Friday, November 12, 2010

Of Different Worlds

A short piece I was asked to write for the 10th Anniversary of ICAN (


I arrived in California in 1975 at the age of eight. I grew up in this country for many years in places where there were not many or any other Vietnamese people. Over the years, I was very much part of the melting pot that is America. I learned English and to this day it is my best language though I never lost my mother tongue. While I don't have the vocabulary of my Vietnamese friends, I feel lucky to be able to speak, read and write though I stopped school in Vietnam when I was only in the third grade.

Culturally, I became a mutt of sorts. I grew up among people from various origins. I learned a bit of this culture and that culture. I became a mosaic of many sources and was quite comfortable with that. It was not until 1999 when I returned to Vietnam for the first time that I experienced a stirring inside that had been dormant for a long time. Like a sleeper awakening, through the people I met, the places I visited and the home that I grew up in as a child.

It struck me that even though I have had so many other experiences in various countries and with various non-Vietnamese people for so long, there was still a very large part of me that remains Vietnamese. It was the start of a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life. However, it is not a simple journey of finding what bits of me connect to the culture I was born into because after all of these years, I realise I am a product of many roots.

I am not Vietnamese like the people who never left Vietnam. I am not Vietnamese like the many friends I have who grew up there then came here. I am not fully American either and to a great extent, it is a cloud of thoughts that has and still does sometimes blur the sense of who and what I am. There is not a simple easy answer but over time, I have come to accept the complicated nature of belonging to more than one people, than one place and culture at the same time.

There is richness in it and I know it will always be an adventure and learning experience.

— Dao Thai Son

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Three Hours

Three hours was the time I spent talking to an old good friend last night. It was wonderful. It was like finding a cache of dormant energy I had put to safe keeping long ago. Step by step, embers of power and courage are revealing themselves to me, mostly because I am letting them.

The path is rocky and often steep but these eyes are open.

Monday, November 08, 2010


I reconnected and caught up briefly with a friend from art school that I haven't spoken to or seen in years. Of course we are thousands of miles apart, this sort of thing seems to happen a lot in my life. I wouldn't say it is a curse but most of the people I would like to spend time with are always so far away (or it is me who is always distant).

I don't know what to make of that thought. I do know that there has always been a strong nomadic streak in my life and I don't see it changing anytime soon. It is okay, it is a big wide world and much to see and experience. This makes me feel good though I can't say I exactly understand why. Sometimes it is not necessary to know, it is more important to just take the step forward as the path reveals itself.