America Through My Lens

By: Ly Quoc Dang, Vietnam

#YSEALI #ProFellows

Until today, I’ve been studying and working in the US is about 3 weeks. This is not my first time I come to the US and my feeling about America is differently than before. I meet more people on this trip and am watching further from other cities in Montana.

A lot of debatings and thinkings about American and America and from many people are unlikely, and particularly for our Vietnam, the small groups of people think different about them. Some people just love America and want to come here and become citizenship, do any job and work in any condition because they think that is still better than Vietnam, the trade-off makes them in very difficult living at first time because of languages, culture and knowledge/ skills.

Some people suppose that American are very rich and America is very beautiful, when any American come to Vietnam for tourism and sightseeing, we think that most of them are rich people, American usually donates money to poor people and to South Countries, many of richest people are coming from United States and they contribute into development around the world.

For few elders in our country (mostly from South Vietnam), they are afraid of the American as they flight for many years in war. Our people used to hear, reach a lot of bombs, guns and most of them lost their part of body or marks scars. Many children cannot live in normal lives like other ones because of agent organce which sprayed a lot from the central to the south of Vietnam during American War.

About my opinion, I visit US two times and I have been studying, reaching and working with someone, America is majestic and American is compassionate, kind-hearted and well-educated. In the contrast, some people are very poor and they face to their living everyday, even homeless.

I, in turn, make such discussions because while working, learning and studying in the United States under the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program Program from October 6 until today, November 1, and the other time with working with friends, professors and experts from the United States by face to face talking and interviewing, observating and taking notes, photographying and recording and by analysing and writing what have I been learning from many stories.

This program is developed by Ms. Deena Mansour and Ms. Kelsy Stamn Jimenez who are from Mansfield Center, they take care of us well and they arrange activities very smoothy. They not only prepare many talks and discussions for us, but also give some experiences by social activities which they think we need to know and learn from here. I dont know to explain many words which can describe their willing and helping us, and I would like to summary three words including perfect, well-prepared and supportive.

My host family is from East Missoula of MT, they are retired now, Mrs. Jan Freim and Mr. Dick Freim, were born in Montana and they are working for many years in Missoula. I have stayed two weeks at their home with warmingly staying, happily time, sweetly food and nicely words. Ms. Jan used to work for migration issue in Missoula for Mong Ethnic Group from Lao who travelled to US in the past. She brought me to do shopping, malls and markets in order to buy food, explore more America and understand more US Culture. She sometimes cook food for me and I do Vietnamese cooking for her. During staying at her home, I am pleasure to do garden work for the family and planted some flowers on the garden. I brought some books from Vietnam and I give her to few of them to read, one of them is The Khmer Lands of Vietnam: Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty which was written by Phillip Taylor. We discuss a lot from the books about Khmer Culture, Khmer Issues in Vietnam and it makes me happy to answer and explain her questions. I bought two books and I gave her one of them, she writes on book to me that “Dang, as you read this I hope you will remember Montana findly, we have enjoyed your stay with us and I earned so much from you other than now to eat very spicy foods. With much affection from your Montana family”. I expect to stay longer with her but I could not. But, I will stay with her again when I come back Missoula in the future, that she said to me. I love you, Jan and Dick. I hope that I can host you and Dick in Vietnam as you do to me here.

Ms. Annie and Ms. Bonie are from CFAC, Community for Food and Agriculture Coalition, they are my coordinator from the program during my time in Missoula and other counties in MT. I enjoy many activities and journeys which they prepare and arrange for us. They find time when we are free in order to bring us to explore and understand about US culture.

I had oppotunities to explore more view of Montana, Montana is bigger than Vietnam little bit and I use to travel around two thousand kilometters by the cars and passed some cities in the State. I observe that mountains and valleys are majestic. Because Montana is very big state and less people, the population density is very low compared to other state in the U.S (7 people per sq.mi). I was taken through Billings, Bozeman, Livingstons, Yellow Stone National Park, Glacier National Park, Lake County, Butte, and some small towns nearby Missoula. I really love Lake County where I can see huge mountain, gorgegous sunset, ice on the montain and wonderful farm plus some pretty houses beside. You hit the road to bring me to many places as my country, I feel that US is not far from my hometown and I enjoy those very much.

Sarah has have adopted three children from China and Vietnam and Betsy is the Executive Director, Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, in Missoula. My friend from Vietnam Mr. Thai and I are joined for Halloween in their home, we were made up by Betsy and it looks very funny, we are at first time ever since. I am very happy to see her children, three of them are from China and Vietnam, one of three children is from Vietnam, a girl and her nam is Dung, that child is from Thi Nghe Orphanage where is closely to my office in Ho Chi Minh City, we speak few Vietnamese. Betsy told me that “Saral adopted her in 2008 when she worked and stayed in that center for around three month, Dung faced with her personality health and Dung could not do surgery in Vietnam, then Sarah asked to adopt her, brought Dung to the US and did surgery for Dung, Dung is currently 8 years old and she is fine”. I stayed at the home for few hours, we talked, ate dinner and went around for trick-or-treat, and I could see how busy she is in order to take care of her three children and her housework. I could not image that how does she spend time for them and how does she love them. I really admire her way to treat other people, especially orphanage children. I can see that how is vwey strong women and how compassionate she is. I feel upset myself compared to her.

Mong’s family, one of ethnic group from Laos and they live in Montana now. I have chance to meet them when I was in the Farmer Market last Oct 17, 2015, they would like to give free-food to me even though I wanted to buy many kinds of vegetables. One female, a seller, she speaks some Lao Language , invited us to her home for pleasure at the weekend. I did not go to her home, but one of our friends from Laos came to her family, my friend told me that “They have good opportunities during living here in the US, their children can go to school and they do not need to pay money, if they are in Laos, they could not have chance like this”.

Today, we have joined dinner at Ms. Shu Shu and Mr. Tuyen Pham for Asian meal and to provide an oppurtunity for us to learn about immigration in the U.S through their family’s experience. She and her family came to Missoula since 1975 and their family works and studies in the city till now. They are collected many kinds of tradditional products from different countries in the Mekong Region Countries. I feel very peaceful while speaking Vietnamese with her and her husband as well as understanding the ways which she fights for her life and her family from Vietnam to Laos through Thailand and United States during the time changing regime and the constrainst in the Mekong Region.

I can see how different perspectives among people when they deal with our social and environment changes, many people in Montana still do not have jobs and some of them are homeless even no food to eat. My perspective is that how would I remind myself in order to live as compassionate, kind-hearted and well-educated as American and how would I share the food to other persons who are from different societies. United States in my lens is Democratic Country, that I can bring to my friends, colleagues and my family home from manythings which I earn and share, the knowledge is exchanged and the skills are filled up, but these never change!

Missoula, November 1, 2015

  • I am so sorry if your names are not allowed to use on this blog, please let me know by danglyquoc
  • If some words are incorrected, please accept them because I am not American writer and this is my personality view during some weeks in the US and working with US friends for some years.
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