Happy 2010.  I’m tired of separating the two.  Why not let my Vietnamese “ness” shine a little more in my daily blog?  VietMom is going mainstream.  Visit my new posts at mamalounge.



I own two books from local authors I know:

Tran Khan Khuyet  Little Weaver of Thai-Yen Village. It is out of print but you can find used copies online.  The book illustrates the life of young Vietnamese girl whose life is interrupted by the Viet Nam war.

The second is Going Home Coming Home by Truong Tran. This story follows a girl on her first time journey to visit Viet Nam.

They’re both excellent books with substance, colorful illustrations, and written in both languages.  Non-Vietnamese folks or books that are translated into Vietnamese. Hint—we need more children book authors in our community!

Adopt Vietnam has a recommended reading list as well.  Do you have any bilingual book recommendations?

Remember These

Remember These

I was googling and found a yahoo forum on the topic of spanking in Vietnamese culture.  Sure, I knew plenty of moms and dads who spanked their kids when I was growing up.  How many of us have military dads?  I do. They have a certain way of punishment.   Sure, I was spanked a total of 5 times but it stopped after I turned 8.    He spanked me with that bamboo feather duster.  My dad announced that my punishment would occur in ten minutes and I sat in my room dreading the moment.  By the third time, I figured out to stuff my underpants with CHARMIN in that short time period before I was to report to the living room for my whippin’.

I learned my lessons.  I’m not saying I advocate spanking but it did do me some good.  I knew not to lie to my dad after that.   Certainly it does exist in our culture–Viet parents are strict.

Any one else spanked with the slipper or feather duster?

My mom makes me nuoc mam and brings it to me in a recycled jar on a bi-monthly basis.  It’s nice to have her homemade sauce on-hand.   Yesterday,  the jar toppled over and spilled in the fridge.    The sweetness, stickiness, and bits of minced garlic makes it challenging to clean when it’s splattered over 2 shelves.   One sponge and 10 paper towels later, I’m sad because my mom’s nuoc man is all gone.

Read Shaved Ice Sundays excellent recipe.

courtesy of Shaved Ice Sundays

courtesy of Shaved Ice Sundays

My top three favorite words:

hiền (gentle/virtuous)

dễ thương (lovely)

tình cảm (affection)

Of course, there’s never the perfect English translation for those words. Tell me some of your favorites. Btw, this is a kick-a** dictionary: vdict.com

Volunteers in Asia–I volunteered with VIA back in 1995.  We had to really rough it back then, VN was still underdeveloped.   Anyways, it’s a good way to live in Viet Nam for the first time.   Plus, you get to visit Japan for a week before landing in your VN post.   They have summer and year-long programs.

Room to Read-This organization builds libraries and schools all over VN.

-Deer Park Monastery- A program built by Thich Nhat Hahn that provides spiritual support.

YOLA– A new social learning platform that teaches English to VN students on line.

East Meets West Foundation– They do everything from building schools, medical interventions, and clean water initiatives.

I’m sure there are more groups doing work, please feel free to add via the comments section.

Anything sound interesting?  Get in touch and volunteer!

You gotta love the kitchy viet gear that’s being created all over the world.  Here are some  cute finds for the whole family:

Available at Cafe Press:

I’m PHO real bib


I heart My Me


I highly recommend tees from fiftyseventhirtythree:

il_430xn48041763I have this shirt in green and love it!

Let me know if there are other cool viet collections out there.


For those living in Southern Cal and looking for ways to support young people in our community:

Project Motivate is hosting a gala fundraiser this coming Friday, April 17.

From the organizers:

“Our young people all have innate potentials for purposeful living,” said
Dr. Xuyen Dong-Matsuda, “I believe our roles are to respect and love them
for who they are, and to give them the support they need.”

Project MotiVATe serves as a culturally relevant resource to underserved
Vietnamese youth and their families in Orange County, who are among the
largest Asian racial subgroup in the County (Census 2000).  Through its
annual summer camp, one-on-one mentoring, weekly study halls, monthly events
and an all-volunteer staff, Project MotiVATe ensures that all mentees
graduate high school and pursue higher education while creating
opportunities for personal growth, cultural connectedness and social

Yesterday I took Kai to see his great grandparents. It’s not the storybook type of visit in the American sense. You know where great grandma’s house would be a cute cottage tucked away from the city. First, my ba noi’s house is not a house. Actually it’s a studio not more than 400 square feet in the heart of the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. They moved in during the early 90s. Of course their landlord has been trying to pay them out at 15K to move out so they can rent the place for triple. It’s never going to happen because ba noi refuses to be displaced.

Though it is hectic to walk through the grittiness of the TL to arrive at their place, it is well worth it. Inside I always discover new relatives that recently arrived from Viet Nam who are enthusiastic to talk about ESL classes at City College. Yesterday I was particularly impressed that we packed about 20 people in their studio. We ate banh beo, goi cuon, and bun bo hue while sitting on those mini plastic stools or on the floor. For a moment, I felt like I was in one those Spencer Nakasako documentaries. But even better, it’s our life. No matter how much upward mobility Kai and I may experience, his great grandparents will always keep us grounded.

My Favorites

Anh Hung Tran films. Some people find his films a bit slow, but I love them and watch them over and over again. The cinematography is always on point.  It’s cool that his wife always appears in the movies too.

My favorites are Xich Lo and Vertical Ray of the Sun

Mai’s America— A wonderful documentary about Mai who comes to America as an exchange student. As the viewer you become so connected with this spunky girl.

The Owl and Sparrow– This movie I could watch a few times.

Three Seasons— One of my favorite films of all time.

The Anniversary—A short film by Ham Tran which is extremely moving.

Kieu Supertalented San Francisco filmmaker Thu Ha Vu made this film which was a hit in film festivals all around the country. This was written and produced by an all women crew too. I’m still waiting for the DVD release.

Films I Can’t Sit Through

Quiet American—This film was set in Viet Nam and it was critically acclaimed. But I personally could not sit still when Michael Caine was combing through Do Thi Hai Yen’s long hair. Hmmm, it brought back bad memories of men with an Asian fetish.

Heaven and Earth—When I watched this film when I was 16, I liked it only because it was rare for me to see Vietnamese on film. When I pulled it out again at age 30, it was a totally different experience. Not a favorite in my book. Though I give props to Le Ly Hayslip for sharing her story.

Simply FObulous— My friend lent this to me as a joke. I don’t understand why the director couldn’t cast the mom with a Vietnamese actress? Instead you have someone who is Filipino play the mom. The accents are so different!

First Morning – I wished I had liked this film more. The message of the film was compelling and universal but the film was missing something.

Tearjerker Film

Hearts and Minds— An Oscar winning documentary about the war by Peter Davis. I watched this two times in a film class and I was bawling so much I had to leave the room.

Am I missing any films on the lists?

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