A part of me

On my fifth birthday, my parents took me to a small bookstore and let me choose one book. I knew we could not afford much, so I picked a cheap one. That night, I asked mom to read it for me. However, I realized that only by experiencing the book myself could I dive into the author’s thoughts, so I learned to read on my own. 

Nights after nights I got used to putting the letters of the alphabet together and started reading everything within my sight, from small cards to advertisements. On a rare visit, my uncle brought me a box of books, and from that moment books became irresistible. Every night, I feigned sleep, waited for my parents to go to bed, and I fled to my little corner to read. 

One summer, I discovered a hidden collection of books in my mom’s closet, which was to become my Christmas present. As soon as mom left for work, I would rush to her room, carefully take out one book and allow myself to drown in it for hours. That collection was biographies of people who remarkably contributed to the modern world. Even before my peers could read fluently, I knew who discovered radium and polonium and who came up with the law of gravity. I began to see the world. 

At eight years old, I believed that making a wish one thousand times under one thousand airplanes passing overhead would make a dream come true. I wished for a compass because, in my dream, a compass was a symbol of adventures and knowledge. I did not know if I would ever leave my birthplace, but I felt compelled to see the world. I fulfilled my desire by burying myself under piles of books. During secondary years, my mind was occupied by stories about cultures, people, and landscapes, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Slumdog Millionaire

At sixteen years old, entering the United States for high school, I brought this reading habit with me. This land stroke me with unexpected experience and never failed to challenge me intellectually and socially. From my daily interactions with people, I raised questions about their odd behaviors and different mindsets. Books had undoubtedly shed light on my wonders. Despite the hazardous weather and busy schedule, walking to a nearby public library became my weekly journey. There, I earned myself a better understanding of American high school life, table manners, and stories that shaped American culture today. Books triggered my curiosity about everything and raised one ultimate questions: “What is culture?” Through listening to people’s stories during my time as a tutor and a leader, I got myself a clearer picture of people and norms. With all that knowledge, I then compared Vietnamese and American traditions, only to see the beauty of diversity. 

Learning about diversity brought me to one conclusion: people might be distinguished from each other, from skin color to personal interests, but they are all relatable. Listening attentively to others’ tales, I see their eyes shining and their faces becoming lively. And most importantly, I see myself. Humans are relatable also because I have known a multitude of people sharing this same interest. Instead of reading at a corner of the library, I confidently discuss books with others, getting deeper into the meanings of those written stories. 

Throughout my life, I have turned to books in all circumstances, because I know reading gives me both knowledge and a mix of feelings. From different author’s lenses, I at a distance experience war, discrimination, and poverty across the globe, but I also feel love, generosity, and perseverance. Today, I realize that the ultimate value of books is to be a foundation, lifting readers to go beyond limitations. I feel helpless at times when reading, only to be more eager to persist and learn, hoping to give my best to this astounding world someday. 

Christmas Eve

Ước mơ cho những ngày sau.

Mình không biết mọi người như nào, chứ mình muốn lớn lẹ lắm. Mình mong chờ được vào đại học, mình mong chờ được học xong, được đi làm, rồi được đi du lịch. Mình mong chờ được tự quản lí tiền bạc, chi tiêu. Mình biết vậy thì không có gì vui, nhưng mình mong được tự do, làm sai cũng bản thân chịu mà thôi. Mọi quyết định bây giờ của mình, sẽ hoặc bị chi phối, hoặc sẽ đem lại hậu quả cho người khác. Vậy thì làm trẻ con có gì vui đâu chứ.

Mình thấy thế giới bự rồi, nên mình mong được lớn để có thể đi khắp nơi và làm những việc bự bự luôn. Mình muốn đi Indo sẽ có bạn ở Indo đi với mình. Mình muốn đi Nhật cũng sẽ có bạn chờ mình. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Venezuela, Thái Lan, nhiều lắm. Muốn đi lắm, mà giờ vẫn còn chờ mòn mỏi ngày mình 18 nữa thì đi đâu cho được chứ. Đi xa xa để biết mình còn thiếu sót gì nhiều. Mỗi ngày đi chơi, mình đều nhận ra mình còn thua kém về mặt xã hội lắm, không lanh, không mạnh dạn. Còn thiếu sót và thiếu sót rất nhiều.

Mà chắc có điều này mọi người chưa biết được hay chưa nhận ra. Khi cả sấp nhỏ đều đã lớn, tụi mình được làm nhiều cái hay ho hơn cùng nhau. Không phải lên lịch đi chơi rồi một ngày bị mẹ không cho và thế là ở nhà nữa. Không phải mỗi Đà Lạt, mỗi trại sẽ phải xin cái chữ ký nhỏ xíu đó nữa. Muốn đi đâu thì tự để dành tiền mà đi, rồi tụi mình đi cùng nhau. Ra trường rồi sẽ nhận ra tụi mình còn gần nhau được bao nhiêu, còn thân mật bao nhiêu. Lên đại học sẽ không còn những người bạn như vậy nữa, nhưng mình mong chờ những người bạn theo một kiểu khác, kiểu sẽ giúp mình lớn hơn, lớn hơn, thay vì bỏ mình trong một vùng an toàn và không muốn thoát ra.

Mình vừa háo hức vừa e dè muốn được nhìn thấy bản thân bị quăng vào xã hội. Mình thấy mọi người thay đổi nhiều, kể cả bản thân mình khi đi làm rồi cũng khác đi, không còn vô tư vô lo, mà nghĩ nhiều về tiền bạc. Vậy không có gì là tốt cả. Vậy là xấu. Mình đang có thể trở thành người mà mình từng không mong muốn sẽ trở thành, người mà mình từng nghĩ mình sẽ không bao giờ trở thành. Hiện thực lạ lùng lắm. Những người mình từng ngưỡng mộ bây giờ đã đều thay đổi. Có thể bởi vậy mà mình yêu bạn bồ mình hơn, vì mình thấy bản thay đổi nhưng theo một hướng mình thích hơn, một hướng mình cảm thấy vững vàng hơn khi ở cạnh. Mình nhìn đi nhìn lại, những người sẽ ở cạnh mình thật sự không nhiều, nên mình trân trọng từng cái nhỏ như vậy vậy.

Mình mệt mỏi chán chường những ngày trẻ con ngủ một giấc. Mình biết cứ phải làm và làm thì không gì hay ho lắm, nhưng mình mong chờ một tương lai có thể dành cả 3 năm trời nuôi con nhỏ đến mức mình muốn lao vào làm và làm để ngày đó không phải lo nghĩ. Mình sợ một tương lai con của mình bị thiếu tình thương của mẹ lắm.

Mình bây giờ tuy lo nghĩ về cái tương lai gần, về tiền nong, học bổng, về trường mình sẽ được nhận lắm, nhưng mình thật sự mong chờ, mong vô cùng, đến ngày được tha hồ sải cánh. Mình muốn về Việt Nam và làm gì đó thật có ích. Mình muốn được ở Mỹ để được học hỏi từ những người cực xịn xò. Mình muốn mình trở nên có trá trị tới mức mọi người đều muốn mình haha. Mọi công ty, và cả hai đất nước, và mong là nhiều nơi khác nữa.

Bây giờ mình mới bắt đầu ước mơ. Thanh xuân vẫn chưa qua mà. Mới bắt đầu thôi. Có gì mà rầu rĩ chứ.

One facet of Christmas – suffering

Christmas – a good time to talk about suffering.
I personally think this holiday is for family, and it always brings me joy, with presents, and laughter. But it’s not always like that for everyone.
It’s the time for each of us to stop and think, to put ourselves in others’ shoes. There are many facets of Christmas that many people forget, including suffering.

When Jesus was born, there were three gifts brought to him by the Wise Men. I gotta say first, everybody should actually watch movies about Jesus was born in the manger, because they are awesome, and because Jesus being born is exactly the spirit of Christmas.

There were three gifts brought to Jesus by the Wise Men: Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh. Each of these has its own meaning. Gold states clearly that Jesus was a King, even at that time he was two years old. He is the King of all King, and is the King forever. The Wise Men gave him Gold, as saying that they obey this King, that Jesus would bring freedom and joy to his Kingdom, and that Jesus would rule his nation, and he was the God that the Jewish has always been waiting for. Secondly, frankincense is extremely valuable tree sap that is used only for special occasions. In church, people will pour frankincense on the priests to indicate that they are the connection between God and all his people. This shows that Jesus was a perfect priest, that he would soon guide the Israel so that they would be closer to God.

But the very special gift that made me stunned when knowing the real meaning, was Myrrh. Myrrh is a special spice that is put on dead bodies because it preserves the bodies and covered up with smell. Who would give such a thing on someone’s birthday? But when think about this, it will make a lot more sense when knowing that Jesus will sacrifice for his people, that he will die on the cross for all of us, and this is his mission coming to this world. He freed us from sins, and he guided us to know God the Father, for seeing Jesus himself means seeing the Almighty Father.

On his very early birthdays, the one thing was clear was that he will soon die. He will soon suffer. For people. So that we all will celebrate our reunion day with God. However, it seems that Christmas is not that fun for many people, that many of them are suffering from the loss of their loved one, the absence of family, or the distance between their family member.

It’s this time of the year that we all should also pray for those who do not rejoice.

For my family, we usually go to midnight church together and then throw a big party to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Chicken soup and cookies. I remember one Christmas Eve received fortune cookies from church, and I gave them to a homeless person sitting in front of our church that night. Those fortune cookies I never got to eat every day because they were expensive, but I gave them anyway because I knew they would be special to someone else. That was me about five years ago. My family also goes watch a play hosted by Sunday’s school’s kids, that they will become Mary, Joseph, Jesus, angels, sheep, and many other characters that I love in the Bible. I have been an angel once. It was fun, but it was frustrated for an introvert like me! I was shy because my parents were looking at me, which was funny because they were supposed to be there to support me haha. What else do we usually do? My Dad and I will sometimes choose to go to different churches to see how they organize their Christmas Eve masses, and most of them celebrate it in a truly special way! If any of my friends asks me to hang out with them on the 24th or 25th of December, I will clearly say that I am not available, because I have a great family to be with.

But this year, do I, though? This evening, my mom texted me Merry Christmas while I was thinking real hard about where to go for Christmas Eve mass. I don’t know where, because no matter what, I will know no one there. I know this birthday is for Jesus, so I need to only care about me and him only, but I still concern whom to go with, and definitely no one. Fortunately, I asked my roommate and she said yes.

I wonder how much my parents are missing me. I bet a lot. I love the feeling of Christmas in a hot and humid atmosphere, that I didn’t get to wear such a cozy sweater. But does it matter, though, because being beautiful in a dress is also pretty cool!

I would say that I do not suffer much this Christmas, as the meaning of suffering to me seems to be so much bigger than receiving a text from Mom. instead of a hug.

People are loosing their family. People are loosing their hopes. They are loosing their faith as well. I want to pray that for this season, those who reunion with their big God’s family will also be praying for those who do not, for those who find no worthy in God to start believing again, since this is the family they should turn back to, since this is the family always welcome them.

I have had not a great birthday party today, but I am still joyful, because I know there will be priceless gifts for me, as well as for others.

Things happen for a reason – why I am such an odd.

I have met so many people saying I am a weird girl. I do things in a very different way that they cannot understand, but no one ever asks for reasons. I always assume that even if I speak up, I will never be heard, just because I am an odd. But the truth shall be realized.

It is an undeniable that technology has become a very important part of human daily life. I am thankful for what it brings forth to me – living 14K miles away from my family but still talking to them as though they are here. I am thankful for the information the Internet gives me – I know things happening all over the world, I get advice from different sources, and I even learn more about myself. I can use all the good words to praise technology and smart devices.

But I also want to say that I hate it in some ways.

People say I am stingy because I pay very little for my phone bill, too little that I cannot even do anything with it. I have no data, so I rely more on physical maps when in need. However, it seems that I don’t even need a map because I am genuinely good at direction. I don’t pay for data on my phone, so the moment I am not at school, or at home, or at the library, airports, Starbucks, etc. (wherever they offer free Wifi), I cannot do anything. My phone becomes useless, but I feel better.

Stingy. Yes, I am. But let’s talk about the reason first.

What people will first do when they get a chance to stop moving – on a bus, train, while waiting, or just simply sit down anywhere? They take out their phones. I don’t have data for a long enough time – probably my whole life – to have a chance to observe people’s habits when they get to take out their phones.

No one will ever understand how lonely it will be like when I sit down with my friends, looking around, and waiting for them to put their phones down. No one will ever understand, because I am stingy, and they are not. Definitely not.

I feel lonely, because I don’t see my value in people’s eyes when I hang out with them, being the only person not having access to the Internet. I cannot do anything when they don’t want to talk to me and when they stare at their phones – for nothing.

Family. Friends. People are doing the same thing without actually thinking about the consequences.

There are many times when I wander around online to search for cheap phone plan that offers a tiny bit amount of data for a good price. I can afford, totally. But I always give up because I don’t want to conform. It is fine when other people have unlimited data and texts and calls, but I don’t, because I don’t want to be a part of it.

I know my limitation when I don’t have something. When travelling in group, it is harder for me to get a sense of where we are going, because I don’t get to have a real map, and because I am not given the chance to be in charge, “You have no data, Thi. You cannot navigate!” I know my limitation when I have to prepare everything before leaving home, otherwise I would be desperate for a place offering free Wifi to search for direction, or to check an important email, or to tell my Mom I will not be able to call her tonight because I am currently at a club meeting.

But limitation opens doors for great grow. It helps me understand what people need more because I have learned to put myself in their shoes. I recognize that I have to put my phone away when a friend approaching me in the library. I recognize I shall turn off background music to better listen to people talking, which leads to the fact that I don’t even have a headphone or earbuds, because I feel no need to be a cool high school girl want to be one her own. I learn to talk rather that chitchatting. I learn to really listen rather than nodding my head without perceiving the situation. I do, though, taking out my phone to take great photos, to later share with my parents what I have been doing the whole day. I have learned that my family loves seeing my photos, because that is a great way for them to know about my life.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone being an odd. Because I think it’s harder to find friends who share the same interest. But I would suggest people, thought, slowing down with daily activities to actually observe what are happening, what humans are doing wrong, and what humans can do to change this sad reality. An odd feels lonely, most of the time, even when with her boyfriend. An odd will give her closet friends five minute to check their phones before demanding them to focus on her. But an odd will never dare to do that to strangers or surface friends, but she believes that good friendships are built on communication. So she prays to God that they will eventually change.

The problem humans are facing is huge enough that I truly look forward to a revolution in the future. People will one day understand the situation. I know,

You live in the twentieth century, you need to know how to use a smart phone!

But since everybody knows how to use such smart devices, you don’t need to show off every time you hang out with others. Let’s show off something more special, such as being able to put your phones deep in your purses or bags when surrounded by people!

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

Albert Einstein

But we human will do better than that. There will be a big change. And I believe in the future.

Arts 🎭

This is Joy. She was mad because she didn’t understand all these artsy stuffs.

This is when I told her to smile so that this would be a great photo. And greater it is.

Curvy. Los Angeles. The City of Angels.

We have been here for five days. To me, this is my very first trip that I have gone with friends at my age, that we all have to be in charge of our own stuffs, and that I am not in my hometown.

I was and am excited. I am not sure if I want to go home, but I am also not sure if I want to stay.

A city. I was born in a big city. I know it’s big because everybody look up to it, as a goal, an achievement, something that they have to reach for, to try their best for. I was born and lived in that city for 16 years. I have met and heard about all good and bad things, and I love it.

The city. I left it two years ago for a smaller town, where once I miss the bus, I will have to wait for an hour and a half until the next one comes. It is a Dutch town, 75 years old, and it is safe to walk around at night, because there will be no one walking around except me.

My mom usually tells me to find a bigger city, because that’s where I have always belonged to. A bigger city gives me chances to learn about life, to see more people, so that I will be more “active”. But after two years living in that Dutch town, I have fallen in love with this peacefulness. No need to talk to people. They are all nice because they are not too busy with their own concerns. Little town where people know each other.

I went to LA, because I wanted to travel. I have always been aware that I need to go places. I want to make a decision about which school to go to, and the best way for that is to understand if an urbanized area is a good fit for me.

To my surprise, sure it is. I love LA because of what it has to offer. I love the metro lines, the bus, and the underground subway. I feels to me that I was born in a city, and therefore my heart is drawn back to cities the moment I am there, even though I left the original one.

Los Angeles is also not solely just a combination of Asians and Americans like Bellingham – the place where I am currently living in Washington. I don’t just hear Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese, but in LA I hear French, Italian, and especially Spanish. The mix is greatly varied.

Los Angeles was great to me, as though I found a part of me. However, traveling with other girls who are as the same age as me seems to be hard. They were all Indonesians, and therefore the only way that I can talk to them is using English, and that’s in cases when they want to speak English to me. Sometimes I do feel as though I am left out. There was even a time I cried to myself because they didn’t let me know what was happening.

Languages is a big difference between us, but as human beings we are all the same. There were small conflicts during the trip, and I, as a non-Indonesian and a gossip-hater girl, was put in the middle of a cold war. Two eighteen-year-old girls and two seventeen-year-olds (I’m 17). Joy, the girl I mentioned in the beginning, was complained about how she behaved during the trip, while I was also complained to about the other two girls.

When I got a chance to actually talk to all of them (in this case, I have nothing to do with their war, but I am put in the middle. I guess I am the bridge then, which I’d love to do.), I got to understand that they have reasonable points of view, and the only thing is that they are lack of communication.

See the photo above? The two sides of that photo have the same meaning, but from two perspectives we get two outcomes. This is also what I have learned from this trip. I think as long as they actually share what they think, they will feel better. But they never did.

I am aint the odd or even. For the most part of my life, I hang out with boys and with myself enough to understand why Joy never has best friends that are girls. I aint the odd or even. I can be both. But I’d prefer to be the bridge between Joy and the other two, rather than let them separate from each other. After all, we are one.

Women, ladies, or girls, or whatever you call them, have this powerful strength that can break others’ hearts. I don’t know who is right or wrong, but I do know that the lack of communication caused enough damage on human bondings to actually get people far from one another.

I also realize my power, that I am understanding and know what to do to make others feel better. But I don’t know what to do to make others also perceive the situations from different perspectives, so that we all can have the same voice and our bonding will be tighter.

Sometimes I think that’s my fault. The bridge is broken.

For the night, it is a mess now. I am disappointed because the other two girls are older than me, but they leave me this mess without actually telling me what to do. I know how it feels to be left behind. Because that what they have done to me. I know how it feels to worry about something but having to suffer it on my own. Because I went through that situation. But how? How am I supposed to tell them what they should do when they are older than me. This is a mess.

And I am hopeless seeing my friends turned their backs from each other.

Joy, I know how you feel, I will be with you.

Ivy and Tasha, you two are great, but I wish not just great to me, but also to Joy.

At a place 2-hour flight from home, we are home to each other. Make it safe and warm. We have been through enough.

When in Los Angeles – 12/16/2018

Lessons are all valuable. But the most precious ones are the ones gained from traveling – from people and places of those faraway lands.

48 hours in LA up to now. The list of stories – creepy and meaningful – keeps getting longer. Four girls in the heart of LA. I am thankful that we are together when encountering adversities. Praying is the theme. It is good that we all believe in one Father.

Tảng đá nặng vơi đi một xíu

Mình bảo Năng Khiếu của mình, và của V1619, được xây dựa trên từng tảng đá nhỏ chắc chắn.

Mình vẫn còn nhớ những ngày đầu và nhiều ngày sau đó khi tụi mình ngồi lại kể chuyện cho nhau nghe. Mình nhận ra khoản đầu của ai cũng thật khó khăn, và tụi mình cũng khó khăn với nhau nữa. Bước vào lớp bơ vơ, rồi về nhà khóc vì thất vọng. Ai cũng vậy. Vì tụi mình hi vọng vào một điều gì mà, vào những giây phút đầu tiên đó, tụi mình cho là không đáng niềm tin.

When there is challenge, I think about the days when I first know I got into PTNK.

I had never chosen it. It chose/chooses me.

And I was ready for it, because I tried my best.

I know I did my best, I grew in both my personality and academic path, so I took the test, putting my greatest effort in it, and hoped for the best.

And the best did come.

Hard work paid off.

Mình nghĩ về những ngày bơ vơ. Rồi mình nghĩ về những đứa trẻ đó hôm nay.

Tình cảm của tụi mình được xây trên đá, mình tin vậy. Nó được xây lên từ những câu chào hỏi nhỏ nhỏ, từ những khó khăn, từ sự cô lập. Xây từ những ngày tìm hiểu nhau, đến trân trọng nhau, đến yêu quý nhau. Thật chậm, nhưng thật chắc.

Mình vui và tự hào.

Mình muốn được nói với mọi người, rằng

Những ngày ở Năng Khiếu ấy, mình gặp được những người mà mình tin là sẽ thay đổi thế giới – thế giới của mình, thế giới của nhau, và thế giới to bự kia.

Mình mong mọi người mau qua đây với mình. Mình biết mình lớn, vì mình không vì khó khăn của bản thân mà ghen tỵ với thành công của người khác như mình từng vậy. Mình vui. Vì mọi người sẽ gặp lại nhau.

Ở đây có người chờ mọi người.

Ngày mình rời đi, 1/3 Năng Khiếu đã qua rồi. Lúc đó chưa có tiếng hát vọng lại bảy tầng lầu, chưa có những buổi trưa Văn Tin bên nhau, chưa có vô địch kéo co, chưa có đủ đầy yêu thương đến vậy. Mình biết tụi nhỏ đã và đang lớn. Mình biết tụi nhỏ mà nghe được sẽ buồn vì chúng không thích lớn. Nhưng tụi nhỏ không biết lớn hơn xíu nữa, tụi mình sẽ biết trân trọng những mối quan hệ, và vậy thì tụi mình sẽ đi cùng nhau xa hơn nữa.

Rời khỏi Năng Khiếu, nhưng bảy tầng lầu liệu có quan trọng không khi mình ở trong tim.