[i] Good morning sir. [name] .
[r] Good morning [name] .
[i] You have an object with you. Would you like to tell me about it?
[r] Yes, you’re talking about a dear object, so yes, dear object. It, it’s quite a broad term. And my precious object, for example, when I talk about privacy, I can say my precious object is when we were just married. My wife made me pajamas. We weren’t that rich back then. So that’s one of the, of the most precious precious object. I brought it myself. After the flight, I only have those, those pajamas, so that’s my precious object. But that’s private. Business I guess, I’ve had it for 30 years. I’m very interested in books. Mainly in what the Vietnamese do here in the Netherlands in books, in literature. So I have a very large collection of books in, Vietnamese books, and books about Vietnam in the Netherlands. And here you can see. Here is a very small part of my books here. And when I tell you, about that maybe you are very surprised that the Vietnamese Netherlands have made so many books. Yes, I think at least 100 books in total by Vietnamese Netherlands.
[i] And what does it say, what kind of books are they?
[r] Are all kinds of books. Could have been in the beginning, when we were here like refugees. And are, then they already wrote books about the, the problem of Vietnamese psychological, mental disorders of the Vietnamese refugees or of how, how we are received, how we are received in, in the Netherlands. Life in the shelter, that sort of thing. Later we have other books for example we have poetry, we have short stories, we have long stories. In Vietnamese, in Dutch, in English. In the last few years we also have students or human beings, or students of hbo, mbo who make theses. So, and a lot of research. I, I’m not so much interested in two kinds of books that his travel guides and cookbooks are very many. Something like travel books and cookbooks I have chosen some more specific books in my collection. But, for example, here I have, I have one, some books. This is for example a very old one: Reception, care and guidance of Vietnamese or guardianship pupils. That’s from then in the 80’s I think ’70 or the, the book about the Vietnamese in psychiatry. That’s also something like that. In short, it’s all kinds of books. We also have the, the Dutch have written many books in Dutch, in Dutch, about Vietnam. A well known book maybe that’s this one. I think it’s very, very beautiful book. That’s lion and dragon. That’s four centuries of Holland in Vietnam. They were written by the Vietnamese and the Dutch and about four centuries between lions, so Holland. And dragon is Vietnam. That’s very beautiful.
[i] And what do all those books mean to you?
[r] Well… I, I happen to be in the realm of publishing when I was young. [word processing] I started as an editor when, let’s see, I was eighteen at the time. Then I had a, a typing course. So at some point, you really, really need to be able to type something. Well, how do you do that? So at some point, my mom asked me, my mom was a lawyer at the time. Now you can type a self-defense plea for me. So I started typing. I had… ten finger typing through my mom, too. At one point, I went to college. And there quite simply that, is that there you always have a group of students who write down everything the teacher says. And you make a book out of it. Because not all students come to college. So we can make the books, type, then used stencils. And we get to sell stencils college dictations, we sell to those students. So I was in one of those groups at the time. I started, like, typing with stencils, then manual, then engine. So I’m, I’m slowly getting involved in making books. In Holland I’m, say, five or ten years Eh… Not that, I don’t get involved in Holland. In 1982 there was a group of young people saying: hey, maybe we should organize a book club. Or a pen club or something. That’s when we started organizing a group. I wasn’t in that group at the time. But they have a meeting. They had a meeting, they brought the poetry, they brought stories. And at that meeting, in that meeting, they told about their own far… reading stories, reciting poetry, that sort of thing. Well, somebody asked me if I wanted to join them, get hooked up. Okay, so I started to say, like, another kind of editor. I do find it interesting to… because not only do you read in that word, but you also read, you read a background while reading you know how the authors, how the writer feels at that moment. It’s very interesting for me to find out. Sometimes, maybe, sounds weird. But due to a number of mistakes I can imagine what people were thinking at that moment. Yes, very interesting. And I started writing at that time. I mainly write stories in Vietnamese. And I also wrote stories in Dutch. I also published stories in various literary magazines, in magazines in America, in France, Germany and things like that. For the Netherlands I sent in stories for, then for our world. One time I was in the finals for one of my short stories. And I’m still not, I’m in, now I’m in a kind of eh…, editor board [control].
[r] of number of magazine in America and in the Netherlands I have also done.
[i] And they’re all Vietnamese books?
[r] No.
[i] None? Not just Vietnamese…
[r] Not just Vietnamese books, yes.
[i] But, what I mean by that is, are they the stories of the Vietnamese people or are there all kinds of stories from different regions of different nationalities?
[r] Yes, that’s very fascinating. We’ve got here, we’ve got here, let’s see. I got it, I got it, we started a pen club in 1982. We call it “Cai Dinh”. But then we got together in little club. And, and in 1992 we said no, we should really organize it as a foundation, official foundation. So I founded the Cai Dinh foundation together with some friends. And we registered it as a real foundation. And, after that I…
[i] What year was the foundation founded, you said?
[r] Officially in 1982.
[i] Okay. Officially 1982?
[r] Officially, we were founded in 1982. In 1992, we were officially registered as a foundation.
[i] Registered as a foundation, okay. So 1982 is actually a club of friends, as a pen club it started and was in ’92?
[i] Yeah, 1992.
[r] it actually became a foundation, officially a foundation.
[r] It’s really foundation. And I’m the president of the foundation. We published some books in the beginning. And we try to sell books here in the Netherlands, also in France, in America. But maybe you know, say it… Publishing is sometimes a fierce competition. And there are all kinds of strange costs, such as the commission we have to pay them for selling books in America, which is about 50%. So, at some point, it’s unfeasible. We have published a total of seven books. We made a CD. We have… But besides those, the books for Cai Dinh, I also made some books for my friends, my girlfriends in Vietnamese in the Netherlands. Yes because I, I say for example this is, in this book, this book is a collection of almost all Vietnamese writer in the Netherlands at that time. Yes, folks, one writes poetry, the other short stories. I write fiction. Other people make studies of literature. A Dutch professor wrote something about Vietnam, Vietnamese culture. For example, someone has written studies about music, Vietnamese music. So here in total, we’ve asked 15 people for this book.
Yeah, wow, that’s very interesting about the books. Is one of your passions. And would you like to tell us something about who you are?
Well, I’m, um, I’m, live, live, life story is quite a journey. I’m coming. I’m originally from north Vietnam. I’m in Hue. I was born in central Vietnam. And I grew up in Saigon. Well… In Vietnam there were then, say, Vietnam was divided in two, North and South. I’m in South, so you automatically enlisted. So at some point in 1968 I went into the military. I was a cadet at the time. Me from the military academy. I’m a student. I sent pharmacy. I graduated as a pharmacist in 1973. I’m also a lieutenant in the, in the army of South Vietnam. I worked for two years in the, somewhere in a division in South Vietnam. Not really fought, because pharmacist is always in say headquarter [headquarter]
[r] . In 1980, no, in 1975 Vietnam, communism conquered South Vietnam. Yeah, I got it. I was on the wrong side at the time. Automatically, all people are put in jail. Me, or they call concentration… or re-education camps. So I’d been in six or seven of those camps, all over the place. In 1977, they released me because so many people just ran away, so they were short of people. I was released in 1977. Fortunately, I was able to find a job in pharmacy. I worked in various pharmacies for two years. But, the situation at one point was not, no longer feasible. I’m in, we got married in 1978. I’ve known my freezer… my wife for nine years now, but we couldn’t get married because of the war. At some point in 1978, we got married. When my daughter was born, the situation got worse. And, yes, at one point, we decided that we had to flee. 1980 we fled, with a small boat. Four days, or three days four nights in the sea. Then Dutch ship Smit Lloyd 104 nicked us, or rescued us at sea. And they took us to Singapore. That was in August 1980. So around this time. And we then in Singapore for, within two, three months, if you don’t have any family members or no sponsors at all, then you or you should go to the Netherlands. We have no other family member in other countries. So then we went to the Netherlands in 19… In October, so at this time. In October 1980 we went to the Netherlands. In reception centre, reception centres, there are two. And then my son, our son, was born. So we, I have my daughter at this moment, let’s see, 35 and my son is 33 years old. In the Netherlands I went, I want to continue my studies. Because, yeah, I, I, I’m really sorry about that. I’ve studied so, so much and here, yes. I don’t think that, that I’m different… I think that pharmacist is a very nice profession. So I want to continue my studies. Then I went, I could go to Groningen to study. The degree in pharmacy, pharmacist in Vietnam was then assessed as two years in the Netherlands. Me, so I got a two year exemption, the first two years. Back then it was an old style. So I started my doctoral studies in…, I got my doctoral degree and in 1870 I finally graduated as a pharmacist in the Netherlands for twenty times. Well, then we went, I went…
[i] Do you mean ’87 or did you say ’78? Graduated?
[r] No, graduated in 1987, because I fled in 1980. And here two years and first you have to study the language. That took me about two years, a year and a half to master Dutch because the study is only Dutch, yes. So 1987 I graduated. Then I tried to find work in, in the North. But I didn’t succeed, at a certain point I heard via. Well, here in Maarssen there’s a job for you, maybe. So I applied for it and immediately accepted it, hired it. I work, I worked for a pretty big pharmaceutical company in Maarssen at the time. So about 10 minutes by bike. The company’s like hundreds, at least four hundred people. Well, you… You, you thought that’s okay because so many people work there, but unfortunately. Reorganized four times in two and a half years. And at some point, I don’t survive. So the company is totally bankrupt. I went to, fortunately in Holland once it’s found a job, then you can easily roll in other jobs. I found another job in Diemen, in the south of Amsterdam. So I’ve been working there since 1990 as a pharmacist in that company.
[i] So far?
Yeah, so far.
[i] You’ve told me a lot. Also about Vietnam when you were in the re-education camp for a couple of years. How did you experience then? I hear a lot, yeah, different stories, pretty horrible, too. You experienced it yourself. What, what was your experience back then?
[r] Yeah, stories so diverse. I’ve been to six re-education camps in total. And one thing then, the first feeling, because they called us, take enough food for 10 days. So I haven’t taken that much with me yet. I literally took the money. I thought you could do something, you could buy food anywhere, buy food, no problem. Go home after 10 days. But after 10 days you don’t hear anything. And then panic really started and yes people… I think it’s very sad that old people or old ex-officer who suddenly, yeah, finally didn’t know how their wife could cope in that situation. Really chaotic. But at some point we had to accept, so be it. We can’t do that. At that point, you stand with the choice, survival or not? I say I have to survive. I have to survive anyway. Well to survive. Only way you can survive in that situation is to try to think as positively as possible. So because of that sit… because of that thinking, I always try to look at things in a positive way. But I’ve heard a lot of stories about the misery or people being abused. Yeah, I know that. But at some point I think that’s the fate of your life. You have to, you have to accept this fate. Because we were on the wrong side. Yeah, us. We lost the fight. So yeah, what do you have to do. I’m glad I’m still alive every day. And… but you have to, you have to think positive all the time. And my advantage is actually in my youth I’ve touched a lot with music. I know hundreds of Vietnamese songs by heart. Yeah, so that’s my only amusement in those concen… re-education camps. I can say I’m going to sing that song myself and think back to that, to that time. A lot of people don’t have any hobbies and they were moping all day, moping about… wailing about life. But that… You know, in prison, you always have to try to be positive, to live. Otherwise, you’re gonna die, you’re gonna die. And I think by my, my opinions I can have quiet, and… I consider them to be one, a bad, number of bad pages in my life. But at first I did, I hate communism, but I thought now, you have to understand: they have a lot to… For example, their family in the north is being bombed. Either they, or people, the communists sent them to the north, to the south, and then they went, they died. So the people in, who are in North Vietnam with all the misery of so much impact in their families… They automatically hate the South Vietnamese. It’s normal that people… I think we’re all victims of a war that we don’t really want. Even north, south. Only the great power, I call it on the one hand capitalism on the other hand was communism. That was a conflict between the two, we call it the Cold War. Because of the cold war we, Vietnam, were in the front of that, of the conflict between China, Russia on one side and a free world, capitalist countries on the other side. So yes, that’s the fate of country. Me, me, I’m just wondering: why does Vietnam have to suffer so much misery? Why is it all falling into Vietnam? Why not other countries? Why can’t we live in peace? But that’s how it is. That’s cold war. And we’re just victims. Just a few, a group of people who have benefited from the war. And especially the North Vietnamese, North Vietnamese party leaders because they literally fought the war for the whole communist system. And it, I, yeah, I’m really sorry people could think so naive that, yeah, you… Okay, you fight for you, for your country, okay. But you shouldn’t fight for an ideology or fight for another country.
[i] What does something like that do to you? That you’ve experienced all that. What does that do to you?
Um, I-I should try to, uh, calm down. I have to think about the fate of people and see what’s causing it. And I study people’s reactions in that situation. It’s very fascinating. One does this, the other does that. Reaction of people is very, yes, diverse. And I try to write in my story I started, I started to analyze those things and, and try to write story. But at a certain point I say: hey, that’s, that’s, that’s not, that’s not quite right. That’s just, that’s too normal. I want to do something more in, in stories. So I also want to be able to overcome those already feelings So my story was also about the, the fate of people in normal life. So me, in stories, I try not to write two things. First about that time in, in the re-education camps. So many people have written about that. I didn’t write a story about my profession either. Cause you have to write in, I, I mean, writing is kind of a self-conquest. I have to conquer myself. I only write about the fate of people in general, in the, in the environment between misery they have to survive, they have to go through and the conflict, continuous struggle between good and evil. I say it, a story you usually hear that people always do the main character good thing, good things. No, in my story I do a lot between good and evil. One time, one time, they can be very evil, very bad, bad guy. And sometimes they’re always good. So, you’re not good with certain people, but you’re good, you’re good. That’s kind of humane.
[i] Yeah, you were just talking about overcoming. Overcome what?
[r] Conquered, what must be conquered. You have to overcome it, the normal feelings of people. If you, like the languages, I then, back to Dutch, I learned Dutch three times from, starting from scratch. At the shelter, we had 400 hours of language lessons. After 400 hours, we had enough words, vocabulary to survive. Going to the supermarket, buying things, ordering things. Simple phone calls to the doctor, things like that. When I wanted to study I went to an institute of applied linguistics in Groningen. Then I learned in a different way. I learned it then, I, I say: hey, I could go one level higher. But at some point you really satiated. I started to, to, to see how that was possible. Then I started watching the kids learn. I, I suddenly realized how to learn that language, you shouldn’t be in the language. You have to be above the language. Dutch, the Dutch language is just like Vietnamese. I think that’s very funny. A lot of people think the Vietnamese language has grammar, no. Vietnamese has very, very little grammar. Dutch also has very little grammar. Yes, I, I see a lot of things in common between the Dutch language and the Vietnamese language. But one thing very important for all languages, you have to be above the language. I feel the same way. You shouldn’t live in your feelings. Try to swim between your feelings. You have to be above it, that’s what I mean to overcome. You have to look down above your feelings. Hey. So you have to try to get out of you, say, and look back at what you’re thinking. And what, suppose you think: okay, that main character would think like that, but you have to try to think, okay but suppose that’s how it happened, what is that person going to think. What that person is going to think. So you need to get up there. I write my story, I write story one hundred percent fiction. Very whole, but, but, but at some point, maybe funny, I’ve been criticized by people. You know what criticism is?
[i] No.
[r] People think, people thought, and I still think, think that my story, all the story that wrote me, are real. Yeah, but sorry, I write a hundred percent fictional. All, how person days, the environment, that sort of thing. I don’t have any, very few maybe 10% real and 90% really fictional. On the other hand, I have a, a friend of mine, too, just a pen pal. He’s already written 100% non-fiction. Very weird. So everyone thinks it, yes story, story, but he doesn’t know that my story is 100% fiction. And his story is 100% real. But at a certain point I thought, on the one hand I’m still very happy to be able to express it so, so well, so realistically, but on the other hand you shouldn’t write that far, because I say I don’t only write about the good people, everyone tends to give the main character a good character. In my story I write: I’m really bad, I can also say… I think so, I think that compared to Dutch literature, I think Ronald Giphart for example can write something like that. He also writes very good fiction, a bit of fiction story. Simon Carmiggelt, who writes real story, who really writes what he’s seen, yes. But Ronald Giphart, yes, if you read that story of his, that’s good, that’s fiction.
[i] I hear you really have a positive attitude, huh. Al, in all the misery you went through in Vietnam, you already have such a positive attitude. Did you get that from yourself or did you get that from your parents’ upbringing?
I’m sorry to say, it’s not because of my parents. I’ve, I’ve been in a lot of situations all my life. And I, I always observe what people do. And I, I always try to figure out why they do it. And in the end, I’ve seen that that positive is the only factor that makes your life about you can go on happily in your life.
[i] Are you trying to tell me that it’s important to understand what people are doing?
[r] Yeah, yeah. When you observe people, then you see things that but you have to look at that, look what funny side of that… But positive thinking now science has proven that that psychic factor plays a very important role in, important role in the, in the, in the disease. For example, people with cancer: why are some people cured and others not? And people are now going to delve more deeply into psychological factors and they have had a number of discoveries that for a number of diseases for example autonomous diseases rheumatism, even cancer, psychological disorder can be cured through a psycho analytical way. So I think probably, I think more or less by my positive attitude, I am in my company everyone is surprised. I haven’t been sick a day in 30 years. And it’s incomprehensible to them. Every day at exactly eight o’clock I’m there.
[i] And does that have to do with a positive attitude or is there a secret behind it?
[r] I don’t tell you or people that a lot of people ask how is that possible? What do you eat? How do you live? I don’t tell you what I eat. cause I don’t know exactly what that is. But I think you have to believe that by positive attitude you can achieve some that you can. I’m very happy. And if you believe that, you have to move on. Because I haven’t been able to find any evidence against it.
[i] Okay, if we look at when you came to Holland, what was your impression of Holland?
In Singapore, say first months when we, I did try to make contact… who lives in America. We have some uncles and aunts in America. But they wouldn’t sponsor us then. At a certain moment we had to go to the Netherlands. Then we know what’s going on in the Netherlands. We know the tulips. We know the Guigoz milk. Maybe you don’t know the Guigoz milk, but in Vietnam, a very famous brand, very good milk powder for children was very expensive. And …yes this is the cooperation between the Netherlands and France. Guigoz can is a real concept in Vietnam. We know Philips. My father had a Philips radio and he was really proud of that. That is so good and always good reception. That sort of thing. We don’t know anything else. I do know a chocolate bar that’s not called Van Nelle, but Van Melle. Something else. Van Melle is also…not so unknown in the Netherlands. So with that knowledge and… then… we still got information about the Netherlands and we know it’s a cold country. So and so the language looks like German. I don’t know a word. I…yes I may know English and French. How can we survive there? Then we went to Holland. And first impression I had, that I don’t have a good impression I have to say. we went first meeting at the reception centre in Leerdam. On the first or second day an interpreter came to tell us that the Netherlands is a Socialist country. Pffff…I say…we say really because just really belong here is a Socialist… ..yeah… And then we got information. You have to go to a doctor. You have to follow that path. You can’t go back then, you have to go to a doctor in your village. For example, the children have a petting zoo or they call allotments. We have something like that in Vietnam. We also call allotments. It’s a bad concept for everyone. And … or we’ll just have a neighborhood meeting here. In Vietnam we have a neighborhood meeting, that’s kind of… in court. But here… A couple of times I went to that public assembly or neighborhood meeting. to look. For example, we have TBS here, that’s some kind of re-education camp in Vietnam. Same thing.
You thought where would I end up, huh?
Yeah, where do I end up? Yeah. But the interpreter says, no no no here is Socialist, but not as a Socialist you already know. And I say never mind. I want to see first. I want to see first. So first I have to say first years I was really living with a feeling…I was in such a free country then and here we have to go to the doctor…make an appointment. We went there and got nothing. Just advice. In Vietnam the same way. You went to a local doctor and you didn’t get anything, maybe a couple of pills. Here’s something like that. You have to stand in line everywhere. You have so much form. You have to do this, you have to do that. Everything has to be arranged for you and in the beginning I thought it was a bit scary. Control everywhere, so really you see everywhere control by the people in your neighborhood, because we have a neighborhood meeting, people can call the police if there is a stranger in the neighborhood for example that yes…
[i] So that association with what you went through in Vietnam, so you got rid of it, you see it again in the Netherlands.
[r] Yes correct!
[i] And that makes you afraid that you will end up in the same situation again?
[r] Yes yes!
[i] And you had a completely different image of Holland when you came here?
[r] I had no other image at all, we had no image at all of Holland at that time. We know that a small country and that is Philips and tulips and maybe a lot of milk.
[i] What did you think you would find here in the Netherlands back then?
[r] …I…
[r] Honestly I was very unhappy in the first year. You have to start everything from the beginning, because we don’t have anyone. I’m one of the first group to come here. ..so…I have to… Everybody’s asking what I do. I’m getting another host family. I still have a sponsor, but… what we think doesn’t always match what they thought.
[i] Who are they?
The sponsors, host families. Same study. I want to study then. I then asked the social worker where I can study. But they had no experience at all with intellectuals people. …what… Until now, they are in contact with the Turks and Moroccans who are people who come as guest workers who want to be, say, a simple employment agency and get work in suits, in warehouses or cleaning things like that. They have no idea where university is. Now it might sound weird. But it was back then. So I asked, where can I study? I don’t know, I’ll ask. But then I don’t get an answer. I happened to ask then, I happen to know that yes, in Groningen a university. I know that in Amsterdam, but Amsterdam We weren’t allowed to live in Amsterdam, The Hague in Utrecht, Rotterdam too. In four cities we weren’t allowed to come if we didn’t work. That’s of course because now I understand in 1980 then we didn’t know, but now we know 1980 the Netherlands is really struggling with economic crisis. That makes sense. At some point I did find the university in Groningen. I phoned myself, called the lecturer and asked what the situation was. So the beginning here is very different from what people in America started in France. We don’t have any…
[i] How long did you live at the Leerdam shelter?
[r] Leerdam is actually a sort of intermediate step. That’s where the medical research is done. Fill out the form. You only stay there for 2 weeks, all groups. Those who come to the Netherlands stay there for 2 weeks and after that we were dispersed in various reception centres. Me, we start at the reception centre in Heerde. My name was Victoria Vesta, again 9 months. And then the shelter was sold to Bhagwan and Bhagwan was very well known in the Netherlands. They bought the shelter. Because we had moved to the shelter in De Wijk near Meppel. About 6 months. So in 9 plus 6 months, so 15 months I learned the language.
[i] And you lived there for about 9 months in the reception centre in Heerde? And after that? What happens after that? Are you allowed to choose where to live?
[r] No, in Heerde I indicated that I wanted to continue studying. So they were busy trying to find a [unclear] place for me, but it didn’t work out. so the moment I gave up is now the shelter is closing. You guys have to go somewhere else. Some people got a house. Those who haven’t gotten a house yet have to go to another shelter.
Were you there?
[r] Yes, I was there, so then we went to De Wijk near Meppel. I then went to Groningen, a language lesson, that is why I happen to know that there is a university in Groningen and before that. I only know two or three cities in the Netherlands at that time. Amsterdam only by name. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague. In Vietnam we call La Haye, now we know The Hague. And Utrecht was unknown to us. So three cities that is, was the Netherlands.
[i] So you studied in Groningen.
[r] I had finally studied in Groningen.
[i] And what kind of study did you do there?
[r] I studied Pharmacy.
[i] You lived in Meppel and went to Groningen to study?
[r] No. I then went to a shelter in Meppel. I indicated, okay, there is a university in Groningen, so I want to have a house there to continue my studies. Then we went to Groningen, we got a house there. It is a big house. Now I know, because no one there… priceless to ordinary people. So brand-new new neighborhood in Groningen. I say, oh this is… cool, cool! Suddenly we get a new house with so many rooms. Anyway! Then my feeling was…yes I started to get a good impression of Holland. Holland is still good for us, have helped us for our study. For my studies is pretty easy. Coincidentally I know through…I know that certain teachers, I need to have contact with that teacher. I called him. I’ve… I’ve come to interview and talk. We told him, I told him what I did in Vietnam. He says, okay… go study. So easy, I thought… I thought why so easy and those professors just told us… helped us in what he could do, what he could do then. Well he says okay, the Dutch are good too.
Then you started with… with… …understanding that what you went through in the first place is very different from what you went through in the first place. Yeah, then the change came?
Yeah, then the change came in me. I say hey, in Holland you can do so many things, slowly you know, being Dutch… They have their own feelings, their own culture. You have to respect that. Some of the things we had we always made a joke about…
[r] okay, because of change, we very often make jokes about Holland being a weird culture. For example, here when you drink coffee, twice a cup of coffee, you get a biscuit and the can closes. This is incomprehensible to us. Really rude!
[i] Why is that rude?
[r] In Vietnam when you get a tea there is a bowl of cookies or sweets. Again we don’t drink or eat biscuits with coffee, have coffee. But as a cake there, you absolutely mustn’t close your eyes. That’s uh… yeah… That kind of thing, here you always have, here you have the term of tea time is about two, three hours. For us… why do you always have to drink tea, why do you have to drink coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. Why can’t you? Weird habit. Here I see, for example, I saw some village then, no uh… no life at all on Sundays at that time because people so religious. In Vietnam, we were often quite religious, but not that bad.
[r] I believe in Buddha. I am not a Buddhist. clear: many people in the Netherlands also believe in God, they are not Catholic or Christians. I believe in Buddha, I believe in reincarnation. Yes work of… the causal connection the afterlife I believe in. But I’m not really Buddhist.
[i] What’s a real Buddhist to you?
A real Buddhist that means you get a special name, say some kind of baptismal name in Buddhists. At that moment, yes, you sacrifice yourself to Buddha, you… You are at that moment a disciple of Buddha. You have to practice Buddhists. That Buddhist are lines. You have to follow that, quite simply, five lines, well… Five uh… I can’t meet those five. For example, one of the lines, you can’t drink alcohol. Well, I’m sorry, I do drink alcohol now and then, so I’m… I don’t think I’m qualified as a Buddhist.
[i] Buddhism is some kind of way of life? A guideline, a guideline in your life, right?
[r] Yeah yeah yeah, because the condition of religion or that’s your
Um…you… You have a… creator. But Buddha is, uh, different from God. Buddha doesn’t create the universe. Buddha is the one who creates the system… describe reincarnation and Nirvana and I’m trying to tell that doctrine to people. That’s not a religion. Because Buddha is not a supreme god… He only knows the way. That’s the difference.
[i] Yeah, back on, when did you graduate? What happens after that?
[r] Well, that’s a bizarre story, too. The… I started studying in 19… uh… Early 1982, 1983, say, around Christmas. Uh, in 1984, Holland started a very big project, which means it’s called OETC education. For the…in their own language in culture. Education in own language and culture – OETC. They saw that the gap between the first and second generation of the second generation was widening and they were afraid that there would be no more communication between the first and second generation of immigrants. In 1884 they started a big project…
[r] Yes 1984 Then they started, so to speak, but all primary school children were allowed 2.5 hours a week in their own language at the most. So the Chinese children went to Chinese classes. Vietnamese children to Vietnamese class. Moroccans to Moroccan class. Well they hired a lot of teacher and teacher for that project. My wife was a teacher in Vietnam at the time so she had a base here in the Netherlands. Had she done an application course to continue teaching, so she was then… the teacher of OETC of Vietnamese class. In the neighborhood, we live in a new neighborhood and in that neighborhood they started a new school.
[r] That’s Beijum. Beijum in Groningen. Beijum in Groningen is completely new and they started building a school there. I think about 200 meters from our house. Ideal. My wife was hired. Appointed as a teacher there. In 1987… I graduated. My wife was sitting there, 200 yards from home. I’m trying. I say pff…yeah…uh…then I… certain professor, I was in the Department of Farmalogy. I was working on some project. Professor asked me: hey do you want to stay here as a researcher for the university? I say okay, well, I don’t have to earn that much. My wife’s right over there, perfect. 200 yards. I went to college about half an hour by bike. We tried. You know what happened? Well, college pays me… Then you got another system of, uh, health insurance, health insurance. I earn net wages about 200 guilders less than welfare. Sounds crazy, bizarre. I say… how is that possible, I’m working… I went to Social Services, I say this is the situation… Social Services says no… Because you’re the researchers, so you don’t work 100% for the university. You teach at the university, but you do research in your own time, so you’re not 100% available for employment. I can… yeah… uh… that situation… So you can’t register here as jobseekers. Because… suppose we find work for you, then you’d have to quit college, so to speak. I went back to college. I told the professor, that’s the situation. I just want that, I don’t think it makes sense, it’s not fair. Try for me to get… the welfare now and I’ll do it. I’m… it’s just about the principle. I can’t work for less pay than welfare. Professor’s tried too. But I can’t! So I say, no, I don’t.
[i] So you didn’t? Did you move on to something else?
[r] Yes then I went to Hoogeveen, to Meppel, about 60 km in the area around Groningen. Had I not found a job then. Because everyone looks at me with suspicious eyes. Of course life in a pharmacy is really hard, hard life and everyone… I can hire a Dutch pharmacist and no foreigners. Sure, you have contact with people and you have to talk a lot with a pharmacist’s assistant. You have to be able to prove that I’m doing something and…yes so I haven’t had many, think 30, 40 applications when I think about it. Didn’t. And first of all,either too far or they don’t need me 100%. A few days a week. At some point I hear a friend of mine who lived and worked in that company in Maarssen. Say hey, maybe they have a place for you here. Go apply for a job. I applied and suddenly… I get oh.Well come, welcome. I think within a month… I’ll be hired. I’m working at ACF [Amsterdam Chemistry Pharmacy] . ACF means Amsterdam Quinine Factory. That’s a very big company in Pharmaceutical company, chemical company in Maarssen. And now I can tell. In the Netherlands we have a kind of system just like in Vietnam, people know each other among us. I live in Groningen… I’m going to work in Maarssen. How should I move, how should I… I, uh… You have to register so long before you have a place to live. Well, the head of HR says… No problem. I’ll call… sit down… he’ll call… in half an hour… I have a place. I have a house.
How is it possible, something like this… here… near that company. So then we moved from Groningen to Maarssen. Then the question was… Does my wife have to come or not? She worked 200 meters away from home at the time. I have no future at all in Groningen. So we said: I certainly earn more than my wife, so move to Utrecht. Utrecht has more possibilities. In Utrecht you certainly have school… More schools… then we moved to Maarssen. My wife still had a job there. So they have in… Then in 14 years every week 2 days working in Groningen, living in Maarssen, 2 days in Groningen, 200 km travel there and 200 km back. To our old place. I’m here in Maarssen about 10 minutes by bike. 2.5 years later the company is totally bankrupt. So now… Where should we go? I found a job in Diemen. The question is: do we have to go to Diemen or not? I say no… Stay in Maarssen, my wife can go to Groningen and I can take the train to Amsterdam. So that means every day… I’m 40, 35 km there and 35 km back. My wife 200 km, 200 km back. Well, and…
How did you do? Cause you had a young family when you were kids. I don’t know how old they were then?
Uh…yeah…uh… Our children were very young. When school started, my daughter went to grade one, say kindergarten, that’s 4, 5 years something like that. Yeah, then they went to that school. My wife was a teacher there. Well, we did things we weren’t supposed to do. In America, for example, absolutely not allowed… we gave the kids the key. Six-year-old kid.
They go back home from school by themselves. They go in and take care of themselves?
Yeah. We made bread every day, put it on the table. Child to school. I went to college. At noon… they went home. And look, sometimes my wife went home with them. They went home. And uh…we grew up there and ate at some point…in uh…when we came to live in Maarssen. My daughter was 8 at the time. Let’s see, yeah, 8 years old. Luckily, my wife had found a job in Maarssen herself. But in the days when she was in Groningen, now child has to take care of herself.
The youngest was 6 and the oldest was 8?
Yeah, yeah. So… But fortunately the school was close to home, so it’s possible. We said if you have a problem, go to the neighbors.
Okay, because then you don’t have a cell phone to call how that is?
[r] Then you can understand that the awareness of people living in the Netherlands and Vietnam is very different…
[i] What’s that in?
Well… now I can say… This is not acceptable. We have to arrange babysitting in that situation anyway. But then they were pretty new in Holland. So I say, well… in Vietnam we can do this, so here we are, so… People’s lives are inferior in Vietnam than they are in Holland.
Yeah! Here… I dare you now. I’ve got a grandchild now, I really don’t dare let him go for a second. But then I did, all day long. And yes, a few times they forgot the keys and went to the neighbors. And the neighbors picked him up.
[i] It all went well?
[i] You were thinking Vietnam, that it could all go like this? Then you adjust it here, too?
[r] Yes, yes… And besides, there was no other choice then. We had no other choice then. We…
[i] In what sense no other choice? Because you worked and your wife worked, you made that choice?
Yeah, uh… some of the things we’re living in now in the 21st century. That’s very different. Then we’re talking about 1990s in a small village in Groningen. We really didn’t know the term babysitter. We don’t know. Even very strange things. At school they sometimes have older evenings. We went to parents’ night. I used to ask in Vietnam that the parents help the kids learn or we can hire a private teacher or yes… comes on… private tuition. I’ve asked school to do this. I’m afraid my child is an immigrant. I’m afraid they don’t keep up with their classmates. No no you absolutely mustn’t, you absolutely mustn’t. Education is part of school. You can’t do it. So hey… But that was then. I tried, I tried with my kids… Watching homework together. But I’m not afraid to take a step forward. Very common in Vietnam. The children always get a prepared step before she goes to school. For example, today they have to learn lesson two… At home they’ve been taught lesson two by their parents for two or three weeks. So parents have… Help, still help people always help the children one step ahead, try the step ahead…
Is that normal in Vietnam? Is that how all parents do it?
If you can… you have to do it.
Yeah. And at school, cultural differences like that. At the end of the year… I asked, uh, should we contribute for a gift or a prize for school? No… we don’t have to. I say why not? Kids don’t get a prize, they don’t get a competition.
In Vietnam it’s perfectly normal to get a prize? Yes…
[r] Yes, in Vietnam they always get the… at least the first three best students always get, still always get prizes. Either in books or in notebooks or in, uh… usually in books. That kind of gift as a kind of incentive so that everyone can see, okay… Try a lesson as good as that. Parents always say try “you have to look.”
[i] That’s an example… I’m really scared. How is that possible, how is that children learn… the teacher and teacher says… You have to let go. If your child wants to learn it will learn by itself. You shouldn’t force them. You shouldn’t force them either. That’s their freedom. But that was a mentality from back then. But now it’s changed. Now a lot has changed. Now I see a lot of people are going to be private tutors and teachers… …because then maybe it’s the school. I’m so imposed.
How did you feel about that being imposed on you?
I’m really scared. I was in, now we have to do it or not. I don’t have any learning material to say one step ahead of. And I can’t I can’t set an example. I can’t say, hey… You have to look at Paula. Paula did so well and you have to look. No, all children are the same.
[i] How did you cope with that change?
I’m worried, really worried, that, uh… As parents, you always want to give the best education, the best education to your children. But I was really powerless. And I’m saying, I have college level. I, uh… There was nothing I could do. I feel guilty. I’ve been asking other people. Everybody did.
[i] So you resigned. So then you’re going with the school system here in Holland?
[r] Yeah, but, uh, I may not have asked. I didn’t ask. Maybe if I kept asking, I’d get some advice that I’d… better ten (?) than the advice of people in the neighborhood… but…
…how did you get on with raising your children?
[r] I always have an uncertain feeling here. what the children learn and what the children do in the future. In Vietnam the children always have to learn in a focused way, choose a certain profession. We’ve said now try Um…medicine, pharmacy, dentist, engineer. It’s an obvious profession. But here you don’t learn in a certain direction a real profession, yes we have some professions, but it is always full. You have to be very good to go in there. Unlike here, you learn Heao, Meao or Economics, for example. Wow I always have an insecure feeling. What can you do when you have studied economics. Art school, what can you do? First I feel guilty and second I feel insecure.
Yeah, a guilt. I can’t help the kids. If the children could help, do better in the learning trajectory, learning, they could learn medicine or they could learn pharmacy, no but… At some point I think, no no, they’re not that good.
And what did they end up with, uh, what kind of profession do they…?
Well, that’s adventurous too, and every time… I say slowly I’m getting better at life. Life has changed over the years. In Vietnam, very different from here. My daughter had studied HEBO. Hebo only means Heao for European vocational education, high European profession… means she has to study two years in the Netherlands and two years abroad. They studied in the Netherlands for two years. One year in France and one year in New Zealand. And finished in New Zealand. After Hebo she found a job at Heerma’s, that’s an oil platform builder very big. Totally different and er…then there was… She sat there for a number of years, but that’s really a man’s world, that women can’t go into… or very strange… very interesting. Then she went to work for HBO Council, HBO Council. And she still only wants to… work in an international institution, like NATO, the UN… for example, the UN. But she tried and you have to have at least a doctor, a doctor’s degree to get into that. So much, after 10 years, she said, “I’m switching. Then she started studying law. She had the best of law. And she’s after that, she’s a trainee judge now. Had three years. And she’s in court now. So she’s satisfied.
[i] Just about, uh…when you came to Holland, did you have a dream? Did you have a dream for yourself?
No. I do have a dream. The dream was then… I think my dream is… about the same as other people’s dreams. That the communists have to go. And we’ll be back soon. That’s the dream of all, I think of a lot of Vietnamese refugees here in Holland. Because we’re a totally foreign country. So far, the name of the place here evokes very little emotion in me.
[i] Why is that?
[r] I still don’t see Holland as my second homeland. I I…
[i] Still not? Still not yet. No way. I don’t know. I have little connection, while I have a lot of activity in Holland, but I have, with the country I have… Much less bonded than with Vietnam.
What’s it take to feel that bond?
r] That is the emotion, that is a feeling with the country. I the Lower… Holland is beautiful. Dutch people is very good. I got everything here. But I always think, here’s not my place. This country belongs to Dutch people. And not mine.
[i] Even after living here for over 30 years? Having built a life here, you still don’t feel like this is my home?
[r] No no! You have to accept. So I have to look positive, at some point you have to say… Well I’m going to die here… yes but deep down in my heart here is no is not the place of you. I just… so… I just know Holland very well. Lots of village. I know exactly where to go, where to talk, for example, to Schilderswijk in The Hague. Well, I can drive there automatically without any problem. To Rotterdam, to Maarssen, to Zeeland, small corner of the Netherlands. It’s possible then. And very often I’m sitting in a car saying, tweppp (sound) I don’t know Vietnam very well.
[i] You don’t know Vietnam very well, what do you mean by that?
[r] If you say, well go to Vung Tau, go to certain street, wow that’s not possible. I don’t… on that was war. I couldn’t travel that much then. Honestly, when I say the adult, from the age of 18. I’ve actually lived with the country for about 10 years. And in 10 years I haven’t seen that much. You’ve only got a certain route, familiar route, maybe two cities, that’s all. And here… I’m not saying this is my country, but I know so much weird…
[i] You know better than your own country, yeah.
I’m still Vietnamese.
I still feel Vietnamese, but not 100%. You have a certain culture. You have to feel. You have to adapt with the culture here. Because you have deep in your heart. My heart I know in that moment, I realize that. I play a role then. I’m an actor then, not really me.
[i] So if you had a choice, would you rather have lived in Vietnam? Without the communist regime.
Yeah, when the communist regime would… Or would I, I ask that question every time, every time… I’d… I’d ask a few questions. Should I come alive now, suppose you could… do it again, do it or don’t you? Even now if someone asks me, suppose you… in that situation… Am I going to run away again? I say pooh…phffff…I don’t know. I…You know why not? Not because the situation is better now. But I do have a different sense of human life. I’m not allowed to control someone else’s life. I can have you gone(?) if I have to… try to convince my wife, you should leave. Or you have to take the child, go with me, I’ll take you with me. I think that yeah… that’s hard… I don’t think I can make a decision like that right now, because I don’t dare… my child’s life with fire.
But then you… you made that choice. For all the family.
[r] Yes!
Would you have done it differently now?
[r] Yes, yes! I
[r] I think I’d think carefully now. But I know with my wife… talking about the consequences, flight consequences, good and …pros and cons. Come to a conclusion, come together, we have to go. In Vietnam, a woman always plays, uh, say, a subordinate… Subordinate role. I say hey we can’t live anymore, go away.
[i] But now you’re very different?
Yeah. Sure. And then we said we’re taking the kid with us. Yeah, that’s risky! You know in advance You know in advance. You don’t know in advance how long you’d be floating at sea. And you’re living in that moment with a tunnel vision that it’s okay. It’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay. If you know you can be at sea maybe one week maybe two at least two three days. Or maybe a week a month. And you know,you might be able to endure,but the kid’s still…uh…so people live…
Yeah, that’s a big risk to that company…
[r] That’s a big risk… But the other people say, no, but I thought, can you take other people’s lives into your own hands? Because you know it’s better for the child. But for myself, I think, we have to think carefully. And don’t just think. Okay, I’m leaving. The child has to leave. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Uh, yeah…
[i] And if we look at the town you live in, what kind of area do you live in?
What neighborhood, what Be… do you mean?
Since 1987?
[i] And you are…
still here?
Yes, I’ve stayed here. It doesn’t really matter to me whether I live here or anywhere else. Only I’m not going to live in a small village. I know by social control I can’t, uh… I can’t handle it. Social control.
That reminds you of…?
Yeah, I’m thinking Vietnam.
And social control is Vietnam.
Yeah, it’s basically… you… I like… I do have about a year in community pharmacy… At a certain point I say no, that’s not for me. Cause I’ve always, I don’t know, you… You’re just a, uh, yeah, everybody knows what you’re working for. I just… What you’re working. I don’t know. What everybody, who’s who.
Is that something annoying? Everybody you know, social control?
Sometimes for me it’s… more annoying than a feeling of… uh… of security. A lot of people see social control as a kind of security, because if a stranger comes near you… everyone knows. Everybody’s looking, or so to speak, you’ve got a civilian network. That called right away, but for me… it’s still some kind of social control and…
What does that do to you, that social control?
[r] Uhmm…yeah…uh…that makes you feel like you’re constantly being followed by…uh…for some purpose and the purpose is unknown. You don’t know. But your activities what you’re doing are recorded everywhere.
[i] Even though you live in a free country. Holland is a free country?
[r] Yes, yes…
you’d think of social control here…
isn’t it very different from Vietnam?
No, I don’t think it is. If you cooperate with the government… Okay, but try to get some action here… …or you can’t do it here… in America she’s trying to do some kind of action… see what they’re doing to you in America, I guess… no different than in Vietnam. Through all the control… but at some point you have to accept. Whole life is now… like this.
So you live in Maarssen. Maarssen? You don’t find a village?
Maarssen isn’t more or less not a village. Here we have… I don’t know. But in this neighborhood people have very little contact. Because everything is. Almost everyone here… in all the family two earners. No one at home during the day. And always have two cars for home at night. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
[i] And is that why there’s so little contact around here?
[r] I think so.
I think we’re living in this house right about now… 20 years. Before that… Have also lived in Maarssen in this neighborhood, but in other parts. This part is for sale. We had then lived in rental area. People had a lot more contact back then.
[i] In the rental part they have more contact than in the owner-occupied part?
[r] Yes, yes… People are poorer, and I think the poor people… have easier contact with each other, people have that right.
And what’s that in?
I think it’s like that everywhere. The poor people need mutual help. If so… As soon as you have a little bit of capital, you take the fear with you, fear that… capital is lost, if someone can look in your house, look at it… uh… yeah, maybe they’ll break in. Uh, contact with the people… uh… If I’m living on a welfare level… I can tell anyone, okay? I deserve so much. But I don’t want to tell you right now I deserve it.
That’s the kind of fear these people have, isn’t it, if you make a little money…? …to prevent that from getting in touch with others?
No, the people… The rich people have sufficient protection. by society. By the system. Not by people, but by the system. Through insurance, no problem, if you call problem… burglary. No need to go to the neighbors. Calling the police right away… You have security… sick people don’t have to call. That sort of thing. Rich people don’t need… really need… another neighbor. Because the neighbors are all obligated to know. The rich people are always looking for a club… people with the same hobby, the same activities, but that’s…
And what’s your, uh, circle of friends look like, your club, because you do look it up?
My motto is: You live here, you have to do something for society… You have to do something that you think is good for society, good for you and good for everyone. So what I do here, I did give a Vietnamese course to the people… people I really have some kind of private course in the Vietnamese language. People who want to work in Vietnam People who want to marry a Vietnamese man or woman and she wants to travel. I have adapted courses for all of them. We, I have, for, I think, five six years, every year two cooking courses on uh…given uh…each cooking course consists of 4 or 6 meals. And I have to say. I’m really disappointed. Do you know where… I’m… I’m writing stories, short stories. But my cookbook is a bestseller. I sell more cookbook…
You sell more cookbooks than your stories? Why is that?
[r] Here, look… [he turns around, grabs the cookbook that’s behind him and he shows the cookbook] That’s right, that’s weird… I don’t just give students, they buy books anyway… But they also tell other people… to knowledge who says hey… his cookbook is a book…
And it’s all about Dutch people.
[r] Yes, it’s all about Dutch people. Do you know why it’s good? This is different. Totally different from other cookbooks.
[i] Yes?
[r] Other cookbooks you see fussy things with honk and call And very simple. When you read… then for you it’s very, very difficult for an outsider… to understand what that means. The ingredients that and hard to say such a list. While Vietnamese isn’t so… uh… exuberant… cooking.
May I take a look at what else it is?
Yeah, but look… The advantage is, I… I work in a pharmaceutical company… I sit there all day with the recipes… how to make medicine. And I consider making medicine to be… Uh, cooking.
Oh yeah…
[r] so I know… I know how to… to that never to that… tell the operator how to make medicine, so instruct them so that everyone can do it. In cookbook, you see a, uh… a point of salt. A spoonful of oil. High heat, low heat. Cook until done, but that’s not science. In my cookbook… I’ve all got language in a kind that anyone can understand, and I yes, that’s also a kind of test. I make instruction, I… I try to stand my plan, I cook exactly what’s in here. See that it works out until I… So my cookbook is very different. And in my cookbook I have, uh, you can see that you’re just the ingredients in your house… can do almost anything. Vietnamese can cook except for one thing, which is fish sauce. Every country has a special, uh… If you use fish sauce, it’s Vietnamese. Uh, soy sauce… uses that’s Chinese. If you use tomatoes, Italy If you use nutmeg, that’s Dutch.
Yeah, so… the characteristic of Vietnamese food is fish sauce? And that’s what’s in the book, fish sauce?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that makes it interesting to people because it’s different from other cookbooks?
[r] Uh…uh…no…uhmm… Everybody’s cookbook but… I try in my cooking course to also the cooking culture Vietnamese culture to tell the people that is very important. Goal is… to promote Vietnamese culture. To the people, the friends… to be able to connect, yes here… too… to… too lonely in the Netherlands is enormous. and I create the opportunity for people to have contact with each other. Yeah that’s my goal that’s my cookbook, I’m really…
[i] But you have achieved what you want to achieve, that people meet each other through… cooking classes. That people come out of their isolation because of that?
Uh… no… and my… But I also have an advantage. I can also learn from people. I can learn a lot from them. I find it interesting to tell people their own stories during the cooking class. And at dinner… The cookbook says within 2.5 hours you have to prepare from A to Z… cooking, eating and cleaning and washing up in 2.5 hours. And for 2.5 hours you hear so many people’s stories. Each student will have between 10 and 15 people. I used to teach in Maarssen and Vleuten. But after five six years I thought when I could go on, I could go on longer, but I say I quit. I’m much too busy.
[i] Yes… And if we could just talk about where you live… you feel a certain connection to… the town you live in?
Yeah, sometimes I do. Well, because through my activities… I’m, uh… I’m not just in cooking class, I’m in… I’m treasurer of the first aid association in Maarssen. So I regularly attend events in Maarssen in Utrecht as a, uh, first aid. So I know a lot of people in Maarssen, that gives me a certain bond when I go to… to the city, to here and there, say hello to them. But I do think that… at that moment I don’t experience that as control…
[i] Not like, don’t you feel like control?
[r] Yes. I’m… at that point I’m saying this is kind of like friends and, uh, yeah… Because I know people well. I know them well, so I… Now because the circle is so small. My association, First Aid Association Maarssen has about fifty members. So fifty members… We organize classes, meeting classes. I know the people well. So maybe…
[i] And what kind of people are they?
All kinds of people. Usually upstairs. Forty, I’d say. People who realize that first aid is important. People want to help other people
[i] That’s another thing you’ve been doing, uh…all this time, huh?
Yeah, I’m still busy.
You want to help people?
[i] Yeah in every way In every way actually what you do?
[r] Yes.
Your work, your profession… your environment… And all your activities…
[r] Yes.
[i] There’s that element in there?
[r] Yes! And you know… I think it’s because of the Buddhists. I experience Buddhists… differently. As long as I can. You have to help people At some point, you get help from someone else. Not from the person you’re helping… As long as you can… help people help people help people… and at some point and indeed… after so many years I can say yes… A lot of situations suddenly got help from the person I… you name it, who I found a job in Maarssen. I don’t know that person. I don’t know that person. I know through… through and that… that… At some point that first friend said to me You should call that person, and maybe he can help. But in my whole life… I’ve been through so much, I have to go through so much myself… believe that good… Really a… a… a real conception is a correct conception. Yeah, so far I’ve… sometimes I’ve had tee… needed some help. But no one came. But sometimes you get real presents, say hey… Suddenly someone from a totally unknown angle came and I find them too… Incomprehensible.
So what you mean is, if you’re helping someone else… doesn’t have to come directly from the person who’s helping you back…
[i] But that just helps you in another way? Anyway, and that’s…
[r] Yeah.
Isn’t that some kind of, what you call, Karma…?
Miracle, it’s a miracle.
[r] I’ll give you another example. Um…we… We have, uh… In my life, when I was in the service. I know someone and he’s a dentist. Haven’t talked to each other in 40 years. And coincidentally,well,we start at an ex-cadet club about three or four years ago,and then this friend of mine said we’re translating a book. Can you help me? So I’m okay,well,we’re gonna help,but,you know,and then we translated the book together. And then we got in touch with the authors and the author’s a pastor or a pastor and… He’s totally surprised. Two people are coming to help. We finally said that book, we got this book… He’s, uh… He was a war… a war reporter, a war correspondent. In reporter, a war reporter in Vietnam. He’s had so much story about Vietnam. At some point, we, we know him, he… You wanna write that story? Otherwise, it’s a very good story. Otherwise no one knows. You’re old, because you were born in… 60 almost 70. He’s over 70 now.
[i] Is it about a Vietnamese?
Isn’t it about a Vietnamese, it’s about… He’s German.
A German?
Yes, a German from Germany.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
So he says, story I write… I’m not on the side of Americans. Because I’m German. I’m outside. I work for Der Spiegel then. My story’s really neutral. Okay, good. So… He started writing story in book, so to speak, and he’s writing and translating right away. At some point he says hey…
What language is the book?
This is now…
He writes in the German language… German?
He writes in English. Yes, because he’s a Reverend. He… eu… And after the post-Vietnam war… up… in ’72, no… about ’68 he emigrated to America. He now lives in California. But very special, all of a sudden I have a book like that. Really bestseller in America. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We got by the book, by book publishing, by book sign session, we got all the book… We were able to… buy almost all the books in one day.
How many we printed then, uh, a total of 1,200. And I think that day we have about… 8,700, 800, uh.
Yeah, wow.
That’s a lot. You gotta see, uh… how many people buy that…
But I hear in your… whole story, huh, that books are very important in your life?
And yes, what makes it so important to you, because that’s really… something that stimulates you people and something yes… that you write yourself…
What makes it so important?
Writing a story isn’t easy. It may be easy for a lot of people, but for a lot of people… Really all the effort and energy… is concentrated in writing stories in books. And you… Because I write my own story and I say okay… that’s… Each is a kind of work of art. And I’m really trying to… Every book is some kind of gift to… to a writer. You can see that, uh… I, uh… an example of this… Uh… still… People say that, uh, annoying… that’s a correction for a lot of people, but I edit… uh… make design. And for me, I do every… I really do every page. I look every page automatically. I leave every page automatically. But I correct every page… The layout, I say… every page should… Look like a painting. People have had so much trouble writing a story, yeah… you have to… You have to handle the books very well. Books are actually a… Something very valuable to me! I’m very glad that I… I’ve totally…
Why is that so valuable to you? Why is it so valuable?
Yeah, I guess it’s a hobby. One finds the painting so valuable. I think the books is also a kind of work of art.
Yes, people who write books say… Yes, I write books myself now. I find it quite difficult to put the feelings into words, because that’s an art. To express what you feel in words.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But that I also see what you also see as art and that you see as a painting. But that’s also a talent.
[r] yes. Not everyone can do that.
[r] That’s right. That’s a talent. And that writing is also an expression of… freedom.
[r] Yeah, yeah.
But more than that. I see books here just like my friends.
Yeah. When I see books I can just go into my mind. Okay this is from that person, that person, so… In me the memory comes back. These are all… I can look at books for hours how… or read books.
Yeah, great! Sometimes I got you such a weird book, too. That one, for example, from Denmark. It’s like that… You know, Denmark wrote someone like that. Or Holland has so many books. In, uh, here… This… [He shows several books]
When your enemy falls asleep, yes.
Yeah, but this one… So here’s Vietnamese. Given by Dutch publisher.
Oh. Wow. So you really collect books from all over the world, huh?
Wow, isn’t it?
Yeah, I collect books in Holland. Books in Holland. And sometimes I take a look. I uh… should I maybe have you… Are you interested in books or not?
[i] Yes, I am! Vietnam SamSam.
SamSam? You know SamSam?
Is that a monthly magazine?
It’s for kids.
No, we don’t. Is that a monthly issue?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mainly for children, but they have whole… A whole number for… Say for Vietnam, it’s been so long.
Oh, it’s been a long time. That’s from now?
In 2006. Not now. Is SamSam…
Oh, and has it stopped?
Yeah yeah yeah I don’t know.
[i] That’s too bad!
[r] That’s like what…
Cause that’s a children’s magazine, what can they get out of it?
Mainly… for child… again children’s story. For all kinds of normal children’s stories. But say special… Like, uh, let’s see, they’ve got, uh… Well, I don’t remember. Of course Suske and Wiske made the two, three years ago a special song from Utrecht.
Oh yeah?
[r] Yes, so all known… buildings in Utrecht were in that book.
Oh, how interesting. But I also learned a lot about the city.
But I’m involved in a lot of books here… for example, the lady who’s in… who lives in The Hague, who also has a nice series of books west… West and East meet each other. Do you know her? Dieu De [Truong Thi Dieu De]
[i] No, not yet no…
Here, look. I’ve got all these books. I’ve made, like, at least 20 books here. Definitely more than 20. Together with me or I’ll spend it myself. Or I make the design. I’ll do the layout for… for their… I…
But you’re also the editor, aren’t you? You look at every page and improve it?
[r] Not only improves, but also layout…
[i] Just the layout alone?
[r] Also improves. I must say, I am one of the best editor in Vietnamese books.
[i] Yes I’ve read your stories on Cai Dinh huh? I think it’s very nicely written, yes. Not everyone can do that.
[r] Yeah… [He’s constantly grabbing books and putting them back. The bookcase is behind him.] This just came out last year, that’s Vietnam Amsterdam.
Vietnam Amsterdam historical ties. Of Vietnamese in Amsterdam, is that what this is about?
[r] No of historical ties by a Vietnamese with the Netherlands… written. That’s… So… yeah, but… I can still talk a lot about books.
Yes. Books…
[i] hahahaha… uh, or…[ he’s getting up now to pick up other books]
[r] This is also interesting. Do you know it?
[i] Children in Vietnam with a future perspective. No, not yet.
[r] Also by the Dutch.
[i] And is that Dutch written or Vietnamese?
[r] Netherlands written… But does it all have aspects of Vietnam in all those books?
[r] Yes, yes in all the books. I only say the travel books and cookbooks I don’t collect. But I do. But especially travel books and travel books… But, uh, cookbooks are… special cookbooks with culture, food culture…
[i] So you collect everything that has culture to do with it? And if you look through… if you look through… hey, so far… You live here in Maarssen… And in Holland… What do you see as… your contribution to this society for the city.
For this city? Or for the Netherlands, just for this city?
Are those two different things you do?
Yes, because for… for this city What I’m doing in first aid right now is volunteering.
[i] Yeah.
[r] We do something like we have we stand… we stand here at events… In Utrecht you have at… In every Easter there’s an Easter tournament, an international Easter tournament. Uh, that’s real wrestling. Well, I stand there every year as a first aid. We have garden days and fruit days here in Maarssen. Garden Days in April and Fruit Days…
Garden days?
Yeah, garden days, two days in Castle Columns. Fruit day in one day. Early October also in Castle Columns. Saturday.
[i] Does it have to do with food? Fruit day and garden day?
[r] Yes the, say, Fruit or garden related products.
[i] Yes, and what does it need first aid for?
[r] Nowadays it is mandatory to have a first aid post at all events above a certain size.
[i] For a certain size, in terms of number of people?
[r] Yes number of people and environment, the risk is assessed each time. Or evaluated. And if it’s too risky, then you have to post first aid and if something happens and you don’t have a first aid post, well… you’re really screwed.
Okay, and do things happen often?
Oh well, that’s so weird. When I’m standing, very little happens. But in my club, a lady when she’s standing there, it happens a lot, a lot.
How is that possible? [ laughs heartily ]
I don’t know, but…
All you have to do is stand there, that’s enough… haha… [laughs loudly]
Look in for one of those tournaments at Easter is also about nine hundred…now a little less. But used to be 900 or 1000 games in two days, for two days, six mats… so continuous, continuous two days… one hundred hundred thousand games, wrestling.
And accidents can happen.
Yeah, but small accidents, but no breaking hands, no strange things happen. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. But I we in our club… really… really funny all the time. Not me because now… That’s rare these days, but that lady always gets unlucky.
Ha, ha, ha. Is that so?
Yeah, so…
And besides the first aid, uh… do you do anything else for Maarssen for this town?
For this Maarssen, I’m, uh… No, actually, I don’t. I used to teach cooking, but I don’t anymore. Uh, I work around 8:00 to 6:00, I don’t have much time at home. I’ve asked for, like, a neighborhood committee, but I don’t have any… time for that either. It has to be in the daytime, it has to be in the daytime. I think in a few years when I retire I can do more for society. To find more bonding. I think it’s weird, now I’m sure, you’re not… Or I’m not gonna die here. So I have to do something.
Any chance of going back to Vietnam? Yeah, this is… this is your country, this is your life?
Yeah, my wife’s not going back anyway.
Why is that?
She hates Communists.
And you are, have you been back in Vietnam?
I’ve been back six times.
[i] You’ve been back six times without your wife?
I’ve been back six times, my wife… My wife I think four times.
Okay, yeah yeah yeah… to go back on vacation is okay, but not to live there again?
[i] because you said she hated communists.
No, my wife came back just for, like, special yellow… occasion. My parents-in-law sick, deceased or this or that yes…
About that contribution you said of… Yes your contribution in Maarssen is that, hey, first aid and you also said your contributions to society?
[r] Yes.
[i] in the Netherlands and what are they?
[r] Yeah I say, uh, except in my job I tell my director I do and you pay, you pay. I don’t say pay after the too… I don’t say… pay after performance. I say… I do and I don’t ask you, I complain… I never complain about pay, I think it’s, uh… You have to complain. It’s not your country. Holland has helped me so much, I… I see more obligation, so I do a lot of things in my company I do a lot of things outside my job purely to watch I want to help people. I want to help people.
If I live with, and slowly but surely I have a different vision when people help then people help you. Now is a different time than then. If you want to keep a job, you don’t have to compete with people, you have to help. then you’re right there.
That’s weird, because… there’s a shortage of jobs?
[i] And you say if you want to keep a job, you have to help people so they can stay?
[r] yeah, yeah, yeah…
[i] But if there’s a shortage of jobs, how do you do that?
[r] Yes, but that… I can now prove that… from my own experience to people on, people around me… people who introvert those other people who don’t help that colleague who goes out sooner. Society has completely changed. The culture now is open culture, if you… if you help people then they know okay,… He or she is still useful to the company. Doesn’t go away. If you leave… only those people who only work for themselves, that… that’s not good for the company anyway. Open you can see open culture everywhere now. All computers say open source, but… They have a way to… You don’t give a damn. You give away ninety percent, you have ten percent in hand. You used to give away maybe ten percent, you’ve got ninety percent, but that’s not good. If you have ten percent and you know what the key is that you can easily keep ten percent to yourself, give nine percent okay… that costs nothing. If people… Ninety percent if you want to keep those things to yourself… I’m richer in… in your mind… in your experience, no! Because you give away easily. And for you, your knowledge stays that way. You give it… and at some point you get some… some knowledge of people outside. What you give you, you get back, don’t… I’m not saying…
[i] Aren’t people so selfish these days that if you give them something they’ll only take it? And don’t give anything back? Or has the mentality completely changed?
[r] The mentality in communication is very different.
[i] Yes?
[r] People start tweeting people gives a lot… Twittering, texting gives… you name it. Your life is everywhere, open. That’s also a facet of open culture. People are selfish, still… Are still selfish people. But the culture in… in general trend is an open culture.
Yeah, it’s kind of like, uh, the culture in Vietnam, isn’t it? The collectivist culture, that you help each other?
[r] Uh no no no no! I think the Vietnamese are mean.
Yeah. What do you mean by that?
[r] Vietnamese people always compete against each other.
[i] But that starts with school, huh? Who’s the best, right?
[r] Yeah, who’s the best.
[i] Yeah, first prize second or third prize. And you see that…
[r] Yeah.
That’s what you see in the rest of your life, that adult life. That they also compete with each other when you…
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[R] Yeah.
[r] Now have the same weird example, for example, you have here… a shop of clothes. A shop is put next to you. A lot of people see that as competition but no here you see that… Come and if you don’t come to that one… And it goes to this one anyway. Try to distinguish yourself from other people. The misery of Vietnam is The Vietnamese people are still too materialistic. And they only look at certain examples. We in the Netherlands, I think maybe in the Netherlands and very little in other countries. We look… At the heart of the story. What are you doing? What can I do? So your hobby is important. I don’t have to… Yeah, one can buy you a nice car, buy you a yacht. I don’t have to. As a hobby, I have books here, well no one has books… Somebody could also say they’re knitting or traveling or gardening. Okay, well… I’m trying my best. And if everyone has to… tell a good story of their own, okay, I’m better than the rest… so why don’t you try… always try to get in a way like that, like in Vietnam, always money money… Look at this, like I can make a club if you can’t do anything. Try to help people. Uh… for that sort of thing. Or think of something creative is important here. You just… Your own person is important, what you own. You have two kinds of possessions, but materialistic possessions and spiritual possessions. You should look at that. Spiritual possessions much richer than many diverse than mater… materialistic.
[i] Yeah, does that have to do with the fact that you live here in Holland that you think that way or would you have thought that way if you had lived in Vietnam.
[r] I’m sure you’ll come here anyway!
[i] And in that respect, you’re happy with that?
[r] I’m happy because at least I’ve found something in my life. I’ve found some things in my life. That’s one of them.
[i] You found one of the things? What kind of things?
[r] In my life, some kind of notion. And a vision, your own conception, principle of life. And so I have in for Holland I do that, in Holland I have that [ he points out his bookcase] if anyone wants to ask me, okay, maybe you have books about Vietnam, I can tell so. I may have you know the magazine of, uh…Vietnam…what’s it called…uh…Vietnam Nguyet San?
Yeah. I have the first issue from back then.
Really? You’re a book and magazine collector.
[r] yeah yeah I more or less collect, but that’s because at some point we say We have to have something here, so if you ask anyone, what is a Vietnamese doing here I can show you right away.
[i] So if anyone wants anything about Vietnamese people c
[r] books…
Whether in book form or not, you have everything? Then we must be with you. Haha…
Yeah, yeah, at least a hundred percent. And the question is, I know if I die, he’ll die too. He might die too. Nobody collects books anymore.
[i] Well, you don’t know, haha…you don’t know.
[i] Who writes who stays and books stay, right?
Yeah, who writes… I see that… all over the place like, um… Uh…say…memory. So many books about me.
Yeah, and that’s the biggest… gift.
[r] But I say this is a small part. If you look… look at the other one. I have…
I’ve got a lot more. A lot more. And those books that maybe…
[i] wow well that’s good to know, yeah.
Yeah. Uh… yeah, I think it’s a really great story. A fascinating story you told. Are there any more things you want to tell me? We’re kind of at the end of it now…
Um… Yeah. Um…
One thing we’re, uh… still really sorry about so far, is that… uh… Vietnam isn’t yet… changed the way we’ve always wanted and hoped. Vietnam is still at that level. Maybe 30 or 50 years ago. That level. And very unfortunate for the people. We want to help Vietnam, but in this situation we can not. I think that all flight…Vietnamese refugees who are, they have to, they have had to flee temporarily and settle abroad, but deep down in many people, especially in the first generation, they want to do something for Vietnam. Vietnam, there are so many years of war in Vietnam.
[i] And that’s what you want to do? Do something for Vietnam?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
but in this situation… no no no no…
[i] The situation of Vietnam, do you talk about the regime that is still there?
[r] Yes yes yes… You can only help a country if a country gives a little assurance that uh, okay, this is good for your country and not that you’re helping uh… that you’re helping a certain club not for the country itself. And I think that’s only possible if there’s more democracy in Vietnam, a little more freedom for the people, but it’s difficult.
[i] But do you think you’d live to see?
[r] I think now I’m pretty sure I don’t yet. That’s very painful.
[i] Yes And I still hope that the second generation, the first generation, we still have the prejudices, we and the Vietnamese communists still have prejudices about…
towards each other?
[r] yes to each other. I hope the second third, second generation is not yet, but third generation… More contact with each other and try to help. But I’m sure in the future the borders of countries will be blurred.
[i] yes. People working in the future would no longer work for certain countries but for certain icons for certain uh…i… ideology. Countries are no longer important.
[i] oh okay yeah. If you work for KLM now, that’s not a Dutch company.
[r] so at some point the pride to do for your country is no longer. The border is blurring.
[i] oh okay yeah.
Is it purely about yourself what you want to, uh… propagate, more in the sense that you’re no longer attached to a country?
Yeah, uh, but you don’t have to. It’ll happen in a minute. And automatically goes into that trend.
So that’s what you, uh…
Yeah yeah yeah I’m pretty sure. That that… If we live any longer, we might be able to experience the time of the Tower of Babel.
The Babel Tower.
[i] Babel Tower…
[r] yes of bible…
And what does that look like, that we can still… go through that hahahaha….
[r] Men…people back then are alive anyway…
[i] People building a Babel Tower… hahaha…
[r] No no, but people lived together back then so… wasn’t a country back then. That wasn’t a country back then, people speak the same language.
Oh so…
[r] Now I think I have with the machine language, computer language is about have two groups… Chinese and European. Because Chinese still use their character. But Chinese other world use egg… almost own language. If one step further, you only communicate through the computer. So some kind of situation? And people might still want to, and now they’re in… scientific. People always want to explain something or not… not… something… try to get close to God, explain to God, yes that’s…
Well, I wonder if we’ll live to see that time.
[r] Yeah.
[r] According to Buddhists, it’s in cycle. It’s yet to come.
[i] okay yeah, and you really believe that… would happen to the third generation.
Yeah, I guess so…
[i] Well, thank you for this conversation.
Yeah, you’re very welcome. Yeah, I think it’s a very interesting conversation we’ve had. Cause now I have an opportunity to look back at me one more time.
[i] Yes, your life.
[i] Okay, great, thank you!
[r] tomorrow.
Mr. [i] Mr. [name] , um… In addition to your paid work as a manufacturing pharmacist, uh… you have a very important activity next door. And that’s Cai Dinh. Can you tell me why it’s so important to you?
Um… well… we have to go back to about 1980. We had a Vietnamese refugee self-organization back then. But it’s more political. At some point we think… We should set up another organization, another club. That er… because I think political er… are various ways of expressing themselves. You can also poli… political opinion. You can also protest through demonstration. Well, we… In our opinion, we think, we can say our opinion our vision or po… our vision of politics to the Dutchman, spread it among the Vietnamese community. For that reason and plus reason that people want some people to, um, do their job… exchange their work, poetry or stories or the, uh, painting and stuff like that. So some people had started the foundation in 1982 with the club pen club Cai Dinh. In 1992 um… we thought we were okay, we can’t be that kind of pen club, private club… go on, we have to do something more than that somewhere… At that time a few people a few friends of me and me and I set up a Cai Dinh foundation together. Really officially registered as a foundation. So since 1982 we’ve been registered as a Cai Dinh foundation. Euh foundation Cai Dinh deals with the two goals or more main goals are 2. We try to promote the work of the Vietnamese writers here. The first, second er…we… organize the literary and cultural activities by inviting professor or famous people from all over the world to come to the Netherlands and organize a lecture or symposium. About literature, about Vietnamese culture that sort of thing. So at the beginning of the year 1982, yes, ’90, so to speak… book in book form was still quite popular. We have been able to publish or publish a number of books that is a single book this is for example, this book is in the before then so in year ’80, 1985 something like… And after that we have from the Cai Dinh foundation we have a number of books, is a number of books for example this [he shows book] a poetry of, this is a poetry, this is a short story This is my own story itself euhm… In story bundle. This one for example I wrote about thirty years of books in the Netherlands. Vietnamese books in the Netherlands. This is a collection of all the writers and artists of Vietnamese in the Netherlands, We also made a CD, so very special. I want to show that we want to focus more on the Dutch. This CD is the collaboration of the Dutch composers. Vietnamese singer. We have already… translated all the songs here in the Netherlands. See one that’s very special, but from the end of nineteen ninety-nine we have a say but uh… is… the whole world a switch from book form to internet form, so… In 2003 we think we have to take a different path And from that moment 2002, 2003 we started a website called Cai Dinh website. So the main goal is to promote and publish Vietnamese books. Try literary activities, exchange cultural activities with the Dutch. And secondly, organize the cultural literary activities. So main goals. And from the moment we have a website and from last year, two years ago, we also had a Facebook. We have to join the masses. So we also have Twitter, we have Facebook and that takes a lot of time than I thought at the time. I actually spend a lot of my free time with a website. Someone else is on Facebook. We’re looking for articles about Vietnamese or Vietnamese in the Netherlands is not easy.
[i] Why not?
[r] Why not, um…I remember when we were in the shelter, one of the Dutch teachers said to us: you must think You are like the golden fish in the bowl You are golden fish now, but in a few years time it will be over. And indeed, we can jump high or low. We can say… Vietnam call this Vietnam that, but the world has completely changed. Every year, you’ve got IS, you’ve got Iraq, all the conflict, that Ebola, that sort of thing, that costs every day say hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people Well Vietnam is really nothing compared to these big disasters in the world now and besides Vietnam war was then a hype and now almost everyone has forgotten. Once in a while… Now people talk about Vietnam and that’s point 1. Point 2 we are and we remain Vietnamese political refugees. So we don’t agree with what the Vietnamese government is doing in Vietnam. While the other the rest of the world Because they want to have a better economy and for better economy they have to try to find a new market and Vietnam is a big market anyway. So we are in conflict in that sort of thing If you are looking for the news We want our tendency to look for a news that is better for the people living in Vietnam while I look in news and news are all say but Vietnam is good Vietnam that that seems that the whole world has forgotten what is really happening in Vietnam hence is so difficult.
And that’s why, um…the… to say the truth? What’s really going on there in Vietnam?
[r] Um… the real, real truth, uh… you hardly ever find. Everyone talks a story with nuances. Me too, you too, everyone too. I’m trying to present a story as neutral as possible in order to find the source of both sides so that’s one of the most difficult tasks we do because for a subject you have written several articles about it. And it’s important, you have to put a, uh… as neutral as possible and as objective as possible article on our website or to promote it. That’s not easy or I write articles about politics as well, someone else does, I usually write articles about Vietnamese culture enne… integration of the Vietnamese in the Netherlands. next to my own work, so next to my short stories.
[i] And that’s what makes it so important to you, the foundation?
[r] The foundation is so important. I have it so, um… 25 years ago, 27 years ago, we had, I had a very nasty experience myself. We live in Groningen at the time. And the Municipality of Groningen wanted to organize a Vietnam day. They first joined us, because we were Vietnamese. Some Vietnamese who lived in Groningen. So then the congregation went to us and said hey… will… Will you work with us there? Yes yes… do we have articles or something? Yes sorry, we have very little really little. We hadn’t given it much thought at the time and besides, we were building a new life. Well what were they going to do… Uh… they went to the Vietnamese embassy in France at the time. Here you come… and… yeah, you’ve got, uh… articles or documentation on Vietnam. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, we’ve got a lot. Then they came up with Vietnam, Viet… Vietnam day with, like, North Vietnamese stuff. And that… that really doesn’t fit, and, uh, I was in a dilemma. Eventually we talked to that organization so that those things for example communist hat or communist sandals had to go. The flag, the red flag with the yellow star has to go. Yeah, okay, ’cause that’s… that’s not possible, and the rest is okay. But from that moment on, I think, no, that… we have to do something else. We have to be serious and not say every time the demands that you have to do this or that we live in democratic society. Then we have to play with the competition. From that point on, I started with the idea, okay, I should all… books, collect all the documentation on Vietnam so that if we have another opportunity we can leave that directly and with founding foundation Cai Dinh I also have a goal that that becomes a kind of contact address for people around the world if they want something about Vietnam or literature on Vietnam, then I have that. I collect not only books from our side, from political Vietnamese refugees, but also a number of serious books from the other side. so I can give as neutral as possible to the people. And with website Cai Dinh Uh…is a kind of library of what the Vietnamese in the Netherlands do. And what’s life like. What is the integration. What do the Dutch think about Vietnam and Vietnamese in the Netherlands. That’s not easy and you have various activities and activities of all… from all sides. We have, you have to have a good network. We uh…and I also attend all those events and I make reports. for example sometimes the… exhibition of Vietnamese painters. Yeah, I was also at the fashion demonstration just for the sake of it. [?] Well, I just have to, I have to write something. Anyway, all the activities in the field of culture I want to collect. That’s it. Our goal.
How do you get to uh…you see you have a big network so uh…do you get the information to you or do you have to find it yourself, search?
Usually I have to find it myself. Through books. I used to go every time I read all the important newspapers within a week. Algemeen Dagblad, Telegraaf, even Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad de vrijheid, even the foreign text has uh… Time Newsweek that kind of things [unclear] to hope with the hope that I say only one article can fish, fishing for our newspaper. Nowadays through the internet is a lot easier. But sometimes you also have tactics, you also have tricks, you think okay, for example, you read in the internet website in Vietnam that happened in the Netherlands or because in the Netherlands we don’t hear that kind of stuff first. Vietnam knows… earlier than we do in the Netherlands. For example, when I hear that a, uh… a group of theatre, group for example, is going to the Netherlands, I look for the Netherlands, where, who is who, who is contact person, who can be organized where. For example so I make the object to slowly find the source. we still have a number of friends who uh… I give us information or by the number of network workgroup Yahoo group. I’m in a number of groups. number of group. I get it from them. Well I have to say from 1,000 emails, I get I may not have one I can use yet. So many… Yeah, you have to be able to filter very quickly, and that takes a lot of time.
[i] And what exactly are you looking for, because if there’s not one in 1000 mail?
[r] If you know where I say but after three or six months or maybe a year you know how to search. You can look very quickly and you uh… then you know if you know which person is involved in which kind of activity. So in one thousand mail you can say right away, okay, 800 gone. Because of 1000 mail are also I think about, two three hundred about the same. Because with this workgroup and if there is such a big network internet then you see in email say maybe 10 times 20 times, 100 hundred the same mail. How interesting to find out, well… well how is it going from one person to another person. That is very interesting but that is a different subject.
[i] But how many emails do you get per day?
[r] I get per day I think now uh… from my private I think about um um… between 50 and 100 and for Cai Dinh is about 100-200. on that…the difference is there are a lot of spam. Yeah we can’t always filter I’ve… tried to filter by putting website on a reliable server. so you can filter further, but unfortunately there are a lot of spams. For example I see uh…Sometimes you have a load of email about viagra that sort of thing, we have to try to put off or block all of it. otherwise you get thousands of emails that sort of thing joking uh…yes… But well that’s a good thing again I only read the headlines in total no less than 200 mails a day.
[i] Uh…when do you do that? cause you work full-time paid jobs?
[i] If it takes so much time, when do you do it?
Actually, I do all day. I think when I eat I always think something about what I’m going to write I think and when I have a break from work I look in the mail I have a half hour lunch break. In half an hour can be very fast. Can read a hundred mail. Delete is as fast as reading. Yes, but as an experience I have, look at the large organization in a newspaper or magazine for example, they don’t read a hundred but a thousand two thousand or ten thousand mail a day. Yeah, that’s right. Uh…but these people have experience, I’ve also had to gain experience, uh…because of the time and because of the busy people. And sometimes okay well, don’t doubt, I’m not going to continue reading as uh… nowadays reading internet is very important. That also influences my writing style. One reads from a first page. First maybe first ten lines not important away. So it’s the same with writing. Now you always have to think like PR tactics, so you first have to write the sentence so you have to keep reading until the end of the story. Writing for the internet is completely different from writing for books.
[i] Then what is your tactic when you only look at first page, what should touch people? What is your tactic in that?
Uh…luckily in my work I have a lot of contact with P.. PR and commercials that sort of thing, so I know for example… so people read the advertising leaflet of medicine or the vitamin. in a different way. Me because I know how it came about. So I know the number of tactics so people have to read the sentence first. But there are, for example, the short stories these days are mi… more dialog short sentences and what was a lot of dialogues and from a subject of other subject must think along with the readers. People only read the internet in one direction not like books. books they read back and forth. But on the internet they read in one direction, very fast. You have to go along with that.
[i] Yes enne..what does Cai Dinh mean to you now?
Cai Dinh is actually my second life, second private life. At a certain moment you might get a bit addicted to that activity. but my goal is, I have now built up so many things for a kind of library for the Vietnamese activities in the Netherlands. So I just have to build like the bees or… or the ants hope. Yeah blindly you just have to build. wouldn’t know, suppose in 15 or 20 years I’m not anymore My concern might be who’s going to inherit it? but given it doesn’t matter to me anymore. You just have to do it. I am, I believe in Buddha and… In life, I think as long as you can do something good for society, you should do it. And you don’t have to, you don’t have to think why you’re doing it. Do it right and you just have to keep doing it.
[i] Are you the only one responsible for Cai Dinh or are there more than one involved?
[r] We have a total of uh… four people actively involved in Cai Dinh, Cai Dinh foundation. That’s not an association. So we only have a small club of people. We have a kind of core group, sympathizers who regularly pass on information to us are also here, in Germany, America, France and that sort of thing Yes uh…but officially they do not belong to Cai Dinh. Cai Dinh foundation so only board and the rest are all sympathizers that is clear. The and next to that core group we have a number of say core… knowledge for once or knowledge for long term that sort of thing, but… That you have to remember who does what. for example if I know that that of those does this time for research, then I can next time okay if something about Vietnamese research I can okay I can… I do know someone who does research on Vietnamese as well.
Um…you want to say something about Cai Dinh? Um…one thing I want to say is that Cai Dinh is trying to create some kind of forum for the Vietnamese and the Dutch in the Netherlands. All over the world to talk, come, write everything about Vietnam and Vietnamese society especially in the Netherlands and all over the world.
[i] So the main goal is actually for the Vietnamese living in the Netherlands as well as for the Dutch because information also applies to the Dutch?
r] Mainly for Dutch people. activities and interaction between Vietnamese and Dutch people in the Netherlands. that is the main goal. I uh… for our website then we have uh… two sides. The left side is just look [he turns on his computer] uh…this is still us…this is our website [he shows the website] On the left side you can see that Vietnamese and right side is 80% Dutch. So every month we have an update. I’m uh…I’m responsible for the update. Here uh… That’s our website and this is our Facebook [shows website and Facebook on compute].
We also do Facebook for the Dutch and Vietnamese. So here’s a kind of erm… My van… two languages and sometimes three or four languages, in English so… And this is Dutch. For example, this is the front page from two sides. And this is for page only for the Dutch. Simple, but you can link to uh… To homepage. And it… I have to say it takes a lot of time to do something like that. And I’m the editor, head of editing, so to speak. I correct everything. I, uh… I’d like that good article to be posted there. And that needs to be taken care of. We also have, like, uh… books here, every time we try to introduce a book. Book in Holland and book all over the world. I read. I have to read all these books. Lots of reading, fast reading and maybe write some sentences for introduction.
[i] This is, uh… yeah, very fascinating. Can you say that this is your pride?
Uh…uh…yeah… I’m sure it is. Not only am I proud, but my books are my books. I’m really proud of that. But that website is us. This is joint work from our club. And everyone thinks it’s really good that we can do something. A kind of forum, anyone can say opinion here, from left and right We certainly have a number of criteria, for example: you may not use violence, you may not swear, you may not bully, you may not swear that kind of thing. That may not happen in Cai Dinh. Must talk seriously. And with evidence and with logic. Proof then kind of competition in writing.
[i] Okay, and do I understand that everyone has the freedom to express their own opinion?
[r] Uh…We try to give everyone freedom up to a certain limit. You can’t do more than that. You can’t say okay. I have freedom. I have freedom here. I, uh… I uh… I say fuck Moroccan, for example, you can’t. You have to be decent, you’re human, you have to be human, you have to behave humanely. And talk seriously. Everybody’s adults. We’re not kids anymore, so you have to talk seriously. It’s freedom within a certain norm.
[i] yeah. Uh, what I mean is, for the Vietnamese, you’ve got the first generation forever, second generation, soon third generation. Every generation, even within generations, there’s a different mindset in every person. Let alone different generations. So that’s freedom of opinion. In the way everyone wants to express themselves. And wants to live here in the Netherlands. Do you think that’s important, to bring all that to the attention of Cai Dinh?
[r] Yes. It is very important. We have to because Cai Dinh often started with first generation. And we want the voice of the second generation, third generation to be heard. So all the articles of or activities of the people of the second, now third generation not yet, but second generation, for example, theses about the Vietnamese. Or they sometimes organize music evenings in collaboration with someone from Vietnam coming here. Everyone knows that that person from Vietnam is a communist, no doubt. But the second generation says: Okay we only do pure music. So for that kind of thing that’s freedom of speech. I can say it’s bad, as long as I can’t find any evidence. So that’s the kind of thing I’m trying to make the second generation’s voice heard. If you’re afraid of hearing against opinion, you’re not strong. You just have to be strong, you have to trust yourself in your knowing what’s right or wrong. That’s what makes life so much more exciting.
[i] Yeah, because that’s a subject that’s not very easy, huh, with the Vietnamese. Maybe also with other groups of refugees or immigrants.
[r] Sometimes the problems, for example, young people like now graduates want to go to Vietnam for [unclear] people. Us, the first generation: no, no, that’s not good. Well those young people come to ask me: Yeah, but me, if I don’t go to Vietnam, I’ll go to, like, Bangla Desh or Lebanon. That kind of thing, that’s as bad as Vietnam. Why can I, why don’t you want me to go to Vietnam and go to other countries? While I don’t see any difference between those countries. That’s one of the problems the first generation would encounter. And also the second, the coming of the people in Vietnam with the mission of doing business, doing business between Vietnam and the Netherlands. The second generation doesn’t really care about politics, as long as they can act properly. then get a hands okay, if not satisfied have ended no problem from them. But for the first generation we are still automatically afraid that yes we have been caught by the communists. We’re just afraid of that sort of thing. But at some point you have to say no. Let everyone go. You can’t. You can’t live for hundreds of years and you can’t force other people to think your way. Let me let everyone think freely. Maybe you can learn something there.
[i] And that’s what encourages and encourages you and Cai Dinh?
[r] yes yes we encourage the say free forum for all subjects about Vietnam. Anyone can talk about it in a decent way, serious way.
[i] Are there any taboos?
Are there also some taboos the bee… such as not talking too far in the political direction. Because that’s where you have a party not to talk in religion. You also have a special forum for that. We keep it superficial, only for literary and cultural can go deeper into that, but for religions for real political action this action that, well then we try to create a kind of meeting, say okay If you want to move on you can go to that one if you want to move on you can go to that one.
[i] Okay, well that’s a very clear picture for this important activity of yours. Do you have anything to say?
Yeah. Um…I don’t think at the moment. I hope you will all come and visit Our website at some point, because it is also accessible to the Dutch, because it contains a lot of articles, say maybe for you Maybe it’s very weird, maybe you’re surprised that it is so much Dutch activity or interaction between Vietnam and the Netherlands.
[i] Yes, because in general the Vietnamese in the Netherlands are quite invisible, aren’t they? She doesn’t let herself be like that…
[r] No.
[i] hear from himself fast, but this site just shows that that’s the visibility there, huh?
[r] Yes we have made a number of projects, for example [culture red] is about togetherness… euh cooperation between the Vietnamese and the Dutch. On a cultural level it’s about that uh… uh literary background of the dishes. There are two of our projects. We’ve had a number of interviews about those two subjects.
[i] Yes.
Well, that’s, uh, very nice that there is. I think it’s also very important for cultural…
[r] Yes, uh…aspect in the Netherlands for Vietnamese as well as for the Netherlands.
Yeah, well, thank you so much for telling me so much about it.
[r] Yes, you’re welcome. I hope you’re, uh… happy with what I’ve told you.
It’s very interesting and, uh, yes… I’m fine, thank you!