11:20′ 12/11/2006 (GMT+7)

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Teacher Presley and students of the Hanoi University.

VietNamNet Bridge – The teacher stands with his face to the wall pretending to cry. Another teacher plays the part of an employer interviewing students. Teachers and students make pizza, research ancient poems, eat bun cha, drink sugarcane juice… together. Foreign lecturers are ‘conquering the hearts’ of Vietnamese students with their whole-heartedness and friendliness.

 

Everything in modern style

 

In the classroom of class 10A – 06, English Department, Hanoi University, in a corner, an American lecturer, Mr Presley McFadden, is facing the wall and crying while his Vietnamese students are laughing.

 

Nguyen Thi Hoa, a student, explained: “The teacher is giving an example of the form of punishment that parents often give to their children. His class is always interesting and joyful like this because he often performs hilarious dialogues or humourous actions like this to help us understand and remember the lesson”.

 

Most of the first-year students of the Korean Faculty of the Hanoi University worried because they would have to study with Korean teachers while they didn’t know one word of Korean. However, Ngoc Mai, a student from H2-06 class, said: “Ms Song, my Korean teacher, often sings a short song in Korean, and then she explains the meaning of all the words. Sometimes she gives us quizzes or crossword puzzles to teach us new words. After each class with Ms Song, our vocabulary has improved remarkably”.

 

Hanoi University currently has around 30 foreign lecturers from the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Spain, and China. The Hanoi Foreign Trade University also has five lecturers from Japan, Canada and the US. Some other universities like the Open University Institute and Thang Long People-founded University also cooperate with some foreign lecturers.

 

The classes of foreign teachers are often very joyful, interesting, but are also very serious. Students must study at the highest level to meet the requirements of foreign lecturers.

 

Pham Hoang Lan, a student of the Thang Long People-founded University in Hanoi, described a class on human deeds and social environment of an Australia teacher: “After teaching the theory on mobilising resources and building projects, Ms Pauline introduces sample circumstances and divides students into several groups to discuss and seek solutions. She plays the role of the authorities and we have to present our projects to convince the authorities to agree to invest in our project”.

 

After studying a subject on self control taught by a French teacher, Mr Feredric, Nguyen Huong Ly, K15, Thang Long People-founded University, said: “Mr Feredric has taught us the way to control our anger and to refresh ourselves to keep balance in a life full of pressure”.

 

At the Commercial English Language Faculty of the Hanoi Foreign Trade University, the teacher David, who is in charge of the import and export subject, asks his students to make market surveys and design import export projects.

 

Diem Anh, a student of K24 course, Hanoi Foreign Trade University, said: “Foreign lecturers not only impart professional knowledge to us but also skills necessary for our lives and jobs; for example, how to search for and process information on the Internet, skills to answer interviews and make presentations.”

 

For the unit on American culture, David asks his students to go around Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of Hanoi to interview US tourists about their origins to learn about racial diversity in the US. Meanwhile, Ms Susan divides her students into groups to perform short plays in English to test their accents.

 

“Mr Peter often instructs us in how to write an impressive job application. He even plays the part of an employer to interview us; we play the roles of job applicants. Thanks to his instruction, we are now confident in our job application skills,” Diem Anh added.

 

At the end of each term, David also organises a contest in which students compete for an international business cup among classes. Each class appoints four students to attend each round of the contest. All questions are related to the knowledge that he taught during the term. The winning class receives a special prize – a cup full of chocolate. The contest is not only a chance for exchanges and studying among classes but also promotes healthy competition among students.

 

Foreign teachers + Vietnamese students = friends + families

 

Vietnamese students become friends and family to foreign teachers, who have come from far away to Vietnam, leaving their families and friends back home.

 

Many students are very surprised when foreign teachers remember the name of each student, even after several years.

 

“In the first class, the teacher Presley took a photo of each student and added them to an album, with their names and classes under the photo. In the following classes, he brought the album to class. After only several weeks, he knew the face and the name of all students,” said Thanh Hang, first-year student of the English Faculty, Hanoi University.

 

On Christmas day in 2003, two Santa Clauses appeared at the English Faculty of the Hanoi University. They held very big bags of presents, came to each class to present each student a red head and a candy box. They were a couple of teachers, Mr Bob and Mrs Ginny Morstay.

 

“We were first-year students at that time and as newcomers, we had never felt such warm sentiments between teachers and students like that. Mr Bob and Mrs Ginny Morstay also organised games for us. Our teacher Bob played guitar while Mrs Ginner sang. That was the most special Christmas for me,” said student Thuy Linh from 2A-02 class.

 

During their three years in Vietnam, Bob and Ginny paid attention to each of their students and understood their strengths and weaknesses as well.

 

Nguyen Thanh Thuy, a student in the talented bachelor class of English Faculty, Hanoi University, recalled: “Has leadership capacity, is good at communication and is brisk. These are the words that Bob said about me at the farewell ceremony. On that day, Mr Bob gave each student a poem and three groups of words describing exactly their personality. His advice will surely be valuable luggage for each student”.

 

Tuan Anh, a student in the German Faculty, Hanoi University, was very happy when teacher Berndt Dilp wrote a recommendation letter to help him attend a two-month course in Germany last summer.

 

Foreign teachers often invite students to their houses to cook for them or meet them. Students of the Hanoi Foreign Trade University sometimes visit their teacher Sherman’s house to participate in a poetry club, during which teachers and students read and analyse English and even Vietnamese poems together. After that they cook Vietnamese and western cuisine.

 

“I was very surprised and happy when students organised a birthday party for me at a small café near our university. Sometimes we go on a picnic together or visit the hometown of a student, where I can enjoy the rural life in Vietnam,” Presley said.

 

Ms Susan Lucasse, a teacher at the Hanoi Foreign Trade Univeristy, was also very happy when Vietnamese students made bun cha to celebrate her birthday.

 

“Many Vietnamese students come to me to talk about their love stories, their jobs, their lives and ask my advice. As the lifestyle and the way of thinking between Vietnamese and Americans is sometimes different I don’t always have really useful advice, but I always encourage my students to do what they think is right,” Ms Susan said.

 

I love Vietnam

 

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Teachers Bob and Ginny sing for students of the Hanoi University during the Christmas.

The love for Vietnam is a common thing that foreign teachers have. Each of them comes to Vietnam for a different reason but they all have something in common: they love their Vietnamese students and this country.

 

Teacher Miyahara Akira of the Japanese Faculty, Hanoi Foreign Trade University, recalled: “On April 30, 1975, the day your country re-gained independence and unification, I was teaching at the Foreign University. Returning to Japan, I and many young Japanese people at that time admired the will and the spirit of Vietnamese people. So after 30 years, I’ve returned to this country to pursue my half-done job”.

 

As a Japanese lecturer for international students at big universities in Japan such as Nagasaki and Tokyo, Mr Miyahara has taught many foreign students. But he loves Vietnamese students for their simple style, obedience and assiduity.

 

Presley shared: “I came to HCM City on a tour in 2001. Attracted by the life and the people there I planned to return to Vietnam. Immediately when REI recruited volunteers to Vietnam to teach English, I registered, and so far, I’ve taught English in Vietnam for two years”.

 

He revealed that he has many times been surprised by the intelligent questions of Vietnamese students. They voiced issues that he had never thought of and to answer them, he had to read books and refer to documents, which in term helped him learn something more.

 

“But the most popular question is, do you have girlfriend? I’m asked this question every day. People in the US don’t ask such a question, but in Vietnam, it shows attention and love,” Mr Presley said.

 

To avoid such ‘culture shock’, apart from six months of training in pedagogical skills, foreign teachers coming to Vietnam have to study some Vietnamese words and something about Vietnamese culture and habits, said Truong Van Khoi, Head of the International Cooperation Department of Hanoi University.

 

Ms Susan immediately became addicted to ‘sugarcane juice, boiled snails and bun cha” when she came to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Mr Bob loves dog meat and Mr Miyahara likes fried rice.

 

Presley read a 600-page book on President Ho Chi Minh. “When visiting Uncle Ho’s mausoleum with us, we were very surprised because Mr Presley told us stories about President Ho that we had never heard before,” said Khanh Linh, a student in the talented bachelor class, English Faculty, Hanoi University.

 

Lan Huong

The Streets of Orange County

By LiMin Lam

APA reflects on Journey from the Fall — this time from the perspective of its premiere in Orange County, where the Vietnamese American community helped give the film the weekend’s biggest per-screen average at the North American box office.

I grew up hearing stories that came from another world — a world that belonged to my parents and the memories they had of their once-home in Saigon, Vietnam. For my father, these memories were some of the few things he had left from his past — pirates had pillaged the boat that he and his brother were escaping on en route to Malaysia. Pirates, swindlers, and boats that were cast off into the night. The stories that I would hear when my parents were in a mode to reminisce sounded like chapters in fairy tale books that I used to read. Except these stories were profoundly real: my parents recalled how they and their families were forced to flee from a war-torn country.

When I learned of Ham Tran’s latest film, Journey from the Fall, I knew immediately that I had to bring my mother to see it. For myself, I wanted to match pictures to scenes that I could only previously imagine. For my mother, I wanted to let her know that she lived a history that now would be captured on film for others to understand.

Throughout his movie, Tran vividly depicted three aspects of the war and its aftermath: the escape of the boat people, the savage re-education camps that enslaved defiant anti-communists, and the final arrival of Vietnamese immigrants to a free but foreign America. Because my parents were able to leave Vietnam prior to America’s detachment to the war, they circumvented the horrors of the re-education camps and the complete takeover of Southern Vietnam by the Northern communists. Despite that, I still associated many of the same scenes to what my parents had previously told me. “Ma, was that the size of your boat?” I whispered to my mom midway through the story. “No, ours was a little bigger,” my mother replied — but in the back of my mind, I remembered her telling me about the long, tolling journey and how a few bags of dried noodles had to be rationed to feed several mouths.

Actress Kieu Chinh, who plays the role of a resilient grandmother in Journey to the Fall, spoke to me before the premiere of the film. Chinh recalled how she had to become a refugee twice in her life. Once in 1954 when she left her home in Northern Vietnam to find refuge in Southern Vietnam, and after that, to journey half way around the world in 1975 to find sanction in America. Certainly, this personal experience was reflected in Chinh’s spectacular performance in Journey to the Fall. Her character’s staunch refusal to let war dissolve her family exposes emotions that are raw and fundamental, emotions that can be understood in all languages and by all cultures. Such is the story of the boat people, a story to which Chinh says with firmness, “Yes, it is my story.” But it should also be a story that most Americans sympathize with, as Chinh remarked, “Most of us are refugees coming, America is the melting pot.”

As this pot melts, however, each generation becomes more and more removed from the endeavors and realities of their immigrant parents and/or grandparents. With this distancing, there leaves a void in understanding how there came to be a Vietnamese American community. Determined not to let the story of the boat people fade with each new generation of immigrants to America, Tran insisted that his movie be told from the viewpoint of the boat people themselves. Finding talent from within the Vietnamese community, most of the actors in Tran’s cast were people who had lived and breathed the struggles that came with the Vietnam War. Paying close attention to these details, Tran’s intentions are two-fold: for younger members of the Vietnamese community, he says, he hopes to foster new dialogue between generations, and allow parents who had previously kept silent about their past to use the film as an occasion to discuss their history with their children; for those not in the Vietnamese community, Tran wants them “to finally get how come there are Vietnamese people [living in America]” — that for many in the community, they came “by circumstance, not by choice.”

But the history of the boat people does not end with their arrival to America. In the wake of each new generation of Vietnamese Americans, there continues to be stories untold, and to this, Tran eagerly hints that we wait for his next film. As to the successful production of Journey to the Fall, Westminster Mayor Marie L. Rice says that she is “very proud, very honored” to host the premiere of Tran’s film in her city. With Westminster being home to one of America’s largest Vietnamese American populations, Rice says, “Our Vietnamese community has brought so much talent, and has given so much to our city.” And indeed, Tran’s film has done all of this in its very own genuine, heartfelt fashion.

Read APA’s interview with Ham Tran here.

By Ben Voth

Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam.  These are words we here with some regularity in today’s media.  The metaphorical lens through which all contemporary military conflicts must be viewed is Vietnam.  For anyone championing a notion of American defeat, this metaphor is indispensable.  Vietnam is taken to be a case study in American military failure.  It is interesting to carefully examine this metaphor’s relationship to current conflicts.

In 1975, the United States Congress voted to cut off funding to the democratic government of South Vietnam.  The political decision of the Congress constituted the final renunciation of the war in Vietnam for which 58,000 Americans and thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers gave their lives in a decade long struggle.  Images of the American choppers lifting off from Saigon have become emblematic of war the US could never win, even though the military never lost a battle on the ground of Vietnam.

Congress accomplished with its vote to end funding of the South Vietnam government what Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese communist had been unable to accomplish on the battlefield– the end of democratic governance in Vietnam. 
The Congressional vote in 1975 signaled the North Vietnamese government that it was finally safe to launch an overwhelming military attack on the young democratic government of South Vietnam.  What ensued in Vietnam was cataclysmic.  Close to one million people in Vietnam were executed in “re-education camps” instituted by the now unified Communist government.  These killings did not go unnoticed in Vietnam and elsewhere.  The unified Communist government sought to kill anyone deemed a traitor by their cooperation with the American power that previously sustained the democratic government of South Vietnam.

These drastic measures unleashed a panicked migration from Vietnam that sent hundreds of thousands of people out into the ocean in feeble crafts.  Sparking this migration were desperate hopes of reaching America– the former ally that had sustained their hopes in the former homeland.  Thousands of Vietnamese people died at sea trying to cross the South China Sea.  Perhaps their drowning in that ocean of ‘peace’ was a fitting end to the disingenuous rhetoric that sent them there.  Tens of thousands did successfully emigrate to the United States and found sanctuary from the violence of the North Vietnamese.
Next door in Cambodia, a man by the name of Pol Pot capitalized on the vacuum of America’s abrupt military withdrawal and precipitous rejection of funding for democratic governance.  Pol Pot instituted one of the most vicious and swift genocides of the modern era.  Killing as many as 3 million people, Cambodia instituted one of the most bizarre spectacles of human hatred, wherein even children were forced to perform the execution of their own parents under the supervision of the Khmer Rouge state.  Though American and international media provided front row seats to the carnage, the outcry for international action was easily subdued by political movements for “peace” in Southeast Asia and an end to “American imperialism.” The American left helped seal the deal on yet another dark chapter of brother abandoning brother into the outrageous public celebrations of human hatred immortalized by the Khmer Rouge. 
And so today, many of us are still wondering what academics and intellectuals are speaking of when they say the magical word of ‘Vietnam.’  Is this the world that you speak of?  When you speak of “peace” and the end of “imperialism,” do you mean to confirm the world of abandonment and unmitigated ethnic hatred ?   Is the world that looks less like Bagdad, a world that looks more like Rwanda or Darfur?  What do your words mean?  I would really like to know.
Dr. Ben Voth is an associate professor of Communication at Miami University, specializing in argumentation and rhetoric studies.

Wall Street in Saigon

April 7, 2007

 
07:39′ 01/04/2007 (GMT+7)

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Investors sitting at a pavement teashop discussing changes in the stock market.

VietNamNet Bridge – The two words “stock market” have never been mentioned as much as today, at office talks, in restaurants, and during family meals. Along with the ‘movement’ of investing in stocks, the number of people flocking to securities trading companies on Nguyen Cong Tru road in District 1, HCM City, is increasing, turning the quiet streets into a “Wall Street” now.

 

The heat of the VN-index dance is not only burning investors but also the pavement of “Wall Street”. Securities have made impacts on the people who live on the pavement there, from retired men to tea sellers and vehicle keepers. The life of the residents on “Wall Street” is also very hot like the bourse. 

Taking advantage of each centimeter of land 

Investors flock to the “Wall Street” of Saigon very early, one hour before securities trading floors open, making the narrow Nguyen Cong Tru road even narrower. 

Toan, an investor, said: “The first thing is you must come early to have room for your motorbike. Vehicle keepers here are very picky.” 

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Mr Bui Van Dong, 50, a taxi motorbike driver on ‘Wall Street’, is reading a stock bulletin while waiting for passengers. He said: “I don’t have money to buy stocks but I try to read stock news to be able to talk with my customers. My customers are middle-aged women who love to talk about stocks. If I know stock information, they will always ask me to drive them and on the way they can talk with me about the stock market during the day.

All parking lots are overcrowded. Vehicle keepers frigidly wave their hands to drive customers out of their parking lots though the price for keeping a motorbike here is VND5,000, 150% more than normal. 

The fronts of commodious houses which once were shops have also become parking lots. Owners of houses in alleys are also trying to make their houses become parking lots. They even hire staff to go to the street inviting investors to leave their vehicles in their houses. 

“Land here has never been taken full advantage of like today. I want to lease my house but my wife insists on using it as a parking lot. Such a house can bring about VND500,000 to VND1 million (US$30-60) a day,” said Mr Tai, a retired man on “Wall Street”. 

After the first trading session of the day, investors overflow into cafes near trading floors to talk about securities.  

Ms Tu, the owner of a café near the Bao Viet Securities Trading Company, said: “I have sold coffee here for nearly 20 years but I have never seen such large numbers of customers. Previously my café only served staff of banks.” 

On the sidewalk near the SSI company, Ms Lan made the best of ‘free time’ to read information about the stock market. Hearing what she says to her customers like an investor, nobody would think that she is the owner of a pavement teashop. 

A man said recklessly: “You don’t invest in stocks so please don’t pretend to be a professional…” 

Ms Lan burst out, which made the man shy: “How do you know that I don’t buy securities? If you don’t believe I can tell you the price of each kind of stock and tell you which rise and which fall.” 

“I see many people earn a lot of money from securities so I have also poured out all of my savings for the past ten years to buy stocks. I hope to earn money for my old age. Stocks make fat profit!” Ms Lan said. 

Not only tea sellers on the pavement but also Ha, a fruit peddler, earn a lot from “Wall Street”.  

“I could only earn VND20,000 ($1.25) a day from my fruit handcart though I had to go everywhere. Now I earn hundreds of thousands of dong just around securities trading floors. I plan to save money for several months more to buy stocks,” Ha said. 

Moving with “Wall Street” 

Small talk over coffee on “Wall Street” every morning by residents is very boisterous, like the atmosphere inside trading floors.  

“If the stock fever continues this street will sooner or later change completely. A lot of services for investors will be offered,” Hung, a local resident, predicted. 

Not daring to invest all of his money into stocks, Mr Nam, a retired man, hasn’t ignored the opportunity to become rich on ‘gold street’.  

He said: “I plan to mortgage my house to have money to turn it into a café for investors.” 

In the afternoon, when investors who sell their shares in the morning carry bags of money home, conversations between women on “Wall Street” are more boisterous. 

Ms Huong, the owner of a small kiosk in a local market, complained: “I am impatient seeing people carry bags of money from the stock market while my husband is still emotionless. He is so sluggish! I’ll sleep separately tonight to let him know my anger.” 

Not only Huong but several women here use this way to ‘force’ their husbands to go to the bourse. 

Mr N, a victim of securities, lamented: “The spousal relations are also hot along with the burning of the stock market. I’m a state employee and my wife has a small shop at home. We have neither money nor understanding of the stock market. The house is our life asset but she wants to mortgage it to have money for stock trading. I can’t understand her….” 

The wife of Mr M, a taxi motorbike driver on ‘Wall Street’, said: “He has not given me a coin since early this year. I asked him and he said that he saves money to buy stocks. He told me that some people become billionaires in only one day. I want to be like them but I’m very worried.” 

Residents on ‘Wall Street’ are dancing the hourly movements of the VN-Index dance. Family, neighbour relations are also burning along with numbers on the electronic boards of the securities trading floor. 

(Source: Tuoi Tre)

 
 
The Vietnamese property market is one of the fastest-growing in it’s region, largely due to greater foreign investment and household incomes.  Although investment in the region is growing at such a rapid rate, there are of course downfalls to consider when investing.

Marc Townsend, the director of CB Richard Ellis (Vietnam), attributes the real estate boom to Vietnam´s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the rapid growth in the stock market.

WTO membership has encouraged more foreign companies to invest in Vietnam, pushing demand higher for mid- to high-grade office space and hotels, with an increasing number of business travellers.

CB Richard Ellis predicts the demand for retail space at shopping centres will continue to rise, with more companies competing in a more liberalised economic environment in the WTO era.

As a result, domestic and foreign property developers are planning to inject millions of US dollars into the market to build five-star hotels, entertainment and shopping complexes, and office buildings in all the major urban centres.

However, these new construction projects are at a premature stage and are years from being completed, causing a short term shortage in available space.

According to HCM City Real Estate Association (HCREA), many high-end office buildings in Hanoi and HCM City are fully occupied and cost about US$35-38 a sqm per month. A booming stock market has also contributed to real estate growth. Along with this, fund managers are also flooding the market.

Townsend noted that the money earned from securities trading is being redirected to the more stable real estate market. This has led to greater domestic demand for high-rise apartments and villas.

VinaCapital controls 70 per cent of Hilton Hanoi after acquiring an additional 50 per cent stake earlier this year. The company also owns 70 per cent of Sofitel Metropole Hanoi, and operates two property funds that expect returns of 25-30 per cent.

Tran Thanh Tan, director of Dragon Capital’s securities investment fund, predicts that the future is bright for property in Vietnam, with the market expected to continue its steady growth in 2007 and the following year.

 
17:34′ 02/04/2007 (GMT+7)
VietNamNet Bridge – In a recent talk titled Vietnamese Cinema in the Age of Socialisation and Integration held at the Vietnam Film Institute, many comments were voiced about the current limits of Vietnamese films.

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A scene from “Gio thien duong”

For instance, Assistant Professor and Doctor Tran Luan Kim said Vietnamese cinema lacked leading artists who could create new trends.

Film script writer Doan Tuan suggested that Vietnamese films go beyond the limits of scattered, trivial and local stories as well as the few nationalistic images of the banyan tree, the village well or the communal house yard in order to aim for something bigger. And in a letter sent from HCM City, director Le Hoang criticised many Vietnamese movies for serving mainly the tastes of foreign markets.

Script writer Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat praised private production companies which are trying to produce a variety of products in order to increase revenues.

Young director Bui Tan Dung pointed out the limits of state-owned production companies: lack of production strategies and product diversity. And the future of the Vietnamese cinema industry seems to depend on production companies, according to script writer Hoang Nhuan Cam, who is working to establish one of his own.

Though discussing other topics, the common concern of those who took part in the conference was how to make movies that can attract audiences.

Vice president of Vuong Duc Production Company suggested conducting scientific research on public tastes.

Director Bui Trung Hai said that only by renovating production technologies could Vietnamese producers hope to bring their movies to the international market. In addition, new trends of making movies should be encouraged and explored. And most of the participants agreed that the journey to audiences’ hearts was indeed a difficult one.

 

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was meant to be another event on a calendar that already included cultural dinners, guest speakers and social events. But for members of the Vietnamese Students’ Association and some Yale faculty, last week’s screening of “Living in Fear” moved us to question and understand a conflict that has been raging for the past few decades. How should one define the Vietnamese culture? How did culture play a role in the incident following the screening?

Before I launch into this discussion, allow me to apologize for knowingly allowing someone whom I didn’t know much about to preach something I was not very familiar with or well-versed in, as well as for unknowingly providing the opportunity for contention between a film director whose production was partly funded by the Vietnamese government and people who saw communists as responsible for all of the refugees’ suffering from the past and for the suffering of the majority of the population of Vietnam in the present. Forgive me for trusting that any event labeled as “cultural” would automatically mean a fair and balanced opportunity to educate myself and others about a culture and heritage that I so desperately want to understand.

“Culture” is indeed a vague word, one that needs the limits of time and space in order to make any good representation of it. To generalize all of “Vietnamese” culture into one overarching definition would be to ignore the differences among the Vietnamese who fled the country after the war and those who stayed or were left behind; the differences between second-generation Vietnamese Americans and their parents; the differences between those who refuse to go back to a country still ruled by communists and those who go back regularly as tourists, students or businessmen. Needless to say, people’s perceptions of the culture they belong to vary according to their personal experience, knowledge and preconceptions.

So who were the major players, the “cultures” represented in last week’s incident? Enter stage left, the Vietnamese citizens, as played by the director of the film. The majority of the Vietnamese living in Vietnam are too young to remember the war when it happened, but now enjoy the quasi-success of economic investment from foreign companies and the “freedom” of information on their censored Internet connections. Their major focus, as evidenced by this exported film shown widely in American universities, is to depict the happier aspects of life in Vietnam after the war and its positive impact on the citizens who stayed behind.

On the opposite end are the Vietnamese expatriates (who mostly describe themselves as Vietnamese in exile), portrayed by the protesters. These people, many of whom are in the same generation as my parents, fled the country to escape the threat of an oppressive regime and to seek a future for their families. For those who survived through the progression of “boat person,” “refugee,” “immigrant” and finally “citizen,” the wounds still run deep.

For some, these wounds manifested as silence, denial that the war ever happened, and a struggle to assimilate totally into their new environment. For others, it created an opposite motivation, one of action and protest against not only the suffering that they and their families endured during and after the war, but also the injustices still faced by Vietnamese today.

Several different issues must be taken into consideration for a better understanding of the mechanism of this confrontation. While the protest, especially the way it happened, can be seen as bad from some people’s eyes, it does not necessarily look that way to some others from a different “culture” or “set of values.” While human beings are prone to the practice of imposing their own set of values as the standard, we should restrain ourselves from adopting the preconception that one side is right or wrong.

However, stuck between these two polar opposites is the second-generation Vietnamese American. While we are all struggling to find our identity and that elusive culture of Vietnam, we have been taught that to develop an accurate depiction, we must contend with all sides of the argument. I feel confused, frustrated, manipulated, torn — but at least I don’t feel apathetic anymore. I will no longer be a passive observer of the culture and politics of Vietnam and Vietnamese America.

Cecilia Ong is a sophomore in Davenport College. She is the president of the Vietnamese Students’ Association.