the fall of saigon

Spoken Word Poetry Recs

An updated version of this post that I wrote out for @mythaelogy​ a while back <3 I just need to fan girl about these things (+ I added links)

I have seen the best of you, and the worst of you, and I choose both.

Over and over again (“You are beautiful”)

And when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and offer you handouts on street-corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

Still now, I send letters into space. Hoping that some mailman somewhere will track you down and recognize you from the descriptions in my poems.

Once, when you were seven, you came into the kitchen and asked mum: “Does my name begin with the letter P because P is the 16th letter of the alphabet and I was born on June 16th and is Sarah just Sarah because S is 19th letter and she was born on the 19th day of June?”

…father, farther, are little mazes, mouse-traps, cul-de-sacs, this house is amazing, this house is amazing, this house is amazing, this house is amazing, this house is amazing, farther

My mother taught me this trick if you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning

Electricity bowing to nature / Mind bowing to heartbeat / This is gonna hurt bowing to I love you / I still love you like moons love the planets they circle around

This year has been the hardest of your whole life.
So hard you cannot see a future, most days.

This is my garden song /This is my fist fight / with that bitter frost / Tonight I begged another stage light to become that back alley street lamp that we danced beneath

Watch me tentacles and teeth. Watch me resurrected electric.

Strawberry-cheeked gourmet popsicle ladies who stay out all night drinking midori sours and somersaulting over their polka-pineapple platform heels
Pop goes the world.

Madame Butterfly. Japanese woman falls in love with a white soldier, is abandoned, kills herself.
Miss Saigon. Vietnamese woman falls in love with a white soldier, is abandoned, kills herself.

  • Names” by Rachel Rostad

When you name your daughter, it’s a prayer for everything you want her to be.

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?

you built a cast around your broken heart / and signed it yourself / you signed it “they were wrong”

See, this is from my father. see, this is from my brother. see, this is from that weird girl. see this is from my mother. it took me two days to figure out that
that weird girl, is his sister.

Write me a poem to make me happy. / So I write. / Move pen move,
Write me a bedroom where cures make love to our cancers…

The failing use of my right hand isn’t actually the failing use of my right hand it’s just another way to tell the time

SOUTH VIETNAM. Trang Bang. June 8, 1972. Terror of War. South Vietnamese forces follow after frightened children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, centre, as they run down a road, after a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped flaming napalm on its own troops and civilians. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing. 

This photo, taken by Vietnamese-born war photographer Nick Ut, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and the World Press Photo of the Year award in 1972.

Photograph: Nick Ut/AP 

This picture became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War. In an interview many years later, Kim Phúc recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá (“too hot, too hot”) in the picture. New York Times editors were at first hesitant to consider the photo for publication because of the nudity, but eventually approved it. A cropped version of the photo—with the press photographers to the right removed—was featured on the front page of the New York Times the next day.

After snapping the photograph, Ut took Kim Phúc and the other injured children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive (30% of her body). After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures, however, she was able to return home. Ut continued to visit Kim Phúc until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon. (see this post on her later life)

Audio tapes of President Richard Nixon, in conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman in 1972, reveal that Nixon mused “I’m wondering if that was fixed” after seeing the photograph. After the release of this tape, Út commented:

“Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers on 12 June 1972…. The picture for me and unquestionably for many others could not have been more real. The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam War itself. The horror of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is still alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo. That moment thirty years ago will be one Kim Phúc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives.”

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1. April 24, 1975, Saigon - South Vietnamese line up at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, seeking evacuation days before the fall of Saigon
2. April 1, 1975, Nha Trang - South Vietnamese scramble to board an aircraft fleeing North Vietnamese forces 
3. April 24, 1975, Saigon - South Vietnamese waiting in line for evacuation watch an American helicopter take off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon
4. March 23, 1975, Tuy Hoa - South Vietnamese civilian and soldiers climb aboard a rescue helicopter to escape advancing North Vietnamese troops

April 30, 1975 - North Vietnamese forces capture Saigon, ending the war 

Like many other remaining South Vietnamese, my father, a soldier, was imprisoned in a “reeducation camp” for seven years where he endured severe malnutrition, forced labor, and inhumane conditions.  

Vietnamese people form Germany’s largest group of resident foreigners from Asia. Federal Statistical Office figures showed 83,446 Vietnamese nationals residing in Germany in 2005 (not included are individuals of Viet origin or descent who have been naturalized as German citizens - between 1981-2007, 41,500 people renounced Vietnamese citizenship to take up German nationality). A further 40,000 irregular migrants of Vietnamese origin were estimated to live in Germany, largely concentrated in the Eastern states.

The Vietnamese community in Western Germany consists of refugees from the Vietnam War. The first boat people who fled the country after the fall of Saigon, consisting of 208 families (640 individuals), who arrived in Hanover in 1978. None spoke German. They received official aid such as social benefits and job placement assistance, as well as societal support for their successful adaptation to German life. By the eve of German reunification, West Germany had roughly 33,000 Vietnamese people, largely consisting of boat people and their relatives who were admitted under family reunification schemes.[

East Germany began to invite North Vietnamese to attend study and training programs in the 1950s; cooperation expanded in 1973, when they pledged to train a further 10,000 Vietnamese citizens in the following 10 years. In 1980, they signed an agreement with reunified Vietnam to provide training. The East German government viewed industrial trainee programs not just as a means to increase the labor supply to local industry, but also as development aid to the poorer members of the Socialist Bloc. By 1985, Vietnamese, along with Africans from Mozambique, comprised the main groups of foreign laborers in the DDR. From just 2,482 in 1980, the number of Vietnamese residents grew to 59,053 by 1989. Communities were concentrated mainly in Karl-Marx-Stadt, Dresden, East Berlin, Erfurt, and Leipzig. Their contracts were supposed to last for 5 years, after which they would return home. 

After Reunification, the government sought to reduce populations of former guest workers in the east by offering each DM 3,000 to return home. Tens of thousands took the offer, but they were soon replaced by a further influx of Viet asylum-seekers who had been contract workers in other Eastern European nations. Throughout the 1990s, German attempts to repatriate the new immigrants back to their country were not very successful, due to both Berlin’s reluctance to forcibly deport, and Hanoi’s refusal to re-admit; however, nearly 4/10 were barred from permanent residency. 

Today, about 10,000 Vietnamese people live in Berlin, of whom roughly 25% consist of Hoa (descendants of Chinese immigrants to Vietnam). Vietnamese, along with Koreans, form one of the only Asian groups in which men and women migrated to Germany in roughly equal numbers, at least among legal residents - in contrast, there are far more Thai and Filipino women than men in Germany, while the reverse holds true for Chinese and Indians.

Studies by German education experts show that Vietnamese children are among the highest performing pupils in Germany (50% gaining entry into Gymnasiums). Vietnamese students in Eastern Germany who grow up in poverty typically outperform their peers, such as Turks and Italians. Notable people from the Viet community include Philipp Rösler (Vice-Chancellor of Germany, Federal Minister of Economics & Tech & chairman of the FDP), Dang Ngoc Long (composer), Marcel Nguyen (Olympic gymnast & silver medalist), Minh-Khai Phan-Thi (actress & former presenter for German music channel “VIVA”), and Phạm Nguyễn Lan Phiên (piano prodigy, youngest piano student accepted at the Frankfurt College of Music).

5 Things About the Philippines and the Vietnam War

Since I’ve been sick and couldn’t make a new video for the past few days, here is a piece I wrote this morning which I still intend to turn into a youtube video when I feel better.

…..

Today, April 30th, marks the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Known as Black April to many, it marked the official end to the Vietnam War. Speaking from a Filipino and a historian’s perspective, here are five things you probably did not know about the Philippines and the Vietnam War.

  1. The Philippine-American War and genocide of 1899-1903 (in some areas up to 1913) is considered by many historians as “the First Vietnam” in recognition of the many parallelisms between the two. The Philippine-American war set a precedent of U.S. involvement and interests in the affairs of the region.
  2. As fellow Southeast Asians, the people of the Philippines have traditionally been sensitive to the humanitarian needs of the people of Vietnam. As early as 1954, the Philippines sent humanitarian missions to Vietnam. Contingents of agricultural experts, doctors, nurses and nutritionists, were sent to provide care for the people affected by the war in both Vietnam and Laos.
  3. Between 1964-1971 the Philippine government sent non-combatant troops to serve the medical, dental, engineering and other needs of the Vietnamese people. To this day many Filipino doctors, nurses, teachers, rights activists, humanitarian workers, etc. are found in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as part of a collective regional consciousness and movements to strengthen the bond between the people of Southeast Asia.
  4. When Saigon and South Vietnam fell in 1975, the Philippines immediately built communities to shelter and aid the refugees. The Philippines was one of the earliest countries to open its borders and welcome refugees with open arms. When the world’s strongest typhoon (Haiyan) hit the Philippines in 2013, many Vietnamese Americans rallied together to send aid to the people of the Philippines in gratitude and recognition of the love the people of the Philippines extended during the war.
  5. More importantly, we also cannot ignore the profound effects of the Vietnam War to the people of the Philippines.  From a critical perspective, the Vietnam war was used as an excuse to continue the U.S. infringement of Philippine sovereignty. The Vietnam War was also a bargaining chip used to keep the Marcos Dictatorship, a dark chapter of Philippine history, in power.  In fact, many of the issues and problems plaguing the people of the Philippines today can be traced back to both the Marcos Dictatorship and the continuing neo-colonial relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines.

Hopefully this would help broaden the scope of understanding the Southeast Asian history and identity. The people of Southeast Asia (all 11 countries in both the mainland and the islands) have long shared a collective consciousness and intersectionalities for thousands of years way before the first European set foot in the region. Let us reclaim what it means to be Southeast Asian beyond the divisions imposed by Western imperialism. Let us once again stand in solidarity and show the rest of the world the collective strength and resilience of Southeast Asia and its people, our people.

I Am Vietnamese

It irks me when people say “You’re not really Vietnamese” or “Well… you aren't Vietnamese Vietnamese.” I’ve gotten this from many people in my life and I’ve always been pissed off by it. Here, I’ll give it to you straight. Unlike many people in America who have forgotten their roots and are perfectly happy being just “American,” I know where I come from and I am proud of it.

While I grew up in the U.S., I was raised in a Vietnamese family, with strong parents who passed onto me their values and traditions. Growing up in an immigrant household, where struggle and perseverance defined our reality, the closeness of the Vietnamese family was fundamental. Visiting relatives in the motherland, at times it appeared to me that my cousins who grew up in Vietnam viewed filial piety and family stories as trivial and trite. Like empty recitations of poetry that held little meaning or emotional resonance.

For me, it’s quite different. The stories of my mom and dad’s struggles following the Fall of Saigon and the beginning of painful communist rule have been passed down to me since I was a child. Here in America, my parents started with absolutely nothing. But through every dollar saved from walking instead of busing, every sale and clearance, every insulting supervisor who took advantage of them, and every back-breaking labor, they saved enough money to buy a home in a good school district. All so that I would have a fighting chance to become the person I wanted to be. I hang onto my parents’ every word because it is our story. Because it is who we are and why we are here. Stories about my grandparents, about the war, about the incredible cruelty inflicted onto everyday people by the North Vietnamese, about the thousands of refugees who died at sea as they tried to escape a Vietnam that they could not believe in. These stories flow through my veins. Vietnamese blood flows through my veins.

Because to me, giving back to my parents or carrying on our story isn’t just a concept on a page, it is a reason of being.

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The Fall of Saigon was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (also known as the Việt Cộng) on April 30, 1975. The event marked the end of the Vietnam War and the start of a transition period to the formal reunification of Vietnam into a socialist republic, governed by the Communist Party of Vietnam.

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Chef Charles Phan of San Francisco’s The Slanted Door shares more than just recipes in this fascinating behind-the-scenes cookbook

The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food
by Charles Phan
Ten Speed Press
2014, 288 pages, 8.7 x 11.8 x 1.2 inches
$26 Buy a copy on Amazon

Emma Campion, the cover designer of The Slanted Door is to be congratulated for her outstanding work. The contrast in texture between the gray flannel top and the smooth photographic bottom not only enhances the work visually, but also creates a contrast to the touch. The embossed titles further enhance the tactile experience. There are many cookbooks I like to read – a very few that inspire long study of food photography – but how many do I like to touch? Campion has gone beyond the boundaries of cookbook design to create a new sensory experience of the cookbook. She is a true innovator.

The interior design of the cookbook by Bullet Liongson, with its limited color palate, slightly desaturated color photos, black and whites, and cityscapes exemplifying a pervasive feeling of gray fog, suits the San Francisco bay-front location of The Slanted Door restaurant. The food photography may not pop, but it does blend into a cohesive whole. A food photographer myself, I am always interested in the photographers and techniques of food photography found in cookbooks. Photographer Ed Anderson, known for his work in My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, has a gritty, masculine, street photojournalist style to his food shots and he is not afraid to show dirty pots and scuffed kitchen floors. His best work seems to be his beautiful landscapes and cityscapes of San Francisco.

As those of us who have written cookbooks for chefs and restaurants know, writing a cookbook is a full-time job and running a restaurant is a full-time job. No chef can do both and the wise ones, like Charles Phan, hire a specialist. Charles Phan made a good decision hiring Janny Hu. The recipes work and Hu successfully created a voice that I, for one, believe is that of Charles Phan. To sublimate one’s own personality and successfully translate that of Chef Phan’s into a voice is a true gift and Janny Hu has done well.

I began eating Vietnamese food in 1980 when the first Vietnamese restaurant opened in New Orleans to serve the some 20,000 Vietnamese located here after the fall of Saigon. I also included a number of Vietnamese restaurants in New Orleans Best Ethnic Restaurants, so I enjoyed exploring Charles Phan’s growth as a restaurateur and comparing it to what my local Vietnamese restaurant friends have done. Charles Phan primarily keeps to traditional Vietnamese dish preparation for his entrees and appetizers. A few of the dishes are more Vietnamese fusion than traditional Vietnamese and I find that they do not work as well as the traditional recipes which have had hundreds of years to develop a flavor profile. For desserts, Phan provides exquisite pastries in the tradition of the French occupation of Vietnam and forgoes the fruit-based desserts so often seen in local restaurants.

His two smartest moves as a restaurateur were to free himself from the tyranny of local soda distributors and his creation of a wine list and a spirits menu totally unrelated to Vietnam. Phan removed the soda guns from his restaurant – an action so without precedent in San Francisco restaurant history that the distributor was not sure what he meant. No well-known commercial sodas at The Slanted Door, rather hand squeezed juices, made to order and combined with small bottles of sparkling soda water in the tradition of Vietnamese soda chanh. Soda chanh, a combination of fresh squeezed lime juice, sugar and club soda, is one of my favorite drinks. Hiring an expert, wine wizard Mark Ellenbogen created the wine list for The Slanted Door. He found that low alcohol wines with some residual sugar and high acidity like a German Riesling worked with spicy Vietnamese dishes and concentrated on whites made from cool-weather grapes and reds with low tannin. For the spirits menu, the fresh squeezed juices of the non-alcoholic beverage menu was a natural springboard for fresh juice and homemade syrup based cocktails with an emphasis on tropical cocktails, extremely well done. The cocktail recipes include cute bits of info. One bit that I did not know is who drank the French 75 in the movie Casablanca. Read the book to find out.

Most impressive, however, is Charles Phan’s story of how he raised capital for his restaurants, avoided double-dealing landlords and used DIY skills to remodel and decorate his restaurants without the all too often amateur look resulting from DIY restaurant design. The Slanted Door provides a fascinating look into the evolution of a restaurant dynasty, some great recipes, some even better cocktail recipes and a romping fun read. If I were to be forced to find a drawback, it is that I would have enjoyed the book much more if I lived in San Francisco and knew Charles Phan personally – but there are always vacations. Traveling to San Francisco soon? Put this book on your to-read list and visit the restaurant while you are there. I know I will. – Ann Benoit

April 2, 2015