Friday, September 1,2006

PARIS – After surviving the privations of a refugee camp and a precarious escape from his home country on rough seas, Andy Tran can now sink back in a leather chair to assess the polished gleam of his nail salon and several women whiling away a few relaxed moments getting manicures.

Tran opened his salon, Perfect Nail, on Route 117 this summer. A 34-year-old from Vietnam who is single, he is not exactly the kind of entrepreneur one typically expects in rural Maine.

“During the time I was in Portland, I see this location is nice and the people are very nice,” Tran said, speaking in his salon recently. “I’m coming here, I like it, that’s why I come up here.”

Drawn to the area after driving through on weekends to fish, he began scouting a location for a salon here two years ago.

Tran still lives in Portland, where he owned a nail salon for two years called Nail Cafe on Brighton Avenue. But he said he soon plans to buy a home in Paris or Norway. His staff of two, both Vietnamese, also commute to the salon from Portland.

Tran left Vietnam 10 years ago, first settling in California. There, he enrolled in a one-year beautification school called Hayward Beauty College after a friend in the business introduced him to the trade. To help pay for school, he worked for a flea market.

The United States wasn’t the first country Tran fled to. He and his brother left South Vietnam and its communist regime in 1989 for a refugee camp in Malaysia.

After spending a week at sea with 29 others on a 30-foot-long boat with no roof, they arrived at Malaysia dazed but intact.

“We don’t think we are still alive,” Tran said, describing the sea journey. “We looked like an ant on the sea.”

Conditions didn’t get much easier at the refugee camp, where he lived for seven years. “I am so skinny, you would not believe,” he said. “I sit down and I stand up and I am so dizzy.”

In 1996, he returned to Vietnam where he acquired a visa to come to the United States.

After receiving his beauty certificate, Tran worked in a mall in Pennsylvania then moved to Maine three years ago after a friend told him he should come. The rest of his family – a brother, sister and mother – live in California.

During a recent morning, several women seeking manicures and pedicures stopped into his salon, a bright, sparkling space sharp with the smell of nail polish.

Candace Rogers of Woodstock works as a nursing assistant at Stephens Memorial Hospital. “All of the girls from the hospital come here,” she said, draping her arm across a small table to get her nails filed.

“Business so far is so good,” Tran said. “I’m very happy.”

September 03, 2006
Roberta Rosenberg

Rebecca’s Journey Home
Michelle Shapiro
Book, Not yet published
Buy now from Amazon.com

“She’ll be Vietnamese and American and Jewish.”

So declares the gleefully excited older brother of baby sister, Rebecca in English, Rivka in Hebrew, formerly Le Tai Hong in Vietnamese, the newest member of the Stein Family via adoption from Vietnam.

Rebecca’s Journey Home is a sweet and heartwarming adoption story that reflects the growing racial and cultural diversity of the American-Jewish community. In fact, adoption is fast becoming a favored choice among Jewish singles and married couples looking to grow their families.

In 1990, the National Jewish Population Survey of the Council of Jewish Federations identified 60,000 adopted Jewish children under age 18 in the US, representing more than 3% of all Jewish children in this country. One quarter of these were born abroad. Today, the numbers and percentages have only increased.

Rebecca’s Journey Home follows a well-trod, familiar storyline popular in children’s literature about adoption. Mrs. Stein, although a proud, happy mother to two boys born to her, decides she wants to parent another baby, this time with a child already born.

There were so many babies and children in the world whose parents had loved them but could not take care of them. Mrs. Stein wanted to be the mother of one of those children.

There are documents to prepare, meetings to attend, and finally the time comes when she will travel to Vietnam to collect her new baby daughter. Mrs. Stein tours a little, shops a little, and emails her family back home while waiting to meet her baby. After a time, Mrs. Stein and Rebecca arrive home to the US to an excited and happy family. (It would have been a nice touch if the story had included the Giving and Receiving Ceremony which finalizes the adoption in the Vietnamese provincial court, but that’s a quibble.)

What sets this picture book apart is the focus on traditional Jewish family practice. The Steins observe Shabbat (Sabbath) every Friday evening. Rebecca is formally converted to Judaism with a visit to the mikvah, the ritual bath, where after she is immersed three times, she then receives her Hebrew name, Rivka Shoshanah.

This is a simple story, lovingly told and illustrated. The author has been a preschool, Hebrew and Judaics teacher. Like Mrs. Stein, she has a daughter adopted from Vietnam. Michelle Shapiro’s illustrations move the story along with her cheerful yet evocative drawings. Her renderings of people will remind you a little of Amedeo Modigliani’s work with their longish faces and noses — and it all works.

Rebecca’s Journey Home concludes with a restatement of who Rebecca is. “She is Vietnamese, American, and Jewish.” And Mrs. Stein wisely adds, “And she’ll be many more things someday.”

Very nicely done.

A perfect storybook for Jewish families with adopted children ages 4 to 8. Traditional Jewish families will especially like its focus on normative Jewish family practices and the centrality of Jewish observance.

For more on the Jewish Community’s “global big tent”, you’ll want to visit Tapestry: Weaving the Multicultural Threads of Jewish Identity. We’re a whole lot more than bagels and blintzes, baby!

13:57′ 01/09/2006 (GMT+7)

Tuoi Tre newspaper and partners concluded their Vietnamese Moment photography competition in HCM City on Wednesday by dishing out cash prizes to several artists as part of the newspaper’s Marketing Vietnam programme aiming to build the country’s international reputation.

Windy: Grace by Tam My won a gold prize at the competition.

The competition’s top prize was awarded to HCM City’s Tran Cao Bao Long, who received VND10mil (US$625) for his photo Than Thien (Friendly) depicting Dao and Mong tourist guides smiling with foreign visitors during a tour in Lao Cai Province’s Sa Pa town.

Two other golden prizes went to the photos Mang Cai Chu Ve Ban (Bringing Books to Villages) and Net Duyen (Grace) by Ngo Dinh Du from Hanoi and Tam My from Binh Thuan Province, respectively.

While Du’s work features two ethnic minority girls carrying books in a field of flowers. My’s photograph captures the smile wind of a young girl wearing a the co traditional Vietnamese ao dai dress and a classic non conical hat.

Five photographs by young and amateur artists in the city and other provinces received VND5mil silver prizes for their portrayal of the country and its people, while 15 additional consolation prizes were also presented.

As part of Marketing Vietnam – a programme that including painting, brand-name, trade and marketing contests – the national competition’s prerequisite was that entry photos introduce Vietnamese culture and lifestyle to foreigners.

Organised by Tuoi Tre and the communication and advertising companies Vietnam Marcom, Future One and Golden Event, Vietnamese Moment received 500 photo entries over four months from many veteran and amateur artists around the country.

To view the photos, visit the website http://www.tiepthihinhanhvietnam.org.vn

(Source: Viet Nam News)


Lien Huong, a famous designer of the traditional Vietnamese dress ao dai, has arrived in the US with costumes for the 60 finalists of the Miss Vietnam USA beauty pageant.

It took Huong, who flew in late last week, four months to make the 60 ao dais, mostly in silk, after being commissioned by the contest organizers.

Of them, 40 designs are from her Sac Xuan (Spring beauty) collection while the others are among her all-time favorites.

The final of the 4th Miss Vietnam USA contest is scheduled for Saturday, September 2, at the Cashman Center Theater in Las Vegas.

For the first time the contest is open to young Vietnamese women from countries other than the US (except Vietnam).

Source: Tuoi Tre – Translated by Thu Thuy

International Herald Tribune


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NEW YORK People who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center in 1993 and the 2001 terrorist attacks are sharing their memories through an oral history project that will be part of the memorial museum at ground zero.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials announced Tuesday that the museum would house the recordings made by the nonprofit organization StoryCorps.

“Through this project, we have an opportunity to ensure that memories will live on long after we are gone, for generations to come,” Bloomberg said.

StoryCorps has set a goal of recording at least one story about each of the 2,979 people killed at the trade center, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11.

The oral histories are recorded like conversations, with pairs of witnesses interviewing each other. The memorial museum is scheduled to open in 2009.

In 157 interviews already recorded, relatives and friends recount their most vivid memories of their lost loved ones, document what is known about their deaths and the pain they felt.

In one of the recordings, Richard Pecorella, 54, recalls meeting fiancee Karen Juday, a 52-year-old administrative assistant for the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm, in the spectator stands of a car race in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

Then, he remembers looking out the window of his Brooklyn office and seeing one of the towers on fire. “I took my office chair and threw it at the window.”

StoryCorps’ founder, Dave Isay, said he hoped the project would serve as a “beacon of hope” for the families, survivors and rescue workers.

StoryCorps runs a larger project, aimed at capturing the memories of average Americans on a variety of topics. Its booth at Grand Central Terminal has collected about 2,500 interviews since October 2003. In May, two StoryCorps “mobile booths” embarked on cross-country journeys.


On the Net:



Vietnamese enterprises are scrambling to tie up with global firms in preparation for the country’s integration which has gathered speed with the imminent World Trade Organization membership.

A slew of announcements were made recently about joint ventures and other cooperation between local firms and international partners.

The most recent was the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank)’s joint debit card with TV music channel MTV Asia, targeted especially at youths.

Besides payments and money transfers anywhere in the world, the card offers promotions and discounts at popular clothing and music stores, coffee houses, bars, restaurants, hotels, resorts, and beauty salons among others.

Singapore company Giant South Asia Investment Pte. Ltd. was another to enter Vietnam through a partnership with a local firm. In July the government licensed the firm to establish a chain of stores within Citimart supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho city, and Kien Giang.

However, it is not clear what kind of arrangement the two retailers, who would otherwise have been competitors, have.

A tie-up between Cadbury Schweppes, the world’s biggest confectionery maker, and Vietnam’s leading food maker Kinh Do, has drawn the attention of international investors.

The deal is expected to help both sides market their products in overseas markets.

Tran Kim Thanh, Kinh Do chairman, said the tie-up with Cadbury was an opportunity to introduce new products and would give access to foreign markets.

A US$ 37 million joint-venture has been set up between SABMiller, the world’s largest brewery, and Vietnam’s top dairy company, Vinamilk.

SABMiller expects to use Vinamilk’s local knowledge and distribution network to break into Vietnam’s emerging beer market.

In July a Vietnamese tourist company joined forces with the world’s 3rd largest travel firm, RADIUS, in what was the event of the year in the tourism sector.

The Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigontourist Transport Joint Stock Company (STC) acquired some stakes in the US firm, becoming one of over 90 such travel firms worldwide.

Becoming a RADIUS partner would enable STC to exploit the former’s 4,900 tourist destinations in over 80 nations.

Reported by Trung Binh – Translated by Ha Viet