom was concerned about her daughter’s constant fatigue and lack of appetite. The physician I was assisting that day performed a routine check - up and listened to her heart. Immediately, I could tell that he


heard something abnormal. The doctor explained that her condition was probably due to chronic malnutrition and an untreated heart murmur. She appeared to be a lot younger than she was. He also said that it was important that she see a cardiologist soon to have her heart checked out. This was overwhelming information that I had to translate to the little girl and her mom. Although we had the ability to provide free basic primary care to many patients, there was very little VHC could do to help the girl with long - term care. The mom nodded in understanding when I told her. She knew of her daughter’s heart condition, but because of the high medical costs, they had put that concern aside and hoped for the best. It was disheartening to witness the geographical and financial barriers health care.

I joined the Vietnam Health Clinic five years ago to learn more about rural medicine and to make a positive impact in the lives of those living in underserved communities. As a translator, I worked alongside a team of health professionals during their medical consultations. I admire the mutual trust between a patient and his doctor, which is not bound by language. My experience with VHC showed me that good health can transform lives for the better. It is with this mindset of erasing barriers to good health that inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.

We were fortunate to have local doctors in the village that day, so we were able to connect the family to someone who could follow  -  up on our patient’s heart condition. The benefit Dr. P. Dang Working on a Patient at the Dental of an early diagnosis is that Consultation Station, VHC Clinic, Vietnam – 2011 it allows for timely health interventions. The scheduled appointment was an intervention that Growing up, my parents never failed will prevent the little girl’s heart condito stress the importance of an education from progressing to anything more tion. Despite a language barrier and serious before it is too late. We let our financial setbacks, they worked hard little patient listen to her beating heart to put my siblings and me through and to each of ours in turn. Despite the school, allowing us each to pursue our long day and the trek back to our hotel goals. As a Vietnamese - American born that still lay ahead, I was content in and raised in the states, having had this knowing that our patient had a better opportunity to visit areas in need in chance of becoming healthier and will Vietnam in hopes of improving health be better taken care of in the future. care access was a wonderful experience in itself, but the most valuable aspect


that I brought back with me are memories from the conversations I shared with patients about their daily activities, reasons for why they came to the clinic that day, and stories about their family. I definitely achieved my goal of learning more about rural medicine and how to make a positive impact in communities that VHC visited, but I learned so much more from the people I met on the importance of appreciating the humility and simplicity in life. When we take away the politics involved in our culture and any financial barriers, what I witnessed was a sense of humanity and community.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT VIETNAM 1. Vietnam is a long, narrow country in Southeast Asia, shaped like the letter “S.” 2. As of November 2013, Vietnam is the 14th most populous country in the world with about 90 million people, many of whom more than 85% are ethnic Kinh (Viet). The remaining 15% include members of more than 50 different ethnic groups. 3. Since 2011, the lotus became the floral emblem (national flower) of Vietnam. 4. The country is divided into 58 provinces and 5 “centrally governed cities”: Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Da Nang and Hai Phong. 5. Vietnamese is the only language in East Asia that uses the Latin alphabet. The script has 29 characters, most of them are identical to those used in English. There are distinct northern, central, and southern dialects and accents. 6.

An estimated ten million motor bikes travel on the roads every day.

7. Vietnam is the largest exporter of coffee and cashews in the world and the second largest exporter of rice. 8. The Vietnamese currency is the dong. As of December 2013, 1 USD = 21,276 dong. 9. Vietnam has thirty national parks. The largest, Yok Don, is in Dak Lac province, Central Highlands 10. A three-star hotel generally costs around $15 - $50 USD per night. A bowl of pho from a street vendor will cost around $0.50 to $1 USD. 11. Vietnamese women value pale skin, as a dark complexion implies that one must work as a laborer in the fields. As a result, women wear hats, cover their faces with either a mask or towel, and wear long gloves that extend to the upper arm. 12. According to UNICEF, the adult literacy rate in Vietnam from 2007-2011 was 93%. 13. Soccer is the most popular sport. 14. Vietnam’s monarchical government ended in August 1945. Bao Dai was the last King. 15. Officially, Vietnam is an atheist state, but most practice indigenous religions, such as ancestor veneration and worshiping local spirits. Often, it is considered a predominantly Buddhist nation followed by Catholicism, Caodaism, and Hoa Hao.


An Abundance of Fresh Rau Ram From a Friend’s Garden – Sept , 2013.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES CONJURED FROM AN HERB IN MY SECRET GARDEN — RAU RAM (VIETNAMESE CORIANDER) THAO LE is a Washingtonian from birth, brought up speaking Vietnamese at home, and went to Vietnamese school every Friday night. Now residing in Seattle with her husband and French bulldog, she spends her time on walks or runs along Lake Washington, being a foodie in Seattle’s many great eateries, hosting family and friends in her home, shopping, gardening, and reading. Thao is a big advocate for learning something new every day and living more sustainably.


s far as I can remember, Vietnamese cooking has always been a part of my life. Vietnamese cuisine is embodied by its fresh flavors and livened by fresh ingredients, and in particular, the usage of fresh herbs. I can recall growing up and seeing many Vietnamese families growing herbs in their homes and yards. From apartment window sills, balconies and decks to makeshift containers along the side of the house, all of these were places where herbs would thrive. Some would even remove part of the lawn to make room for herbs. For them, sharing seeds and starts and growing their own herbs was not just to save money; it was a preservation of culture rooted in the tradition of sustainability. One of my childhood duties before I was allowed to go play was to help water the garden. Over time, the chore evolved to become a life - long passion. When my husband and I bought our Seattle home, I knew the perfect spot on the property to carry on the gardening memories of my childhood. I called it my Secret Garden, aptly named after the novel “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which was one of my favorites as a young girl. Hidden away behind an inconspicuous


gate, my secret garden has become my urban organic farm with garden beds of fresh vegetables and herbs, wild flowers lazily soaking up the sunshine, and a chicken coop where my five delightful hens reside, laying delicious eggs with yolks that look like the setting sun. As I was tending to the herbs one day in my Secret Garden, I picked a branch of rau răm from a start a dear friend had shared with me. I brought the long, slender green leaves to my nose, inhaling the herb’s spicy fragrance. Standing there, I could almost taste and smell the dishes with rau răm that my mother and grandmother had made for me as a child, and I smiled to myself. Each dish brought memories of family gatherings and traditions that I had not connected in my mind before. How great that a simple Vietnamese herb could conjure these childhood memories…


It was easy to have the spotlight. My mother was the youngest among her siblings so my two sisters and I were the babies compared to all the older cousins at family get - togethers. I

was famished from showing everyone my dance moves that I thought were lovely enough to repeat them until I fell down from dizziness. Everyone clapped and smiled so I assumed they wanted more. I was six and was famished from all the energy I had expended, so the ritual of a family prayer before dinner to give thanks was almost unbearable for me. At that moment, all I wanted to do was eat one of my favorite dishes, gỏi gà (chicken salad) with rau răm (Vietnamese coriander) and nước mắm (fish sauce). I did not care for meat much as a child, but this was one dish that I hardly noticed the chicken. I loved the crunchy cabbage and the sweetness of the shredded carrots. Most of all, I loved the julienned rau răm with its spicy lemon flavor that I adored. As I ate the gỏi gà, I proudly proclaimed that rau răm was my favorite vegetable. My cousins thought I was a silly little girl and ignored me as they did most of the time. The adults were too busy talking to each other to hear me. But apparently my grandmother heard me, and I realize now why she started growing so much rau răm in our family garden after that. She was growing it for me.


We usually played inside the gymnasium during recess when it rained out, but this time it did not start raining until halfway through recess. I got soaked that morning and subsequently became sick later that afternoon, sniffling as I walked the two blocks home from school. I hoped I would not get in trouble as somehow I always got scolded for getting sick. And I did hear it when my parents got home: “Con không mặc áo lạnh phải không?” (You did not wear a coat, am I right?) No matter how much I protested, it was always something I must have done to get myself sick. I crawled into bed with my head feeling heavy and my eyelids barely open. The next thing I knew, I awoke to a fragrant bowl of cháo (rice porridge) before me. Cháo is equivalent to having a bowl of chicken noodle soup for some. My mother had made me vegetarian cháo with some thinly sliced onions and julienned rau răm. Even though I was scolded for getting sick, the cháo was a symbol of love from my mother to help me get better and well again so I would not miss school. With each mouthful of cháo, it made me feel stronger, made my heart warmer, and my nose runnier.


The house was full of my parent’s friends and was loud with women singing karaoke and the kitchen abuzz while the men drank beer and laughed. My dad called me over to him and asked if I wanted to have some trứng vịt lộn (balut). I had

never eaten it before, and being shy, I wanted to say no and run away, but the excitement to try something new held me back. The men chuckled and all watched as my dad prepared a boiled egg for me. I liked boiled eggs and I started to feel less scared thinking it was more or less what I was used to. I was told to open my mouth and I obeyed, opening my mouth and closing my eyes instinctually, waiting for the familiar firmness of the egg white… but instead, my tongue felt something soft and wet and I tasted first lemon and pepper and lastly the bite of rau răm. I chewed and swallowed and it was delicious! I opened my eyes to the cheering of my dad and the men, clapping and patting me on the back. I became confused as I did not understand what all the commotion was about, and by now my mom and the women had heard that I had eaten my first trứng vịt lộn so they were standing around me as well. I smiled politely, not sure what to say. At the moment I was about to ask for another one, as I really did like it. My dad’s friend held up a trứng vịt lộn and pried it open before my eyes. He exclaimed how it was a big one and instead of putting all the contents of the egg into his mouth, he pulled out the duck embryo for me and said “Look, this is what you just ate!” I was so mortified that I ran away, their laughter still ringing in my ears as I leaned against my bedroom door. I could not believe I had eaten a poor baby duck. And, to add rau răm with it, my favorite Vietnamese herb. My dad had tricked me! But it did taste good, and I felt guilty for wanting another one. Most of our memories are tied directly to our senses and emotions—what we see with our eyes, what we touch with our hands, what we taste and smell, and the joy and sorrows that we feel in our hearts. Standing in my Secret Garden with the sprig of rau răm to my nose, all these childhood memories of family and culture surfaced. Tradition and culture are not only found in language, art and music, but are also in the cuisine and flavors that nourish and sustain us at every occasion and celebration where family and loved ones gather. I am blessed to have had my family show me how to grow a garden and to help prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes as I got older. I learned to appreciate the tranquility and peacefulness that envelops me as I tend to my plants and flowers. I have learned to slow down when life seems to fly by and appreciate the earth for its bounty and beauty. I cut a few more sprigs of rau răm and walked back to my house to make some gỏi gà for dinner. But for old time’s sake, perhaps I would dance until I was dizzy first.


GỎI GÀ RECIPE Vietnamese Chicken Salad 0:20 prep time, 0:15 cook time, serves 8


--1 whole chicken --1 daikon radish, ½ grated --1 yellow onion --1 cube (1 inch) rock sugar --2 tsp mushroom seasoning salt --Salt and black pepper to taste --1 red onion --2 tbsp brown sugar --½ fresh medium lime juice --½ green cabbage or ¼ green cabbage and ¼ red cabbage, finely shredded --2 cups bean sprouts --2 carrot, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks --1/2 cup fresh Vietnamese coriander leaves --2 tbsp fried dried shallot --1/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped



--3 fresh medium limes --4 tbsp finely chopped palm sugar --2 tsp salt --2 inch piece of fresh ginger --4 tbsp fish sauce --2 tbs rice wine vinegar --1 fresh red chili, deseeded, finely chopped


--Bring a pot with approximately 6 quarts of water to a boil --Add the whole chicken to the boiling water --Cook for about 10 - 12 minutes --Remove the whole chicken from the pot and let cool until it is okay to handle --Butcher the chicken into 4 - 6 pieces and place back in the hot water --Add half a daikon, 1 onion, rock sugar and mushroom seasoning salt to the pot --Bring to anther boil and simmer for another 30 minutes until the onion and daikon are soft and tender --Season with salt --Bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook for another 10 - 12 minutes --Remove the chicken pieces and let them cool until it is okay to handle --Shred the chicken, with the grain --Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper --Cover the chicken and place in fridge to chill for 1 - 2 hours --Refrigerate the chicken broth for another dish or freeze for future cooking needs



--Wash and remove ginger peel with a spoon --Finely chop --Blend with a little water --Drain and set ginger paste aside


--In a bowl, combine the juice of 3 limes with palm sugar, salt, garlic, fish sauce, ginger paste and rice wine vinegar --Add chili for spice (optional) --Mix well and set aside


--In a large bowl with the shredded chicken, add the cabbage, shredded daikon, bean sprouts, carrot, fried dried shallot, picked red onion (with macerating juices) and peanuts (optional) --Drizzle the gỏi dressing over the salad --Add Vietnamese coriander (rau răm) --Toss well to combine --Taste and season with more salt and black pepper if needed --Place the salad in a serving bowl and garnish with pickled onions, whole rau răm leaves and ground peanuts, as desired

--Peel and slice 1 red onion thinly --Place the red onion in a bowl and sprinkle with brown sugar and juice from ½ a lime --Toss well and set aside


Trang Le, Berlin - 2009

VIETNAMESE OR GERMAN: CAN ONE BE BOTH? TRANG LE is a recent graduate from the University of Washington with degrees in Biochemistry and Psychology. She has a great interest in understanding health disparities, social inequities, and political systems along with a strong passion for working closely with communities to create positive changes. She is currently spending the next year serving in AmeriCorps (Community HealthCorps) as a patient navigator and health educator at a community health clinic in Seattle, Washington. Trang finds a lot of joy in listening to people’s unique stories and expanding her perspective as well as running, cooking, reading, and traveling.



fter numerous hours of walking, several painful blisters, and a whole lot of pictures later, I was able to fully immerse myself in a small but quiet and important part of Berlin. My research on the minority experience in Germany with a focus on the Vietnamese community truly helped develop me into a traveler. With hands hung on either side — held by no one and led by no one — I travelled to places unfamiliar. I was able to learn new facts about German immigration policies and integration projects, but more importantly, I unearthed many unheard stories about the Vietnamese immigrants. Before diving into my research in Berlin, I prepared myself by reading old newspapers, selected chapters from books and journalistic articles about the life of Vietnamese immigrants in Germany. I learned about the history of Vietnamese guest workers and refugees. The differences between the two groups were my main interest. The guest workers were Northern Vietnamese who had work contracts with the Soviets in Eastern Germany while the refugees were Southern Vietnamese who were seeking political asylum in Western Germany. Both groups integrated into German society in fairly different manners. Although I formed many interview questions, to my surprise, I did not use many of them and opted to have personal conversations with the individuals instead. I listened as these people recounted their immigration journey and life story. My intimate glimpse into these people’s lives and my new knowledge about German law and society acquired from an actual German immigration officer were more than I had expected for research. I

talked to East and West Berliners, professionals and non - professionals. Their stories and my own observations of the city not only helped with my research, but it contributed to my overall travel experience in Berlin.

the older generation, it has made huge strides in the younger generation. Many children of guest workers and refugees are losing their Vietnamese identity. In Germany, there are few mediums through which these children can keep their own culture alive.

I headed over to a place next to the Asian market, which turned out to be According to Reinhard Isensee, a sushi bar. Vietnamese people owned an American Studies Professor at nearly all the Asian restaurants in Berlin Humboldt University, it is difficult for and sushi bars were the more popular the Vietnamese people to find their ones, I later learned. Walking up the identity in Germany because Germany wooden steps, an elderly Asian man is still trying to figure out its own idensat at a table smoking. In Vietnamese, I tity. He suggested that most immigrants asked him if he could talk to me about are interested in economics rather than his experience living in Germany. He politics. They do not apply for citizensaid he was busy but pointed me to a ship because they can take advantage of young man nearby. The young man and social programs without it. I introduced ourselves to each other and sat down at a table. It was my first My research took a groundbreaklong conversation with a Vietnamese ing turn when I met Markus Heidi, person. I learned that his mom had imanother American Studies Professor at migrated to Germany on a work permit Humboldt University. I explained my in 1993 and it was not until five years research to him and he kindly helped ago that he was able to join her after to introduce me to a Vietnamese storonly a year for all immigration papereowner, an actual guest worker from work to go through. We talked about East Germany. Markus also gave me his experience attending a German contact information for one of his school and he explained that most of wife’s Vietnamese PhD students. I his Vietnamese friends do not speak had my longest conversations with their home country’s language and these two people and was able to learn that they have adapted to the German about the guest workers’ lives after the culture completely. I told him that in Fall of the Berlin Wall and the politiAmerica, there are cultural clubs, such cal tension between North and South as the Vietnamese Club Vietnamese in East where students can get and West Germany. together to celebrate It is as if they can only have their culture. He said one or the other: be German The first time I he had never heard of or be Vietnamese, not met Loan, I had a any in German schools. Vietnamese - German. really warm feeling inside. She looked After my conversation with the young to be about my mother’s age with long man, I thought more about cultural inteblack hair and dark-brown eyes. Her gration in Germany. Although it seemed wide smile, soft voice and welcoming that integration was unsuccessful for demeanor made me feel at home. She


spoke to me in Vietnamese, and at first, I was at a lost for words. I could not think of what to say so she kindly filled the void in my head by telling me to say “Chào cô Loan,” which translates to “Hello aunt Loan.” We started to have a brief conversation in which she asked me about myself. I told her my immigration story of how I came to America with my parents and brother when I was eight years old. We talked about my family, aspirations and goals. She was very much interested in my life. I sat with her for hours as her customers would come and go. I watched as she laughed and chit-chatted with the German man from across the street, said Tschüss to the dad buying ice cream for his kids, and waved goodbye to the pleasant lady in a nice business outfit. Then, I began asking questions about her own journey to Germany. I learned that she had lived in Berlin for 27 years. She came to East Germany when she was 19 years old as a part of the work contract that the Soviets had with North Vietnam. Loan explained that in her time, many North Vietnamese would sign up for the guest worker program right after they finished secondary school. She came to Germany alone and worked in the textile factory until the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I asked Loan about the challenges she faced as a Vietnamese guest worker. She told me that there were strict rules that prohibited the guest workers from having a family. She was not allowed to meet men, get married, or have children. If she had gotten pregnant, she would have been sent back to Vietnam right away.


After the Fall, life was hard for many guest workers. They needed jobs to live out the days until their contract expired, and then they would be sent back to Vietnam. Loan said seeking jobs in the West was very difficult and when the guest worker’s contract ended in the early 90’s, the German government gave them two options: take a stipend and head back to Vietnam or stay, receive no money, and be “độc lập” (independent). There was going to be no help and they had to fend for themselves. Loan chose to stay in Germany with her husband, who was a fellow guest worker. My final talk with Toan Nguyen, a Vietnamese PhD student, was a good way to end my research. I spoke with mostly North Vietnamese people from East Germany, but Toan gave me the perspective of South Vietnamese people from West Germany. Interestingly enough, Toan was researching about identity and German social issues. We discussed his parent’s experience as refugees seeking political asylum in West Germany. He said the refugees were better integrated into German society than the guest workers because there was more public sensitivity toward the South Vietnamese in the West. Perhaps the West Germans felt this way because they empathized with the refugees’ situation as escapees from communism. The refugees were welcomed to their newly adopted country with support in housing, job placement, and social benefits. I asked whether there were still political tension and division between the Vietnamese people living in East Germany and in West Germany. Toan said that every year in Berlin, there are two different New Year’s celebrations in which the East Vietnamese would wave the current communist Vietnam

flag while the West would wave the old South Vietnam flag. The people I met, the places I saw, and the stories I heard will forever be kept in my memory and have a place in my heart. My research was not just for class; it was for me. I learned about the people who shared my same heritage but have led different life experiences. I discovered a side of me that I never knew I had or was always afraid to tap into; I can be a writer, a performer, and an artist. My fears transformed into curiosity and my worries morphed into creativity. Europe did not change me, but rather it unlocked me. It provided me with the means to discover myself. Although my research has reached its end, my travels and exploration will not.


Nhớ tách cà - phê, nhớ nụ cười Nhớ làn khói trắng, nhớ bờ môi Ánh mắt chưa quen nhưng gần gũi Tóc mây chưa vuốt dáng xa rồi Nhớ vần thơ lạ, nhớ hồn ai Nhớ khúc nhạc buồn, nhớ bờ vai Ván cờ chưa hạ người đã khuất Tranh vẽ ngày xưa nét phôi pha


Một nửa hững hờ một nửa trôi Một nửa u uất một nửa rời Một nửa ra đi một nửa mất Một nửa ngậm ngùi một nửa thôi Một nửa còn lại một nửa ơi Một nửa câu ca một nửa lời Một nửa một nửa một nửa nữa Một nửa hy vọng một nửa đời


Nhớ những vần thơ em mới lạ Như gió ban mai phơi phới lòng Nhớ thuở ban đầu xanh như lá Như hoa e thẹn khép bên song Nhớ những ân tình giờ đã mất Như chim biền biệt cuối chân trời Nhớ ánh mắt người giờ đã khuất Như nắng nhạt nhoà lệ ướt môi Nhớ về xóm cũ còn đâu nữa Như mưa lai vãng tìm bóng ai Nhớ con đường mòn nơi hò hẹn Như u uất mãi kiếp phôi phai Nhớ ngôi mộ cỏ đã ru xanh Như tiếng vọng hồn dưới trăng thanh Nhớ sương mờ ảo, kìa ai đó Như hờn phận bạc khuất không đành

Hai nửa giao nhau đời lứa đôi Hai nửa yêu thương tình mặn mòi Hai nửa gắn chặt đời đầy ắp Hai nửa không rời tình muôn nơi



THE WARRIOR WITHIN TINH VU the cloud stands proudly against the mighty roaring wind, laughing in its midst… the brave and the free live best!


lthough it may not appear to be a pressing or salient problem, self  -  identity is an important yet oftentimes, neglected issue in this generation for young Vietnamese  -  Americans. So many of them appear to be “ lost.” They do not know whether to be Vietnamese or to be American. Even if they wanted to be both, they may not even know how to be bicultural. Now, I am not here to tell the new generation how to behave or to provide a definite answer; I just want to start a conversation to encourage this new generation to reflect on their culture, their identity, their very essence. How do we, as Vietnamese - Americans, live with a strong presence and a unique identity that withstands the test of time? Let me start with the journey of my own identity so that you can better understand my point of view. Hopefully through the sharing of my story below, young Vietnamese - Americans can start the self - reflection and dialogue process.


I was born in Vietnam, but was raised mostly in America. At a young age, I was drawn to Vietnam’s history, especially during its periods of war. I used to think that war was all bad, that it leads to the death of promising lives, tragedy to those “ left behind,” and destruction of the environment and society. Yet through my research, I’ve learned that every war has its purpose. Oftentimes, people go to war because they are fighting for something they believe in, such as their freedom. Other times, it is to obtain resources or to overthrow a dictator or an existing government. Sometimes, at the end of the war is a revolution, a new direction and lesson for mankind. Vietnam, for instance, has had a long history of wars from invading foreigners. One of the oldest and most victorious battles was the Battle of Bach Dang. This battle took place along the Bach Dang River (near Ha Long Bay of North Vietnam), which runs through Yen Hung district (Quang Ninh) and

Thuy Nguyen (Hai Phong) before reaching the sea. In 1288 AD, Dai Viet, the emperor of Vietnam, led the fight against the Yuan Dynasty - Mongolian Empire. The invading army was led by Prince Toghan and General Omar Khan. Dai Viet’s Grand Commander, Tran Hung Dao, studied the tide calendar and strategized his attack based on its pattern. He planted stakes underwater and focused on ambush as a military tactic. When the battle began, Tran Hung Dao sent a small flotilla to engage the Mongolian boat fleet and then pretended to retreat. This was a strategic move to lure the Mongols to the entrapment area. When the Mongols eagerly pursued the Vietnamese troops, thousands of Dai Viet’s small boats from both banks, quickly appeared. They launched a fierce attack and broke the combat formation of the enemy. In a panic, Mongol ships tried to retreat to the ocean. As planned and due to the low tide, upon their retreat, their boats

Garden of Edam in Son Doong Cave, the Largest Cave in the World, Central, Vietnam

were punctured by protruding stakes below the surface and came to a standstill. The Vietnamese troops continued to take the offensive with fire rafts quickly rushing the besieged Mongols’ boats. Surrounded and frightened, the Mongolian troops abandoned their watercrafts and scrambled to the banks where they were dealt a final blow by the waiting Vietnamese army. The entire Mongolian fleet of ships was destroyed, Omar was captured, and Prince Toghan narrowly escaped through the forest. This was hugely a significant battle for Vietnam: it prevented Vietnam from becoming part of the Mongolian Empire. Due to his ingenious battle tactics, Tran Hung Dao became a symbol of independence and cultural identity. He is regarded as one of the greatest military heroes of Vietnam and almost every town in Vietnam has a street named after him. Numerous shrines and temples were built to worship him. He even wrote a military manual that still exists today and has

influenced many great generals after him. As for Bach Dang River’s battle site, it has become dry, muddy, and flat since the construction of dikes in the 1950s. Much of its landscape is now dedicated to growing rice. The site is now known as Bai Coc Yen Giang, which is available for tourists to visit. With a careful eye, one might be able to spot the remnants of wooden stakes from the battle that took place more than 700 years ago. Unfortunately, many young Vietnamese - Americans have probably not heard of this superbly executed battle. If more Vietnamese - Americans knew about this battle, perhaps they can understand how it epitomizes the strength, ingenuity, and spirit of the Vietnamese culture. I am stirred by the fact that, despite being such a small country, Vietnam has been able to repeatedly stand up to much bigger and more powerful invaders. The Vietnamese’ military strength and strategic warfare resonate in me and that is

from where I take my identity, my pride. Wherever I go, I know that I carry the blood of the “elite warriors” of my ancestors. When people ask me who I am or where I come from, I proudly say, “I am Vietnamese!” Although I am using Vietnamese military history as an illustration of where I get my identity, this conversation about cultural pride and identity can be applied to anyone, in any culture. I encourage you to take the time to learn more about your culture and its history. It is through this process of cultural discovery and understanding that you will find your identity, an identity that you will be proud of.


Beach Fun in Vung Tau, Vietnam; by Dustin Wong Feb 2009

CONCEPTS OF HAPPINESS LAN TRAN was born and raised in Seattle, WA and graduated from the University of Washington. With the help of college classes and parental enforcement, she is fluent and literate in basic conversational Vietnamese. Â She is currently working as a nurse at the UW Medical Center specializing in the management of Cardiac Surgery care.



ccording to the 2012 World Happiness Report, published by the Earth Institute of Columbia University, Vietnam ranks as the 20th Happiest Country in the World with a score of 185/200. It is not only wealth that contributes to this score but also political freedom, vast social networks and strong community bonds, living standards, mental health, stable employment, and family life. The above metrics seem like reasonable ingredients leading up to the ideal life, but unlike our perfect bowl of Pho, it’s become stubbornly unattainable. The simplistic grasp of happiness has been contaminated by societal influences, yet we cannot blame evolving social dynamics, as they will continue to monopolize and persist for generations to come. Instead, the urgency to develop a strong sense of our own needs to define happiness can overcome the daunting inaccessibility. No one is born with an inherited happiness. We learn happiness, as an individual, and as a culture while it fluctuates through time, history, and society. Let’s take a closer look at these barriers in attaining our happiness.


The pursuit of happiness is found to be more gratifying than achieving the goal of happiness. Could you define the parameters of your happiness? Could you measure the extent of your happiness? We often struggle through life understanding the concept of happiness and its complexity. Sometimes it can be so fleeting as we reach a goal and suddenly pursue another so quickly soon after. Do the fleeting moments of short - lived happiness add up to anything meaningful? Perhaps we can contribute its short  -  life to create ambition in the

human mind to strive and achieve. Happiness in its entirety has become elusive and mysterious and as a result, its attainability has become our own psychological challenge in the form of an inner demon.


It’s important to understand how the human mind operates and responds scientifically and emotionally to maintain grasp of achieving our happiness. Humans are equipped with the impulse to be happy. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that trigger the feelings of well - being and happiness. The more neurotransmitters we have, the happier we are thought to be. It is linked to search activity, such that a pursuit of a specific goal will trigger these neurotransmitters, much like shopping is found to be more enjoyable than the actual purchase. Psychophysiologists explain that this phenomenon continues to stimulate further lifelong search experiences. As we continue to seek out our goals and emit vibes of happy energy through our endless pursuits, we come across barriers of this natural process. Neuroscientists have found that distractions that clutter the brain blunt the overall effect of happiness. Stressors such as juggling pressures of work, family, meetings, emails, and the every day worries reduce our happiness and distract our search  -  pursuit impulses. This natural process is disrupted, with our subconscious consent, by some common strong offenses of our society and culture such as money, our peers, and our own notion regarding the needs of our happiness.


--Money is only directly proportionate to happiness if it is consistent with our own desires. If your income falls in the top 5% of the world population, yet you are striving to be in the top 1%, you won’t find that your annual income of $170,000 brings you any measure of happiness. Money makes people happy only if people can achieve their goals with it. If their needs and desires are not fulfilled with their current income, they will most likely be disappointed, no matter how much income is involved. We are thrilled with promotional salary increases, yet overtime, we continue to need another promotion, and then another. Where do these new needs arise from, and why weren’t the new needs necessary before the salary increase? --The Others. Studies have shown that comparisons with your peers have become barriers to our own happiness. Social media amplifies our lives. Our new home, car, travels, and successes are shared through vast social networks, and as a result, polls have shown that people tend to feel worse about themselves after probing through social media websites. People usually appear to be happier and more attractive than they actually are to impress others. The reality is that people generally only share their successes and significant lifetime events and post beautifully crafted photos of themselves and their loved ones. Our unglamorous every day routines wouldn’t generally be broadcasted. Additionally, if everyone in your social network tends to operate this way, it will feel like our own lives are dull and uneventful, disappointed that we don’t wake up effortlessly beautiful the way everyone else is seemingly born beautiful. Everyone is going to Hawaii every weekend, and everyone is also buying a new car every month and a new home every year. In this way, we let others dictate our happiness.


These motivated efforts for the attention siblings to grieve the loss of our beloved and we were no one of importance and approval of others do not contribute Father who had suddenly passed away other than the fact that we were there to any kind of boost in our individual from heart failure while on vacation visto say farewell to our Father, but we happiness. Would we still engage in the iting Vietnam. Though the three of us were happy. Although we carried a heavy activity if no one knew about it? Are we were there to grieve and mourn, we also heartache, we were happy being together making this purchase to achieve a higher discovered a newfound simple happispending our long days building strong social status? ness. Our extended family members and connections to the people of Vietnam Define Happiness. Our sense of happidistant family friends became our sole and with each other. ness should rather be based on what our source of emotional and moral support individual goals are The society of that include meaVietnam hold strong sures that do not community bonds, involve anyone else’s and their measures notion of happiness. of happiness are reWe can value our alistic as the nation search experiences moves progressively and pursuits to be as a unit. Standards unique, in that no of living are improvone else can create ing over time and the exact equal hapstability in employpiness. This forement and health are thought and insight building foundations can sustain our lifethat now surpass the long pursuits. It is periods of devastaGroceries in the Streets, Vietnam; by Dustin Wong – Feb 2009 hard to define when tion and war, which clutter blinds us or lend a greater sense obstructs the path. It of gratitude. This is hard to be loyal to your own happiness through this daunting experience. No rich history may be a large contribution once exposed to the perceived happiness one lived in luxury or excess. Everyone to their overall appreciation for their of others. But happiness, as a culture worked hard around the clock but made simple and sustainable happiness. and society, is dynamic, fluid, and evolvtime for their family. Our days were ing over time, history, experience, and simple, slow - paced and stress - free, and biology. It moves us in great strides as we all reveled in every moment of it a distinctive and progressive individual laughing, talking, connecting, learning and a vigorously motivated civilization. from each other, and bonding, albeit through an unfortunate and tragic Vietnam is ranked high on the charts, event. We slept on the floor, sometimes perhaps for the sheer simplicity of their on straw mats on top of cement. I woke defining parameters of happiness. What up every morning wearing the alternatare those parameters that are more ating 5 shirts that I brought, most likely tainable in Vietnam than the U.S.? I looking disheveled but liberated, eager cannot say accurately that I understand to help with work and talk with my exthe structure of the vast societies in tended family again and experience the Vietnam to attest to the statistic, but culture of Vietnam. It felt like the whole I can draw from a fleeting experience village was a big family. The three of of true happiness when I was there. I us were still finishing college and grad travelled to Vietnam in 2008 with my school, we didn’t have a lot of money,



Một bác sĩ nói với bệnh nhân: “Tôi có một tin xấu và một tin xấu hơn.” “Tin xấu là tin gì vậy?” Bác sĩ trả lời: “Ông chỉ còn sống được 24 giờ nữa thôi.” Bệnh nhân nói: “Thật khủng khiếp. Như vậy làm sao lại có thể có tin xấu hơn được?” Bác sĩ trả lời: “Tôi đã cố gắng tiếp súc với ông từ hôm qua để báo tin đó.”


Một gia đình đang lái xe trên đường thì con cóc nhảy ngang qua. Ông chồng thắng xe kip thời, bước xuống, mang con cóc đặt qua vệ đường. Con cóc bỗng nói: “Cám ơn ông. Tôi sẽ cho ông một điều ước”. Người đàn ông nói: “Vậy hãy làm cho con chó của tôi thắng cuộc đua hôm nay”. Ông ta gọi con chó ra, và khi thấy nó chỉ có ba chân, con cóc nói: “Khó lắm. Ông xin điều khác đi”. Người đàn ông trả lời: “Vậy hãy làm cho vợ tôi thắng cuộc thi hoa hậu năm nay”. Khi bà vợ bước ra khỏi xe, con cóc nói: “Ông cho tôi xem lại con chó, tui sẽ cố gắng”.


3 cô gái ngồi nói chuyện quanh mẹ, một người hỏi mẹ: “Mẹ đặt tên chúng con như thế nào?” Người mẹ chỉ vào 1 cô gái rồi nói: “Khi con sinh ra thì có 1 hoa cúc rơi lên đầu con nên mẹ đặt tên con là Cúc.”  -  “Còn con cũng giống như thế nên mẹ đặt tên con là Hồng” -  người mẹ nói với cô bên cạnh. Bỗng nhiên cô gái còn lại la hét ầm lên, vung tay vung chân, đập phá lung tung. Người mẹ buồn bã nói: “Rồi, con Dừa lại lên cơn nữa rồi, tội nghiệp!”


A doctor said to his patient: “I have two pieces of news, one bad, and one very bad.” “What is the bad news?” The doctor replied: “You can only stay alive for 24 more hours.” The patient gasped: “That’s terrible! How could you have worse news than that?” “Well, I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday to inform you the news.”


A family was driving on the road and a frog suddenly jumped out of nowhere. The husband was able to brake in time, get out of the car, and carry the frog safely to the side of the road. “Thank you,” the frog said. “I will grant you one wish for saving my life.” The man said, “Oh. Please let my dog win the track race today,” and then called his dog to come out. Upon seeing the dog only have 3 legs, the frog said, “That’s too difficult. How about another wish?” The man then said, “Then can you let my wife win first place at this year’s beauty pageant?” When the wife stepped out of the car, the frog said, “Let me take a look at the dog again. I’ll try my best.”


While conversing with their mother, one of the three daughters asked: “Mother, how did you name us?” The mother said, “Chrysanthemum, when you were born a chrysanthemum fell on your head so I named you that.” “And same for you, Rose.” Suddenly, one of the daughters started screaming and waving arms and legs hysterically. The mother sadly said, “Ahh, Coconut is at it again. Poor thing!”


Francis Tran; by Danny Luong – Sept 2013

WHAT I NEVER HAD FRANCIS TRAN is an undergraduate student with aspirations of becoming a physician assistant with an emphasis in community care. Using his energy and talent, he hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams and to unlock the potential in others. When not working, Francis loves being with his family and playing the piano.



doctor once said, “there is no such thing as the best type of treatment.” What did the doctor mean when she said that? Little did I know, the answer to that question would change me entirely. Our Vietnam Health Clinic (VHC) group arrived at an orphanage in Vietnam to spend time with the youth; there was a long line of them waiting for us once we arrived. They looked incredibly excited, singing songs, all the while staring at us with excitement. Energetic and kind, they were well behaved and curious in our every action. It was almost if they thought we were kings coming into their country. Once all of the preliminary introductions were over, we sat down and heard from several speakers. At that point, looking over to my right, I noticed a small little house from where many of the youth were looking at us. A friend of mine and I came over to greet them, and while inside, we saw the interior of their living quarters. There were rows and rows of bunk beds that were made of little more than a flat mattress and a blanket. The walls were filled with drawings and it was very clean. For them, these amenities were more than enough. They were excited to let us in but were even more thrilled when we played soccer and hacky sack with them and lost. Beating us in hacky sack, they jumped for joy. I felt absolutely exhausted afterwards, since each child had more energy than 20 people combined! Leaving the living quarters, I met a little girl named T. She looked only about six years old, yet her smile was as big as an angel’s. Though incredibly shy, T always had a big grin on her face no matter whom she talked to. I asked her what made her smile. Despite the living conditions, what made her happiest was the people around her and the people who took care of her. She then looked over at my friends, so I asked if she wanted to meet them. She said yes but stepped back, nervous. I knew how she felt; it was the same way I felt years ago.

I could never be successful unless I talked to people, I forced my words, attempting to make conversation. Fumbling my words around, embarrassing myself time and time again, my confidence dwindled dramatically. I saw myself alone, and for a while, I believed that it would stay that way for a long time. I asked T to hold my hand. She seemed confused but followed me. When I took her over to my friends, they were all excited to meet her and she looked at me, as if asking if it would be ok. I smiled, letting go of her hand so that she could meet all of my friends in the VHC group. She climbed on their laps, and talked to them all. Seeing her reminded me of the doctor’s statement: “There really is no such thing as the best treatment.” If I had someone show me how to talk, how to meet people, that may have changed me completely from the person I am today. T did not need a doctor or any medical examination. All she wanted was someone to take her on that first step. After the day was over, it was time for us to leave the orphanage. On the way out, looking back, I saw T staring at me from a distance, smiling like a child who looked as if she had made a hundred more friends. After a quick glance, we both turned around, going our separate ways. Though she may have learned something from me, I felt as though I had learned something even greater through her. It is so easy to make assumptions about people and to go forward thinking that we know another’s problems, which are neither perceptible on the surface nor treated with medicine. Some issues can be social or emotional in nature and can be solved by providing guidance. Let another see what that first step is and let them go on their own toward endless possibilities.

“Hi Francis! Ms. Tran you have a wonderful son.” My mom was talking to a friend and I looked down, scared. I wanted to meet her friend but I did not know how. Who was she? How do I talk to her? What if she does not like me? My mother scolded me, asking why I was so shy. I slowly smiled, trying to make my bravest face but my mind raced with fear. Afterwards, I went to my room and thought back to what had happened. My worst fears came to reality: I was a child whom everyone saw as shy and did not like talking to people. Told that


MVNWA Proclamation – Nov 2013

LIPSTICK SPORTS(WO)MANSHIP TRYSTEEN THANH - BINH TRAN, MiT, is an English Professor who cheers on her hometown during the football season: GEAUX SAINTS! She currently resides in Kent, WA with her beloved kitty, Lion-O, even though he frequently chews on her clothes, much to her chagrin.


hen I announced my participation in the Miss Viet Nam Washington (MVWA) pageant in 2009, my peers jestingly responded by holding up both hands with improvised peace signs and squealed in an artificially sweet voice, "worlddd peaceee." Or they touched on Miss South Carolina's blunder during the 2007 Miss Teen America pageant: "such as… the Iraq… such as… "


Their reactions highlight commonly unmerited judgments that force pageantry into an uninvited battle against misconceptions and negative stigma. However, if depthless observations of this lipstick sport are put aside, it becomes apparent that pageant organizations, such as MVWA, contain vast community relevance as a traditional and cultural benchmark.

Contrary to some beliefs, Miss Viet Nam Washington operates more like a charity organization. It consists of proactive members who emphasize civic responsibility while on a mission to empower young Vietnamese - American leaders. Along the line of these principles, I signed on as the Public Relations Director, and more recently, the Leadership & Mentorship Director after being crowned Miss Congeniality and

First Runner - Up. Alongside a commune of women that has become a sisterhood, a family unit, we have tirelessly put forth a concerted effort into every volunteer endeavor with the spirit of philanthropic duty. Tet in Seattle, Seafair Torchlight Parade, A Call to Love, Vietnam Health Clinic, Love Across the Ocean, Vietnamese - American Bar Association of Washington, etc: Miss Viet Nam Washington was there to help.

of our role. The ladies of MVWA are mindful of the leadership undertaking imposed onto them as a figurehead; glamour is secondary to the responsibility of promoting the Vietnamese heritage at large. Events that Miss Viet Nam Washington assisted with in the past have capitalized on our volunteer’s involvement. These significant exertions have raised a

Do not be deceived if the extent of our contribution at certain affairs is through a fashion exhibition. It takes an opportunistic eye to realize that our assistance provides leverage to attain goals that community affiliates otherwise might not achieve, particularly in the area of fundraising. Weaving our way through the crowd at these times in catwalk decorum, it becomes apparent that people are intrigued by the idealism of beauty. They buy into the pedestal of what is aesthetically pleasing, but The MVWA Board of Directors, somehow contradict this Seattle, WA; by Justin Chan interest with ridicule siPhotography – Sept 2012 multaneously. Some may consider pageantry to be demeaning to women who struggle bounty of funds consistently, and all in against stereotypes that label them as the name of charity. One such example submissive and/or exotically attractive. is when MVWA, in tandem with fellow To this, I attest that there is nothing community organizations, signed a compliant about a collective group of check for over $27,000 to Peace Winds women standing resolute before a crowd America following an evening of fundthat has high expectations for the repreraising for the Japan Earthquake and sentatives with whom they have become Tsumani 2011. More recently, Miss associated, for we honor the integrity Viet Nam Washington donated 60%

of all proceeds from its biennial gala to aid victims of Typhoon Haiyan through the American Red Cross, which totaled to more than $4,800. It is also the day of the gala, November 23, 2013, that Mayor Mike McGinn of Seattle proclaimed to be Miss Viet Nam Washington Day. To be acknowledged by the city is quite a milestone that the entire Vietnamese community can share in, since intercommunity involvement was needed to actualize all of MVWA’s goals. Going forward, the tenacious and headstrong women of Miss Viet Nam Washington will continue our efforts to cultivate the Vietnamese - American legacy, one pair of stilettos in stride alongside another.

For more information regarding volunteer opportunities and leadership projects, please reach out to us: Website: Contact:


FROM BATTLES OF WAR TO BATTLES OF LOVE TAM - ANH LE was born in Seattle and raised in Renton, WA. TamAnh is currently pursuing a career as a Pediatric Nurse. She enjoys volunteering and giving back to the community, working with the youth, and entertaining people by singing and dancing.


hen the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, it was a horrific and tragic day for my parents, individually. In the midst of adversity, they were determined to do whatever was necessary to find freedom and liberty, but to find love was never a part of their plans. Because of my dad’s service in the South Vietnam Army during the war, he was arrested numerous times after Saigon fell. Fortunately, after multiple attempts of escaping captivity and trying to flee the country by boat, he finally made it to Thailand in 1982 and ultimately resided in a refugee camp in the Philippines. Around the same time, my aunt’s husband, an American G.I., graciously helped file paperwork to bring my mom and grandma to America. Regretfully, the sponsorship process got complicated when my beloved grandma passed away a few months before their scheduled flight, so my mother wounded up in a Filipino refugee camp instead. And yes, you guessed it. It was there, at the refugee camp in Bataan, Philippines that my parents fell in love. One night, my parents gravitated to a campfire where approximately 15 to 20 Vietnamese refugees gathered to enjoy music from a boom box and to dance.


As the sound of the muddled music surrounded them, Dad noticed Mom and approached her. After exchanging greetings, Dad said that Mom looked familiar and that he remembers seeing glimpses of her in the area where she grew up in. A few minutes later, they were hand - in - hand and danced the night away. They were inseparable during the following weeks, spending most of their time hiking, swimming, eating, and dancing together. Dad particularly enjoyed taking photos of Mom against the scenic backdrop of the Philippines. Mom said that made this made her feel very beautiful. Even though their love deepened in the six months spent together, one issue always lingered in the back of their minds: they would have to part ways to different states in America. Mom was scheduled to fly to Washington to be with her family, and Dad was to fly to California to be with his. Mom left first. Dad left shortly after but his journey was a lot more cumbersome. While spending one night at a transit center between Bataan and Manila, Philippines, Dad was assigned a room in a small shelter with a young female stranger. This meant they would have to share a small bed together. Out

of respect for the young lady and for his affection toward my mother, he borrowed a blanket and snuggled up on the concrete outside of the shelter instead. The next morning, he woke up with a massive fever due to the cold weather and mosquito bites. Eventually he got extremely ill and was held back a week. After recovering, Dad was ecstatic to learn that his flight to America would stop in Seattle, Washington before heading to San Jose, California. Upon landing, he immediately called Mom but could not reach her. After almost an hour of trying, she finally answered. When Mom rushed to SeaTac International Airport an hour later with medicine in her hands, she could not find him anywhere. His plane had already left. According Mom, as tears ran down her face, it was in that moment when she realized how much she loved him and that in her heart, she knew they would reunite again. And they did. One year later and after many long distance phone calls and letters, they were married on August 6, 1988 and have been inseparable ever since. Happy 25th Anniversary Mom and Dad. I love you!

MUSIC EDUCATION IN RURAL VIETNAM LUU PHAN was born in Quang Tri and immigrated to the United States in 1996. She majored in Business Administration and Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) at the University of Washington.


y lovely village, Phu Kinh, is situated about 50 km north of Hue. Although I left Vietnam at the age of seven and I barely remember anything prior to my life in the United States, my village has always been the hub of my childhood where I go to reminisce about the simple days of poking around with sticks and playing with rocks, the days when my grandpa was alive and enlightened those of us in his presence. The past few visits to my village have had a much different tone; everyone my age was off in the cities working in huge factories with long, demanding hours under poor working conditions. The old straw house that once sheltered three generations and three families was replaced with a two-story house in which three adults lived. Phu Kinh now feels so foreign, so distant.

the home I left, to somehow make it a more equitable place given this more economically and sociably stable path I was afforded. After I graduated from college, I returned to Vietnam to reconnect with my eldest sister and relatives and to give my dream a chance. Fortunately, a beautiful orphanage, Chua Duc Son (located in Cu Chanh, Hue) welcomed me as a volunteer. Life in the orphanage was a haven compared to what some children from farming families had to endure. The children of Chua Duc Son were well cared for and had several outlets for expressing their creativity, such as music education, karate, sports, and performing arts classes. Although their biological parents were unable to care for the orphans, the community and nuns pitched together to create a very enriching environment for these children to thrive as individuals.

I grew up in the United For over four months, Vietnam States where fortune telling was once again my home. I rode did not control decisions, my bike during the weekends to where the cost of my bag of visit the orphanage, played volHot Cheetos snack could leyball with the local police offieasily feed a malnourished cers, and talked endlessly to my child in Vietnam a hearty family and new friends. During breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this period, my niece, who is one and where students with po- Students with the Violin Teacher Tuan (far right) from the Cam year younger than me, became Duc Music Program, Vietnam, by Patrick O’Brien - August 2013 tential were given the oppormy best friend. We discussed our tunity to prove themselves different perspectives regarding regardless of their economic conditions. Yet, why did I deserve topics from individuality to volunteering. My long conversathe opportunities to be educated for free with options beyond tions with her sculpted a more defined idea of what I wanted my educational endeavors while many children from rural to do after I returned to the United States. Vietnam have very few alternatives but to turn to the cities, to the fruitless factory line upon entering adulthood? The un“As a young woman, I feel so unrefined. I haven’t gained any justness of our fates perpetuated my desire to do something for skill besides housekeeping. You can play sports, some women


play instruments, sew, but I haven’t learned a talent that I can contribute to in a group setting.” When she first expressed this, it took me by surprise. But in a sense, it was very true. My village had limited outlets for children, especially girls, to discover their talents in sports or in the arts. Yet sports had been so central in building my self-confidence and sense of community as music has been to others. If only I could help foster confidence in underprivileged youth for when they become an adults and to create some sort of creative outlet that my niece and I did not have as children playing with sticks and stones in our village. More precisely, I was hoping for a musical outlet that motivates self-expression and unique qualities so that later on in life, even if these children from villages venture into intimidating cities, they will have the confidence and ability to rely on music as a tool to break down barriers and connect with others from different social and economic backgrounds. For even if they are stuck in the fruitless factory line, their ability to express themselves through music will hopefully help ripen their days.

for six months and fundraising virtually on a fund-matching competition held by Microsoft, Sara, her family, and I finally met in Hue. Shortly thereafter, we journeyed 50 km north to discuss our proposal with the local officials to start a free music program for underprivileged children who have the talent, interest, but a lack of resources necessary to succeed. The officials were very welcoming and look forward to the start of the program. Although there may be arguably more tangible and effective ways to contribute to the home I left, music, more than anything else, has done wonders for the souls of many in this world. Music is a medium that can connect people to their roots, provide a sanctuary for temporary escape, and is a medium in which all people can relate. For more information about the music program and to support our mission, please visit the Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund website: www.

Upon my return to the United States, I spoke with Sara Stevens-Nerone, the founder of Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund, to express my interest in her nonprofit organization. Sara, her partner, and her two adopted Vietnamese daughters had recently started a program to offer free music classes to children in a village near Cam Ranh, Vietnam. Their model of teaching a group of children violin to expose them to the arts and tap into their musical talents was the perfect answer. Replicating a similar model in my hometown would bring a whole new level of musical energy. After communicating by phone and email

The Vibrant Kindergarteners of Phu Kinh village, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam, by Luu Phan - December 2012

Practicing on the new Addition of a Cello to the Music Program, Cam Duc, Vietnam, by Patrick O’Brien Jr. - August 2013


Shih Photography – Jan 2013

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE PREGNANT BAO  UYEN CHAN is just trying to be a Jill-of-all-Trades with a baby while wearing fabulous heels.


oming from a Vietnamese background and marrying into a Chinese family is essentially perfect, particularly since the Chinese and Vietnamese have a lot of similar customary traditions (if not the same) in how we should take care of ourselves pre -  and post -  pregnancy. Let me tell you, some of the stuff that my mom and mother - in - law “suggested” (more like “told”) me to do surrounding my first pregnancy was PURE silliness… **As a disclaimer, I must put out there that my family’s beliefs are NOT to account for the Chinese and Vietnamese culture on the whole. These are from my personal experiences alone**

When my husband and I first found out that we were expecting a child, we were as happy as can be. We couldn’t wait to spread the news to our families. When time came around to share the wonderful news with my mom, she was OVERJOYED, but that JOY quickly turned her into Worry Wendy (an affectionate nickname)…and then the lecturing began. One day when I was putting dishes away, my mom yelled at me… for reaching. I thought, why, that’s an odd reason to yell, so I asked for an explanation. She said that reaching was bad for the baby because it is supposedly discomforting for the baby in the womb. And, of course, I rolled my eyes and quickly


retorted back, asserting that pregnant people have been doing the same thing for hundreds of years and that babies have turned out just fine. There were many other things my mom mentioned that I should and should not do: --I should take small steps to keep my legs closer together at all times. This is to keep the female area nice and tight. --I should not shower or wash my hair for at least 30 days after giving birth… 30 DAYS!!! Can you imagine? --I shouldn’t walk up and down the stairs. --To flatten out my belly quickly, I should use a bottle filled with hot water to roll firmly on my stomach every night for good two months after delivery… I swear by this, it really does work. I am a picky eater, so when you restrict my food choices, it drives me nuts. Fortunately, while pregnant, my cravings were not all that bad. I made healthy choices for the most part by eating lots of salads, fruits and light soups. But occasionally, there were bouts of weird cravings for Doritos Cool Ranch chips… not the chips, but for the seasoning on the chip.


Chicken and ginger rice was my mother’s favorite dish to advocate for. I think I even smelled like ginger for a few months because of it. --Do not drink any ice water or anything cold because it is too cooling for the body, which makes the baby cold. Don’t you feel bad for the people who are preggo during icky hot and humid weather? --Say no to eating crabs, even though Westernized doctors say that you may have it in moderation. Both moms seem to believe that eating crustaceans cause skin irritations, like eczema, for the baby. --No beef. Supposedly, it produces too much blood, which could induce the production of toxic blood. I remember dying for a hamburger after delivery yet having my request rejected by my mom. --Avoid citrus - type foods/ veggies/ fruits because it could cause incontinence issues later on when I am older. I’ll be honest — I am vain. I love to take care of my body and myself as much as I could, and being pregnant was not an excuse to let myself go. Simple tricks and remedies could help you feel terrific even when you feel like a whale:

I would buy a bag, rip it open and grab a chip, suck off the seasoning and throw the chip away. I know, gross. However, in comparison to what my mom and mother - in - law made me eat WAY too much of day in and day out, potato chip seasoning wasn’t all that bad.

During pregnancy, it’s easy to want to become lazy due to fatigue and nausea. I sure had my fair share of both of those issues. However, I believe that one of the most beautiful times in a woman’s life is when she is pregnant.

Here is a snippet of the dietary regiments and restrictions that I had to observe pre and post -  pregnancy, according to the mother - smother duo: --Eat anything with LOTS of ginger in it since ginger makes the body warm at all times to help keep the baby comfortable.

I believe in putting a little color on your face, whether it is lip gloss/ lipstick, blush, or even just mascara. Apply it. You’ll see how much more lively your face and mood becomes. You can even go all out and get lash extensions. Those were my indulgence; I woke up feeling

beautiful and ready to go with eyelashes battering in the wind. Dressing for two can be tricky with a midsection party going on. While you just want to cut out a hole in all the tops and dresses you own to make room for your growing tummy, that’s not going to happen. Instead, a simple solution to looking in shape is to wear singular colors. I love the monochromatic theme, and this doesn’t mean that you have to wear all black (which supposedly provides a slimming illusion). Don yourself from head   to   toe in white, grays, or whatever color that is not only going to slim you out, but will also make you look chic. Avoid wearing lose or baggy clothing to hide your growing physique. You are only making yourself look like a tent by doing so. I don’t believe in having to buy or wear maternity clothing. For one, they are expensive. Instead, I suggest roaming the racks at Forever 21 or other such stores. Leggings were my best friend and are probably still one of my favorite clothing items to wear. I would buy a pair and cut down the sides of the elastic waist band and roll its front down to let my belly hang freely. Every time I would show my hubby, family, or friends my repurposed garment, they would get a kick out of it. Hey! Being clever on attire saves money! As for high heels, I LOVE and LIVE in my heels (4” is my lowest standard). I remember wearing 5.5’ heels two weeks before giving birth, which elicited death stares from my mom along with lectures about how I was endangering my baby. But to that I say, honestly, do what feels comfortable for you. Your body will tell you when you are unable to wear high heels. Can’t wear high heels? Try wedges. Oh, accessories are your best

friend. So, go ahead and put on that statement necklace, stack on those bracelets, or cinch on that cute belt. Like many women during pregnancy, your hormones will be all out of whack and so is your skin. I broke out so much that it looked like I had caviar on my forehead. There was nothing that I could’ve done to stop them from forming, but there are products that you can use to help lessen the outbreaks. My mom told me about a turmeric root called “nghe” that help scars heal quickly. All you would need to do is cut up the root, grind it into the consistency of paste, and spread the mixture onto your scars. You can find this root at any Asian market around. Not into the root remedy? No problem. I applied a mild percentage of salicylic acid on my face and swear by facials. Now, if you were to ask me in the beginning of my pregnancy if I believed in those things that the moms wanted me to do, I would’ve flat out said, NO. But after following through with all the shenanigans that they advised, I now see the benefits of their strong suggestions. There is something to be said for their beliefs because my mom and mother - in - law are two of the most youthful and strongest women I know. Maybe there is some truth to the Vietnamese - Chinese pregnancy myths after all. It has been almost 11 months since the birth of my beautiful daughter, Maya, and I have never felt younger, more radiant, or stronger. However, I will tell you that I will NEVER listen to or abide by the rule “no shower or bathing for 30 days.” Any woman who has been through childbirth will tell you that an immediate cleansing is a MUST! Bảo Uyên - Shih Photography – Jan 2013


MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE VIETNAMESE - AMERICAN COMMUNITY DR. TAM DINH is the Director of Field Education and an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Saint Martin’s University. She is committed to promoting and fostering the fundamental values of social work: service to others, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, integrity, importance of human relationship, and competence through her teaching and research.


hroughout Vietnam’s history, the Vietnamese have had to endure numerous periods of war and subsequent migrations. It is not surprising that these traumatic experiences have resulted in elevated level of mental health problems such as depression, post - traumatic stress, and schizophrenia in the Vietnamese  -  American community. Consistent with a history of trauma and stress in both pre -  and post -  migration periods, research studies find that Vietnamese refugees generally have a higher rate of psychiatric disorders than the general U.S. population. Not only have Vietnamese - Americans experienced turmoil and unrest in their war - torn home country, many continue to experience tremendous hardship in their adjustments to life in the refugee camps and in the United States Upon arrival in the United States, the loss of status and high risk of poverty were sources of stress for many Vietnamese, even for those who were educated and wealthy before the war. Cultural differences and language limitation further isolated them from opportunities in the mainstream community. Long - hours of work, changing family dynamics and


intergenerational conflicts also weakened the cohesion and well being of the Vietnamese family. While mental health problems are pervasive in the Vietnamese - American community, many continue to under - utilize mainstream mental health services. A significant factor associated with under - utilization of services can be attributed to the perceived stigma and shame due to cultural beliefs about mental illness. Other barriers such as lack of knowledge about signs and symptoms of mental illness, lack of knowledge about resources, unfamiliarity with mental health system, lack of culturally appropriate services and cost also keep Vietnamese - Americans from seeking help. Part of the stigma and shame is due to the lack of knowledge about the causes and effects of mental illnesses. To complicate matter, it is often difficult to discern when normal human feelings and behaviors such as feeling sad at the death of a loved one or having nightmares after returning from combat become a mental illness. So while

everyone occasionally feels sad or fatigued and/or suffers from nightmares or disorganized thoughts, it is best to seek professional help when these feelings and thoughts persist and negatively interfere with your daily life. The signs and symptoms presented below are taken from the National Institute of Mental Health website (http://www.nimh.nih. gov/health/topics/index.shtml) and should be use as informational guidelines for people to start understanding their current mental health status. It should also be noted that people with certain mental health problems may not experience all or the same symptoms. In addition, the severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms may vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. However as a general rule, if you are experiencing some of these symptoms and are concern about your mental well being, please contact the resources at the bottom of this article for more information.


--Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings. --Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. --Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness. --Irritability, restlessness. --Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex. --Fatigue and decreased energy. --Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions. --Insomnia, early - morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping. --Overeating, or appetite loss. --Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts. --Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.


The symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re - experiencing symptoms --Flashbacks — reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating --Bad dreams --Frightening thoughts 2. Avoidance symptoms --Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience --Feeling emotionally numb --Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry --Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past --Having trouble remembering the dangerous event 3. Hyperarousal symptoms --Being easily startled --Feeling tense or “on edge” --Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts


The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three broad categories. Positive symptoms are psychotic behaviors not seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms often “lose touch” with reality. --Hallucinations are things a person sees, hears, smells, or feels that no one else can see, hear, smell, or feel. Hearing “voices” are the most common type of hallucination. --Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change. People with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves, the people on television are directing special messages to them, or that radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. They may have paranoid delusions and believe that others are trying to harm them, such as by cheating, harassing, poisoning, spying on, or plotting against them or the people they care about. --Thought disorders are unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking. People may have trouble organizing his or her thoughts or connecting them logically. They may talk in a garbled way that is hard to understand. They may also stops speaking abruptly in the middle of a thought. When asked why he or she stopped talking, the person may say that it felt as if the thought had been taken out of his or her head. Finally, a person with a thought disorder might make up meaningless words, or “neologisms.” --Movement disorders may appear as agitated body movements. A person with a movement disorder may repeat certain motions over and over. In the other extreme, a person may become catatonic. Catatonia is a state in which a person does not move and does not respond to others.

1. Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviors. --“Flat affect” (a person’s face does not move or he or she talks in a dull or monotonous voice) --Lack of pleasure in everyday life --Lack of ability to begin and sustain planned activities --Speaking little, even when forced to interact --People with negative symptoms need help with everyday tasks. They often neglect basic personal hygiene. This may make them seem lazy or unwilling to help themselves, but the problems are symptoms caused by the schizophrenia 2. Cognitive symptoms --Poor “executive functioning” (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions) --Trouble focusing or paying attention --Problems with “working memory” (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

RESOURCES: Asian Counseling and Referral Services: 3639 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. Seattle, WA 98144 (206) 695 - 7600 24 - Hour Emergency Numbers: If you have Medicaid, call the Seattle Mental Health at (1877) 435 - 7054. If you are a non - Medicaid client, call the Crisis Clinic at (206)  461 - 3222. Online 2 - 1 - 1 Community Resources Online: Win211/



Savio is a Doctoral Candidate for the doctorate degree of Management in Organizational Leadership. He is a frequent speaker at educational and religious conferences in Seattle and around the country. Savio was an Associate Professor of Johnson County Community College in Kansas. He is also passionate about music and has composed various songs and poems. You can reach him at Success@

TRYSTEEN THANH-BINH TRAN Copy Editor, Section Editor

Trysteen is an English Professor who teaches at various colleges across the state after earning a BA in English and MA in Teaching at the University of Washington. You can find her collaborating with fellow community leaders on philanthropic projects and as a board member of the Miss VietNam Washington organization.

NHI YEN DO TRAN Project Manager, Section Editor

Nhi was born in Đồng Nai province and immigrated to Washington State at age ten with her family. She received a master’s degree in public administration from Seattle University and currently works for the Seattle Human Services Department overseeing the New Citizen Program. Nhi is fluent in Vietnamese and is passionate about cultivating compassion, wisdom, and inner peace in her and in others. Nhi can be reached via

JULIET DANG Section Editor

Juliet is a 4th year PhD candidate in Oral Biology at UW and is a registered dental hygienist. Her thesis is focused on oral cancer and new types of human papillomavirus. Aside from school, Juliet also acts and models professionally, so be sure to look out for her commercials and films.

TAM DINH Section Editor

Dr. Tam Dinh is the Director of Field Education and is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Saint Martin’s University. She is committed to promoting and fostering the fundamental values of social work: service to others, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, integrity, importance of human relationships, and competence through her teaching and research.


Chi grew up in Washington and enjoys filmmaking, photography, making stuff and singing in her car. She studied Sociology & Education at the University of Washington and has been passionately involved with organizations working with families, children, and creative expression.


Phi-Van was born in Saigon, Vietnam and is currently an international Graphic Design student at Seattle Central Creative Academy. She loves her cat, Oreo, and of course, she passionately loves everything about design. Phi-Van can be reached via

LINH NHAT THAI Printing Manager

Lĩnh deeply commits to public service and community building through collaboration and leadership development, especially by engaging the Vietnamese-American community locally and nationally through civic engagement. Linh represents the Vietnamese speaking population at King County’s Citizens Election Oversight Committee, works as the Community Liaison for US Congressman Adam Smith, and mentors many youth in the community through the teaching of Vovinam-Vietvodao.

TINH VU Distribution Manager

I’m 100% Vietnamese! My passion is to create a sound and stable financial structure for people and for businesses. In my spare time, I research self-improvement methods because I believe that by improving myself, I can help others. Contact me for more information at

FRANCIS TRAN Outreach Manager

Francis is an undergraduate student with aspirations of becoming a physician assistant with an emphasis on community care. Using his energy and talent, he hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams and to unlock the potential in others. When not working, Francis loves being with his family and playing the piano.

Xin Chào 1st Edition  
Xin Chào 1st Edition