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Thứ Năm, 12 tháng 8, 2010

- Are you from China, girl?
- No, Im from Vietnam.
- Ho Chi Minh city?
- No, Ha Noi. The other city.
- Oh, you’re from the north
- Yeah
- That’s a bad part of the world, eh? Very bad, very bad.
- Why? It’s not that bad. Why do you say so?
The old, friendly man on his wheelchair threw me a pitiful glance. Im not sure if he felt sorry for my ignorance of an obvious fact, or for my “suffering” in that “bad part of the world”. Seeming to sense my stubbornness in the question, he shrugged:
- That is a communist city, the communism and everything….
The elevator came, he drove his wheelchair inside and asked:
- Are you gonna go up?
- No thank you. Im just staying here to put up some posters.
He disappeared behind the closed door. I pinned down the poster and thought to myself: “It may be bad in one way or another, but it is where my heart is. MY city. MY hometown. Isn’t the possessive adjective enough to make it beautiful?”

Today I attended the New Canadian Centre’s Annual Meeting. It was interesting to know that the Centre actually started off as a response to a large number of Vietnamese refugees to Canada in the late 1970s. Those people are commonly known as “boat people” because they came to Canada mostly through concentration camps in Thailand, Hongkong and they always left on boats. The Centre has grown over 30 years into a non-profit organization, which serves clients from many different countries, who share the same goal: become Canadian. But it was the Vietnamese refugees who first called for the need of such an organization. This is fascinating because as I have always heard and witnessed it myself, Peterborough is pretty much a “white-off” community. There are not many ethical groups thriving in this small town, and for sure, although there are Vietnamese people, there is no sense of Vietnamese community here (not to mention a very small group of Vietnamese students at Trent, which, by the way, consists of mostly people from the same class, having the same social status and about same age)

More than once, I felt grateful because I can say for sure who I am and where I am from. A Canadian friend told me his grandfather- from his father’s side- is from country A. His father’s mother is from country B. So are his grandparents on his mother’s side, C and D. Basically, he is the mix of about 4 different countries, and it can be more than that due to the fact that his family has moved a lot. He can’t know for sure. Yes, he is Canadian, but Canada is a land of immigrants more than a country. He can’t say where he is originally from. After listening to my detail account of where my grandparents on both sides are from, he enviously told me with a sigh: “Well, so you can say that you are from northern Vietnam, right? You are so lucky”.
4. Nationalism is a modern concept. Before modernity, people didn’t have clear boundaries. War after war, history is an ever-going process of land expanding. People travelled and settled as they wished. They would claim their possession if they were powerful. They could build (and have) their own country if their army was better than others. That could not be the case now.
5. People say that China is trying to invade Vietnam by taking our two islands. People say that communist is too bad a kind of government for a country to defend itself. People say that we need to fight back China, we need to fight back capitalism, we need to fight back communism, blah blah blah.
Who is to decide what is right and what is wrong?
Life is just a moment. We are all human beings. We all come from a hole and will return to a hole. Or we all come from Heaven and return to Heaven, if you will. Or put it yet another way, we all are dust and will return to dust.
So what is the point of arguing and fighting? Since nothing will last, why cause more suffering? Why don’t the big country live happily with what they already have?
6. I have started to wonder who I am. Putting aside all IDs, look at my face, what traits are Vietnamese? If I keep swimming back in the stream of history, who I will find to be my ancients? All in all, there is no such list that when I check myself against it, 8 out of 10 items will confirm that “ I am Vietnamese”.
It is not a fact, it is just what people tell each other to believe in. So to live an easy life, let’s just believe.

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