Friday, April 27, 2012

Education in Vietnam: Pen Pals from Different Grades

In Viet Nam at the time I was there, we had school either in the morning or afternoon, not all day like here.
I had the afternoon during my seventh grade year, because of this arrangement, the students came up
with a trend to meet the other student who sat at the same spot by writing notes and hide it in the
drawer of  the desk.  My school was all girls so I had an eleventh grader as my pen pal and  her name was Thuy.  We shared many things from dilemmas to dreams.  I benefitted, I think, because I was able
to ask for help with school work and ideas.  Her focus was more of dreams to have better life in the future.
We have written to each other everyday for almost a year, but I did not have the courage to go see her because I was younger and did not know what to do. School year is  near the end, one evening I decided to ride my bike to her neighborhood with the address she gave me. 

Where she lived was kind of out of the city zone, small houses were cluttered together.  The area was not what I have imagined in my young head but I was determined to find out about her.  I biked down the long dirt -gravel road to the front of this house, I call it a house but actually it was just a few poles standing and they have thick carton shelter around it, and I think inside rooms were separated by long thick  pieces of  curtains.  I walked around to the side and saw a young lady washing her hair. She looked up, saw me and froze. So did I.  Then she stood up, turned her back to me and said I should not have come.

She knew what I looked like from coming to school one afternoon with her friends. I told her that I wanted to meet her for knowing that next year we may not sit at the same spot.She told me she wanted me to leave, she didn't want me to see her, and  from the back I knew she was crying. I wanted to hug her, but instead I left because I was in tears too.  My heart was so heavy because I knew why she did not want to meet me.  Half of her face was wounded and scars badly. 

She wrote me one last note explaining that she was embarassed of how she looked because she was injured during a bombing attack at her old hometown when she was younger. She also lost her father. That's why her mom moved the  family to the city but by the summer they will move back home to live with
her grandparents.  They could not survive here at the city. She did not think I would come looking for her.

That's was the last time I heard from her.  She never wrote again but what she put in the "P.S." of  her letter  is what made me sad was  that "Did I know the lady who sell breakfast food in the basket, who had provided  my siblings and I breakfast most every morning was her mom?"

By Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at Department of State

The United States will remain diligent in pursuing progress on human rights in our high-level engagement as we pursue a wide array of security, economic, and strategic interests with Vietnam. In our discussions with the Vietnamese government, we emphasize that progress on human rights, including the release of political prisoners and freedom of religion, is a necessary part of improving United States-Vietnam relations. Secretary of State Clinton raised our human rights concerns with President Sang when they met at the November 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear has raised similar concerns in all of his high-level meetings since arriving in Vietnam last August, and he and the Mission regularly engage Vietnamese government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other individuals as part of our Government's commitment to promote greater respect for human rights in Vietnam.