Tết – Vietnamese New Year

tet

Tết
The sound of the word itself triggers hidden feelings
and recollection of beautiful moments and cheerful get-together

Tết
Time to think about love and care for living people – family, friends, relatives
Time for remembrance of our ancestors

Tết
Time to savor all the delicious, special dishes of the festive season

Tết
With it comes all the excitement and the pleasure of playing card games during the holiday

Tết
Forever it lingers in my heart.

Happy Year of the Rooster 2017!

What’s in a Name?

– Hi chị Vân!

The girl typed on the screen. Was she talking to me? There was no Vân in this chat room. I double checked the friend list on Viber to make sure I was right. She must be talking to me then. But hey that was not my name. Here we go again…

I worked for Hongkong Bank more than 15 years ago in Saigon. I was in Trade Services and she worked as a teller in the front. We did not quite have any interaction on a daily basis, but everyone knew everyone. The Hongkong Bank office was very small back then. It was not like we had thousands of employees on a huge campus.
Recently they set up a chat group on Viber to connect all former employees from all around the world: Vietnam, United States, Canada, Australia,… I had a lot of fun reading all the chats coming thru 24 hours of the day literally and reminisced about all the good old memories, but it was not very exciting that someone did not recognize me. How could it be?

– Hi Ngân, are you talking to me? There is no Vân in this chat room 🙂

I carefully crafted my words and drew a smiling face to imply it was not a big deal that she got my name wrong. As if I did not care at all.

– Oh Temy, sorry, I remember you. I don’t know why I associated you with the name Vân.

The girl responded after a few minutes…. This is the second time it happened. The first time it occurred to me, it hit me hard.

It was a week ago that a guy named Dũng joined the chat room. I have not seen him for over 15 years since the day I quit my job at Hongkong Bank, but my memory about him is very clear. He occupied the office in the corner on the second floor not very far from my cubicle. He shared the tiny office with two other guys, one was in fact a Vietnamese expatriate who had returned home in pursuit of whatever he couldn’t find in the US. Dũng, on the other hand, just finished studying in the US and went home to join the bank. It was very impressive that he had a degree from a US university, since it was super hard, if not impossible, to have a chance to study abroad back then, unless you had powerful connections.

Soon after Dũng reunited with the old Hongkong Bank gang in the virtual world, he mentioned where he and his family currently reside. I realized he doesn’t live very far from me, hence I chimed in on the endless stream of conversations on Viber, telling him we live pretty near each other and asking him if he would be interested in getting together some time.

-Yes, Temy, I actually work near where you live and we can have lunch with each other some day. By the way, how do you spell your name in Vietnamese?

I was happy half way thru his response. How do I spell my name in Vietnamese? Hmmmm….

My name is spelled Tề My. Growing up, I was always having a hard time telling people what my name was. It always went like this.
– My name is Tề My
– What is it? Trà My?
– No, it is Tề My
– Tài My? Tà My?
– No, it is Tề My. T Ề M Y

Oh gosh, why did my parents pick so strange, so not-like-any-one-else, and so hard-to-spell a name for me? I hated my name. I wished I had another name. Any name. A flower, a cloud, a plant,…any of those that a girl is usually named after. Not straight eyebrows. But the name stuck with me.

Once I immigrated to the US, people here would spell my name in tons of different ways: Tami, Temi, Tammy, Tamie,… as you can imagine. If a Vietnamese spells my name as Tề Mi or Temi, it won’t surprise me at all because the “i”and the “y” are sometimes used interchangeably in our language. But why on earth an American spells my name as Temi is way beyond my imagination.

As time went by, the name grew on me. I came to like it, love it and became proud of it. Tề My, a unique name, a one of a kind name, the one and only name. I have never met anyone in my life whose name is the same as mine. That is why it came as a shock to me that my old co-workers did not recognize me. Me, the girl with the once-in-a-blue-moon name, the girl as honest and straightforward as the meaning of her name, the day-dreaming girl who often stood by the windows of Hongkong Bank, looking out to the heavy rain in Saigon, and dreamed of a far away land where she would go for higher education, meet a prince and…. That will be another story then.

At the end of the day, what’s in a name? By any other name, I would smell as sweet.

20160316_125432 (2)

Where does the Time Go?

Where does the time go? I asked myself the question.

I remember staring at your big blue eyes one evening in San Francisco several autumns ago. How I long to immerse in them. Like swimming in the ocean in ecstasy.

Now your bright smiles shining in the sunshine when we were strolling the beach warmed me up. Amid the chilly ocean breeze. They are my haven whenever I need to be sheltered from the chaotic world.

I have learned to disconnect from the world now and then. To stay alone with my self and my thoughts. To reflect.

I must learn to let go of all sorrows, all worries, my ego, and my self. Till my name is a voided sound. Till my body is but a bag of bones and flesh. Till my world is a deserted world.

How I have suffered, and how I will suffer more. Before all sufferings are gone. Like death is the beginning of a new life. New endeavors. New journey. Or it’s the end of all ends. Perhaps.

All tears will dry off
All flowers will wither
Only the never-born never-to-die
Will shine forever.

The Autumn Scent

The Autumn has come and so have the yellow leaves. I was wandering in the park, picking up the falling leaves here and there, and trying to find a scent of the Fall.

You don’t sweat much thus don’t smell at all, or rather it’s a no-smell scent, yet how I long for a specific aroma of the Autumn. To remember, or to forget and let go.

You’re gone and I can’t find it anymore. I brought home the Autumn spirit instead, while treading on the golden paths painted with layers of yellow leaves stretching far beyond the horizon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was inspired to write this piece after chatting with phibi. I even borrowed a few ideas from his poems.

Who Am I?

Who am I?
I’ve been looking
for my whole life
Am I the one who talks
and thinks
and drinks
and eats
and hates
and loves
and reflects
and regrets
Who am I?

I’m the never-born and never-to-die
I’m the sun which shines forever
I’m the river which runs thru Time
I’m the song which plays eternally
I’m the present, I’m the life.

05-17-2016

My shoulder length hair
is long enough to stir memories
The reminiscences flow
like an endless Om mantra

The Om is reverberating
The roads I have departed
The paths I will tread on
How do I know
which direction is the best

The Spring flowers are blooming
and singing the universal songs
Will the Heart Sutra
accentuate their notes
and shed light on my way home?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tóc ai chấm bờ vai
Cho vừa khơi nỗi nhớ
Nỗi nhớ dài
Như tiếng Om bất tận

Tiếng Om vang vọng thì thầm
Mọi nẻo đường đã qua
Những con đường chưa tới
Làm sao ai biết
Trái tim có hồi sai nhịp
Nên cứ đứng mãi ngã ba đường

Hoa cỏ mùa Xuân
Đang rộn ràng khúc du ca
Câu kinh bát nhã
Có sáng nẻo ta về

A Poem for My Mother 2016

Who would recall
the skinny and aging hands
cooking the porridge for me
when I was recently sick
are your same smooth and beautiful hands
which fed me the very first drops
of breast milk forty two years ago

Who would understand
that your deep verses thru years-
the finger pointing to the moon,
the smiling lotus in the crowd-
have rescued me from many
hardships throughout my life

Oh Mother
When will I learn
to sacrifice myself
the same way you sacrifice yourself
for me and for everyone else

When will I learn
to be as compassionate as you are
whose compassion is as vast
as a Bodhisattva’s

Oh Mother
Half of you gave birth to me
and you have never failed to nourish.

Happy Mother’s Day
to my Mom and all the Mothers
of the past, the present, and the future!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nào ai hiểu được
bàn tay khô gầy nấu cháo
cho con trong cơn bệnh tật
là bàn tay trắng nõn mượt mà
mớm cho con giòng sữa ngọt đầu đời
bốn mươi hai năm về trước

Nào ai hiểu được
nhũng dòng thơ sâu thẳm của Mẹ
là chiếc bè chở con
qua bao bến bờ khổ nạn
là ngón tay chỉ mặt trăng
là cành hoa sen mỉm cười

Mẹ ơi
Khi nào con mới học được
sự hy sinh bao la của Mẹ
cho con và cho mọi người
lòng từ bi của Mẹ
quảng đại như Bồ Tát

Mẹ
một nửa thành ra con
nơi không bao giờ có lời từ chối.

Mừng ngày của Mẹ
tới tất cả những bà Mẹ
trong quá khứ, hiện tại và tương lai!