Journey to Viet Nam...
Journey to Viet Nam leaves lasting impression
By Florence Tang
Người mẹ hiền yêu dấu, mẹ đã trao về ta
Thật bao âu yếm, trong những năm vừa qua.
For Pauline Tran, born in Saigon in 1952, her dream of "Bonjour Vietnam" is "always very pretty." Her motherland has fields coated in green, trees filled with coconuts and bananas, lazy rivers and mountain backdrops. It is nature unravaged.
She left the country as a 22-year-old in 1974 to study in Paris. In 1975, Saigon fell. "I lost contact of all my relatives and friends in Vietnam," she said.
After a 32-year absence, she returned as a member of the Sunflower Mission team to see what had become of her homeland. She snapped pictures like a tourist, traveled by bus, xe ôm, by ferry, by boat, across monkey bridges and by foot in southern Vietnam to meet hundreds of children born to mothers who still pick grains of rice by hand in fields as green as she remembered.
"And now this beauty remains there after so many years when the country was destroyed and devastated by different wars. And that's why no matter where we go, we can't forget our country," Pauline said.
Pauline, who has two children ages 23 and 20, had been wanting to return for decades but because of family and work constraints in America, only recently felt the surge of joy in her heart to finally be free to return to Vietnam. Her son David is in the Army Reserves and her daughter Julie is in her fourth year of college. Once Julie graduates, Pauline's gift to her will be a trip to Vietnam.
But Pauline's joy about returning to Vietnam was quietly displaced by sadness deep in her stomach when she saw the faces of poverty around her in hamlets and villages like Châu Đốc, Cao Lãnh, Tân Lập, Châu Phú. "My heart broke to assist so many beggars and homeless while we were eating outside," Pauline said. "I couldn't swallow food through my throat when seeing a mom with a skinny baby in hand and the kids (trying) to sell lottery tickets."