It rains here in Vietnam
I’m currently sitting in a car traveling from Bao Loc, back to Saigon, where I’ll catch a plane to Da Nang. The hills of Bao Loc is known for their production of tea and coffee. The breezy and cool climate, and the 5–6 months of rain creates the perfect oasis for growth of many tropical fruits and crops. Despite being half way across the world, some of my favorite experiences I’ve had here in Vietnam don’t feel foreign at all. Friends and family sit together at a table socializing over a bottle of wine. Siblings from around the area gathering at their parent’s home for a meal. The elders, eat quietly at the head of the table, content with the presence of their children and grandkids. The table is full of food. And the air, laughter. The siblings make fun of each other. The grandkids eat in a hurry, in order to run off to play.
Amongst this, we exchange stories of each other’s lives. My cousin, Hien, describes the unbearable paperwork and pressure she is put under as a school teacher. In Vietnam, teacher’s do not have the option of failing their students. The student either does well, or doesn’t. The responsibility is on the teacher. Teacher’s are penalized if their students don’t do well. Hien describes how the many regulations that are put into place limits her ability to be simply a teacher. Her husband, Quoc, describes the various ways the government system is set up to keep those with economic disadvantage, poor. He shares stories of how effort does not always pay off. And how success in school does not always correlate with success in society. To succeed here, you have to buy yourself into power, he describes. Quoc talks about how those with money often have a larger say in how the system is ran. My cousin, Hoa, describes the way citizens often live in fear of the corrupt police force. Those with societal authority can pull you over for any little excuse with the hopes of making a few bucks off of you. This was their lives. I sit with these stories. Reminded of the ways these lives are exactly how my parents described Vietnam to be. I sit and feel the urgency that my parents must’ve felt with moving our family to America, where things are supposedly better.
I too, share stories about life in America. Talking about the implementation of electronic medical records (EMR) in America’s healthcare system. I describe to Hien how these requirements, although beneficial for advancement in our healthcare system, often leaves medical physician feeling burned out from extra requirements. I describe the ways that just like teachers in Vietnam, physicians find the EMR to be a hindrance to their ability to be simply a caregiver. I share stories about how despite children being murdered in our classrooms by loose gun laws, those with money can lobby and steer the direction of certain political priorities. I share stories of Mexican families who constantly live in fear. How, without documentation, success in school does not always correlate with success in society. I shared stories of students, who despite their desire to succeed through higher education, face exponentially more barriers due to documentation status. I describe the ways Blacks in our society often face prejudice in every aspect of our society. How, in American, the color of our skins can often determine how well we are treated in schools, in hospitals, or when we are stopped by the police. I described the ways Blacks in our country often fear the men who are there to protect us.
I sit with my own stories. Is the life my parents sought in America really better? Or is it just a better place to hide?
The drive from Bao Loc to Saigon is approximately five hours. Five hours I would rather share with family around a dinner table. As I sit in the backseat of this car, I’m doing my best to take in the view: the tropical trees, the shops, the restaurants, the people living their lives along the highway. The mountains boast majestically, crying to be recognized. The fog and rain hovers over the hills in the distance. It is raining. The familiar sounds of raindrops on the windshield and water splashing under the wheels of this car reminds me of home. There is a sense of comfort with being in this rain. The rain is always there- a force that is a deep part of our lives. It controls how we live: how we play, what we wear, what we eat, what we fear, how we define freedom. It’s often a nuisance- getting in the way of our lives, making life a bit harder for some, preventing others from doing the things we love. But we all learn to live with it. It’ll annoy us if we let it. Otherwise, it doesn’t really change the simple, more important things in life. Despite the rain, we can still gather at the dinner table, laugh, share our favorite meals together, and create memories that eventually become who we are. I find comfort in the rain. I find comfort in knowing that just like Portland, it rains here in Vietnam.