The lyrics of this song are simple: possibly the simplest from this list of ten. But at times simplicity is equivalent to power, and I think this song is quite powerful. The most interesting find during my Internet search for recordings is the following video of a performance by several Vietnamese American girls in the Seattle area. The young singer speaks in Vietnamese at the start: I love this song because through my grandparents, I understand the feelings of people having to live far from their families, friends, and homeland.
Knowing that I’d like to start this series with a song related to Saigon, I nonetheless had a hard time deciding from several choices. Travel turns out to be the decisive factor, and being in Houston this weekend prompts me to settle on Saigon, Farewell Forever My Love. Its authors were two refugees who settled in the Houston area: one not long after the Fall of Saigon; the other sometimes in the early 1980s. [Correction: Both came to Houston in 1975; see the note from Jason Gibbs among the comments below.]
Comparisons of music in different languages and styles could be a hazardous affair. Even at its best, a comparison could be pretty inexact because one could locate as many divergences and differences as parallels and similarities, if not more. And the differences may be too strong to render similarities ineffectual. With this caveat, I nonetheless wish to give this comparison a try.
A few months ago, I suggested that the Vietnamese equivalent to Where Do I Begin?, the theme song of the movie Love Story, is a ballad by Trần Thiện Thanh about a young couple in wartime. The song was based on a true story, albeit the deceased at the end is the man rather than the woman as in the novel and movie. There was also temporal proximity, as the Vietnamese song was written and produced two or three years after the release of the sentimental American movie. In other words, both songs came out of the early Seventies.
Lịch sử nước Mỹ không dài bằng nhiều nước khác, mặc dù các chứng tích khảo cổ và địa chất định rằng người da đỏ có mặt ở Mỹ Châu hàng chục ngàn năm xưa. Vì quá ít chứng tích tài liệu ngôn ngữ, nên hầu hết thời gian trước ông Columbus được coi là “Đất Mỹ thời tiền sử.” Nhưng từ cuối thế kỷ 15, lịch sử đất này thay đổi mau chóng có nhiều tiến triển cũng như vấn đề, nhất là về đa dạng các chủng tộc và sắc tộc nhân loại.
Từ hướng Á Châu đi qua biển Bering đến lục địa mới, người da đỏ đã sống khắp Nam Mỹ và Bắc Mỹ bao nhiêu thế kỷ. Rồi người da trắng bắt đầu qua vào thế kỷ 16, khi hai đế quốc Tây Ban Nha và Bồ Đào Nha gởi người qua thám hiểm đất đai, kiếm vàng kiếm bạc, giảng đạo Công Giáo. Họ dùng quân đội xâm chiếm nhiều khu vực, rồi mở đồn điền trồng trọt, nhất là tại Nam Mỹ và các đảo vùng biển Caribe ở Châu Mỹ Latin. Sau này họ mua người da đen bên Phi Châu làm nô lệ lao động ở những đồn điền này.
It is not easy to find a redeeming feature about driving to work in metro Los Angeles. But there is one thing that I like about my commute: reaching the end of Interstate 10 and turning into the Pacific Coast Highway, known locally as PCH. Not only there is less traffic in the morning, but the sight and sound of the ocean emerge pleasantly – and, sometimes, the smell. Even when dark or cold or foggy, the remaining fifteen miles of the commute have helped to lower heartbeats, lessen blood pressure, relax the mind, and, on occasions, conjure up visions and possibilities before attending to the specific and quotidian that make up the bulk of the work day.
Update Jan 27, 2016: I’ve reviewed the dissertation for the website Dissertation Reviews.
On New Year’s Eve, I finished reading a terrific dissertation about Vietnamese in the former Czechoslovakia. The author is Alena Alamgir (Rutgers 2014), and her work is about a bilateral labor program between the DRV and Czechoslovakia from 1967 to 1989 that sent Vietnamese from the European country for training and work in a variety of industries. The field is historical sociology – it won the Theda Skocpol Award from the American Sociological Association last year – and the dissertation utilizes a good deal of documents from the National Czech Archives, including materials from three governmental agencies in the Cold War era.