Khê Kinh Kha
After 100 years under the rule of the French government, the Viet Minh (All Vietnamese Front) won the final battle at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954, forcing the French to retreat from Vietnam. As a result, the French and the Vietnamese, along with representatives from the United States and China, met in mid-1954 in Geneva, Switzerland. They both agreed to a cease-fire and a temporary division of the country along the 17th parallel.
In the early year of 1947, seven years before the war between the French and the Vietnamese was ended, there was a little boy born into the Buddhist family in the very small village in the central Vietnam.
His dad used to be a chef for a French restaurant, however, when the battle between the French and Vietnamese reached the high point, the restaurant was forced to close. Just like the rest of the countryman, his dad had no job. His mom sells vegetable and herbs or whatever his parents can grow in a little garden, at the market every day. He is the only child his parents have. At the age of 6, his dad trained him how to fish for food. Each day he dug up for some worms then took a bamboo fishing rod to a small canal or creek near his little straw house to fish for food.
The civil war between the Socialist/Communist Vietnamese in the North and the Republics of South Viet Nam has begun, but still far way from his little village. Life is so peaceful to him, he does not want anything else but the rice and corn fields, the small creeks and canals, the river, the moon, the bamboo trees along the country dust road, the buffalos, cows, chickens, ducks and many friends he played with or teamed up to trap fish or birds for food. Every time he caught some fishes or birds, his dad, an excellent cook, could turn them into a wonderful meal for dinner with vegetable and herbs from his parents little garden. Even though his parents are very poor just like most of people in the village, he was growing up in his parents loving arms and care.
He grew up just like a wild tiny unknown grassy flower on the country roadside: Innocent, modesty and lowly.
The beauty and tranquilization of the village life flows into his souls, sprouting in his heart the seeds of love for country, people, nature and peace.
But then one morning, and he never forgot that morning, his parents told him that next week, they will take him to meet his “real” mom who will come from the large city in the South called, Sai Gon. He did not know what the “real” mom means, and he did not care. He did not want any one else but the parents whom he’s been living with, growing up, and who have been loving and protecting him all a time.
His parents told him that in 1952, the country needs more young patriotic men to join in the force to fight against the French to liberate the country; his biological dad left his family to serve in the “All Vietnamese Front”. He and his mom stayed behind. His mom has a dream to be wealth and independent. She did not want to bury her life (and his life) in this small and poor village; she decided to venture to the capital of the South to explore the possibility for either employment or business opportunities. At that time he was too young to travel with her on this long, difficult and unknown journey, she asked her closed friends to be his foster parents to raise him while she was away and if God’s willing, she will come back one day. And now as promised she returned for him.
That day has come, and he met his “real” mom. His mom hugged and kissed him many times. He ‘s so afraid to hug or kiss her back. His mom kept on saying how much she misses him and that she loves him very much and wants to take him with her to Sai Gon city to live with her. He just stands next to his parents and stared at her. He noticed that she has a beautiful smiles and a soft and warm look in her eyes whenever she looked at him. She brought him many toys and nice clothes and shoes that he never ever seen before in his life.
When it’s time to say goodbye to his parents he cried out loud, he pushed his “real” mom away. He did not want to leave; he just wanted to go home with his parents, and to what he has been growing with. They all cried with him, and his foster parents tell him he needs to be a good boy, obey and love his mom because she loves him a lot and she will take good care of him, and send him to school, where he will have more new friends. And they also promised they will come to Sai Gon soon to visit him…
Sai Gon is a large and “bright” city, street lights on most streets, it has many different kinds of transportation, many tall buildings, many people dressing nice, many shops and restaurants. His mom house is a four-floor high house and he has his own room on the third floor with balcony looking out into the open air. His mom has founded a publishing company, publishing high school and college text books. His mom took him shopping for new clothes, shoes and school supply; and she also registered him into the elementary Catholic school. She also took him to places and the one he likes the most is the movie theater with all that cartoon movie of Mickey mouse and friends.
A first few weeks in Saigon city, he often spent many nights sitting on the balcony, staring at the sky and crying silently because he missed his adoptive parents. He wanted to return to the small village with dirt roads and weeds.
He missed the creeks where he used to fish, the fields of rice, potatoes, corn, and on bright moon nights, he and his friends often played hide and see.
As time went by, he gradually felt warmth in his mom’s love and care. The new friends at school also helped him slowly adjust to the city life and somewhat alleviate the nostalgia for the friends in the remote village. Occasionally he would ask his mom when he can visit his adoptive parents or when they will come to visit him, only to shed tears and his mom would embrace him to comfort him.
His mom had remarried and now he had a stepfather whom he didn’t like very much. He once asked his mom where his “real” dad is and she told him that his dad had died in the battle of Điện Biên Phu. He cried many days after that.
The reason he did not like his step dad because he feels that he is arrogant, short temper and is mean to him and also to his mom. His mom and he often argue over things and most of time he heard his mom cried and the next day he saw bruises on her arms, or sometimes on her face. Each time like that he embraced her and cried in her arms. Those moments made him love his mom more and more and want to protect her somehow but did not know what to do. When he was with his foster parents, he never experienced this. All that angry and hatred imprinted a scare in his soul.
Time is flowing like river water longing to the sea, never waiting for anyone or any thing; and even though he grew up in the big city, his love for the country site, people, nature and peacefulness still remain and sustain in him. After many years in the Catholic school, he absorbed the faith and trust in God. And now he was about 13 year old young man, he had an additional love in his heart, a love for God. He often prayed every night for God’s blessings and protection for his mom, and for the country and the people who was suffering so much in the cruel civil war. One night he heard the argument noise in his mom room. His step dad voice was angry and loud; and he also heard his mom crying and begging. He could not control himself any longer, he ran to her room, banged the door open and he saw his step dad pushed his mom into a corner and beat her unmerciful. His blood was raised. His body was shaken. His tears were welled up. He could not think of anything else except somehow to protect his mom. He picked up whatever he could find and threw at him. He finally grasped a couple of hangers, jumped over the bed, tried to hit his step dad to free his mom and yelled at him loudly: “Leave my mom alone, leave my mom alone, you animal, you animal.” His mom said weakly:” No son, please, No…” then she continued crying… He knew that she was not crying for her own fate but for his coming days and months and what unknown shall fall upon his life.
He ran out of the room, out of the house, into the street … His mom yelled toward him: “Go and stay with uncle Hoat”.
The chill air of the night hit him in the face, and snapped him out of the angriness. His heart was pounding and fear started overwhelming his soul, and like a lonely wounded animal in the night he slowly walked to his uncle house. The stars in sky are blinking in the darkness like sharing with him his deep sorrow.
After a few days, his mom showed up at his uncle house. He ran out to greet her, embraced her and cried like he never cried before. His mom embraced him in her arms and padded softly on his back and whispered to him: “My good son, I love you, my good son”. She thanked him for protecting her and she promised to bring him back to her house in a few days or weeks. She said what he did was a wake-up call for her and for his step dad also. He either has to change or he can leave.
The day has come, and his mom took him home to apologize and to hear his stepfather promised to change. That wakeup call somehow magically worked for his mom and his stepfather. There was no more argument, and if he hears an argument and/or angry about to start he would slowly walk toward them like a reminder for his stepfather of his promise.
His mom does not want him to be drafted into the military. She wants to send him abroad for education, so she finds good private teachers to tutor him in math, chemistry, physic. She builds up in him a dream that someday he would graduate with a PhD degree in engineering and return home to help the country. He did study really hard and received very high grads and passed national exam. He then applied for school in the USA and got accepted, and Vietnamese government also approved for him to leave the country for higher education.
He left the country in the 60’s, and attended in a small community college called Jackson Community College. He wants to learn everything about this great country: culture, fashion, music, people, and especially, English.
However, he encountered so many rejections, name-calling, and even threatens.
One Sunday morning He encountered those in “white robe/costume” who burned the cross in front of his apartment. He thought that was some kind of parade they have in this country, so he walked out to watch, but to his surprise he did not see anyone else, except those in the white robe and mask on the other side of the street, holding baseball bats, and were yelling something he did not understand because his English was still very poor. And when the cross was completely consumed by the fire, they yelled something more before they left.
In the cafeteria at school, students left the table whenever he joined.
In the parking lot, his tires were cut off.
In class they call him “Charlie” or “slantee” or yellow.
Many times in the class, some other students took his seats away. One time, the Math professor came to the class earlier than usual and witnessed the whole thing:
“Eh Slantee, you took my seat, yours is in the back, man”.
As he was about to go to the back, the professor stood up and said:
“Hold it, first, his name is not “slantee”, second, the seats are first come first serve, sit down young man”.
After the class, the professor talked with him and asked him to join the Math clubs to help other students since she knew he is very good with math and that would also help him to meet new friends.
Even though he received so many rejections and name-calling, but he never complains to anyone – Not to the professor, not to the dean nor to the president. He remembers what his mom told him when he left his country: “Son, always be humble, friendly, and opening your heart to help. Any difficulty you encounter is a present God gifts you to strengthen you. God always walks with you, so enjoy His companion.
His mom should be a child psychologist.
One time, there was a big guy, came to the Math club for help: “Eh, Kung Fu man, I need help … “
“OK, happy to help”, he said.
One thing about Math is one does not need much English to solve the math problem…So he showed the big guy a few different ways to solve the Math problem and also gave him some references for him to read and study on his own to further improve his math… At the end, the big guy smiled and said: YOU’re OK, you’re very OK, my friend…
He also smiled and said: me OK? Well, You’re OK plus.
They both laughed – so they become friends, and the big guy gave him a nick name: “Mr. OK”, and give himself a nick name “OK plus”…
Words got out… many came to meet Mr. OK for help.
To make a long story short, his friendliness, kindness and willingness to help others helped him to bridge the differences and made many friends.
Later, he also understood the meaning of those in white robes and mask. But he never holds any hard feeling toward them. He also realizes that God not only protected him from any harm from those “white robe” people but God also guided him to win their friendship. He overcame rejection, hatred, threatens, and the KKK by reaching out with his humble and peaceful attitude, friendliness, willing to help and enjoy the God’s companionship.
(to be continue)
BTW, the young man in the true story I just told you, He is – Kind of “A lamb among wolves.” – He has overcome rejections, hatred, name-calling, threatens, and KKK, by reaching out to forgive, to love and offer help to his enemies, and turned them into his good friends.
This young man is old now but still young at heart for others.
He is actually ME.