April 30 2009.
Today is the 34th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. On April 30th 1975, 34 years ago, the city of Saigon in South Vietnam was overtaken by the North Vietnamese communists and renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after a North Vietnamese (communist) leader. Each year since then on this day, the communists have celebrated the day in honour and memory of their success, while those who had fled the country to Canada (like my parents), or America (like my aunt, uncle and cousins), or other places around the globe (I hear there are a lot of Vietnamese people in Australia), mourn the loss of their home and the loss of democracy, and hope that eventually change will come for Vietnam.
I’ll be turning 20 in a few months. In the past 20 years, I have been unaware of the significance of this day. I’m quite positive my parents have told me about it at some point throughout the years, but it probably went in one ear and out the other, much like a lot of the stories they’ve told me about their experiences in Vietnam, fleeing Vietnam and starting over in Canada. This year my father mentioned the date, just once, over lunch, and as usual it kind of went in one ear and out the other. I nodded and murmured some form of acknowledgement and went on with eating or talking about whatever I happened to be talking about that day. Then for some reason, a few days later, out of the blue, I remembered that brief conversation we had had, with him saying something about April 30th being the day that we mourn the loss of our country, and I decided to google it.
And it was through Google that I learned about the Fall of Saigon. Which, as it happens, is a famous date in history, and one that on one news website, was part of a list of “Events that Changed the World.” Pretty monumental I’d say.
It’s not my parent’s fault that I didn’t know about this until now. I take full responsibility for the fact that I’ve just been uninterested and unquestioning in the history of my heritage and well ultimately, my parent’s lives before they came to Canada. I mean, they’ve spent years giving me anecdotes about Vietnam and getting out because they didn’t want to live under communist rule, how before the war, New Years over there was the most festive and happy times, how they’d sell things at the marketplace and go for Vietnamese dessert with their friends, how they went on a boat to refugee camps before coming to Canada, and all kinds of little bits of information here and there. I just didn’t really pay attention all that much to what they said.
Maybe my lack of knowledge of Vietnam and its history also stems from the fact that I still haven’t been there. In the past 20 years I haven’t yet gone back to Vietnam. This is ultimately because my dad refuses to return while its still under communist rule. He feels very passionately about that. He said he’d go back when Vietnam is democratic again… I don’t know how realistic that ‘vow’ is. I don’t know if Vietnam will ever be democratic again… but my dad’s feelings about the matter is really why my family and I haven’t gone back yet. And to be honest I never really cared to go back that much anyway. I’m happy I’m in Canada. I’m glad my parents hadn’t stuck around for a Communist-ruled Vietnam and I’m extremely grateful that I was born and raised here.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t know about my family’s history and my heritage. And before I started writing this blog post, I didn’t realize just how little I know about Vietnam history and I didn’t realize just how little an effort I had made in the past to know about it.
This changes now of course.
I really, really am going to make an active effort to learn about the history of my motherland starting now.
I had come up with this idea a few years back… that I’d sort of “interview” my parents, and record them talking about all of their experiences and everything they could remember about living and leaving Vietnam, and then I’d put it all together and write a book about it. I mean I was probably in Grade 12 when I had said that and I probably had no intention of writing a book anytime SOON. And to this day I still haven’t ACTUALLY “interviewed” them about it at all. But this idea has been resurfacing a lot lately, and I think I will start the interviewing process very soon. And obviously it will help me in learning more about my country and my culture, as well as bonding with my parents. (Which, I do do a lot of anyways, just never really bond-talking about Vietnam).
Anyway, so that’s me admitting that I’ve wasted far too many years not trying to learn about where my parents come from and the history of my people, not asking for more details when my parents would mention something about life in Vietnam, and that I want to start learning about it now.
And just as a side note, I would like to go and visit Vietnam one day.
Here’s some External Links for reading/learning about the Fall of Saigon:
- New York Times Coverage about the Fall of Saigon
- Wikipedia Entry for the Fall of Saigon
- Interactive Guardian.co.uk Fall of Saigon Timeline