Opinion
Xin chào, Vietnam
  • | dtinews.vn | March 11, 2011 10:26 AM

Ối giời ơi! It is so hard to write for Vietnamese readers.

I’ve been a writer for more than ten years. There are things that I’m very proud of having written, and others things which I’m not so proud of.

But even when I’ve written for national magazines in the United States, I have never gotten so much feedback. In fact, even after I got my first story in a big publication, the LA Weekly in 2003, just out of university, I heard no comments except from my friends and relatives.

If you’re interested, and if you can read it in English then here it is.

http://www.laweekly.com/2003-06-26/music/hear-and-now-in-l-a/3/ (if you want to read the whole thing you’ll have to go one page back. It’s an old article!)


When I look back this article I smile. There was thrill, and also a bit of fear. I stayed up late to do it, searching carefully for every word. Would my words be good enough? Would people understand me?

But I sent them in and the editor accepted them. They were published.

Lucky Brian! I was so happy to see my words in print. I read them over and over.

So I continued writing, mostly about music. But somewhere along the line, writing became routine. The thrill was gone. It became just work.

When I think back to this first article, I feel like like I was a child then.

...

But now, writing for 2-6, the thrill has come back... plus that little bit of fear. I’m a bit like a child again. It’s now 2am and I’m sitting up with my tiny computer wondering if my words will be okay for you.

I’ve thrown away two other articles that were planned, and decided to just tell you what was on my mind.

It’s funny. Last time I wrote about children. I’ve read and re-read your comments. They have taught me very much about Vietnam, and I hope this exchange of ideas continues.

Of course, you must understand that I’m writing from a foreign and a personal perspective. I’ve not been in the country long enough to write like a native.

Still, they may have value, in their own stumbling way. There is a saying from the Bible: “Out of the mouths of children, often comes wisdom.”

I’m not saying that I’m wise. But the point of this idiom, I think, is that children can sometimes tell the truth because of their ignorance. I hope you will take my words in this way.

So Xin chào, Vietnam! I hope you will consider me as your child, teach me customs, your language, and sometimes listen to me.

I have read and re-read your comments. Had my Vietnamese friend help me to understand some of them.

Even writing for large magazines in America, I have never received so many comments.

This is what I really love about Hanoi. I cannot say Vietnam, because, although I’ve visited other places, (and one reader’s comment suggested that I’ve been in the countryside too long) I have spent 3 of the last 4 years in Hanoi. Without any vacations worth mentioning.

So now I’ve done a few posts about by thoughts on Vietnam. Some of them people seem to agree with me. Others disagree strongly.

Still, either way, I am so excited, because you care enough to respond! Even if some of the responses are not exactly kind, it makes me happy.

I feel that I have new friends who I’ve never met.

And so, I have a proposal: I take an hour for lunch every day (sometimes a little bit more). I often go to a bia hoi on Ngoc Ha; the one closest to the Botanical Gardens. (In Hanoi)

If anyone would like to join me for lunch this Monday, then please come and join me. I would love to hear what you’re thinking. I would like to know what your thinking is, what your concerns are.

I will be there at 12:30pm.

...

Even in such a short period of writing here, I have learned so much. There have been many rewards.

These rewards have come in the form of learning, not riches. So I have to let you know before hand, this is not a “Vietnamese invitation” - meaning I cannot afford to pay the bill for a bunch of people. So we’ll have to split it - American style.

I will make sure to bring a friend who can act as an interpreter to make up for my poor language skills.

Okay. So that’s that. We have an appointment if you like. My next article will be another one of my commentaries about this or that: just another thing that I notice about this country, from fresh eyes, just opening. Good morning.

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