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Thứ Ba, 2 tháng 11, 2010

Morning. It was -7 degree when I woke up. Didn't want to go to class, but since I have only 2 classes a week, I can't afford missing one.

There is an article we read this week that titled: "Trip to Hanoi: Building international consciousness" which is about American activists came to Vietnam during the world to observe and report and demonstrate their solidarity. Well, at one point, my professor said: "It is the first war that the American lost and now the relationship between them and the Vietnamese are just normal as any other country" (as compared to Cuba and China)

That was quite a moment. Being what I am, growing up in a family sometimes can be considered pro-colonialism, saying things like we should have let the Americans stay, we could have been much better off, especially with individual (like my uncle) fiercely opposes communist ideology to the extent that Im always in doubt of what I have known about the war. That sentence was a confirmation from the other side, from an outsider, from the West, from people who are not biased. I didn't feel extremely proud, but quite marveled (and could feel my classmates marveling) at my country. My professor also said: "I don't know if many French people go to Vietnam to visit the battles they lost, but traveling to former colony is quite common." Never has the word "lost" sounded that sweet.

Afternoon. I met my professor first time this term, after many emails full of apologies and excuses, I had lived with guilt for days after days. I have been very lazy, indeed. Sometimes his reproachful face appeared in my dream. And I was anxious to anticipate a "I have enough with you" kind of conversation.

But it turned out fine. He was very reassuring, and as inspiring as usual. I felt bad that he had to take the bus all the way from Toronto just to meet with me for 2 hours, then take it back, and he is over 70 (I guess). Every time I talked to him, I was overwhelming with the openness of a vast ocean of knowledge. There is so much to learn and to understand. We can move from sociology of religion to philosophy, cosmology, psychology of religion, we can do as much as I am capable of. As a result, I went to the library and got a full bag of books, one of them is Kim Vân Kiều, with the verses in Vietnamese and an English translation in proses. I decided to check the book out when my eyes caught the verse: "Hai bên cùng liếc, hai lòng cùng ưa". I liked it.
My life is in order again. Would have a day free of guilt again.

Evening. I expected to visit Marg. She is an old lady I've been friend with for almost 3 years. She loves me, as far as I can tell. Last Saturday, I canceled a gathering with her, because Linh and anh Tuấn made bánh bèo, actually 3 different kinds of those, and that was more than enough to seduce me into staying home.

Adrian told me she didn't believe him when he told her I didn't come. She went out to the hallway and called out my name to look for me. She really has difficulty walking, even standing up from a chair, so it's not funny to imagine her going all the way and getting disappointed because I wasn't there. But yeah, I spent almost 5 hours with the two of them yet still didn't get bored. We all said non-sense stuff to each other, which means whatever came to mind, me, a 81 years old grandmother and a 37 single man. I just love her old language, all the phrases she still uses since she was a little girl, her life story, and how it was in winter without electric heat and sometimes even hot water in "the olden days" (in her words)

When she told us about how she met her husband, that he wrote a letter to her even before she was aware of his existence, it was such a beautiful love story that it almost brought tears to my eyes. Probably also because of the atmosphere, she was really living the past, and I was on the ride with her. The present, to people like her, doesn't mean much anymore. They live with the past, live by it and live thanks to it. Then once again, I realized how each and every ordinary life can contain striking, moving, heart-touching story, as long as you know how to listen. Living an interesting life is paying full attention to each and every encounter, isn't it? Because we are humans.
We just stopped when all of us got too tired, plus Adrian needs to work early tomorrow. By the end of the evening, I won a Rummikub game (it's a fun table game) and Marg has told us about a band playing in that retirement home this afternoon the third time. Adrian and I laughed wholeheartedly as if we had never heard about it.

And here I am, sleepy but happy. In a cold bright room.

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