Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thai Describes Her American Education

My son was finalizing details on his project and planning on studying for his tests the next day.

I listened to him complain how he will have to stay up late. I told him he needed to go to bed.  This bring back lots of memories for me. 

When I first came to the United States, I did not speak any English.  My way of  communicating was using  my English/Vietnamese and Vietnamese/English dictionary.

My everyday routine  after coming home from school was help with the chores, have dinner with my family and do my homework.

I would have to use the dictionary to translate any reading material I had for my homework.

This could take several hours, until all the words translated and carefully penciled in on top of the word. Then I would go back and try to read the chapters and answer the questions.  Even after all this hard work I still could not understand much of the chapter. It did not make much sense, but I did my homework anyway. 

Months later, when I was able to know English a little better,  I realized that words I tried to translate were not necessarily the same meaning of what was in the chapter or a sentence.  My realization made me frustrated.  I would rather not know that and just do my homework the best  I could understand. 

With this realization I became discouraged, not wanting to study anymore, and yet I had to spend more time into the night trying to do my homework.  I knew that this was the only way for me to succeed and gain education in this country.  If I wanted to live here and have a future here, I HAD to learn the language.

There were times when my mom peeked into my room with worried eyes because it was so late in the night, but she left me alone.  She knew this was the only way for me to better myself.  With this memory in mind, I told my son I loved him and goodnight.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Vietnamese Church Confession

I was raised as a Catholic.  As far as I remember my parents told me that we have been Catholic for many generations.  I grew up going to church every Sunday and every holy obligation day.  I went to Bible school every Sunday, and know to go confession at LEAST once a year. That's what I learned, but once a year was not what my family did.  According to my parents, I had to go once a month and I guess maybe because of my culture or the way I was raised, I still do whatever my parents said. I didn't argue then and I still do it now.

I remember one time I rode my bike to the church on a Saturday afternoon for my monthly confession with the priest.  It took me about twenty minutes to get there, and it was raining hard, too.  By the time I got to the Church, I was very wet.  The confession line in the Chapel was long.  I got in, kneeled at one of the chairs and did my usual prayers.  After that, I stood in line with the rest of the people and waited for my turn.

My heart was pumping so loud I felt that everybody could hear it.  When it was my turn, the priest told me he was going ask me a few questions about the Bible lessons I learned.  I don't remember what the one question was, but I did not know the answer.  The priest then opened the curtain, peeked his head out and yelled at me in front of everybody that he would not do the confession for me, to go home, study and come back next week.  I left the church with a heavy heart, felt humiliated and the thought of the ride home in the rain made me want to cry.

Nowadays,  I try to get my children to go to the reconciliation at least twice a year, and they still complain. I told them my story and tell them that was why my heart pounded so hard every time I faced the priest.  Today, we call it reconciliation. Just the word itself sounds easier than confession.  I don't understand why  the Vietnamese priest had to make it so scary and terrifying then. After all, we were going to make peace with our God and knew that he would always love us, no matter what we did.  The Catholic church today is more understanding and easier. My children shouldn't feel so terrified to go face God at the reconciliation booth.  Actually, I don't think they are scared. They are just lazy.  I hope my experience will help them see how lucky they are that they don't have to go through what I went through.  I look forward to reconciling with God every time. I feel good about it.