Village Era 1991 - 1999
It is open market day. My mom bought me new clothes from one of the stands. It’s not new year, why am I getting new clothes? She and dad left for the city leaving my brothers and I at home to play with the neighboring kids. I am the boss of all kids so I do the dirty work. I drop the big rock into the puddle so all of us could run away as fast as we could. I am so stupid.
My brothers and I play soccer with the neighboring kids everyday after our parents leave for business in the city. My brothers don’t usually let me play with them. I hate it. I get to boil water for the boys to drink.
The neighboring girls, my younger brother, and I like to play with fire. We dig a hole on the side of the house to “cook” on broken china when my parents are in the city.
Moon Festival - 1998
My older brother is a wimp. He would not stand up for himself when the market sweeper’s son demands my brother for fire to light up his lantern. My brother IS IN A FIGHT! He’s getting beat up! Oh NO! I cry while hitting that punk.
The neighboring girls and I found flowers so we are making a fire to melt our candles and cook the flowers. The smell is beautiful.
The Wooden House (1991-1999)
The back door is the perfect way to get into the main wooden house when our parents lock the door prior to leaving for the city. My younger brother holds the door while I squish myself through the small hole to get inside. We steal our parents candy when we make it inside.
It’s raining (it has been for days now). The wind is blowing hard. Oh no, our roof is gone! The kitchen is so wet.
The Dark Era (1997)
“You’re in trouble, Dad wants you home NOW!” – Vu, my younger brother. “What for?” – me
“He found out that you took candy from the house” – Vu “Oh no, what do I do???” – me
“I will pretend like I didn’t find you. Go hide!” – Vu “Ok, I’ll be at Bac Phanh’s house” – me
Walking with contradiction, I am in so much trouble!
“lay down” – dad with a pile of freshly cut coffee branches “yes, sir” – me
he is beating me. It hurts. One coffee branch after another, am I dying? “that’s enough, you’re killing her” – mom
“get on your knee” – dad to me
I’m on my knee crying “yes, sir” to everything
mom helps me up
“why did you steal? Don’t do that ever again” – mom I’m crying. Everywhere hurts.
“get out of my house. Take off all of your clothes” – dad to me “enough” – mom
mom and dad argues
The doctor is talking to my mom. He is giving me medicine? I’m alive, I’m ok.
The Boarding School (2000-2003)
Older brother is somewhere in the city going to school. How come I don’t know that? He hasn’t been around?
Older brother is home! He has new clothes and long fingernails. That’s unheard of, he’s an adult!
I don’t want to clean her underwear because she tells me to. I guess that means I’m getting beat up. This boarding school thing sucks!
I don’t want to give them my money. They never give it back like they said they would. Why are they doing that? I trusted them.
I have to pick a side? Why can’t we be friends?
I don’t like it here, they pick on me. I have to find ways to survive.
I don’t like it here. I want to have money for snacks. I want good food. I want my mom. I want my dad.
My brother is being bullied. No, don’t give them what they want! Does that mean I’m getting beat up later? Oh, no I better be careful.
Don’t drink that water. The guys pee on it from the third floor.
I’m so bored here. They don’t let me go outside. I just want to be free. I don’t have friends either.
My older brother is in trouble again. His class leader is here on behalf of his teacher, saying something about he hasn’t been in class. I have to go find him at one of those video game places again. Why is he doing this? “Don’t go back, you’re going to get beat. Just wait until later tonight. I will come back and let you know” – me to brother
My younger brother is crying while another boy is cussing at him. I jump onto the table and start beating the boy.
My older brother is getting some weird infection on his penis. He showed me, but I don’t know what to do. The caretakers don’t care and we don’t have a way to contact our parents.
Oh yay, mom and dad are here. We get to eat as much as we could. They always give us snack money before they leave. That money won’t last. The big kids will take them.
I don’t want to pay for that broken door. I didn’t start the fight. He was spraying deadly toxic water at me so I had to hide.
The United States
Something is going on. Why are mom and dad fighting again? Mom is smoking? Is she drinking? That’s bad. Women can’t do that.
I miss Vietnam. I’m confused. Why are we here?
Why are these people putting stuff out on their yard? It’s like an open market! They’re throwing all of these stuff into the garbage? That’s so wasteful.
“Don’t play with the neighbor boy. He will sue you if he falls” – the Vietnamese woman. People here are so complicated. We want friends.
Grandpa is sick. Mom is worry. Mom is always worrying, he will be fine! Mom is flying to Vietnam on Tuesday with Vu. Mom is on the plane. Dadis calling someone in HoChiMinh city to pick her up. Grandfather is gone. Mom doesn’t know. Oh no, what do we do. What do I do? Dad doesn’t like grandpa. Can I cry?
The New House (2005)
We have a house now. Our house is beautiful. I have my own room.
Why aren’t we happy? Why are we fighting so much. Why is everyone so unsatisfied?
“Get out of my house and don’t come back” – mom
“Don’t worry, you will never see me again” – me
Interior Design School (2012)
I get to be creative for homework, this is the best ever!
My teachers suck! My TA gives me no time. He likes those girls over there. Why are these sorority girls so needy and fake?
“Can you drive me to Milwaukee, near Canada this Saturday?” – me
“What are you doing? Why are you going? This is not good enough?” – dad
“I’m going for my future. Think for me too. You know I’ve been wanting to leave” – me
Why is mom crying? Is she being dramatic again? I hate stepping foot into this house.
“Mom, I’m leaving for Milwaukee, near Canada tomorrow morning at 7. I’m going for school. I’m here to borrow the big car” – me
“Your brother is not listening to me. He thinks he is … blah blah.” - mom
“Okay, I will see you when I come back” – me
I want to leave, but I don’t really want to leave. I will miss my boyfriend, but I can’t breath here. I’m leaving and it’s FINAL!
Dad is so angry. We don’t have a place to stay and he is yelling at me. He is pissing me off. Do I want to be in this situation? No! That girl is supposed to be here and she’s not! These hotels are shit! Why are they telling me they don’t have room? When is she coming? I need her here so my dad stops yelling.
They all left. I’m here all by my self now. What do I do? I don’t even have money to survive. Time please fly! I need to be okay.
I can’t tell them what I know. My boyfriend will be in trouble. Why isn’t my boyfriend telling me everything? How about Wes, is he going to be OK? Why is Wes family leaving him? I would never leave if I were to be his wife, even if he was wrong. He must be lonely.
My boyfriend is telling me to worry but don’t say much on the phone. Wes is in trouble. This is getting serious.
He’s Leaving (2014)
I guess this is goodbye. I guess I should give you back your ring so we don’t become cheaters. Why aren’t I crying? Why aren’t I in pain…yet?
I miss him more and more each day. What is this? Why is he with another girl already?
I miss him a little too much. I think of him a little too often. I need to stop. It has been more than a year.
Stepping for into that house is still cold and dead, but at least mom and I have a good relationship now.
It’s nice to be home, I feel like a princess when my mom does my laundry.
At any party, I am popular because people miss me.