The last place I thought I’d see you was Viet Nam.
It’s been four years since the screaming has stopped, since your back was the last thing out the door. And four years since I wasn’t even there to see it go. Four years; and the thing we most shared that weekend was silence.
Here I am at age 20 in your que huong, but here we were at opposite ends of the boat, making its way through river deltas to countryside full of rice paddies and your childhood memories. Two years ago, I sat in this same boat with your brother who told me this stream was the exact route you took to escape Viet Nam. And at this moment, with all of our silence, all I wanted to do was break down this wall. You were a young man escaping Viet Nam with nothing but the clothes on your back. Four years of Thailand refugee camps only to come to America to live in poverty. Mowing lawns and picking up dog shit for boujie ass “clients” to make a living and raise your three daughters. And it all rings in my head, Colonization. Revolution. War. Flight. Encampment. Poverty. Everything I’ve learned in these past few years tells me that what happened was all consequence of this fucked up thing that happened that was out of your control. Chasing that American dream broke you into pieces… broke me into pieces. And what I can’t understand is why I know all of this, that all this shit that happened to our family was bigger than just one man, but I still can’t look at you like you were the man you were ten years ago.
And here, at this stream and in this moment, all I wanted to do was ask you questions. I wanted to know was how it felt to come back to your que huong after all of this mess. I wanted to know what was going on in your head at that exact point. And I wanted to hear stories of childhood memories about living in the countryside, but I couldn’t do any of that.
But I wish I could’ve.
—submitted by elovephant
" This is a blog entry I wrote during my time in VN Fall 2010, I thought this tumblr would be an appropriate place to share some of the struggles in my journey of understanding my life/hystory in the SEA context. "
Saloth Sar was born on May 19, 1925, to a middle-class family in a riverside fishing community. If he was to have been born in America, he would have spent his childhood in the glamour of the Roaring Twenties, only to have the majority of his youth amidst the Great Depression. But Sar was not born in America. He was born in what is today north-east Cambodia. And he would experience much more than what the average American went through during the Depression.
Sar’s early years in the fishing village was marked heavily by the presence of France as a colonial power. It is not hard to imagine what Sar’s feelings toward the empire was.
He was not a fantastic student during his adolescent years; while he gained entry into an exclusive school in the capital, he soon dropped out. However, his academic interest was piqued by the expanding field of radio, and he began to study radio electronics. Soon, he excelled to the point of winning a scholarship to study abroad in the West—ironically, at a private French engineering school.
In the early 1950s, Sar, remembering his experience with French colonialism, was easily influenced by Marxism, through the medium of anti-colonial communists, who preached a narrative that interwove anti-colonialism with the ideas of Karl Marx. There was something about the ideals of communism—of freedom, of equality, of economic opportunity—that rang well with the young man who grew up under French tyranny. He readily absorbed information on Marxism and a doctrine of Revolution.
And he was not alone. His circle of dedicated, communist, and nationalist friends grew throughout his university years. United by their nation, Cambodia, and their ethnicity, Khmer, Sar and his friends formed an ideological bond. Together, they managed to transform the campus’ Khmer ethnic club, the Khmer Student’s Association, into a nationalistic, leftist activist group. Predictably, the French did not appreciate a rebellion within their borders, and promptly shut down the group. But this only served to drive the radical group underground, and they formed a new student group that secretly practiced the trappings of the disbanded one.
Eventually, Sar and his colleagues would return to Cambodia, where they would join with the leftist groups in Cambodia. Highly intelligent, and holding several doctorates amongst them, the group of friends who were once united by their shared nationalistic and communist beliefs, would use their solidarity to rise up through the communist factions in Cambodia, until they eventually gained control of the growing movement against the incumbent monarchy of the country.
This group would become known as one of the most educated Asian communist revolutionaries in history, and the forefronts of a successful communist takeover of the Cambodian government.
However, this would not be the group’s lasting legacy.
When Saloth Sar entered the capital of Cambodia in 1975, the victor of a bloody, communist revolution against the right-wing government, he ceased to be Saloth Sar. After gaining control of the nation, Sar changed his name to a symbolic name which he preferred: Pol Pot.
Pol Pot, and his Khmer Rogue government, controlled by him and his old college friends from Paris, went on to kill over 2 million of their own countrymen in one of the worst genocides in the modern age.
Let our political and philosophical ideas and opinions not become transformed into fundamentalism and dogma. Resist oppression and fascism, even if it comes to you under the guise of Revolution and Egalitarian Freedom. And do not grow impatient with the hardy task of transforming a society. It is tough work, and immediate changes often result in disaster.
keepin’ it simple, keepin’ it beautiful. thanks for keepin’ it going. SASC<3
Why are you so awkward? People tell you this all the time huh? That’s because they fail to see what’s beneath The black and white exterior that is fur.
People only see you on land, Where your short legs render you incapable Of walking without bobbing your entire body To either side. But I see you.
I see a kind and caring soul. Not many are willing to take sacrifice to the level That you do. Braving the cold winds so the little ones can live To see another day. See if humans were like you,
The world would be a less miserable place. But we’re too busy stuffing our own mouths With bullshit that we don’t recognize the injustices that surround us. It’s always me-this or me-that and before you know it,
We’re too fat from our own greed and selfishness To stand up and do anything about it. Such is the fate of our future generations, Unless we start acting like these penguins.
If we put our pride and egos aside for just a minute To reach out to someone we should have helped A long time ago, then maybe I can start watching the news again And not have to hear how little Timmy took his own life.
Dear penguin, I wish to be like you. The world needs more caring souls like you. And if anyone dares to call you awkward again, Just smile and wave, my friend.
the Pacific touches the bottom tip of Southeast Asia a long thin “S” shaped strip marks the land my parents still breathe when their tongues speak dialects of bắc and nam
i unravel a culture fresh fish sauce stench in the barking market center the motor bike exhaustion pipe echoes through the city of Sài Gòn my arms wrap tightly around ba as he drives off to remember home before the war where rusty rivers flowed rapidly children played restlessly no bombs to shake up play…
and i swear i could smell down in the Southern countryside sweet scent of a hard day’s work sweat falling from the sun’s kiss in rice fields my grandparents owned
mosquito nets hang from ceiling iguanas hang from walls and sometimes, fall into bed frightening foreigners like me snake slithering in front of ông nội’s yard challenging my daring cousin to another battle i watch in awe his fearless attitude…
no photo albums filled with adventures only blurred memories of my visit five years young too young to embrace ideas of culture but i always wonder when time will give me a chance to reclaim my parents’ history
my voice verbalizing broken Vietnamese my hands unable to stir up dishes that keep the soul full-fill my body floats to America’s music but doesn’t budge to Việt Nam’s wardrobe collecting black clothes unlike mẹ who used to push pedals biking in a white áo dài everyday…
and then i hear the story of roots wrapping around umbilical cord buried beneath soft soil since the beginning of birth mine were never buried but i pretend they are to be connected in someway to remember again home in Việt Nam
- em(ily) lalaland
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