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The Diaspora 38 Years Later

canada goose store M Vit Nam i, Chng Con Vn Cn y (Oh Mother Vietnam, We Are Still Here) canada goose store

buy canada goose jacket cheap The lyrics from this sentimental song come back to me once in a while, especially when I think of the Vietnamese Diaspora and its complicated relationship with its homeland. One bitter evening on April 30, 1976, in an auditorium in downtown San Francisco, my family and I sang it to mark our first canada goose outlet anniversary in exile. The first of a handful of Vietnamese songs penned abroad after the end of a war that spurred an unprecedented exodus, Oh Mother Vietnam was sung the way a people who had just lost a country would sing it; that is, with tears in our eyes and a cry in our voices. Some in the audience, I remember, even wore white headbands, the kind worn at some funerals to mourn the dead. buy canada goose jacket cheap

Nearly four decades have passed since then. If I were to sing it now, not that I remember the lyrics entirely, I would sing it with a tone full of irony. So removed from that emotional juncture, I wonder to what extent is the song’s declaration still true? Vietnam is accessible now to the Diaspora, but to what extent are buy canada goose jacket cheap we still here for her? Who, in fact, are we?

uk canada goose outlet In his book Tribes: How Race, Religion and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy, Joel Kotkin describes a quintessentially cosmopolitan global tribe as an international community that combines a strong sense of a common origin with “two critical factors for success in the modern world: geographic dispersion and a belief in scientific progress.” Kotkin’s primary examples include the British, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, and Indians. These groups, relying on mutual dependence and trust, created global networks that allow them “to function collectively beyond the confines of national or regional borders.” In subsequent writings, Kotkin has added Vietnamese to his list. uk canada goose outlet

More than four million Vietnamese have fled or migrated abroad since the end of the Fall of Saigon in 1975. They have re established themselves elsewhere, scattered on five continents. These days you can find restaurants selling pho, banh mi, and other Vietnamese favorites in South Africa, Brazil, Dubai, and beyond. I myself have relatives living in six different countries on three continents. But the largest numbers of the Diaspora ended up in North America, and the largest portion of that population resettled in California, where my family and I, and most of my relatives, now live.

Ours is an epic filled with irony: traumatized by wars and bound by old ways of life where land and ancestors are worshipped, where babies’ umbilical cords are traditionally buried in the earth as a way to bind them to the ancient land, we relocated to a country known for its fabulous fantasies, high tech wizardry, and individualistic ambition.

canada goose coats Take, for example, this bus trip I am on. A comfortable bus going south, with the nostalgic music of Trinh Cong Son, sung by the smoky voiced Khanh Ly, echoing from the overhead speaker. Son was the most famous Vietnamese composer during the Vietnam War, the master of love and antiwar songs, and Khanh Ly the most famous singer. The two old Vietnamese ladies next to me are bragging about their children and their grandchildren, and how well they’re doing, and so on. Behind me, a couple of middle aged men are humming along with this song of their youth. And canada goose black friday sale up front two kids are playing handheld computer games while their mother talks endlessly canada goose coats on sale on her cell to someone about her restaurant business. canada goose coats

Vietnamese voices rise and fall; I close my eyes and listen. I swear I could be in Hue heading south to Saigon or Dalat.

Except, I am not. I am on the other side of the Pacific, on my way from San Jos to Orange County, going down Interstate 5 in a Vietnamese owned bus. It is owned by one of three competing Vietnamese companies, which speaks to the infrastructure of our ethnic community in America.

cheap canada goose uk One of the two old ladies comments that she cannot get over the fact that her son and grandchildren live in a big house on a hill in Freemont, California. “To think my son back home wore shorts and played in the rice field, and all my kids studied by lamplight. Now, he’s a big shot engineer. It’s so different, our lives, all these machines,” she says and looks out to the verdant knolls that blur past us. Then, instead of being relieved, she sighs and says in a voice full of nostalgia, “We’ve come so far from home.” cheap canada goose uk

When I think of the Vietnamese narrative in America, I think of my cheap Canada Goose mother’s ancestral altar. In her suburban home on the outskirts of San Jos with a pool shimmering in the backyard, my mother prays. Every morning she climbs a chair and piously lights a few joss sticks for the ancestral altar on top of the living room bookcase and mumbles her solemn prayers to the dead. Black and white photos of grandpa and grandma and uncles stare out benevolently to the world of the living from the top shelf. On the shelves below, by contrast, stand my father’s MBA canadagoosejacketonlines diploma, my older siblings’ engineering and business degrees, my own degree in biochemistry, our combined sports trophies, and, last but not least, the latest installments of my own unending quest for self reinvention plaques and obelisk crystals and framed certificates, my literary and journalism awards.

canadian goose jacket What mother’s altar and the shelves tell is the story of the Vietnamese American conversion, one where Old World Fatalism meets New World Optimism, the American Dream. After all, praying to the dead is a cyclical, Confucian habit one looks to the past for guidance, and one yearns toward that “common origin” to keep him connected to his community, his sense of continuity. Getting awards and trophies, on the other hand, is an American tendency, a proposition of ascendancy, where one looks toward the future and deems it optimistic and bright. canadian goose jacket

So Mother Vietnam, we have survived but we have irrevocably changed. To be Vietnamese American, one learns to lurk between these two opposite ideas, negotiating, that is, between night and day.

Under California’s cerulean sky the newcomers undergo a marvelous transformation. In the Golden State where half a million Vietnamese resettled, dreams do have a penchant of coming true. The newcomer grows ambitious. He sees, for instance, his own restaurant in the “For Rent” sign on a dilapidated store in a run down neighborhood. He sees his kids graduating from top colleges. He imagines his own home with a pool in the back five years down the line things that were impossible back home.

Day and night, indeed. The traumas of the initial expulsion and the subsequent exodus re education camps under communist rules, thirst and starvation on the high seas, years languishing in refugee camps, the horror of Thai pirates and unforgiving storms are over the years replaced by the jubilation of a new found status and, for some, enormous wealth. A community that initially saw itself as living Canada Goose Parka in exile, as survivors of some historical blight, has gradually changed its self assessment. It began to see itself as an immigrant community, as a thriving Little Saigon, with all sorts of make it rich narratives.

Canada Goose Jackets Sister, did you know the man who created the famous Sriracha chili sauce was a canada goose clearance sale boat person? He arrived in America in January of Canada Goose Jackets 1980 and by February already started making his famous green capped bottles of hot sauce. Now his company rolls out ten million bottles plus a year. It’s the next Ketchup. He’s a very rich man. Canada Goose Jackets

Aunty, do you know that the man who started Lee’s sandwiches started out with just a food truck? He parked outside electronics assembly plants in San Jos selling sandwiches to mostly Vietnamese workers, but he parlayed his business into a multi million dollar chain. There are now Lee’s sandwiches shops in California, Arizona, and Texas, not to mention Canada Goose Outlet China, Korea, and Vietnam itself. It’s an international corporation.

Canada Goose Parka Brother, have you heard about the assistant to the attorney general in the George W. Bush administration? canada goose coats He was a boat person and left Vietnam at age fifteen but graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and was editor of Harvard Law Review. He was the chief architect of the USA Patriot canadian goose jacket Act. Can you believe it? Canada Goose Parka

canada goose clearance Soon enough houses are bought, jobs are had, children are born, old folks are buried, businesses and malls are opened, community newspapers are printed, and economic and political organizations are formed. That is to say, ours is a community whose roots are burrowing, slowly but deeply, into the American loam. canada goose clearance

canada goose black friday sale The pangs of longing and loss are thus dulled by the necessities of living and by the glory of newfound status and wealth. citizen (more or less a transition of convenience) and finds that the insistence of memories insists a little less as he zooms down the freeway toward a glorious chimerical cityscape to work each morning. canada goose black friday sale

canada goose coats on sale We fled abroad and changed, and we in turn developed extraordinary influence back home. The rich, well fed Vietnamese abroad sent gifts and letters home, kept impoverished relatives fed. They sent pictures of themselves. “See, Tree Hang and Hien? They’re Helen and Henry now. Aren’t they so tall? It’s the American milk and peanut butter, you know. They make Canada Goose sale your bones large and strong. Henry has a canada goose PhD. And Brother, look. ” canada goose coats on sale

canada goose uk shop The relatives devoured the photographs with their eyes. Beyond those handsome, smiling young adults who pose with such ease next to their sports cars is, inevitably, Canada Goose online that two story house with its two car garage, as if in mockery. During the Cold War, like sirens, such images were the final tug that lured some Vietnamese from their shantytown toward the open sea. canada goose uk shop

uk canada goose So much yearning for America changes the character of Vietnam itself. Vuot bien to cross the border became a household verb in Vietnam in the 80s. Viet Kieu literally “overseas Vietnamese,” buy canada goose jacket people of Vietnamese origin now living abroad became a powerful symbol in the 80s and 90s canada goose deals for all Vietnamese of their potential, the future. And it is universally understood that the Viet Kieu, with their wealth and influence, can change the fortune of their poor cousins. uk canada goose

Returning Vietnamese expats at the Tan Son Nhat Airport

Until a decade or so ago, Vietnam’s narrative of herself was that she’s four thousand years old. Her milk is dry, her hair gray, she suffers from astigmatism. She has little to offer her numerous children. America, on the other hand, is young, rich, and optimistic: everything that Vietnam cannot be. Vietnamese, increasingly a younger population and full of yearning, inevitably dream of America, a place they imagine of peace, freedom, and wealth, and of little suffering.

For let it be noted that, despite the horror and bloodshed of the war, the Vietnamese missed the Americans after they abandoned the country. Stepping over broken wings of warplanes and moss covered fragments of rusty old tanks, young Vietnamese search for America. The American relics offer wondrous possibilities. Assemble the broken parts and you might end up with a car, a bridge, or even a homemade factory. Dig up some missing bones and crown the assemblage with an MIA’s dog tags and, who knows, you might turn it into a coveted treasure, an American GI’s bones, to be sold to Americans for a lot of money.

Canada Goose sale A few years ago, I went back to Vietnam to participate in a PBS documentary, and I did the touristy thing: I went to the Cu Chi Tunnel in Tay Ninh Province, bordering Cambodia, the underground labyrinth where the Viet Cong hid during the war. Canada Goose sale

Canada Goose Outlet There were a handful of American vets in their sixties. They were back for the first time. They were very emotional. One wept and said that, during the war, “I spent a long time looking for this place and lost friends doing the same.” Canada Goose Outlet.

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