Quote of the Weekend

Monday, August 24, 2009

In memory of fallen comrades

by Vu Hong

At twilight, Mr Bay Triet usually went to the plains of alang grass with a bag over one shoulders. The entire area was dimly lit under the starry sky.

There were only nine families in our little hamlet. We were the first clans to settle in this half-wild land heavily polluted with alum water and toxic waste after the liberation of South Viet Nam. I remember that our migration to this locality happened between mid-1978 and the end of that year. Every night, looking out of the small window of our shanty I felt happier than I did in the days we evacuated to and stayed at the township of Kien Hoa for I was able to contemplate swarms of fire flies hovering over the cork plants by the Ba Lai River to my heart’s content. But I soon found it rather boring. You see, we children are very fond of new things at first, then we tire of them in a matter of days!

In the daytime, we came under a blazing sun. As far as the eye could see, there stood only a few cork trees and several calophylluses.

"This place is full of toxins sprayed by the enemy," Mum told me.

"What for, Mum?" I asked her.

"To create a no man’s land around Binh Duc Base."

"What does no man’s land mean, Mum?"

"When you grow up, you’ll understand, my dear."

"How stupid you are!" added my elder sister Lien.

Adults always say that, "You’ll understand when you grow up" to explain something complicated or delicate to us kiddies.

That year I was only a 7th-grader at primary school. Kids at that time knew, in general, far less than those of the corresponding level of today. However, we were quite familiar with military planes and bombardment when the war was still raging in our region.

* * *

Usually, after dinner I dropped in on Mr Bay Triet. Feeling uneasy with such frequent visits, my sister once whispered into my ears.

"Beware of him. He’s mad. Don’t go to his place too often, my dear."

"Mad but kind-hearted!" Mum argued. "Have you ever seen him killing a chicken or a duck?"

Taking advantage of their negligence, I rushed over the fields to his hut by the river-side.

In my eyes, he was not mad at all, just a bit odd. In the dry season, when it was sunny, he usually loitered here and there on the rural path, mumbling something then bursting out laughing. That was all he did: neither harming nor bothering anyone. Even Mrs Sau Long’s pet dog wagged her tail to welcome him when he passed by and he merrily waved his hand in response. In the rainy season, he stayed indoors. In the evening, when the weather was fine, he went out, a bag over his shoulder. Nobody knew where he was going because they were too busy trying to eke out a living on this barren zone.

In fact, he had no official name. Bay Triet was only a nickname endearingly given by his neighbours. He lived in a hut by the riverside. In reality it was just a small dilapidated house with a roof made of coconut leaves, walls of mud-daubed slats of bamboo and straw. Some parts had been eroded by rain water, revealing pieces of trellis and straw. He usually wore a faded military uniform with a striped headband and a trunk revealing his yellow legs stained by alum water.

The water in these paddy fields was so clear that small fishes could be seen easily. Several of them looked deformed due to Agent Orange. Once I managed to catch some of these queer fish and offered them to him, he flew into a rage. He refused to see me for a long time. He did not smile as he used to.

"Our little Ty follows Uncle Bay Triet to catch fish all morning, so now he is neglecting his studies. Now, he is beginning to look as black as a water buffalo," nagged my sister.

"It’s his summer vacation," answered Mum. "Anyhow, we should make him accustomed to our rice fields and farming. Your Dad died at Tet in the Year of the Monkey when he was leading his unit into the town of Quang Tri and your two elder brothers laid down their lives in Ba Chuc during a fight against Pol Pot’s troops in Cambodia. In the future I shall need an assistant to care for my farm; what can I do on my own with only one arm," she pleaded.

Moved to tears, my sister embraced Mum. Sometimes we asked Uncle Bay Triet to help us plough the field so that we could grow manioc. In exchange, he accepted a little rice, just enough for a meal.

Once when I was following him to gather cork I asked him softly: "Where do you come from, Uncle?" Without answering my question, he just stared at me with his vacant eyes then silently climbed up the tree and tossed me several ripe cork fruit. "Beware of the bees, Uncle," I screamed loudly. Suddenly, he plunged into the water. A few seconds he emerged from the muddy water of the stream and smiled broadly. On the sight of his broad smile, I loved him even more.

Then came the rainy season, with heavy downpours on and off throughout the day. An opaque veil spread over the paddy fields, and raindrops began falling on his coconut palm-leafed roof. Behind me, Uncle Bay Triet hummed a ditty:

It drizzles continuously

Making cork trees bloom

Girls find husbands

Youths find wives

And women have children.

Finishing the song, he jumped up like a child. I burst into laughing. It was the first time I had enjoyed his singing. "Is it the rain that makes him so happy that he has forgotten himself?" I thought. Finding him in ecstasy I asked him again, "Have you got any children, Uncle?" He shook his head then he told me something about his native village. All of a sudden, he wept bitterly.

The day he moved to this half-wild expanse to settle down, our neighbours only knew that he had been imprisoned on Phu Quoc Island for many years. This small 9-household hamlet welcomed him as a compatriot, that’s all.

The country path became muddy after just one rainy night. The meadow looked lonely. Suddenly from afar, echoed the sound of several turtle-doves. I reached out my arm to take down the fishing tackle.

"You want to go out to play, don’t you?" asked my sister.

"No, I’m going fishing."

I rushed out at once for fear that Mum might stop me as she was afraid that I might be bitten by snakes.

I came to Uncle Bay Triet’s to borrow his fish-basket lid. Suddenly, I heard a cough and a moan. Stepping inside I found him lying on his bed with a pale face. His fishing net was stained with mud. Perceiving a noise he woke up, breathing heavily as if he was having a violent fit of asthma. From the bottom of my heart, I knew that he was too weak to smile. Walking out to the court, I shouted loudly, "Help, help."

Immediately, our neighbours came to his rescue. Some of them rubbed his chest; another person massaged him on the back and neck; while another woman poured ginger liquid into his mouth. Fifteen minutes later he got up with a confused smile. Maybe he was asking himself why there were so many people in his poorly-rigged up house.

"Thank you all," he mumbled. Everybody felt very pleased and moved to tears.

Later on, I asked him a question that was on my mind: "Why do you go out every night to dig holes then fill them up again, my dear Uncle?" Without replying, he just stared at me with his vacant look. Feeling offended, I went out to the rice fields to investigate what he had done during the night. It turned out that the result of his nocturnal efforts were some big newly-made mounds of earth.

"What a madman!" I exclaimed. "There are eight of them in all. What tricks has he been up to during the night?"

Sensing my curiosity, Mum reproached me.

"Stay away from that place," she warned me.

"Why, Mum?"

"I’m told that that place was formerly a terrible battleground with lots of dead bodies."

"How can they affect us?"

"Mrs Sau tells me that for many nights, she has heard laments echoing to her house from that place. If you’re still interested in loitering there, you’ll be kidnapped and tortured one day," Mum threatened me.

After that, evening after evening, I just sat at home, glancing at the coconut palm trees full of bullet marks, which had seen many crucial engagements between Sai Gon soldiers and revolutionary forces. Then half a month had elapsed since I had been to visit Mr Bay Triet.

"Last week, Mr Hai Chi’s legs were blown off by mine near a cluster of bamboo trees at the entrance to our hamlet," sister Lien told me.

"Lien, have you visited Mr Bay Triet recently?" Mum asked her.

"Yes, I have, Mum. He’s quite healthy now."

* * *

The following year, paraffin was restricted for consumption by the State. As a result, few people in the country could afford to buy it because the price escalated day by day. On top of that, but the country was facing huge shortages of rice because a plague of insects had destroyed crops in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta. Meals were served with kaoliang instead of rice and calophyllus oil replaced paraffin for a long time. In general, food shops became almost empty. Rumour had it that another war had started somewhere near the national frontier.

Time flew very fast! My summer vacation came to an end quicker than I had expected. I moved up to the 8th class in a new district school far away from my hamlet. My meetings with Uncle Bay Triet became scarcer and scarcer with every passing month. Sometimes we met each other on the rural path as we travelled in opposite directions. He just glanced at me, smiling broadly. The same torn clothes and the same stained legs as before! Nevertheless, my sweet memories of him stayed fresh in my mind forever.

One evening by the end of October, when our calophyllus oil ran out, Mum told me to go to his dwelling to ask for a few pieces of fruit from this kind of tree to burn instead of paraffin, I said, "I’m afraid of ghosts, Mum."

"It’s broad daylight and his home’s just a stone’s throw away from here. What are you afraid of? What’s more, in our clan, you’re the only male. Who else in this home can do it?" she persuaded me in a soft voice.

"Is there anybody at home?" I said, knocking at his door.

"Yes, I’m here. Just a moment, please."

Immediately, I opened his door. By his side, there stood a few bulging sacks. Next to them several joss-sticks were flickering. I felt sick.

"What are you doing, Uncle?" I asked him.

"Oh dear… Kien! So, you’ve come back home."

"Which Kien? Actually, I’m Ty, the only son of my father Hai Sa."

"Sorry, my fault, my dear Ty." On saying these words, he sobbed bitterly. It seemed to me that he was on the point of collapsing.

"Yes, your Ty’s here."

I dashed towards him and held him.

"My comrades, try to sleep together in these sacks. At a convenient time, I will go in search of you all," he said to the contents of the sacks. I took great pity on him.

"Well, let me help you, my beloved Uncle."

With zeal, I picked up the calophyllus-oil lamp and opened the mouth of one the sacks. From inside, several bones and skulls stared at me from out of the darkness.

Oddly enough, I didn’t scream. I just looked at the bones and showed no fear.

Translated by Van Minh
(from Viet Nam News)

BusinessWeek, August 24 & 31, 2009

The Case for Optimism
The economic storm has been a harrowing, and now is not the time to discount the dangers that may still lurk. But opening your mind to optimism can help you seize the opportunities ahead.

Tough Love for Chrysler
Can Fiat revive an iconic U.S. brand that many have given up for dead? It hopes to succeed by using unconventional methods, such as fostering internal competition.

Kinder Credit Cards
Keep rates steady, eliminate fees, and rigorously weigh creditor risk: Giving cardholders such a deal is unorthodox in the plastic business, but PartnersFirst's model may point to the industry's future.

PDF | 25 MB

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Economist, August 15, 2009

Asia: An astonishing rebound
Asia’s emerging economies are leading the way out of recession; now they must make their recovery last.

Latin America's new alliances: Whose side is Brazil on?
Time for Lula to stand up for democracy rather than embrace autocrats.

The decline of the landline: Unwired
As more people ditch landline phones for mobiles, America’s regulators need to respond.

World trade and commercial aircraft: A dogfight no one can win
Negotiation, not litigation, is the best way to limit the subsidies to Airbus and Boeing -- and stop a trade war.

Galileo, four centuries on: As important as Darwin
In praise of astronomy, the most revolutionary of sciences.

America loses its landlines: Cutting the cord
Ever greater numbers of Americans are disconnecting their home telephones, with momentous consequences.

AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: The toxic trio
American taxpayers are ploughing billions in. Will they get their money back?

The future of astronomy: Black-sky thinking
The first of four articles from the International Astronomical Union meeting looks at a battle between Big Science and human hunches.

PDF | 4.1 MB

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Economist, August 8, 2009

Illiberal politics: America's unjust sex laws
An ever harsher approach is doing more harm than good, but it is being copied around the world.

Redesigning Europe's biggest economy: Unbalanced Germany
Europe's champion is justly proud of its exporters. It also needs to worry about markets closer to home.

Britain's energy crisis: How long till the lights go out?
Thanks to its posturing politicians, Britain will soon start to run out of electricity. What should it do?

Regulating executive compensation: Pay and politics
So far, Congress is taking a surprisingly sensible approach to the problem of pay.

Generic drugs and competition: Something rotten
Regulators should put a stop to tactics that delay the introduction of generic drugs.

Islam and heresy: Where freedom is still at stake
Wanted: Islam's Voltaire.

Big drug firms embrace generics: Friends for life
Big pharmaceutical firms are learning to love their erstwhile enemies, makers of generic drugs.

Offshore private banking: Bourne to survive
Despite the woes of UBS, Swiss private banking remains in reasonable shape.

A link between wealth and breeding: The best of all possible worlds?
It was once a rule of demography that people have fewer children as their countries get richer. That rule no longer holds true.

PDF | 2.6 MB

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The yang legend

by Do Tien Thuy

Y Than possessed the beautiful features of a wild flower that attracts lots of butterflies when it opens. Day and night Old Anuk was worried for her in her prime of life. As the head of Sap Village, how could he order his inhabitants to perform their tasks properly when he was unable to persuade his own daughter to get married?

Time passed very quickly. Twenty seasons of slash-and-burn farming had elapsed, yet she remained alone with her father and a little female monkey.

Then one day when she was gathering aubergines in the garden, the little animal climbed down from a high branch and touched her skirt. Feeling a bit worried, Y Than followed the monkey to a shrub and peered through the foliage. To her surprise, a few hundred metres away a herd of elephants was standing by the stream. Next to them, muscular hunters in loin-cloths lay on the ground. One of them was naked – a strong youth with muscular arms and legs like superman, he looked like a real novice among the experienced hunters. In her childhood, while walking to the milpa, Y Khan would hear very interesting stories about elephant hunters of Yook Don jungle.

Of course Krol had not yet caught any elephants. That was the reason for his nudity. These were the rules of his tribe. Nevertheless, he always dreamt of becoming a valiant hunter who would be one day be able to take the place of Gru Nhon, the leader of the group. Now he was on his maiden trip for everybody to assess his capacity and cleverness.

After three days on end in the jungle chasing wild herds of elephants, who seem to have disappeared, they were totally exhausted and had to take a rest to regain their strength. They all fell into a sound sleep, except for the young man. Lying supine, he looked at the green canopy above and thought of the promising day ahead when he would proudly take home a wild elephant amid the admiring eyes of the fair ladies in his mountainous area.

All of a sudden this train of thoughts was interrupted by the rustle of a thick bush nearby. He got up and stared at it. He was greatly amazed and ashamed as his eyes met the gaze of a girl right in front of him. Hurriedly, he covered his belly while stooping under her burning eyes full of passion. Then a few moments later, he completely forgot his shame and he made his way towards her. She was also coming up to him. They approached each other step by step, as if in a daydream, and the plants of the forest opened their branches wide to welcome them.

Their naked bodies twisted together for quite some time. It wasn’t until they heard the roar of the ferocious elephants that they realized what they were doing. Five big elephants were standing around them like a thick black wall. The head of the hunting party Gru Nhon was pointing his spear at Krol.

"Damn you the son of the Eban clan! You must die for your sin," Gru Nhon shouted. "You learnt the hunting rules by heart, and yet you broke one of the most important taboos: not to have sex with a woman for thirty days before the hunt, to bath in the clean water of the Serepox one day before and to offer five bottles of rice wine and one pig to God. Meanwhile our wives are forbidden to pound rice and must evade men’s wanton looks when their husbands join the hunt. What’s more, we have to sleep on the ground to get rid of our scent. But you, a newcomer, dare to break the rules."

Kron turned pale. Kneeling before the leader, he implored in a low voice. "Sir Gru Nhon, I’ve made a great mistake. I’m to blame, but she’s done nothing wrong. Please forgive her because she’s not guity."

Y Than burst into tears. She imagined the sight of her lover, bound to the tail of a strong elephant and dragged along into the thick of the forest. She wept, "If I’m still alive, I’ll try to find you, my dear.’

She returned home in horror and pain. Her father watched her as she ascended the wooden stairs to their home.


Most of the villagers were present at Y Than’s trial. Inside the large rong house, the flame came to life again after being doused for many days. Y Than knelt in the centre of the court, head bent a little. Paradoxically, the so-called judge of that session was none other than her father. In spite of all the angry words thrown at her, she remained silent.

She did not know her lover’s whereabouts or what had befallen him. But he had left something for her in her womb. Biting her lip for quite a long while, she suddenly stood up and stared at her father.

"Esteemed Father Anuk, please don’t accuse me of doing anything wrong. For the time being, I cannot reveal the father of the child in my womb. But he’ll soon return home, father."

"Drive her out of our village," he shouted angrily after breaking his mug of rice wine into pieces then collapsing on the ground.

Silently, Y Than left her home and went in search of Krol. Following the footprints left by the huge animals, she went further and further into the jungle. "What has happened to him? Was he pardoned? Where would he go?" she asked herself. She remembered Gru Nhon’s serious countenance that day.

During the solemn ceremony before the start of the hunting party, Krol had drunk a lot and had taken an oath that he would resign himself to death if he violated the rules. In fact, there had been numerous hunters who had lost their lives so far, but they all died on the hunt. Krol’s case, however, was beyond his imagination.


As the leader of the party, Gru Nhon had to abide by the rules and try Krol in one of two ways: either expel him from his team or to leave him to God’s mercy during a fight with wild elephants. Gru Nhon trembled at the thought.

On the way to the battle ground, the one-tusked elephant driven by Gru Nhon suddenly stopped short and uttered a low cry. That was a signal that wild elephants had been detected. At once Gru Nhon ordered his men to halt and prepare for a struggle. Normally, his herd of elephants would encircle the wild animals, but this time those tactics could not be put into practice.

"Hey Krol of the Eban Clan! Now it’s high time for you to be punished," he said to Krol in a loud voice. Then he told his men to untie him in front of the wild herd of beasts.

"You can have one of the two choices. One of them is to fight against these animals alone. If you manage to catch the lead elephant, you’ll be free and can stay with us. The other is to abstain from the struggle and go home to lead a shameful life, and say goodbye to the career of a hunter forever," he declared resolutely.

Glancing at his boss with eyes gaunt due to lack of sleep, he seemed to entreat something. Fighting against the wild and ferocious herd of huge animals alone meant death. And he didn’t want to die yet, for he could still see in his mind’s eye the shining eyes of Y Than. Gru Nhon stared at him as if urging him to enter into the fatal engagement.

The one-tusked elephant had knelt down to allow Gru Nhon to get off. He kept on looking at Krol in wait. For him, there was no way out. Having a last look at his fellow-hunters, Krol took the staff his boss had flung to him, then jumped upon the back of Gru Nhon’s elephant. The leader glanced at him admiringly, then told his men not to help him at any cost.

At first the wild elephants ran away at the sight of the tamed animals, but then they realized that only one was heading their way. Krol rode forward, while the four others stood aside, watching. Combat began.

The fight between the wild elephants and Krol’s lasted from noon to sunset, trampling all the surrounding flora. Krol’s elephant started bleeding, but it continued to struggle on. Although Gru Nhon felt afraid that such a talented man might be in danger, he did not dare break the rules. With his decades of life and death combat, he knew that Krol might soon face a terrible test. Indeed, the wild elephants changed their strategy. Surrounding Krol, they began to throw stones at him and his courageous animal. To the best of his knowledge, he knew that if he defeated the leading wild elephant, the rest of the herd would run helter-skelter and his task would be achieved easily. With this in mind, he spurred his elephant, which hesitated for a few seconds because it had never been urged to do so, and it beat a retreat. At once the wild lead elephant chased after them. When the two had come close to each other, Krol pulled back the bridle strongly. The four legs of his animal furrowed the ground, then in a twinkling, it turned back. When Krol shouted loudly it darted violently at its opponent. A horrible noise resounded, wild elephants shot away, and yellow leaves showered all over the place. After that, all fell into silence.

When the torches were lit, the hunting party bent their heads in admiration in front of the battlefield. The tusk of Krol’s elephant had pierced a large tree and kept the dead animal standing upright. As for Krol, he was nowhere to be found. Gru Nhon and his men started to disperse in search of his body. What they saw were blood stains on tree trunks and leaves. Soon they found his dead body lying motionless near the injured tree.


When Y Than reached the elephants’ battle ground, she found only a mess of uprooted plants and leaves. She called out the name of her lover. In response to her lamentable cries, she heard only the replies of the forest wind. Exhausted, she fainted. In her nightmare, she found herself lifted up by elephant trunks then placed beside the dead elephant as it stood propped against the tree.

On one morning years later, many inhabitants of Sap Village saw a big piece of a tree trunk with a tusk piercing into it washed ashore near the wharf. They picked it up and put it into a large rattan basket. They hung it on the roof of the rong house because the village head regarded it as a precious godsend embodying the Yang Genie. Every year, Sap residents held a ceremony to wash the tusk for Yang. During the festive days, a strong village youth was chosen to take the basket down. In the wake of mysterious rites, Yang would be lifted out of the rattan basket. It was a moment of paramount importance and hundreds of eyes would stare at the bottom of the basket. Rumour had it that every year, Yang gave the villagers many eggs. When there were a great number of eggs, they would reap a bumper crop and vice versa. At this year, Yang offered them twelve rosy eggs, which looked like those of pigeons.

Translated by Van Minh

(from Viet Nam News)

Living in expectation

by Nguyen Bich Lan

Lam Anh, my best friend, worked in the advertising department of an Internet service provider. He told me that his daily task was to speak eloquently and make his message agreeable to the ears of the company’s potential customers, to give a succinct speech promising the Internet will bring the whole world right to their room.

"Bringing the whole world to your room, oh, yes, let’s assume that it’s true, but after bringing the whole world to your room, what are you going to do with that world?" – I asked him.

"Just swim in it, swim in it!" he answered.

Lam Anh gave me a secondhand laptop as a gift he had bought in a Singapore curiosity shop. He spent three days during the holidays giving me my first computer lessons. After that, besides the computer handbook that had come with the machine, I had to teach myself how to swim on the Internet. I did swim everyday in that sea of multi-form and multi-language information. I read everything and searched anything. I read the websites of poets, child prodigies and patients suffering from, cancer and AIDS. I swam deep inside news pages, forgetting the truth of my life: that I spent all hours of the day waiting.

I began this wait when I was 16 years old. I still remember the day the doctor at a famous hospital said to me: "You are showing signs of muscular dystrophy. But only one out of a million people get this disease. Scientists still haven’t found a way to treat it. Wait and see though!" When I heard this, I still could not imagine how my expectations would be fulfilled. But I did believe I should wait with calmness and steadfastness. But I was wrong. Waiting was a sophisticated art, where overconfidence was easily dashed.

I did not cry when they ran a pin through my spine to get bone marrow for a test. I did not cry when they cut a piece of muscle from my calf for a biopsy. I also did not cry when I had to take bitter pills endlessly. I did not cry from the pain. I did not cry from hopelessness. I only cried because my days were so long, that was the only reason.

My parents intentionally ignored my birthday in their grief and Lam Anh made up for this by his extra consideration when my birthday rolled around. When June 24 came, the day the doctor asked me to wait while he wrote me a prescription, Lam Anh spared no time in distracting me. He recalled a myriad of happy stories. Of course these stories belonged to a time when I was still strong. A time when I was young, barely a teenager, and used to preen in the mirror with a comb. Until I heard him speak, I had no idea how lovely I was in Lam Anh’s eyes. He said that in the old days my cheeks were rosy all the time, my hair shiny and smooth and my eyes were always glistening. Lam Anh remembered the first time he thought of me as his best friend, the day when he splashed ink on my white shirt and even though I threatened to tell the teacher, I did not do it. He also remembered every time I was recommended for good conduct and good study, every time I was selected to attend the examinations for excellent students and each time the teacher read my well-written essay out loud to the whole class. He remembered these occasions so well he even surprised my father.

On the day when my waiting had reached a five-year point, the bracelet I was wearing came loose and dropped to the ground. I pushed my wheelchair in front of the mirror and looked at my reflection. I knew I had lost four or five kilos every year. I knew what I looked like. I was just a bag of bones. The disease continued to gnaw at me and nobody could do anything to help me stop it. I cried while I pushed my wheelchair over to the laptop and sent a very short message to Lam Anh. The message said "TV" [TV is short for Tuyet Vong in Vietnamese, hopelessness in English]. Thas was the first year he did not organise a celebration for my birthday.


One day, Lam Anh sent me a message boasting that he had just discovered an extremely interesting webpage and asked me to take a look. I immediately logged on and after reading a funny introduction on the homepage, I found a strange entry: a list of those who could wait best.

As I scrolled through the list, I could not understand why a woman who had been waiting for her missing husband for 28 years had been listed first while other people who were waiting for things for 30 years or even 40 years were listed 50th or 60th. I also didn’t understand why a 73-year-old man who had been waiting for her son, who was sentenced to life imprisonment when he was only 55 years old, was listed at the bottom. It was incomprehensible to me that a gay man who had been waiting for a sex change operation for 12 years was listed 18th out of the 94 waiting men. I could not even understand why they had intentionally printed in bold the number of years spent waiting after each name.

The numbers made me angry. I didn’t understand why some crazy man had made such a weird webpage. Just to laugh scornfully at their powerlessness, those people with their stupid expectations or to make people compete in waiting?

I felt responsible for this group of waiting people, so I sent a letter asking the owner of the webpage to shut it down immediately, explaining why. The web owner replied with a false name: "In your letter, we have counted the word ‘waiting’ 17 times and only six times have we seen phrases like ‘not waiting’ or ‘stop waiting’. Instead of boycotting or changing this webpage, why don’t you join us? Because you too are just waiting."

I found it impossible to deny the truth, so I vented my anger at Lam Anh for having given me the wrong medicine and criticized him for being insensitive. Lam Anh reacted calmly. He advised me to register myself on the website and that if I was still angry afterwards, he would accept the label of insensitive. I registered myself immediately and was supplied with a list of user names for those who had waited best. All the names began with "wait", like "wait 15", "wait 785", "wait 367" and so on. I looked at the long line of words "wait" with great boredom. I hated them all.

Twenty four hours after my registration, I was immediately messaged by a person bearing the code 32. They asked me: "What are you waiting for?" I responded with the same question. "I’m waiting for a pardon," came the reply.

"Haven’t you got any other way than to wait?"

"I did in the past but not anymore".


"Because the person who is going to give me the pardon is no more now."

"What a fool!" I sent the message and shut down the Net.


I was again invited to chat by Wait32: "I don’t feel angry with you. I’ve had a hundred people tell me that I am a fool". I did not strike up a conversation. But a few minutes later, I received this: "Each time I took a mad man home, the number of people who told me that I was a mad man increased". I did not understand what Wait32 was trying to say. "Is there a person who takes mad man home?" I asked. Wait 32 replied: "It’s me." I thought Wait 32 was pulling my leg, so I made a joke: "How many mad men can you endure?"

"Nine at least."

"I don’t believe it!"

I shut down the computer.

This time I messaged Wait937. "Are you a male or a female?" I asked.


"What are you waiting for?"

"I’m waiting for the time when I can stand on my two legs."

"So are you in the wheelchair?"

"No. I am lying on my side."

"For how many years?"

"38 years."

"What are you doing while waiting?"

"I’m working."

"In what way?"

"With three fingers."

"What are you doing with three fingers?"

"I write newspaper articles."

"How long does it take you to write an article?"

"I write twenty five articles a month. I’m sorry. I’ve got a phone call."

I did not feel like sitting idle, so I searched online for Lam Anh, asking him if he knew any mad men. He seemed well prepared for the question, sending me the link to an article about a man who used his house as a poorhouse for mad men he found on the streets. He also sent me a series of e-articles written by a man who could move only his three fingers. Having read all these stories, I sat dumbfounded.

After that, I spoke to someone waiting whenever I logged onto the net. One of them told me that when he was a little boy he stood and waited for his mother, who was going to buy an umbrella to protect them from the sun. His had been waiting for her to come back for 13 years. I thought the boy was cultivating his hatred for his mother. But on the contrary, he had become a poet, who won high prizes for poems on his mother – the gentle mother, the mother who had devoted all her life to her children. I began to show my admiration for him, because I knew life had ignored me and I had showed an even colder attitude towards life.

Wait133 was the 27th waiting person I had met on the Internet. Her situation was similar to mine, the same disease. She asked me the same questions I had put them to others: "What are you doing while waiting?"

I gave her my sincere answer. "I eat, I sleep, I read books and I surf the net."

"So what, you read and surf the net?"

"To kill the time."

"I’ve got a very interesting book. Shall I send it to you through the Net?"

"Yes, please!"

So Wait133 sent me the book. It took almost two hours. The book told of the life of an Irish boy in dire poverty. I read it with great interest in two weeks. And then I found out that Wait133 had translated the story. So I wrote to Wait 133:

"How do you put aside your feeling of loneliness, your pain, the disease that is gnawing your body day in and day out? How could you forget everything to translate the book?"

"Wait937 can work with three fingers, while I can move my ten fingers, you know. And we all have our head safe and sound! Without that nobody would want to keep waiting."

"I also know English. My father taught me when I was still a little girl."

"Oh, you’re much luckier than me. I’ve no teacher, only books."

"But I haven’t used my English for a long time. Actually I’m not sure I even need it."

"Each foreign language is a treasure. You’re a rich person, you know."


One afternoon my father came home from a meeting, looking thoroughly drunk. This was the first time I had ever seen my father in that condition. I was told that he had become drunk after tossing back the fourth cup of whatever they were drinking. But he only cried and cried – he didn’t curse or say anything foul. Maybe he had been forced to drink too much.

My father was an English teacher at the district’s English centre, which helped people who wanted to improve or brush up their English. He taught English with all his heart. On the day my father got drunk, a woman came in with a boy, earnestly asking father to teach English to her son, because she wanted him to learn in the district’s school instead of going back to a mountainous school. After hearing this, I said I could help instead of father. Mother was very glad and quickly went to get a stool for the boy. I began to teach the boy. He was completely ignorant of any English, so I had to be patient to teach him and wait for father to get a hold of himself.

The next day, I mentioned this to father who said: "You accepted the boy, you should teach him!" I thought of it as a challenge and I accepted. The boy wrestled with English through all those sultry summer afternoons. He made progress and the news about him spread to the school. The principal said that he would invite the boy to attend the school’s English lesson and, if his English was good enough, he could stay for the school year. After nearly three months of teaching the boy, I was anxiously awaiting the result. I was on the edge of my seat as I waited for the school bell. The boy ran straight from school to see me and informed me that he had been accepted at the school. It was enough for me, for the boy and his ecstatic mother.


Word that the boy had successfully finished a two-year English learning programme in only three months spread throughout the elementary school. Children’s parents came to see me with a proposal to set up a class and teach their children. I was not ready to treat teaching as a real job until one day father took home five big boys, saying to them: "My daughter will help you learn English with ease".

"Dad, you’re so funny!" I cried in surprise.

"They are all eager to learn," he said stubbornly.

In the end I accepted it and helped these mountainous boys learn English. At the end of the school year, they all passed their final examinations. I was so happy that I told all my "Wait" friends on the Net. They all shared my joy and persuaded me to register my name on the list. The owner of the webpage sent me an e-mail to congratulate me:

"Congratulations to you for being put on in the list. I would like to inform you that you are now classified as 62nd. This is not a modest rank at all. It is not the number of years that makes you the best waiter. It is how you live while waiting – this is the main thing. We know that when you hit the 10 year mark for waiting, you sent a message to your friend saying ‘hopelessness’. Your friend never told you, but he has done everything he can to stop your hopelessness from destroying your expectations, but only you yourself can separate that hopelessness from you forever."

I burst out crying. I knew the owner of the webpage was really Lam Anh, the friend who had been waiting together with me for all these years.

Translated by Manh Chuong

(from Viet Nam News)

A starry night

by Trong Bao

After the death of her mother, little Chuyen turned taciturn and became visibly depressed. Her two-year-old brother Can was the exact opposite. He cried and called out his mother’s name everyday, because he thought she had either just gone to the market or was standing behind the door playing a hide-and-seek game with him when he returned home from pre-school. Poor little thing, he did not know that after the traffic accident that day, she would never come back to him.

On the afternoon of the accident, after receiving a bonus for her hard work at the office, Chuyen’s mother had taken her to the market to get some presents and candies for both her and her brother. Then they had gone to pick up her brother after pre-school and had taken both of them to the store to get some ice-cream.

Chuyen still remembered every detail of that terrible accident quite well. While they were eating their ice-cream on their bike by the side of the road, Chuyen had been boasting about her good result at school: eight marks for her composition about a starry night. Suddenly, a motorbike with two teenagers on it going at maximum speed crashed into them from behind so violently that their mother had lost her balance.

Everyone was tossed off their bikes. Her mother’s face hit the ground hard and scraped against the pavement; Chuyen suffered a minor head injury. After a few days in the hospital in a coma, Chuyen’s mother passed away. Chuyen’s head had to be shaved to stitch up a long gash.

After the accident, Can followed his father to the hospital to visit his mother and sister. He was too young to understand what had happened and kept asking his dad a string of endless questions such as: "Why are the two nurses in white?" or "Why can a police car enter this place?"

He felt sad because his mother did not even smile at him. Suddenly, he shrank back and hid himself behind his father after he spotted the nurse holding a big syringe approaching his mother’s bed. Then he burst out laughing, when he saw his sister’s shaved head. Chuyen just bit her lips tightly and tried not to weep.


Since her mother’s death, Chuyen had become another girl; actually she had been forced to become an adult. At the age of eleven, she was now responsible for almost all housework and chores for the family. Every morning she had to go to the market to buy food and vegetables. Then she would return home and cook instant noodles for breakfast for her three-member family and prepare everything for dinner. When her father was busy at work, she was responsible for her brother’s schooling. Even when her father returned home extremely drunk and vomited everywhere, she would have to wipe the place clean. These were all things her mother had previously done, and now Chuyen whole-heartedly took on all the responsibilities herself.

One day, after she returned home from picking up her brother, she noticed a stranger sitting in the living room with her father.

"This is Miss Oanh. Say hello to her, dear," he said.

"Good evening!" Chuyen greeted her in a low voice.

Oanh tried to give Can a packet of cakes and a plastic car. Can reached out to accept the toy, but Chuyen held his hand back. Oanh appeared crest-fallen.

Chuyen dragged her brother, who looked like he might begin to cry, into the kitchen. Chuyen told him: "I’ll get you a better car some day." Can was not persuaded and insisted on receiving the toy at once.

"If you insist on taking that woman’s gift, I’ll tell mom," she threatened him. Remembering his mother, he shouted out, "mom… mom!"

"Stop crying, and be good! Some day when mom returns home, she’ll get you lots of presents," she said in an effort to console her brother.

"No, I want mom to be here right now," he insisted.

"If you behave properly, I’ll take you to where she is," Chuyen said.

For dinner Can ate a lot more than usual. Instead of taking the toy car down from the top of the cupboard, he only snuck covetous glances at it.

After dinner, Can dragged his sister into the courtyard. Ever since their mother’s death, he had a habit of going out there and whispering his mom’s name before going to sleep. In the courtyard, Chuyen pointed at the sky and told him that their mother was staying up there. She pointed to a blue star and said that was their mother, but he pointed to a red star he insisted was her because it twinkled at him. A moment later Can fell asleep and his sister took him inside.

Each time she looked at the starry sky, she believed that her mother was somewhere in the firmament, and that she would come back to them astride a shooting star traveling rapidly across the sky. There was a myth that the soul of certain dead people could be carried on a shooting star down to Earth.

The next day, on the way home from school, Can touched his sister’s hand and reminded her of her promise. "Dear sister, today you must lead me to mother’s place," he said. Chuyen was startled for she thought that he had forgotten what she had promised.

"But you look very sleepy. How can you go see mom later tonight, if you are sleeping?" she replied.

"I’ll stay awake tonight, you’ll see," he said resolutely. It seemed she had no choice but to agree.

Once back at home, their father was nowhere to be found. Chuyen made instant noodles for dinner, and then made two cups of strong tea. She drank one and gave her brother the other.

"It’s too bitter! I can’t drink it, sister. Please give me some milk," he implored after tasting the tea. "If you don’t drink it, how can you stay awake to see mom?"

He refused. "No, I can’t stand strong tea anyway."

"Well, I’ll drink it myself then." She drank his cup of tea, and then led him into the courtyard to wait for their mother’s appearance in the sky.

Unfortunately, there were too many clouds to see the sky. Chuyen locked the door, put the key under the flower pot, and then led her brother to a high hill behind their home in the hopes of seeing the stars more clearly and of being closer to their mother if possible. At first Can seemed in high spirits and kept up with her easily, but a few minutes later he became weary and asked to be carried on her back.

Weighed down by her brother, Chuyen could barely trudge uphill. After a while, she had to stop and let her brother down and rest; then she made herself get up and continue the climb. When she finally reached the peak, she was exhausted, and her brother looked like he was almost asleep. His eyes were drooping shut.

"When mom comes down, wake me up, sister," he said to her before falling asleep.

"Yes, surely, my dear," she assured him.

She felt a bit frightened, because it was quite dark on top of the hill with only faint light reflected up from the street lamps and vehicle headlights below. With such dim light, the bushes looked like ghostly dancing figures. All of a sudden the wind blew violently and cleared away the clouds. Millions of stars appeared through only a little bit of haziness. It became quite cold, and Chuyen took off her coat to cover her brother and kept her eyes fixed above. A few shooting stars chased each other across the sky; each time she was going to wake her brother up, but they disappeared as rapidly as they had appeared.

She thought they should go back, because it must be almost midnight. Her efforts to wake up her brother didn’t work he was sleeping so soundly. Finally, she gave his cheek a good pinch, and he seemed to wake up but didn’t open his eyes.

"Mom, mom!" he shrieked happily. That was the way mom had always gotten him to wake up. After opening his eyes and not seeing his mother anywhere, he was about to cry when Chuyen exclaimed: "There comes a shooting star!" Can stood up. There was a whole group of shooting stars traveling together across the sky. Their brilliant long glares seemed to tear the atmosphere apart.

As the stars were gliding past overhead, Can made a desperate wish that his mother would come home. He squeezed his eyes shut and thought about how much he missed her and loved her, and then opened his eyes wide and stared up at the sky again. Suddenly, he clapped his hands in excitement.

"Sister Chuyen! Stars, stars! Lots of shooting stars! Please come here, mom!" he shouted joyfully. She looked in the direction he was pointing, which was the foot of the hill.

It was not shooting stars at all, but many torches that were spreading their light along the path. Their names were being called again and again.

Obviously, their father, relatives and many neighbours had been in searching for them throughout the night.

"Dad! Dad! We’re up here," Chuyen cried out at last.

Translated by Van Minh

(from Viet Nam News)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shayne Ward, No Promises

Shayne Ward - No Promises

Hey baby, when we are together, doing things that we love.
Every time you're near I feel like I’m in heaven, feeling high
I don’t want to let go, girl.
I just need you to know girl.

I don’t wanna run away, baby you’re the one I need tonight,
No promises.
Baby, now I need to hold you tight, I just wanna die in your arms

Here tonight

Hey baby, when we are together, doing things that we love.
Everytime you're near I feel like I’m in heaven, feeling high
I don’t want to let go, girl.
I just need you to know girl.

I don’t wanna run away, baby you’re the one I need tonight,
No promises.
Baby, now I need to hold you tight, I just wanna die in your arms

I don’t want to run away, I want to stay forever, through Time and Time..
No promises

I don’t wanna run away, I don’t wanna be alone
No Promises
Baby, now I need to hold you tight, now and forever my love

No promises

I don’t wanna run away, baby you’re the one I need tonight,
No promises.
Baby, now I need to hold you tight, I just wanna die in your arms

I don’t wanna run away, baby you’re the one I need tonight,
No promises.
Baby, now I need to hold you tight, I just wanna die in your arms
Here tonight.

Shayne Thomas Ward [born October 16th 1984 in Clayton, Manchester, England] is a British pop singer of Irish background, who rose to prominence in the UK and Ireland after becoming the winner of the 2005 series of the talent show The X Factor. His first single, 'That's My Goal', was released in the UK on Wednesday, December 21st 2005 and became the Christmas No.1 in 2005, and stayed there until June 2006. It sold 313,000 copies on its first day of sales [though technically it was not in one day because sales of downloads for this song were around 70,000 which had been on sale for four days before the physical release], making it the fourth fastest selling single of all time. His second single 'No Promises' [a cover of a Bryan Rice song] was released on April 10th 2006, and it reached No.2 in the UK Singles Chart. His first self titled album was released on Monday April 17th 2006 and it sold over 95,000 copies on the first two days of release. By the end of the week, the album had sold 201,266 copies at No.1. To date the album has sold 480,000 copies in total in the UK.

Two years after winning The X Factor, Shayne Ward follows up his eponymous 2006 debut. While that album was predominantly composed of ballads, this release sees Ward "acting his age" with a collection of infectious, uptempo, RnB-influenced pop. Produced by pop supremos extraordinaire Maratone [Britney, Westlife, Celine Dion] and Ryan Tedder [J-Lo, Natasha Bedingfield, Leona Lewis], it includes the singles 'Breathless' and the no.2 double A-side hit 'No U Hang Up'-'If That's OK With You'.