September 19, 2001

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh city on September 6, 2001. It was strange looking at the city from the airplane at night time. The city light was not like that of the West. It was of a different color, almost dreamy.

The airport was very modern, not much different from other airports of developed countries. I felt joy seeing that Vietnam is not as impoverished or backward as I thought. There was order in going through customs. People waited in lines, not fighting to get to the front of the line, like the Vietnam I remembered in my childhood.

I felt a little trepidation as I approached the customs official wearing police uniform. He didn’t say much as he inspected my U.S. Passport and entry Visa. I could read the expression of disdain on his face as he took some time inspecting my documents. I could tell he was thinking of me as a typical Viet Kieu (Overseas Vietnamese) who left Vietnam for a better life. So, I said, “I left Vietnam in 1975, before the liberation of Saigon, and I am glad to see the airport is so modern.” He curtly replied in a form of a question, “If not better, then what?” That was the extent of our conversation. I thanked him then proceeded to the baggage claims area.

Some of the pictures of my childhood, and of the time I spent in the United States, I found looking through my mom’s photo album.

As an infant

As a boy

In high school

April 15, 2002

I didn’t have any motivation to do any writing since my mother’s passing on October 1, 2001. However, I plan to continue with the writing and updating of this website on a regular basis from now on.

April 18, 2002

Dear Mr. Mark Godwin,

I received your telephone call this morning regarding your reasoning for not hiring me as a teacher at the ILA branch in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. During your phone call, you stated the following reasons for not hiring me:

1. I am not a native speaker.
2. I don’t have teaching English As a Second Language training.

First of all, I want to point out that your reasons are mere excuses designed to hide the fact that your school practices racial discrimination. Specifically, your school discriminates against Vietnamese teachers, including Overseas Vietnamese.

In regarding to the phrase “native speaker,” I am sure you are well aware of the fact that different countries speak English differently. For example, the British speak English quite differently comparing to the Americans. Furthermore, even within a country such as the United States, the African-Americans speak English differently comparing to the whites, or shall I say: “European-Americans.” Thus, there is no such thing as a “native speaker,” since that phrase implies there is one correct way of speaking English.

By the way, are you aware of the fact that both Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State under the Nixon administration, and Madelyn Albright, the Secretary of State under the Clinton administration, are both immigrants who emigrated to the United States when they were fifteen years old? To you, they are both native speakers simply because they are white.

Secondly, in regarding to not having English as a Second Language training, I would like to remind you that English is my second language. I am perfectly bilingual in both languages: English and Vietnamese. Moreover, I was a school teacher in the United States, and my students were both Americans and immigrants. In fact, it would be reasonable to make an assumption that an educated Overseas Vietnamese would make a better teacher by far, in comparison to white foreigners, since he or she has intimate knowledge of both languages and cultures.

I think the evidences would be conclusive in that your school discriminates against Vietnamese teachers. There is not one single Vietnamese teacher, including Overseas Vietnamese, on your staff. I even have knowledge of an individual who was not even considered for an interview because she is Vietnamese.

I am reasonably certain that most of your teachers don’t even have a college education. What they have is a one-month-training, at the most, on how to teach English. Do you think that would even approach the criteria of being a competent teacher?

Sincerely,
Tuan Tran

April 23, 2002

When I was twelve years old, I went to live with my grandmother. When I was fourteen years old, I left for the United States. I left my family when I was too young, so I really didn’t know my parents very well. I mean I didn’t know about their personalities or characters as individuals.

I had about three weeks with my mother before she suddenly passed away. It wasn’t long enough for me to know her. But I am comforted by the knowledge that she did love me. You see, she was looking intently at the two pictures of my childhood which I posted on this website, and unbeknownst to her, I was watching her facial expression as she was looking at my pictures and describing me as a child.

I don’t have many memories of my childhood. The longer I am staying in Vietnam though, the more I remember of my childhood. One day I was looking at the ceiling and I saw a gecko eating mosquitoes, and I remember I used to watch geckos capturing and eating mosquitoes with their very quick movements. I also remember I used to look at the clouds in the sky. The deep blue sky and the swirls of the white clouds that would resemble whatever my imagination would conjure up at the time.

April 25, 2002

I used to smile a lot. I don’t think it was by any coincidence that I lost my smile when I was in my thirties. It was around this time when I discovered racism in the United States, and I understood that I would never be totally accepted by the main stream American culture, or shall I say the Euro-centric American culture.

I also realized that even if I had children and they were born in the United States, my children would not be accepted by main stream America due to the fact that they are not white. Which reminds me of the lines from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I understood that America is a lie. Moreover, anyone decent and charismatic enough to challenge the status quo would be assassinated. For instances: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy.

Well, I really should be writing about Vietnam, but I can’t help it. I am very happy being in Vietnam. I find myself smiling again, and I notice that people here don’t treat me like an outsider. I don’t detect any of the discrimination I experienced in the United States.

April 26, 2002

One of the first things I noticed is how the Vietnamese people greet a stranger. For example, “Bac” for someone who is older than your parents, “Chu” or “Co” for someone who is a little younger than your parents, “Anh” or “Chi,” which means older brother or sister, for someone older than you, “Em,” which means younger brother or sister, for someone younger that you, and “Chau,” which means nephew or niece, for someone much younger than you. “Ban,” which means friend, is a term used for people without age distinction.

A Westerner might interpret these phrases as ranking within a social order, as in the teaching of Confucianism. However, I think that would be an incorrect interpretation. These terms are exact terms used for family relationships. Thus, they create a feeling of connectedness or a sense of relationship amongst strangers. I myself often feel a kinship toward a stranger when he or she addresses me with one of the above terms. I think it maybe one of the reasons for the low incidence of violence in Vietnamese society.

April 30, 2002

I am writing this entry and including the photographs in commemorating the 27th anniversary of the liberation of South Vietnam, on April 30, 1975.

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May 4, 2002

I visited the American War Crimes Museum today. The pictures confirmed what I discovered through my research about the Vietnam War while living in the United States.

I am haunted by the images of the suffering. Sometimes I would see images of the people being burned by napalm, of the people being tortured by having long nails driven into their skulls, of the people being tortured by electricity and being thrown out of helicopters, or of children being shot while in their mothers’ arms. I tried to comprehend how anyone could do these things, and why the Americans have so much hatred toward the Vietnamese people.

I talked to the Vietnamese people here about the Vietnam War, or the American War as it is called here. I am astounded by the lack of hatred the Vietnamese people feel toward the Americans, and I am amazed by their kindness and their forgiving nature. I think it must be rooted in their belief about karma.

But I am not as nice and forgiving as the people in Vietnam. I lived in America for so long, therefore I can’t help but picking up some of the American values.

Some of the statistics from the American War: 6.5 million American males were drafted, with 543,400 soldiers were in Vietnam at one time. The United States utilized 70 percent of the Army, 60 percent of the Air Force, 60 percent of the Naval soldiers, and 40 percent of the Navy.

7,850,000 tons of bomb were dropped in Vietnam (four times the amount dropped during the entire World War II), 75 million liters of Dioxin were sprayed in Vietnam, and 22,000 corporations were directly involved in producing war materials.

The impact on the Vietnamese people was devastating, with 5 million Vietnamese people died, and another 4 million injured.

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May 5, 2002

Le Loi street is the main street in the center of Ho Chi Minh city. This is where all of the big hotels and old buildings are located.

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May 14, 2002

Vietnam is developing very quickly. There are constructions going on everywhere. After the war, America used its influence worldwide to impose an economic embargo against Vietnam. The reasoning for not normalizing relations with Vietnam was the “fantasy” that Vietnam still held American soldiers in prison. In addition, the United States wanted a full accounting of the missing in action (MIA). The truth is America wanted to punish Vietnam for winning the war.

It was only about five years ago that America lifted the embargo and normalized relations with Vietnam. Corporations in the United States exerted its political influence to press for normalizing relations with Vietnam, since a lot of other countries were doing business in Vietnam, and American corporations wanted to cash in on an emerging market.

Vietnamese are ancestor worshipers. In fact, deceased family members are worshiped as well. Therefore, it is very important for the Vietnamese people to know for sure if a relative had died. During the war, the Americans dropped such gigantic bombs that Vietnamese soldiers often disintegrated. To this day, there are appeals everyday on television for help locating missing soldiers.

June 14, 2002

I have decided to return to the United States and resume my teaching career there. I will continue to teach in Vietnam, and get involved in humanitarian projects, during each Summer. I plan to be back in the United States early this September 2002.

November 8, 2002

Hate is never conquered by hate.
Hate is conquered by love.
This is an eternal law.

Dhammapada

January 29, 2004

A report to the CSU’s Board of Trustees (a governing body for the California State University system) found that more than 48 percent of the 38,086 first-time freshman entering in the 2003 fall semester failed to meet English proficiency requirements, while 40 percent were not even ready for introductory Math.

Remember, these college freshman have already graduated from high school and have been accepted to a university. Their level of education (high school graduate) is about the same as most of the white American teachers teaching English in Vietnam.

It is no wonder why more than half of the Vietnamese students in Vietnam failed the English proficiency test such as the TOEFL, which is a requirement to study overseas, even after studying for years at expensive private English schools with foreign teachers, such as Hoi Viet My (Vietnam-USA Society, English Language Center).

February 04, 2004

This journal entry is dedicated to the adopted children of the Operation Babylift. Many of these adoptions lacked the consents from the parents, who never intended to give up their babies.

Excerpted from Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

May 5, 1975

You’re the last orphan baby out of Vietnam!
and an important symbol of hope for the free world!!

Yeah, yeah..

You’ve got a whole new life ahead of you-a new family, a new home, and probably even some pretty new name like..like.. Abigail

“ABIGAIL?”!
What kind of name is that for a war victim?!

May 8, 1975

Mrs. Rosenthal, aren’t you and your husband just trying to atone for our collective national guilt through individual action?

What an awful, CYNICAL thing to say! how could you.. you think.. think that..

April 30, 2004

Mr. Tran,

As I was preparing a lesson on the Viet Nam or American war as you called it for my class, I came upon your pictures and journal. I must say that I was drawn in to reading your journal by your pictures from your mother. You were a beautiful baby and a handsome young man.

I was disturbed, however, to hear the bitterness and hate that you complain about in others in your own writing. I would like to apologize to you for any injustice that you feel you have received at the hands of Americans. I, too, look at pictures from Viet Nam and am deeply disturbed by them. I do think that there was a lot of anger from many Americans towards the Vietnamese people after the war was over. I think that many of our “boys” did not want to be there and in that situation. From what I have learned over the years, many of our young men were traumatized by seeing the deaths of babies and children at the hands of their own people. This trauma turned them into something that could kill without conscience. I do not think that the hate was necessarily with the people of Vietnam but the concept of Viet Nam. I also think that it was a long time ago and that the hate is no longer existent. Many of our men have traveled back to Viet Nam to see people that they had made friends with so long ago. Many men have gone in search of their wives and loved ones that they were forced to leave when the Army pulled out and they were ordered to go.

I was born a year before the war ended. I do not recall the feelings and only know about them through my parents and history but I can say that I do not agree with many things done there. However, please do not hate a whole nation because of their government and the governments mistakes. Do not hate all of us because of a few bigots either. Take each and every person as an individual until you find a friend.

From your description of Viet Nam I would hope to visit someday. It sounds truly lovely.

Sincerely and with outstretched hands of friendship,

JLF

Hello JLF,

Thank you for your email. I certainly don’t hate all Americans. In fact, I don’t hate any American simply because that person is American. I know that any hatred I feel will only harm me ultimately, and not anyone else.

Mistakes were made by the American government during the Vietnam War. However, the American people as a whole was also responsible, since they didn’t stop the war. I think a lot of Americans would feel that I hate America and Americans from my writings.

By the same logic, should the Jewish people hate all German people because of the Holocaust? Certainly, the German people as a whole didn’t stop the Holocaust from happening. As for me, I can’t hate anyone simply because they are ignorant.

It is a lot like what Jesus said as He was dying on the cross: “Forgive them Father, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

P.S. One can’t ever have too many friends, but even one enemy would be too many. I am more than happy to have you as a friend.

August 16, 2007

In Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, there seems to be a great demand for international schools. The Vietnamese parents want their children to be enrolled in expensive private international schools, with the most popular ones being the American international schools. The tuition for these international schools is exorbitant, about one thousand U.S. dollars a month.

However, the people in Vietnam are not aware that the U.S. educational system is failing. Due to the No Child Left Behind Act by Congress, elementary and high school students are required to take and pass both the English and Math test for their grade level. In 2005, only 23 percent of the grade 12 students were proficient or passed the Math test, and only 35 percent were proficient or passed the English test. (source below)

Furthermore, there is an achievement gap between minority and white students. Minority students, such as Black and Hispanic, have lower scores than white students. There are various arguments as to why there is an achievement gap between minority and white students. However, there are evidences that students of color tend to perform better in school if their teachers are of the same race. Therefore, one can reasonably argue that a contributing factor of the achievement gap is the white teachers’ inability or unwillingness to identify with the racial and cultural backgrounds of students of color.

Now, we have the facts. First, the U.S. educational system is failing, yet parents in Vietnam are flocking to American international schools so that their children can have an American education. I even saw one parent putting two one-hundred U.S. dollar bills in an envelop for a school administrator because the school “accepted” her child. Second, most international schools in Vietnam only hire white foreign teachers, even though most of these teachers have no teaching degrees or even college degrees, while Vietnamese-American teachers like myself have a hard time getting a teaching job in Vietnam. A lot of these white teachers think they are superior to the Vietnamese people. They have no interest in anything Vietnamese, except for the women.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics.
http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2005/2007468.asp

August 17, 2007

A Journal Summary of My Teaching Experience in Vietnam

I left Vietnam on April 30th 1975. I was fourteen years old at the time. I was taken in by the United States as a refugee, and I was relocated to Olympia, Washington. I lived in a white foster home. I graduated from Capital High School in 1978, Western Washington University in 1983, and the Evergreen State College in 1988. I studied in the Teacher Education Program, which later became the Master in Teaching Program.

I was married to a white woman for two years after graduating from Western Washington University. For most of my life in the United States, I thought of myself as a white person, even though I don’t look white. All of my friends were white. My experience is not unusual for people of color in America. We identify ourselves with the dominant white culture, as an oppressed person would identify with the oppressor. It is a survival mechanism.

I felt everything was fine. I was in an ignorant bliss until I discovered about racism in America. Racism has always existed in America. It first appeared in the Americas when the white men began their conquest and colonization of this continent. But I was in denial. I thought I was white.

I went through a gradual process of transformation, which culminated into a full blown identity crisis when I was about 37 years old. In a way, I am thankful to the Evergreen State College for hastening this process, even though what they did to me was wrong.

I went back to Vietnam in 2001 when I was 41 years old. At the time, I decided to return to Vietnam permanently. Since then I have returned to Vietnam three times. The transition back to Vietnam is a long and difficult process. I am a product of the Vietnam War, but I have lived most of my life in America. I have assimilated two very different cultures, between that of East and West, of individual freedom and family obligations, of a lack of tradition to a very deeply rooted tradition. However, the most painful thing for me is to see a form of identity crisis in the young people in the South of Vietnam. It is the same thing I went through in America.

To recognize this form of identity crisis, it requires a global perspective. Vietnam was colonized by the French for 100 years. The French left in 1955 after they were defeated by the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh. Immediately after that, America invaded and occupied South Vietnam until they were driven out by North Vietnam on April 30th 1975. Thus, the people of South Vietnam have lived continuously under colonial oppression by the French and the Americans.

This colonial and imperial oppression confer a sense of racial superiority complex in the oppressor and instill a sense of racial inferiority complex in the oppressed. This is similar to the experience of African-Americans during slavery. Therefore, the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King in 1964 is a revolt by black people against the systemic oppression of white America, much like the Viet Minh revolt against French colonialism which culminated into the decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the French withdrawing from Vietnam. The only difference is that Martin Luther King adopted Gandhi’s non violent protest, or “ahimsa” in Sanskrit.

After the Civil Rights Movement, the black people had their black pride movement with phrases such as: “black is beautiful.” But the Vietnamese never had their Vietnamese pride movement. They were immediately invaded by the Americans. This racial inferiority complex is the root of the identity crisis in the young people of South Vietnam, and its manifestation is the practice of reverse discrimination towards “Viet Kieu” or Overseas Vietnamese like myself.

After the communist victory in 1975, the United States declared a trade embargo on Vietnam. Using its influence with the World Bank, America also prevented the World Bank from lending money to Vietnam for postwar reconstruction. Thus, Vietnam became isolated from the world. The English language was no longer in demand. When the trade embargo was lifted in 1995, a lot of Vietnamese needed to learn English in order to work for companies doing business with the West. There was a severe shortage of qualified English teachers.

A lot of private English language centers started to open in Vietnam beginning in 2000, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, the economic center of Vietnam, as opposed to Hanoi, the political center of Vietnam. These English language centers would hire any white person walking in the door. These white teachers are being paid more than ten times the average salary of a Vietnamese worker, or about ten times the salary of a medical doctor. In Vietnam, as in the United States, only the very best students are accepted into medical schools.

Most of these white teachers have no college degrees or teaching credentials. Even more shocking is that a lot of these white teachers have criminal records in their countries, such as the convicted pedophile Gary Glitter the rock star from England, and John Mark Karr, the confessed killer of the child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in the United States. Both have taught English in Vietnam. Most recently, the homosexual pedophile from Canada, Christopher Paul Neil, who posted pictures of himself sexually molesting a dozen of young boys in Vietnam on the internet, was captured in Thailand. Christopher Paul Neil also taught English in Vietnam. These are only the cases that became public. Imagine the number of cases that have not become public. (Updated February 24, 2008)

Most women in Vietnam think that white men are handsome. Vice versa, they think they are ugly comparing to white women. There is a new trend in Vietnam that women try to look white by dyeing their hair, and even having eyelids surgery so that they look more white. As I mentioned before, this perception is rooted in their racial inferiority complex.

This perception makes young Vietnamese female students especially vulnerable to being seduced and sexually exploited by white teachers. This is common knowledge amongst white English teachers in Vietnam. Just about every white teacher has seduced and sexually exploited their students, even virgins under eighteen years old. There is even a video being sold on the Internet, which depicts a real life event of a white male teacher having sex with a group of teenage female students.

When I first returned to Vietnam in 2001, I applied for a teaching job at English language centers. Most of them told me they don’t hire “Viet Kieu,” or Overseas Vietnamese, even after I presented my resume, college degrees, and teaching credential. They said they only hire white teachers. In fact, they also hire local Vietnamese teachers, to teach mostly English grammar, who would teach for one-fifth of the pay of a white teacher.

I found a job teaching American Literature to Vietnamese students at a high school. Most of these students have studied at English language centers with white teachers before. However, their command of the English language is very limited. Furthermore, their knowledge of the American culture and literature is practically zero. What they know about America is from watching MTV or Hollywood movies. They think America is a rich country with no poor people, and that almost everyone there is young, slim, white, and beautiful. I realize then my job is not only to teach them American Literature, but also to teach them about the real America.

This is a very challenging task. I have to teach American Literature in English to students with limited command of the English language. Fortunately, the school is using a very good textbook. It is the Pacemaker American Literature textbook, for high school students in America.

On Monday each week, I would give the students a worksheet I created for the story they are reading for that week. The students worked in small groups to discuss the story, using my worksheet as a guide. I created the worksheets with the purpose of getting them to understand the story and to think about the social and cultural aspects of America as well. I would let the students struggle with trying to understand the story for most of the week. Then on Thursday, I would give a discussion about the story to help them get a more in-depth understanding of the story. On Friday, they have to turn in their answers for the worksheet.

I found this method of teaching American Literature to be very effective. Within three months, the students improved a lot in their reading comprehension. They also gained a new appreciation for the different literary styles and genres. Their writing also improved a lot as well, since I carefully read their answers and provided written feedback on their writing.

My second teaching job is at the University of Education Foreign Language Center. I taught TOEFL to university students. TOEFL is a very difficult test designed by Educational Testing Service (ETS) to test English proficiency of foreign students who want to attend a university in the US. This test consists of speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

I found that the key to teaching TOEFL is to get the students to understand the similarity between speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Starting from reading, I wanted them to understand the main idea of a paragraph, and how one paragraph is connected to the next paragraph based on the logical progression of ideas. Finally, how the writing is organized around a thesis that the writer is trying get across. Then I tried to get the students to see that speaking, listening, and writing also have the same process.

The second aspect of teaching the TOEFL that is just as important is to help the students understand contextual meaning. For example, if there is a word that they don’t understand, then they have to try to guess the meaning of that word within the context of the sentence. This idea is inherent in learning a native language. However, most Vietnamese students don’t seem to know that the same process should be used in learning a foreign language.

My third teaching job is at an international school in Ho Chi Minh City. All of the other international schools only hire white teachers, and local Vietnamese teachers as teaching assistants. They don’t hire Overseas Vietnamese or foreigners that are not white. This particular international school is a Singaporean school, and they have Singaporean teachers, so they decided to hire me as a teacher. I am teaching a second grade class. The students are from Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, United States, Canada. One-fourth of the students in my class are Overseas Vietnamese, or half Vietnamese (their fathers are from another country, and their mothers are local Vietnamese).

It is interesting that the parents who voiced their objections to my being hired were the local and Overseas Vietnamese parents. Also, the local Vietnamese teaching assistants, all of them are young female teachers, don’t like to have an Overseas Vietnamese teacher like myself on the teaching staff. They prefer to be assistant teachers to white teachers, and most of these white teachers are males. It is also interesting that the local female assistant teachers would get into romantic relationships with the white male teachers and causing the working environment to be very difficult for Singaporean teachers and Overseas Vietnamese teacher like myself.

This school uses the Singaporean curriculum, which is modelled after the British curriculum. I found that teaching at an international school is very similar to teaching in the USA. First of all, I have to establish classroom rules and consequences in order to manage the classroom. For the consequences, I also wrote the I Can Do It Form as a way for the students to take control over their behavior. This is also a way to inform the parents about the students’ behavior in class. I also wrote a letter to the parents at the beginning of the year to introduce myself to the parents.

I found that communication with the parents is the key to get the students to behave better and to perform better in school. Every week, I wrote a weekly progress report for each student in class. I email the weekly reports directly to the parents, since some students would not even show the weekly reports to their parents. Secondly, I also create a weekly timetable, which would let the parents know what the students will be learning each week, and the assignments they have to do for classwork and homework.

Since these students are international students, with most coming from non-English speaking countries, I discovered that reading a story aloud to them each day is crucial for their development in the English language. Most of them truly enjoy listening to the stories. I also require each student to read two books that they check out from the school library each week.

As for speaking, I require each student to do a book report in Science, both in writing and orally in front of the class. Finally, I created a play about Sleeping Beauty Meets Nobita (a character from the comics book Doraemon) for the students to perform at camp.

For writing, I require the students to write one story each week. The topic of the story is related to the topic of the English unit we are studying for the week. I also created an email account for each student in the www.epals.com website. This is a website located in Canada. This website is a portal to connect students from all over the world. The students can learn about other cultures and make friends with students in other countries. It is also a very good way for the students to improve their writing skills.

In conclusion, I encounter the same problem in Vietnam as in the USA, specifically the discrimination in trying to get a teaching job. However, the teaching methodology is similar, and the training I received at Evergreen in the Teacher Education Program has been invaluable.

March 22, 2008

It seems a lot of white English teachers in Ho Chi Minh City don’t want the truth to come out. They don’t want the Vietnamese people to know that most of them don’t have a college degree from an accredited university, and a lot of them have sex with their students. On top of that (no pun intended), they make a ridiculous amount of money teaching English in Vietnam. An amount of money they would be unable to make in their own countries given their educational level.

This week, a white teacher at my school made a photocopy of about half a page of my writing, with one sentence he strongly disagrees with, and handed it out to other white foreign teachers. The sentence is: “Just about every white teacher has seduced and sexually exploited their students, even virgins under eighteen years old.” Two of the teachers decided to confront me. One entered my classroom while I was teaching and said I shouldn’t be a teacher. He threatened to talk to the principal to get me fired. The other called me by a four-letter f word, and threatened to put me in a hospital.

It would be inconceivable that any educated person, who is a teacher, would do that in a classroom in America. If they had done that to me in their own countries, I am sure they would have been fired by the school district or arrested by the police. Such is the white English teachers’ disregard for the law in Vietnam. They also seem to forget about the freedom of speech accorded to every individual by the law, in their own countries, as well as in Vietnam.

Anyway, I decided to do a search on the Internet today to find out if anything I wrote about white English teachers in Vietnam is so out of line or so grossly incorrect. I found out about the big brouhaha in Korea with white English teachers bragging on the Internet about how easy it’s to get a job teaching English and have sex with Korean women.

I found two of the postings below from a website to be very informative and funny:

William
Posted January 12, 2005 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

I’ve gotten an MA in Education from a well-known university in the U.S, as well as teaching 6 years at an inner-city school. There is an inherent process in getting a B.A. and M.A. in Education which weeds out incompetent and ethically, unsuitable candidates from becoming an educator/teacher; a six year process. Moreover, when one applies to a school district, he gets to have his fingers printed, FBI background check, etc, etc. As a teacher, I would spend a minimum of 60 hours per week “working” as a teacher; a pay less than what a grocery checker would make.

As a teacher close to gaining his tenure, I was thinking about taking a year off to teach English in Korea. Out of curiosity I frequented a well-known, so-called “teachers” forum, a-hem “Dave’s ESL Cafe,” for a year or two.

The amount of sleazy and filthy topics had me wonder whether I was actually at a “teacher’s” forum. The negativity about Korean culture and the ridiculing of its people were quite common. The frequent posting of topics about having sex with Korean women or some delusional idea that if you are a Caucasian male teacher, you would have no problems have sex with different Korean woman every night is probably the main reason why Hagwons are filled with filthiest of filth from the Western countries. Based on what I learned about Korea, I guess you can’t blame these losers for the English teacher problems; Hagwon system has to take the blame as well.

Of course, this is not to say that there weren’t good, competent, and honest teachers; the bad ones tend to make the loudest noise just like the classroom.

I am not surprised by this type of reaction from the Korean fringe groups. I just wish that Korea implement some type of standard in hiring foreign, English teachers, just like Japan? A minimum of English degree and some teaching experience, or non-English teaching plus a teaching credential.

CH
Posted January 12, 2005 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

A friend of mine who taught English in Japan called these white guys who teach English in Asian countries 2/10s. As in they were 2s in the US. They come to Asia and suddenly, they’re 10s and they can bag any lady they want.

I’m not a defensive Korean guy who wants to protect his “territory” but a Korean American woman (who happens to date a white guy back in the States). Aside from the fact that these English teachers make creepy Asianphiles in the States seem like sensitive gentlemen, I’m also just shocked, simply shocked that Korean women are attracted to these men. Behold the power of English! I mean I know there is this national obsession with the language, but come on. Get glasses! So many white male English teachers here are such pale pasty sad little sacks. Not to mention they’re dumb as rocks and have absolutely no inclination to learn the culture. Oh well-they might be studs for a year but they’ll have to return to their home countries someday, where all they’ll have is a jar of Vaseline and a subscription to porn sites.

March 23, 2008

Today’s journal entry is a public service announcement to all of the schools: English language centers, Vietnamese schools, and international schools, in Vietnam.

An American citizen’s criminal record can be easily obtained by any employer, as a condition of employment, especially when it is related to working with children. This can be done by having that individual’s fingerprints be taken and checked against the FBI database of all convicted criminals in the United States.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the IOM office (International Organization for Migration) will take an individual’s fingerprints and have the prints processed by the FBI. I would request the IOM office directly mail the fingerprints, instead of having the individual mail the fingerprints to the FBI, and have the results sent to the school directly. The cost of having the fingerprints taken and processed is fifty US dollars. The address of the IOM office is:

IOM Sub-Office in Ho Chi Minh City
1B Pham Ngoc Thach Street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I am sure the process would be similar for citizens of other countries. The school can contact their embassy directly for further information.

One can also check to see if a college in the United States and Canada is an accredited college, or a phony college, at www.chea.org. For accreditation in other countries, their embassy would also be able to help the school to find out if a college in their country is accredited or not.

To find out whether an individual’s college diploma is real or not, one can check at National Student Clearinghouse to verify degree and enrollment. If a college is not listed on this website, one can contact the Registrar Office of the college directly to verify a college degree and enrollment.

March 26, 2008

I recently read about myself on an electronic bulletin board for foreign English teachers in Vietnam. A guy by the name of Jerry, wrote the first posting about my website, asking them to read only one page of the website, to try and stir up problems for me. After that, I am amazed at the number of threats and negative postings about me. The following is one of the postings by “saigoncowboy.”

saigoncowboy

Joined: 16 Jun 2007
Posts: 47

PostPosted: Mar Tue 25, 2008 9:59 am

The web page has been deleted and new material has been added. What is disturbing is that the new material is just as damning. This guy isn’t just shooting himself in the foot but in the head.

I feel sorry for him. He is lost. Saigon is not a good place to be lost.

The following is a paste from his current page: “One week later, four policemen and a community mental health counselor showed up at my apartment. They said the counselor at Evergreen told them I made a threat to shoot school children. They delivered a “No Trespassing” order and told me I am banned from the Evergreen State College, and the Olympia School District, and all of the surrounding school districts as well.

The Olympia newspaper ran a story about me the next day about the “threat” I made. The Olympia School District sent letters to all of the parents about me. They circulated my name and picture, along with what kind of car I drove, to all of the schools. The parents demanded I’d be arrested. The community mental health counselor told me to be careful, and that my life was in danger.”

It seems that this writer, “saigoncowboy” is trying to portray me as being mentally unstable, by quoting something I wrote out of context, without giving the readers the benefit of reading my whole website and making their own opinions. Quoting someone out of context is simply being dishonest – intellectually dishonest.

Even the Buddha, one of the greatest beings that has ever walked on this Earth, could be portrayed as being mentally unstable, if I quote one sentence from one of his sermons out of context. Furthermore, the Community Mental Health Therapist would have involuntarily committed me to a mental hospital if I was mentally unstable, and I could never have taught again in the United States.

Secondly, this writer, “saigoncowboy,” is a liar. He wrote that the material he quoted was “new material has been added.” He doesn’t know that my website is one of the websites that is archived by www.archive.org, an internet archive in the form of a digital library of internet sites. The passage he quoted existed from the beginning of my website in 2001.

Finally, one white English teacher, “magic8ball,” tried to defend me, but he was threatened and intimidated by “xyz.”

April 10, 2008

Even though I am living and working in Vietnam, I still follow the news in the United States. The more I am learning about Barack Obama, the more I like him. I like him not because he is black, but because I believe he is a man of integrity and honesty. I am moved by his speech regarding his minister, Revevend Jeremiah Wright. I am moved not by the passion or the rhetoric, but by the sincerity and honesty of his speech.

But knowing that America is a racist country, I don’t think Obama will be elected as the next president of the United States. It will be unfortunate for America, because Obama is the one who will be able to bridge the racial divide in the United States, in addition to creating a better image for America to countries that are predominantly Muslim.

I left the United States because I didn’t like the racism in the United States. I hope America will prove me wrong by electing Barack Obama.

November 6, 2008

Congratulations, Mr. President-elect!

For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I am proud of America. Americans have elected the first black president. I didn’t think this would happen in my life time. This action alone doesn’t wash away all of the sins of racism in the past, but it has begun a healing process that is much needed for America. It is the beginning of a journey of inclusiveness that reflects a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic America.

When the people elected you for the presidency, they are placing their hope and aspiration not on you as a person, not even on your position as the president, but on the ideal that America can be a great nation. A nation built on the principle of justice and equality. A nation that believes in a truth that is self-evident, that “all men are created equal.”

But you have inherited a nation in crisis. First of all, just because Americans have elected a black president, it doesn’t mean that racism no longer exists in America. There are inequalities in education, income, housing, employment, healthcare, and even the rates of incarceration, where race is the determining factor. Racism in America is systemic because the average Americans allowed it to happen. Having a black person in the highest office doesn’t mean the people at the middle level will practice and enforce a policy of racial equality. To be a non-discriminatory person requires a change in attitude. This change requires an education, not just a non-discrimination policy. Secondly, America is involved in two wars: one unjust war in Iraq, and another unfinished war in Afghanistan. Third, and this is the real reason why you were elected, America is in a severe economic crisis. It is in a deep and prolonged recession on the scale of the Great Depression in the thirties.

As excited as I am at the reality of a black president in the United States of America, I am tempered by a myriad of problems facing America, and by the real reason why you were elected. However, I believe you have the ability to inspire hope and optimism. This, I believe, is your greatest strength.

One of my heroes is the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. I hope one day, I can say that President Barack Obama is also one of my heroes.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

February 28, 2009

Mr. Tran:

I am a Vietnam Veteran of two years in military and one year civilian in the years of 1969-1973. I just returned from Vietnam in November 2008; I went to Vietnam in July 2007. While there I took a course on the Vietnam War from LSU and read books from all perspectives…US and Hanoi. I talked to many South Vietnamese. I married a South Vietnamese who graduated from a Vietnamese College sponsored by USAID on 27 April 1975. She is in the US with me.

I think that you are clearly a half-way person. Caught between two cultures and not really comfortable in either. I have over 10 years in Asia and find so many things that I like and many I do not in the Asian Culture. But it doesn’t matter where I was/am in Asia, I still am tall, heavy, long nosed and white. I just don’t fit. Then I return to the US and I don’t feel right here either; I long for Asia again. My wife and I will live here and return to Vietnam often. With her and her family in Vietnam I have found my peace.

As to the issue of “English School” I understand and agree with many of your comments. but the bottom line is that the “Pay for English” Schools are after the dollar. And the Vietnamese people want to say there children studied under a “Native Speaker”…white. So they both get what they want and the student suffers. I thought about teaching while in Vietnam to fill time. I went to two schools and and saw they didn’t want me to teach…my methods might be ‘boring” to the students. My first tour in Vietnam I taught English to Vietnamese Air Force and in 6 months they could pass the test to study in the US. I need 3 course for a BA and have a 3.96GPA. (Call me an older student!!)

As to the Americans and the Vietnamese War…in war there is no right and wrong, just politics and the old men make the politics and the young men die.

I think that you should talk to South Vietnamese about the North Vietnamese occupation of the South…try not to show how you feel and learn about how the South Vietnamese were treated after the war and even now by the north…how the Viet Cong were treated by the North.

My wife and I both have our stories; mine of the war and both the Americans and the South Vietnamese…the good, the bad and the the ugly. My wife of 22 years of war…most living in a SVN government village in the Delta and 33 years of the North’s rule of the South. Find out how the North treated the south after they defeated the south. I don’t think that it was as Vietnamese brothers and sisters.

For the record, I got thrown out of a program for US Vietnamese Vets because I could not be trusted by the other Vietnam Vets. I said I respected the South Vietnamese military I worked with as an Advisor and respected the Vietnamese people. I was called a turncoat. Yet I have many Vietnam Vet friends that tried hard to help the Vietnamese people and respected them

Don’t paint with such a broad brush…you splatter too much on yourself.

Hello,

It’s a pleasure to read your email. I agree with what you wrote. I know there are good and bad Americans just as there are good and bad Vietnamese, especially during a war. I hope I didn’t come across as so one-sided on my website. However, there are just wars and unjust wars. The Vietnam War was an unjust war. War crimes and mistreatment on either side would have been avoided if America didn’t start the Vietnam War.

On my experience growing up in the US, I wanted to help Vietnamese-Americans with self-identity issues. Too many Vietnamese-Americans are ashamed of their Vietnamese heritage, just as I was when I tried to fit into white America. It is not just Vietnamese-Americans, but other Asian-Americans, and African-Americans have self-identity issues as well. It seems to me only white people don’t have racial self-identity issue. I think this is because America is Euro-centric.

I know you are a good person who is not a racist. Don’t take my writings personally. I just wrote from my experience and I tried to be as honest as I could. My intention was to help Vietnamese-Americans who are confused, just as I was confused.

You are right! I am caught between two cultures. However, I no longer want to fit into either culture. It helps me to understand both cultures and maintain my objectivity. But then I remember my Anthropology professor in college said that it is not really possible to be objective in writing about a culture since a writer has to write from his or her own personal experience. Perhaps, it is not possible to be objective in writing about a culture. Therefore, I might have painted “with such a broad brush.” But I don’t think I have “splatter[ed] too much on [myself].” I never hate a person based solely on his or her own race.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

March 31, 2009

When the Tenth Month Comes
Bao gio cho den thang 10

Directed by Dang Nhat Minh
Vietnam, 1984, 90 minutes

“A haunting portrait of one woman’s struggle with loss and personal sacrifice during the war, When the Tenth Month Comes is considered by many critics to be the greatest Vietnamese movie ever made.”

April 7, 2009

A letter to Overseas-Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) who are interested in teaching English in Vietnam.

Finally, it seems that Vietnamese people are realizing that Overseas-Vietnamese who grew up and educated in western countries are very good at teaching English. Certainly, most international schools and language centers that are more concerned about making money and selling an image rather than a good education still prefer to hire white teachers. However, enough parents are realizing that their children are educated by a bunch of uneducated “backpackers.” Consequently, some schools are beginning to hire educated Overseas-Vietnamese teachers.

If you’re a college educated Overseas-Vietnamese (with a college degree) who is interested in teaching English in Vietnam, then please contact me via email. We can arrange to have a meeting in person. When we have enough interested Overseas-Vietnamese then perhaps we can meet once a month as a club to help each other with finding teaching jobs and socialize together.

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. Tran,

First and foremost: thank you. Thank you for sharing. The stories, be it tragic or triumphant. The thoughts, revelatory and eloquent. The parallels between your experiences and mine are oddly comforting, even though you are a novel many chapters ahead. I stumbled upon your blog once when searching for those who have made the trip back to the other — more tropical, nostalgic, and dare I say humanistic — side of the pond. And the more I read your blog and the stories of other who have return (notably Andrew Pham and his memoir Catfish and Mandala), the more I am compelled to pack my bags and jet to Vietnam to embrace once again its kinetics and tranquility, synchronized chaos and charms, people and their stories, past and especially its future.

I write to you in response to your April 7th blog entry regarding Overseas Vietnamese who are interested teaching English in Vietnam (now “that Vietnamese people are realizing that Overseas-Vietnamese who grew up and educated in western countries are very good at teaching English”). A brief of myself, I am 23 years of age, an immigrant to the U.S. of 15 years, and a Viet Kieu (I am so unfond of that word) for the first time three years ago. I hold a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Louisville in International Studies and French. I returned to and is currently residing in the state of Kentucky after working in Boston upon graduation. I can pass as a native English speaker and am decent with my Vietnamese; I left VN during my 2nd grade and speaks Vietnamese with my folks and try my best with Thanhniennews.com, BBC/RFI/RFA in Vietnamese, as well as other sources.

The reasons for my wanting to return to Vietnam: I am tired of my American life, I know too little of Vietnam — and what I do know is of the war, I feel I can be more of a worthwhile human being in Vietnam than in America — who knows, and I’d like to know where I belong.

To keep this letter short, I’d love the chance to touch base with you about the subject of teaching English in Vietnam, as well as other subjects you have written about on your blog. eg Civl Disobedience — I recommend Howard Zinn’s A People History of the United States, if you have not had the chance.

Again, my utmost gratitude for your blog and I hope to hear from you very soon.

Hello,

About the TEFL, I don’t think it is necessary to take it. Most language centers only require a college degree. However, they do hire a lot of white foreigners with faked college degrees, or even without college degrees. Good international schools require a college degree in education, and they pay the best, around 2,000 to 3,000 USD per month for 12 months, even though you get about 3 months off for summer vacation and holidays. However, most international schools, except for the ones owned by Viet Kieu such as APU and International School of North America, don’t hire Viet Kieu. They prefer white teachers. They only hire Asians such as Filipino and Indian teachers for subjects such as Math, Science, or Computer Science because they can’t find white teachers that can teach those subjects.

Good language centers such as ILA and Cleverlearn pay up to 20 USD. Other language centers such as Hoi Viet My and Anh Van Viet My pay around 15 USD per hour. However, language centers tend to discriminate against Viet Kieu, and they don’t normally hire Viet Kieu. If they do hire Viet Kieu then most language centers tend to pay Viet Kieu the same rate of pay as the local teachers, which come out to be around 5 to 10 USD per hour.

Your best chance is to apply at international schools and language centers that hire Viet Kieu and pay them the same rate as the white foreigners. Other Viet Kieu teaching in Vietnam will help you with recommendation and tell you which schools to apply. You should have no problem getting a teaching job in Vietnam and get paid at least 10 dollars per hour.

Remember, you are a Viet Kieu. You grew up and was educated in the West. You speak English with an American accent. That makes you a native speaker. You are more educated than most white foreign teachers in Vietnam. And you will be a better teacher than most white foreign teachers since you know both languages and cultures.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

June 26, 2009

For people who want to identify logical flaws in an argument, this link is helpful. This is especially important considering all of the “trash” postings on forums or discussion boards.

January 16, 2010

Even in America, there are over 200,000 new fake college degrees each year. Imagine, how many Americans are teaching in Vietnam with phony college degrees!

June 11, 2010

The history of Vietnam, from 1965 – 1975, as observed from a neutral country. This is a summary of the television reports from the BBC shown to British people.

October 3, 2010

45 Days as a Samanera

On July 31st 2010, I traveled to a forest monastery in the Theravada tradition to practice meditation. On August 18th 2010, I undertook ordination to become a Samanera, “novice monk”.

Anything that is simple can be very profound. This is the same with meditation. It’s the easiest thing to learn but the most difficult thing to practice. To meditate is to be aware of the present moment without any thinking. Usually the object is to be aware of the breath. This is much easier said than done.

One has to have both awareness and acceptance. The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is on how to overcome suffering. To overcome this suffering, one has to accept that everything is impermanent. For example, during meditation I have a thought about a good experience of meditation in the past. This could be about the blissful feeling I had previously during meditation. But right now, my meditation is not blissful, and the more I want that blissful feeling, the more I suffer. Meditation is about being aware of the present moment, and to accept what is happening at this moment without wanting. Everything will change.

This notion of acceptance is similar to the idea of effortless effort. On the surface, this does sound contradictory. How can an effort be effortless? One can look at nature to learn something about effortless effort. A mighty oak tree will break under a strong wind, but a willow will yield to the strongest wind and survive.

An effort indicates a desire or a goal. This desire will create conflict and make it difficult to concentrate. For example, a thought arises during meditation. I know that I should ignore the thought and return to my breath, but the more I try, the more difficult it becomes, as one thought after another keeps arising. I should just accept that right now I have a thought about such and such, but I just let it go and return to my breath. Then my effort becomes effortless.

Sometimes we feel like we’re not making progress, and that all of this meditation is a waste of time. It’s then that we need to have faith. As long as we meditate diligently and correctly, we’ll make progress. It’s also important to have a good teacher who’s accomplished in meditation.

Faith can come in an unexpected way. For about three days, I struggled with lustful thoughts in my meditation. The following morning, I decided to go into town to check my emails. On the way there, rain started pouring down, and I had to go to a shop on the side of the road to get out of the rain. A young beautiful woman came out to greet me. Upon seeing me wearing a monk’s robe, she got down on her knees, put her hands together, and gave me three deep bows. At that moment, I felt utterly undeserving of wearing a monk’s robe. A few minutes later, she came out and offered me a cup of coffee. After she left, tears started to come down my face as I made a vow that I would hold the image of that devout Buddhist in my mind to overcome any lustful thought that will arise in my meditation.

Tuan Tran
(Viriya Cara)

November 20, 2010

The diary of Dang Thuy Tram, a moving diary of a medical doctor during the Vietnam War. This diary is the Vietnamese equivalent of Anne Frank.

December 11, 2010

For parents in Vietnam thinking about paying a lot of money to have their children study at international high schools in Vietnam, you may want to look at the academic achievement of the students in those foreign countries on the well respected international test, the 2009 Pisa Test Scores.

February 24, 2011

A letter to a Vietnamese-American

It’s a pleasure reading your email. I’m glad you’re planning on teaching in Vietnam. I’m currently in Ho Chi Minh City, so I can only provide you with information regarding teaching in Ho Chi Minh City.

Below are the links to some of the best international schools. The first two are American international schools. The rest are British, Australian, and Singapore international schools. The salary is about the same as in the US, but the cost of living is much lower, so you wouldn’t have a problem meeting your living expenses. I know of a few foreign teachers that are able to save a lot of money teaching in Vietnam.

Saigon South International School
International School Ho Chi Minh City
Australian International School
British International School
Singapore International School

I think you should apply for a teaching job at international schools. Some international schools are not able to find teachers with teaching credential, so they settle for teachers with a college degree in any major. If you have a certificate like TEFL then it should help even more. It is not as good as a teaching credential, but most English language schools including international schools will accept it.

You should state that you’re currently taking a TEFL class and you’ll receive your TEFL certificate before coming to Vietnam.

You should apply while you’re in the USA. They will treat you better, and they might be able to provide moving expenses, housing, as well as a higher salary since good international schools recruit teachers in their own country.

You shouldn’t worry about being discriminated in Vietnam. Viet Kieu teachers are being hired more now since they are usually more qualified and better teachers due to knowing both languages and cultures. You should try to apply for a teaching job at an international school while you’re in the USA. You can apply for any English language center when you’re in Vietnam.

The USA under Obama is getting better at diplomacy. Even the new Consul General of the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City is a Vietnamese-American by the name of An Le. So, I’m sure international schools, especially American international schools, will take notice and will not discriminate against American citizens, including Vietnamese-Americans.

I hope the information I provided has been helpful. Please keep in touch!

Tuan Tran

A second letter to a Vietnamese-American

I don’t know why any international school would be asking for a TEFL or CELTA from your friend. A teaching credential is the best qualification since it allows your friend to teach at any accredited international school. If an English language center is asking for a TEFL or CELTA from your friend, then the staff there don’t have any idea about a teaching credential, which is a teaching license granted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction after an individual completed a BA or MA program in Education from an accredited university.

Only an English language center would require a TEFL or CELTA since it gives the impression that the “teacher” did receive some teacher training. A TEFL or CELTA program can be completed in a few weeks, and they will give you a certificate upon completion. I would recommend that you do either a TEFL or CELTA, I don’t know which one is better, since it will give you more opportunity at getting a teaching job in Vietnam. However, having graduated from a teacher training program with a teaching credential, I don’t think either a TEFL or CELTA would be adequate in preparing a person to be a teacher.

I don’t know which one is more accepted at English language centers in Vietnam. You would need to find that out yourself. But I would recommend that you get it done in the US. It would be cheaper and better.

By the way, a TESOL program can also be completed in a few weeks and you’ll get a certificate at the end.

Tuan Tran

A third letter to a Vietnamese-American

In addition, people in Vietnam want to hire white teachers more than Viet Kieu teachers. As a Viet Kieu, you have to let them know that you’re just like any other white American in that you were born in the US and your English is just as good, if not better than most white Americans since you obviously have received a very good college education.

You have to believe in yourself completely, regardless of the discrimination you may experience from the white and Vietnamese people in Vietnam. Having experienced discrimination in the US as a Vietnamese-American because of my ethnicity and my name, and also in Vietnam because I’m not white, I have learned that it’s not my problem. I wouldn’t want to work where people don’t appreciate me or discriminate against me anyway.

You can apply online. Also, you should try to contact the principal before going to Vietnam. Don’t worry too much about getting a job in Vietnam. You’re going to Vietnam to find out about the land of your ancestors, so you should go with self-confidence. The money you’re bringing to Vietnam should cover your living expenses for at least 6 months. So, don’t worry about finding a job right away.

I was married to a white woman when I was about your age. I was very insecure at the time, and I was devastated when she left me. I only have one advice for you. Believe in yourself and everything will be okay.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

April 22, 2011

Hello Mr. Tran,

I am inspiring to move to Vietnam to teach English as a native speaker. However, I’ve already been rejected by two schools who flat out told me they couldn’t hire me because I am viet kieu and didn’t give me an exact reason why. I have a four year BA and a 120 TESOl certificate, and I’ll be fresh out of college with a five year visa exemption.

I left Vietnam before I turned one and I grew up in Southern California. My Vietnamese language abilities are very advanced without being able to read and write, but I can communicate and understand casual and general terms, but of course my flow and syntax are quite different. But this ability could mean that there would be no need to hire additional supplementary local teachers, as I would be able to cover the basics, not only in grammar and conversation classes.

However, I am having a difficult time relaying the benefits of being multilingual, especially having an advanced awareness in my prospective students’ mother tongue, to my potential employers. My logic is that in America, if one wanted to teach say… Spanish, they would have to know English as well. So why is it that knowing Vietnamese while teaching English to Vietnamese students is such a negative thing? There’s no way someone could secure a teaching job if they only knew that single language that they would be teaching… at least in America that is. I understand that a white face is a great walking advertisement and I am even willing to make less money than my white counterpart with the same credentials, yet I am surprised by the lack of interest in my services. I mean, they are even hiring Irish people with horrific accents.

How would you inspire me to over come this before I buy a one way plane ticket over there? I have already invested in almost two thousand in preparation for my venture to Vietnam and will likely need another two thousand for airfare and to sustain myself there in the first couple of months.

Thanks again for your website.

Hello,

It’s true that Viet Kieu face reverse discrimination in Vietnam. Language centers and international schools advertise that their students can study with “native speakers.” A Viet Kieu looks like a local Vietnamese due to the fact that we are of the same race. Therefore, these schools hire white teachers in order to charge the students more money. It’s a marketing gimmick, and it’s illegal both in Vietnam and the United States. But the law here is not strictly enforced. That’s why these schools can get away with discriminating against Viet Kieu.

These language centers and international schools would sometimes lie and say that their students prefer to study with white teachers. However, based on my personal experience and the experience of other Viet Kieu teachers, the students in Vietnam actually prefer to study English with Viet Kieu teachers. This is also true in the United States. There are evidences that students of color in the USA prefer to study with teachers of the same race, and they tend to do better in school as well.

At a deeper level, these school administrators want to instill a belief that a western language, civilization, and culture are superior to that of the local language, culture, and tradition. That is why the rich Vietnamese students that study at expensive international schools in Vietnam are feeling ashamed of speaking Vietnamese and of their culture even though they are Vietnamese nationals living in Vietnam. I would say this is a form of cultural imperialism.

I cannot tell you whether you should go to Vietnam to teach English or not. However, I can say that when someone discriminates against you, then obviously that person has a problem, not you. It’s not against you personally, and you should not take it as such. Furthermore, I believe you should face challenges head on rather than running away from them.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

April 30, 2011

“Almost 65 million Americans have some type of criminal record, either for an arrest or a conviction, according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, whose policy co-director, Maurice Emsellem, says that the figure is probably an underestimate.”

In a 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, almost 90 percent of the companies surveyed, most of them large employers, said they conducted criminal background checks on some or all job candidates.

For school teachers, criminal background checks are mandatory. The school districts have to conduct a criminal background check on all of the applicants. However, schools in Vietnam rarely do a criminal background check on foreign teachers. Criminal background checks are easy to do, and can be done on the Internet in seconds. A complete criminal background check on any individual can be done for a nominal fee.

A check to see if an individual is a sex offender can be done for free. CriminalCheck.com is a FREE National Sex Offender database site on the web that searches all states (and the District of Columbia) with one-click.

For the safety of the children, I urge all schools in Vietnam to do at least a sex offender check before hiring any foreign teachers.

Tuan Tran

June 2, 2011

The first time I saw the film The Deer Hunter was in 1978 when I was a freshman in college. At the time, I thought of myself as an American, not Vietnamese or even Vietnamese-American. I remember identifying with the characters Michael and Nick when they were forced to play a game of Russian Roulette, as captured POWs, by the Viet Cong. I remember feeling happy when they were able to kill their captors and escaped.

I watched the film again today, thirty-three years later, and I understood something that I didn’t understand before. I understood about the pain and loss that Americans have felt during the Vietnam War. So, I am going to say this from the bottom of my heart. I empathize with the pain for the loss of over fifty eight thousand soldiers and for the suffering of millions more Americans.

To me, it’s not about who is right or wrong anymore. It’s not even about which side has suffered more or less. I sincerely hope both the people in the USA and in Vietnam can put the past behind us, and move forward in the spirit of goodwill and friendship. I know it’s a little late for me to realize this, but it’s better late than never.

Peace,

Tuan Tran

December 17, 2012

Hello Tuan,

Thank you for sharing your stories on your website. I have a Vietnamese-American friend who is in Vietnam, after teaching English in Korea. He has invited me to come, but being a “Chinese,” I wonder if I am welcomed there. I was actually born in Vietnam but was expelled, following the border clash with China in 1979. I was one of those boat people. I have lived in America all my life, but I have always felt like a perpetual foreigner. I just don’t fit in, no matter how much I’ve tried. Maybe, this is my chance to go back to where I was born and I would reclaim some sense of identity? But I’m not sure whether to call myself Chinese-American, Chinese-Vietnamese, or Chinese, as I don’t feel I belong to any of these groups. I have always felt the urge to work and live in Asia, but I’m not sure what to expect, even if all financial conditions are met.

I have been coming to your websites for a while, but noticed you have not updated your journal. May I assume you are still a monk? I have been following the Buddha’s teachings for the last few years as much as I can. It’s the mental suffering of not belonging that has led me to Buddhism. I reject any white religion imposed on me. If circumstances are sufficient, I too would someday like to be a monk in Asia, even if for a year. Maybe you can share some of your stories of being a monk on your website, or even better, to upload dharma talks to share with the world.

There is much more that I want to say, but I don’t know how to express it in words, so I’ll stop here.

With metta,

Hello,

Thank you for your email. It seems we both have very similar experiences and interests. I think difficulties in life build character and empathy. It’s like the concept of suffering in meditation. Without experiencing suffering, one cannot discover compassion. So, all of the difficulties you have experienced such as discrimination and feeling like an outsider are really blessings in disguised.

I have stopped being a monk since my son is too young and he needs both emotional and financial support from me. Once he is a little older then I’ll become a monk again. I still practice yoga and meditation everyday.

I haven’t written anything in my journal because there is nothing I really want to write about. I don’t want to write about being a monk or about Buddhism since I don’t really want people to think I’m proselytizing.

Life is a journey, and it’s not the destination but the experience that is important. It means being aware of the moment with full acceptance of what is going on in the present.

Feel free to keep in touch.

Tuan Tran

Hello Tuan,

Thank you for your words of wisdom. You are right, compassion arises through suffering. I am by nature not a violent person and remind myself to be kind, generous, and compassionate, but I also notice that in doing so, I tend to attract the worst types of dubious characters that only think of exploiting me, or others who are suspicious of my kindness, expecting nothing in return. If I expect something in return, then this will eliminate any suspicion, but that would not be called true kindness. Rather, it’s a business deal, even among so-called family members. It is, therefore, not easy following the Buddha’s path while navigating through a life for which I did not ask.

It’s clear that the teachings of Buddha is useful in a society like America, where aggressiveness is encouraged. Americans as a whole seem to lack any sense of empathy and compassion, that these virtues are misapprehended as “weaknesses.” Family values are poor. Parents and siblings take each other to court for trivial matters, and broken up. Individualism is mistaken for selfishness that permeates the whole society, even among traditionally strong Asian-American families. I understand that you don’t want to propagate Buddhism on your website and am not suggesting that. After all, that is against the Buddha’s words, but I just thought that it would be a delight for the readers to follow your life as a monk, the later chapter of your life.

I am not young anymore and sometimes I feel that I should find a partner, like you have, and settle down and start a family, but I’m not sure if bringing someone into this world who will suffer the same fate as mine is a good idea. I don’t want my kids to suffer, that life itself is suffering, surrounded by brutal exploitation and selfishness. I sometimes wonder if there is any hope for humanity. At the same time, for a while now, I have been contemplating of becoming a monk to practice meditation and find peace with myself amidst despair, to confront life, and, I hope, help others along the path. This entails finding a good teacher, like a surrogate father.

My friend is in Vietnam and he is also being discriminated as being Viet Kieu in favor of whites, who seem the Vietnamese there prefer. I will think again about visiting him.

You have lived an interesting life and the stories you share are therapeutic for readers like me.Whenever you can, please continue to share your life’s journey.

Keep in touch.

Hello,

I understand what you mean when you wrote that others take advantage of you or being suspicious when you are kind to them and expect nothing in return. I have experienced the same thing. However, I came to the conclusion that it’s better to be kind and to trust. Sure, I got hurt and I got taken advantage of, but I also believe in karma. I have created good karma by helping others and trusting others, and if someone took advantage of me and intentionally hurt me then they will suffer the consequences of their own negative karma. The law of karma is unavoidable. With this understanding, it helps me to be more forgiving.

It’s true that individualism is mistaken for selfishness, and Americans as a whole seem to lack empathy for others and think only of their own interest. That’s why it’s more important to practice kindness and compassion in America. But more importantly, it means one has to keep up with daily meditation practice and to be kind and compassionate within oneself. If one cannot find kindness, compassion, and acceptance within oneself, then it’s not possible to feel that way toward others.

I understand not wanting children since life is suffering, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. I don’t think you would want to tell your pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion because you don’t want to have children. I also think being a monk is an easier way. It’s much more conducive to practice meditation with other monks in a quiet atmosphere with all of the daily necessities provided. The true test is being able to keep up with meditation in all waken hours in all activities as a householder amidst all of the responsibilities. However, it’s true that one needs the guidance of a true meditation master, and this teacher is usually found in a meditation monastery. One also needs a period of time to practice and to develop in meditation. A monastery would be an ideal place to find a meditation teacher and to learn meditation.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

December 18, 2012

On Meditation

To make progress in meditation, one needs to be aware of the breath in all waken moments, in all postures, and in all activities. In addition, it is necessary to practice sitting meditation at least twice a day for at least one hour each time. I find it helpful to do 20 minutes of the Sun Salutation of Yoga to focus the mind and stretch the body before sitting in meditation for at least one hour.

This is a good video from Youtube to help you learn the Sun Salutation. To download, right click on the link, then left click on “Save Link As…” if you use a Firefox browser.

Also, a meditation timer program is very helpful.

March 21, 2013

It’s not too difficult to find a job teaching English in Vietnam even for Viet Kieu. You need to have a work permit to work in Vietnam. You can apply for a work permit while you’re in Vietnam. However, you need to take a TESOL course in the US before coming to Vietnam. I know it’s a little strange but they require your college diploma and TESOL certificate to be notarized. You can notarize them at the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City but it would cost 50 dollars to notarize each document. Notary is free in the US. You also need to have a document from the police stating you have no criminal records. You need to notarize this document as well.

AMA is always hiring and they hire Viet Kieu. You can apply with them when you’re in Vietnam. You can also apply online at www.vietnamworks.com. It’s an excellent web site to apply for a job in Vietnam.

April 30, 2013

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Atticus’s admonition to Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.

June 25, 2014

A wedding picture taken in 2004.

Wedding Picture

October 10, 2014

Hi Tuan,

My name is V. I was browsing online for information on job opportunities in Vietnam (mainly teaching English) and found your blog. I found your writing to be excellent, both thought provoking and insightful. Your thoughts on the Vietnamese-American experience, identity, and thoughts about the war (the hypocrisy) are very similar to mine. Maybe it’s because of those reasons that I have this constant yearning to return to Vietnam. Would you have any advice regarding teaching in Vietnam?

Hello V,

I understand your feeling about wanting to return to Vietnam. I’ve been trying to adjust to living in Vietnam since 2001, but I’m sorry to say that at some point one becomes too American to be able to accept the Vietnamese way of living and thinking.

I read about the African-Americans wanting to return to Africa in the past due to the problem of racism in America, but they became disillusioned and found it difficult to adjust to living in Africa. Racism exists in America, but there is also racism in Vietnam in the form of reverse discrimination toward “Viet Kieu” or Overseas Vietnamese.

Your knowledge about the Vietnamese-American experience helps you to understand about your identity. This will help you become a stronger and more confident person. But what is also important is to be happy which can only come from being able to accept whatever situation you are in. Stay in America and be happy.

Sincerely,

Tuan Tran

May 16, 2016

Donald Trump is scary. He is a bully who makes personal attacks rather than talking about the issues. He is an egomaniac who doesn’t have the temperament to be the President of the United States. He reminds me of the character Greg Stillson in the movie The Dead Zone. Voters, do you want Donald Trump to have access to the nuclear launch codes?