Nga’s Second Letter

Posted on June 11th, by Marie Louden-Hanes in Asia's Eastern Edge: A Photo Journal of Vietnam. 2 comments

Good Morning Marie!

Thank you for opening the door to my memories!

I believe memory is a medicine that helps us focus on who we are and helps us see more clearly the challenges in our life.

As a child, my mind was watered by my parent’s stories. I can recite them even now. I remember particularly the story about my grandmother’s long white hair; it was the color of the Red River when the seasons changed and its whiteness reminded me of wedding and funeral customs in our culture.

A French researcher Edouard Hericot wrote “Culture is what is left when everything is forgotten.” I agree with this quote because I know who I am and what I need to keep. I don’t try to change myself while my friends change much. When they go abroad, get married to a foreigner or stay on the high corporate ladder, they try to change their voice, their figure; they forget their cultural roots and their childhood friends. I don’t want to criticize their behavior because it’s their decision and I respect them. But I believe they have turned their backs on the culture that nurtured them as children and I believe they have closed the door to their memories and to connections to our families and particularly to the importance and influence of the women in our lives.

A song all Vietnamese kids can sing by the time they are 2 or 3 years old speaks of the role of the grandmother:

“Grandmom, I love you;

Your hair is white as if it were the clouds.

I love that I hold your hands,

When I obey you, I know you are happy.”Nga_grandmother

The image of a grandmother is an extremely beautiful one in our culture. We have no word that can truly describe a grandmother’s inner beauty and her place in the family. For the Vietnamese, women play an important role in the family and in the culture. They are mothers, grandmothers, fire keepers, and symbols of proliferation. We believe that their sacrifices make their children more responsible and more culturally aware.

My grandmother possesses a peaceful face with slanted eyes, high cheekbones and a nice smile. She eats betel daily for its medicinal value and as a result her lips are always stained red. I think this is more beautiful than lipstick and enhances her natural beauty and color of her lips.

My grandmother was a farmer and worked the fields. She planted mulberry bushes to feed the silkworms she raised and sold for income to help feed her ten children.

One story I remember vividly about my grandmother is when my sister and I almost fainted when we watched as she combed her hair and silkworms began to fall out. She told us this was normal – and that it happened all the time! – because she worked all day with the mulberry plants and the worms.  She smiled as she gathered the tiny white silkworms and returned them to the mulberry bushes.

I’ll never forget this image. I think if I were her, I would have been faint!

Last year, I returned to my home along the Red River to visit my grandmother. Her back is bent now and she doesn’t move easily. But she is swift of thought and her memory is good and she knows the names of her thirty grandchildren.

Before I left, she gave me her portrait and told me It was to be used when she died. I tried to keep my tears away.

She spent her entire life for her children without requiring anything in return. She lives alone and her life is lonely because she doesn’t want to be a burden on her children and grandchildren.

I don’t know how I will be when I am a grandmother. But she has instilled in me a love for my culture, my family, my place in life, and my role as a woman.

I appreciate deeply my grandmother; I hold her image close to my memories for it is a medicine that helps me focus on who I am and helps me see more clearly the challenges in my life.

Hoang Thanh Nga                                                                                                                                         University of Social Sciences and Humanities, HCM City National University VIETNAM


2 thoughts on “Nga’s Second Letter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

From the Blog

Wondering what it's really like to be at The University of Findlay? Follow our bloggers and read—and sometimes listen and watch—their experiences. Real Oilers. Real stories. Real life.

Meet Meredith!

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, I came all the way to the University of Findlay for the incredible animal science program. As...

Year #3, Here I Come!

Somehow, time has flown by and this year I started my third year here at the University of Findlay! For a pre-physical therapy major, junior year...

Homestays and new experiences

So far on our journey, we have encountered so many kind people and even made some great new friends. The professors at the University...

Why Fukui?

You may find yourself wondering why we traveled to Japan. To put it simply, Kat and I wholeheartedly believe traveling and immersing yourself in...

Seeing the Sights and Settling In

The first three days of our trip were spent traveling Osaka, a great place for sightseeing here in Japan. We were able to see...

Sleepless in Osaka

A few days ago, we were scheduled to leave for Japan with Dr. Alison Baer and her husband Paul.  If you saw two girls...

Ready to Go!

Hello, Kat Slate and Julia Smith here! We are education majors setting out to teach children, not only here, but all over the world.


Dear Findlay: A Letter to Everyone I’ve Known the Past 4 Years

Dear Findlay (and everyone affiliated),

August 2014, was the beginning of my senior year of high school. For most of my classmates, that meant preparing...

Use Your Words

For my last blog post of the academic year (I’ll be back this fall), I thought I’d provide some educational value to your valuable...

The Senioritis Struggle (or lack thereof): Part 2

Senioritis: sen·ior·i·tis: noun humorous: A supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation...

Freshman Year Lessons: An End of the Year Reflection

Looking back on my freshman year at Findlay, I have learned so much. It would be almost impossible to write about how many lessons...

To a New Beginning!

So, it’s almost the end of this semester! Almost the end of me being a freshman! They say time flies. It does.

There are so...

Surviving the End of the Semester: Tips & Tricks

The last few weeks of the semester are always the hardest. Suddenly, everything that you put off because “It isn’t due until the end...

Mazza Museum – Get the Picture!

It’s hard to believe, but not everyone who goes to UF has been to one of my favorite spots on campus: the Mazza Museum. It...

Passionate Students + Humble Leadership + Above & Beyond Mentality = @TheOiler10

On August 19, 2016, Professor Scott Grant, Ed.D., gathered 10 students (including myself) together in Old Main, Room 203. Barely any of us knew...