A letter to Dad

[Ghi chú: nhấn vào đây để đọc phiên bản tiếng Việt.]

Dear Dad,

Sooner or later, I know you will read this letter. Where should I begin? To demonstrate my pride for a noble father who dedicates his life to family? Or to spin a yarn about the saddest days throughout my childhood? Will this society, and my friends, turn back on me or look at me with a different eye from now on? Whatever happens, I still write this to you. I hope at night I am no longer tormented by the past.

The differences between your generation and mine have created a gap in which we can never understand each other. You play a key role in the family, always ask others to follow your arrangements. I am like a bird that is left behind. I believe everyone has only one chance to live; hence, I would like to stand on my own legs. Someday I may slip on my way, yet I will stand up. Every now and then, I question my existence in this world. And not just once, I lost faith in family values.

When I was young, I was totally proud of you. You are a straightforward and typical person; you know how to do a variety of jobs, you manage to overcome any difficulty; you seldom break promises or get very drunk. But do you know that you just keep people at a distance — not anyone is patient enough to stay long with you? Even your closest friends are pretty reluctant to communicate with you. You are severe to everyone. If anyone does something wrong, you are not easy to forgive and forget. All my siblings are uncomfortable to talk about you. Why can’t we live in harmony and peace?

I remember when I was a little kid, all maternal relatives hated you, and they hated me as well. Nevertheless, I still loved you simply because you are my father. They even interrupted a conversation as I accidentally came across. They were afraid that I would narrate their words; you would then nag at Mom all day long. I comprehended the situation, so I kept silent — those that I had heard would be dissolved into the wind. At a very young age, I already had an inferior complex about family and did not feel as innocent as other kids.

I did not dream of a big house, but a dinner with all three members. A bowl of vegetable soup and a span of tiny shrimp cooked with brine were enough to make me happy. Even so, I did not dare to sit on the same table with you; we both could hardly maintain a good communication. Only Mom could tolerate you, but when she got sick, you rarely took care of her. There was a time when I often felt obsessed: everyday we would not have a good meal without your quarrel with Mom. Have you ever felt what I had to endure?

By third or fourth grade, I was bought a blackboard, and you taught me homework. Day after day I learned how to do unit conversion. Because of being keen on playing with friends, I often gave wrong answers, each of which you punished me. I was frightened and did by habit without any knowledge. You beat me so much that I became indifferent to the rod. Compared to other kids in the neighborhood, my class result was always good, but still could not make you pleased. You usually said: “spare the rod and spoil the child.” What if I had lived in vagabondage or studied badly, would you have ever accepted me as a son?

Everyday before leaving for school, I had to come in front of you to say goodbye. Occationally, I had to repeat a couple of times so you could hear it, then gave me some pennies. I gradually considered politeness as a compulsory behavior that did not indeed come from my heart. I did not mind it any more.

I remembered in the fifth grade, I was sponsored a trip to the city. That was the very first time I travelled by myself, you gave me twelve thousand dongs. I was so happy with the money. But did you know that it was too little for me to buy anything? I kept the whole amount back home. Looking at friends who bought so many presents, I felt sad but without any complaint.

Once, the coordinator selected me to represent the school in the meeting of obedient children. While other students praised their fathers, I felt ashamed inside. How would I brag about my own father? I told about Mom instead…

I remember many late nights — you woke me up to go collecting mangoes. The tree in our neighbor’s garden was very big and laden with fruit. Ripe ones usually fell down at night. I was very scared of the darkness. But because of my eagerness, you took me out. At times I found three or four, I became really excited. We both turned back to sleep, then you went to work and I came to school in the morning.

In biology class, my friend brought one durian plant as a sample. After class, she gave it to me. I grew it in the garden; it has never born fruit for a dozen of years. You often tell me: “every time I see the little tree, I miss the past days you were running around my legs.” So why did you try to grow a dragon fruit plant that killed my flamboyant tree? That made me sad for a couple of days.

Do you remember we used to go swimming in a river? You passed me a ring buoy, released me far away from the bank. At the middle of the river, I felt scared and swam towards you. Now I feel a chill tingle along my spine; however, I was very interested before. I knew you were always observing me. Life is like a whirlpool in many ways, it can swallow us at any time. But beside you, I had no fear.

On heavily raining days with roaring thunders, I felt so terrified that I ran to you and lied on your body. You recalled the days in military. Mom also participated in your story while sewing clothes. Mom said that you were very handsome when you were young, which made me proud of. You told me about your team and American soldiers. Since then I have been dreaming of the land of freedom. Was I born to accomplish your life’s ambition?

“A mother can take care of ten children,
but sometimes ten children can’t take care of one mother.”

I grew up with Mom’s folk songs. After secondary school, I entered high school in the central district. On early days living away from home, I faced up with many difficulties. Every time I returned home and asked you for allowances, I shed my tears out. You calculated every single penny with me. I felt helpless since I was still dependent on family even at that age. I wanted to give up. Then I moved on although I had no idea what was ahead of my reach…

Those are over now. Having gone though bitterness makes me appreciate today. And the story about father and son has not ended yet, has it?

Your son


A letter to my sister

[Ghi chú: nhấn vào đây để đọc phiên bản tiếng Việt.]

Dear sister,

I know you will never get a chance to read this letter; however, I just feel like dropping you a few lines. Because I would like to remind myself of the childhood I was loved and protected by you.

First of all, I have to confess that I now have no memory of the early days when I was carried in your arms. But I will keep forever the stories about our sisterhood through what Mom has told me. That day, our family was very poor, our house was built on someone’s land. Parents were struggling with life to raise their children. Since a very young age, you had stayed home to take care of me and helped Mom in the kitchen. You had to sacrifice many things, worked very hard and searched for food day after day. Once, you forgot to keep an eye on me while playing with other kids, I fell off a pile of sand. Mom punished you, but you did not get upset.

In spite of our family situation, you always have a full heart for me. Do you still remember when we lived near the grandmother’s place, we were often bullied by others? We then moved to a new house, elder sisters had already had their own families. Though you obtained education in half, you would give me a sweet potato or a fruit in full. You would give me everything, wouldn’t you?

The first day I went to primary school and started to perceive the surroundings, you got married. Ever since then I have not seen you often. I miss you and your thoughtful care. At your mother-in-law’s house, you have to work even harder but you always show respect to the older and never look down on the younger. You have taught me many lessons, but the greatest one is about yourself: to live a truthful life, to not become greedy or deceiving.

After high school, I came to Saigon for college, I had another chance to stay near you. Every time we met, we only recalled the happy old days. But your life was filled with sadness, which I could tell through your eyes. I had already grown up, but you looked after me every single thing. Sometimes I felt as if I was still a little kid, always covered under your protection. When I did something wrong, you corrected me. Or when I made an incautious decision, you gave me advice from your personal experience.

I remember when we got some leftover, we both gave up to each other. You told, “this food is not delicious, I am not fond of it at all.” I knew your intention, so I tried to eat more in order for you to be happy. Those were things you never said but I understood fully.

The days I stayed away from our homeland, you were also close at hand. You worked really hard at job but anytime I came by, you welcomed me with a smile. I did not have a chance to take you around the city, you had already left.

Every time I return home, you come to see me no matter how busy you are. Additionally, you carry your little kids who always bring me laughters. Our whole family get together for one day, you cook me many dishes. Others do not like them which I find really good. Perhaps that’s because I am used to your cooking.

Nowadays I become an adult. I have not done anything big or great, but you still feel proud of me. Even though I travel, far or near, I will not forget you. You are not only the most gentle but also the most whole-hearted sister.

Your brother

October notes

Hello, there! This month I am dedicated to translating some of my blog entries into English for a few non-Vietnamese speaking readers. I will still write in Vietnamese, but I am not going to make public as often as before. Sorry, mates.

Black Friday

What a black Friday! Although I had been warned last night that today would be a black Friday, I went to work as usual. Things occured normally. But in the evening, I came to my relative’s house to collect a letter. A cousin of mine asked for some help with his new MP4 portable player. I was too stupid to put an 8-cm CD into my MacBook’s SuperDrive. (Oops! I did it again!) It got stucked without ejecting the goddamn mini compact disc. (Fortunately, it ejected without any effort when I got home.)

Boys and girls, men and women are boring recently. Or is it just because I am feeling blue myself? I think it’s time I started something new. Perhaps I should try designing some Web sites insteading of coding them, as what I have been working on. I need to refresh my creation, or else I would spend a vacation to regain it. Next week will be nice with a gift from a wonderful friend. Let’s see what will happen then.

English for IT

The two (02) most wrongly-pronounced English vocabularies many Vietnamese IT professionals encounter are: source and image.

According to Dictionary.com:

C’mon, it’s 2007 now. Please be corrected!

A lovely weekend

Well, what a nice weekend! It has been a long time I have not gone out with friends. The afternoon, I received a short message from a friend; an appointment was arranged immediately. I called two other guys, then gathered at a karaoké club. This is perhaps the most popular activity for a group – large or small. This time we set up a rule for everybody: who got a score from 80-89 adds 10 thousand, less than 80: 20 thousand. One that hits a hundred gains a 20 thousand (minus) bonus. As you can guess, I was on the top of the list. Which list? – It’s your turn!

Next, we went to a restaurant for cá lóc hấp bầu. It was a pity, there was no dragon head fish available. We then picked up a lẩu cá diêu hồng.

After serving our stomach, the two girls wanted to drop by my house. This embarrassed me a bit! We then headed for my house which is not very far though. We stayed, talked and played a guitar for a while. This once again embarrassed my friend, who is not ready to perform his guitar technique to the public. However, it was really interesting: boys and girls, guitar and moon. Yeah, the moon!

What’s wrong?

I stop at red light, and run when it turns green. Although I go to work after 9 in the morning (late), I leave the office after 6 in the evening (still maintain 8 hours of work each day). So what is the problem?

In the morning, I went to RMIT university to collect my undergraduate certificate, which was postponed because of some error with the order of my registered name on it. When I entered the room, I looked around and did not see the appointed official. One other academic assistant asked me who I was looking for. I turned back and recognized immediately the familiar face. After very light greetings, I heard she whispered, “you just come in and sit.” I had to admit that I was not happy with her words; however, I skipped them because I was in a hurry. She then found my certificate and checked the list. She looked at it for a while and accused me that someone or I had already picked it up? She required me to sign a sample for her examination. I would have been more than happy in case she advised me there was something wrong and she needed to double-check. In fact, she chose to blame on me or anyone whoever had signed that list. This once again made me upset. I have had some bad experience with her. I will like her if she opts to manoeuvre things professionally, especially when she deals with students in an international environment.

In the afternoon, I received an email message stating that salary payment for January might be made tomorrow (uncertain) and 75% of 13th month bonus would be made the following week (25% will be kept without a reason). After some thinking, I decided to respond to my boss, aslong with a CC to everyone. In the reply, I had two questions to ask. Firstly, why it is not absolutely tomorrow (today) that full payment for January will be made? Since the company already had a long discussion about always-late payment months back, it is supposed (despite never officially announced) that the 7th day of each month is the payday. I do think payment may be late for some reason, but it must be stated clearly. Secondly, I don’t understand why the company wants to keep/delay an amount of 25% of the bonus? In general, I can’t accept anything proposed as-is without an explanation or a reason at minimum. A company producing standards-compliant Web sites is considered to operate professionally, isn’t it?

Life is not simple. Or am I so complicated? Who knows?

070107 night

This afternoon, I was notified by Skype that someone wanted to add me to their friend list. I had a short chat session with her, a new friend. Since she had some problem with her microphone, only I spoke during the chat. We appointed to meet for the first time. Yeah, I am interested in such a situation.

The weather of Saigon today was not very nice – cold and misty, dirty. I appeared at her location around 7:00 in the evening. It is very close to one of the places I used to live during my study at RMIT. It came as no surprise to me that she is a uptown girl. We then got out and talked for a while. People working in the music industry are always busy, aren’t they? (She was interrupted many times with her handphone.)

Afterward I went back home for supper and have been playing with my MacBook…


Everyone has a nickname, I bet. Even though you like it or not, nickname follows you for a period of time. People get known of you for your nickname. And to me, nickname is fun.

Fortunately, I have quite several nicknames. All of them are cute. There is nothing particular I cannot share them with you. When I was in high school, friends called me by the names of characters in a popular movie Bao Gong (Justice Bao). Some called me Bao Qing Tian because of my similarly-pronounced name (just a bit), as long with a dark-colored skin, while others named me Zhan Zhao for my jumping ability. During my senior high school period, many gave me names of very popular singer and actor, both Vietnamese and Korean. However, those names do not very much reflect the image of myself. 😉 One of my favorable nicknames happened to me while at university – Mr. Know-it-All. Thanks, guys!

At the moment, being a Web designer at Sutrix Media, one confers me the title of công tử Bạc Liêu (prince of Bac Lieu), others mark me Thiện râu (beard Thien). I know for sure, why he calls me the prince of Bac Lieu is just because Bac Lieu has great canvases of rice fields and I eat rice to live… and that’s it!

With or without connection, nickname is mostly adorable. It is another way to remember a person by their character or appearance. To me, a plain name Thien (or even Paul) is perfect. You? Wanna share?