Đàn bà và con nít

Conflict là cái narration mà chị Lý dùng trong hồi ký. Quyển hai thực sự là tự truyện. Blog của mình đã có sẵn cả 2 possitions cho 2 quyển, nhưng viết tiếp vào cái cũ rất phiền cho nên mình viết vào một trang mới vậy, cô pác nào không có thời gian thì tới đây có thể quay trở ra, còn nếu quan tâm thì có thể coi sơ hai phần trước http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-c4fwAN4zeqi8D.JXuWThXsk0IbGsY37B?p=74, http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-c4fwAN4zeqi8D.JXuWThXsk0IbGsY37B?p=27. Triết học phân vật chất ra thành hai nửa mâu thuẫn nhau có sẵn từ châu A (đen trắng, âm dương, thiện ác…) đến phương Tây như khái niệm mâu thuẫn của Mác. Cái narrative of conflict mà chị Lý dùng, nói là lấy từ lời của bà mẹ, cũng có thể là cách hiểu cuộc sống của một cựu VC nhí qua triết Mác, cũng có thể là cách xây dựng drama theo kiểu La Mã/ Hi Lạp và Hollywood style of film script: Trời – đất, Đàn bà – con nít, Chiến tranh – hòa bình… toàn những chuyện lớn, và cũng có thể hiểu là thế ‘ở giữa’ của chị Lý trong những ngày vận động lập quĩ từ thiện bên Mỹ và về Vn thăm gia đình cùng thực hiện ‘ý đồ’ đó.

Trong bài này mục tiêu của mình lại không phải là đi phân tích cái narrative đã quá rõ đó mà thử đi tìm một cái gì đó ‘nằm giữa hai hàng chữ’ bằng cách coding và tìm grounded theory trong nó. Bây giờ là coding một số chỗ cần chú ý.

The first time that Ly talked about her real life in public (American including her husbands) was in a meeting with Gary, a veteran and publisher of Rancho News, which printed her iv – a “bombshell” for the local community. The staff and owners of the Hollylinh were so concerned that they decided to change the ads to stress that they were a Chinese restaurant, not Vietnamese (“and that was true enough” p.229).

Ly often used the mind-treatment like Vietnamese monk in California that she mentioned many times, as well as the fortune teller (p.159), psychic (Vu Tai Loc p.235), geomancer (p.141-142) and even her farther’s soul, the last and supporting position in her narration to her life-decision of going to Vietnam (p.240). Her life was full of proverbs and moral stories, like the fable that a wife suicided to proved her faithful when her husband came home and the child lived for a long time with the story from his mother about ‘the father’s shadow’ (p.87 – when she felt bad returning to her husband Ed Munro in the US after a shot affair with Dan in 1972 in An Khe). The letters from Dan secretly sent through Thanh’s pakage was found by Ed, who died after a while.

Her father’s soul returned many times especially when Ly had to make an important decision, like when she fullfil the request of her then-later last husband Dennis Hayslip. “Ta phai hy sinh – more debt of guilt and duty! My father used to say, “Cuu mot nguoi tren duong gian hon ngan nguoi duoi am phu”: it’s better to save one life on earth than one thousand souls in hell”. Then Dennis took her sister Lan out of VN in 28.Apr.1975 by a ‘fake’ marriage. Although the marriage was out of initial plan, Ly seemed have no problem at all, even asked 5 Lan (p.134) whether it was more convinient for her to have a ‘legal husband’. The father’s soul and the spirit of the Phung Thi clan again helped her in quitting the job at NSC (because they made weapon).

Ly’s route to Buddhism restarted when she moved to a new house and advised by the astrologer. She became a close person with the temple ran by monks imigrated from Vn without proper knowledge of English and the outside world (p.143-144). Her desire to learn more came to a critic point in confrontating her husband belief – Christian gospel, starting from a small chat over the food for Christian friends (p.145). Although the bible teacher was a Chinese girl, Ly seemed involved too strong with the temple’s people, that a Vietnamese lady asked her to take care of several Vietnamese children (p.147). 3 and then 2 foster and her 3 children = 8 in total, + the two sons from Anh. Her unconcious collective character was recognised by Dennis: “You Vietnamese really stick together, don’t you? Still taking advantage of the Americans! Whose side are you on now, anyway?”. His attitude had changed. He was wary of all the boat people and hated them for taking American jobs… The Baptist and Catholic sponsors insisted that all Vietnamese refugees join their church, including the Buddhists. This caused the local Buddhists to react strongly to prevent conversions, so the old religious wars that had troubled the Vietnamese soul for decades began afresh on American soil (p.149).

Well, co le phai thay doi chut it trong danh gia ve ba Ly, co chong giau nhung theo cach ke thi khong kiem duoc tien nho chong cho lam, nhat la doan song voi ong Dennis, phai nuoi con nuoi de kiem tien an sinh xa hoi va di lam them nghe rap do dien tu (p.151), sau bo di lam quan (p.160).

Her Vietnamese environment became wider after starting her work for NSC (p.152-3), including the social division of nha ngoi ’tile-roofed women’ vs nha la ‘thatched-roof girls’, and choi hui ‘money game’ or the Asian way of saving and lending money. The American values were judged through a meeting with the Christian Family Counselor, who advised her: Sex, guns and Christ (“keep up the sex” p.157, “when people accept Christ into their lives, many wonderful things can happen” p.156, “You com from Vietnam, It’s natural for you to be afraid of them (guns). But you’re in America now. Things are different” p.156).

If her ‘innocent’ Vietnamese-ness was just a funny thing for Ed while Ly had problem with assimilating with an American life (rather problem with new machines and customes), her ‘stronger’ Vietnamese-ness strenghthened by social contacts became a conflict in her life with Dennis. He tried to prevent her new shop (could be a sex/status-conflict) but the problem through his perception seemed to be wider, as “he was always trying to get me (her) <to think like an American>” (p.160) then “tired of the games you play, Ly. Yes, you and your Vietnamese friends. You’re with them all the time. You plot agaisnt me and all Americans. I know the way they use the system once they get here. I’ve seen the way you favor the Vietnamese kids over me. Don’t you think Alan and I deserve the same attention as those damned boat people? You spend too much time running around going to your temple and plotting to take advantage of me and the system. I think you should stay home and take care of me and the house” (p.162).

The Vietnamese’s ‘philosophy once again came against the advise from the psychiatric doctor to separate from her ‘crazy husband’ (p.168-169). “In Vietnam, divorce among peasants was very rare. More frequently, a husband would bo vo – leave his wife and live with another woman – but they would still raise the kids together and he would pay what he could to help support the original household. Noboday called lawyers; village opinion was enough to police most situations”. The su from the temple advised her t
o “go home”. “Like the water buffalo (her horoscope sign?), you must labor long and hard and without complaint. That is your character and your destiny”. However, Le Ly followed the choice offerred by a lawyer, although trying to keep her Vietnamese-ness wherever it’s possible. “I didn’t understand what American divorces were all about. All my Vietnamese instincts ran completely contrary to my American advice. All my actions – done in good American fashion – seemed to betray everything my father had taught me. My only hope was that by doing things <the American way> while keeping the Vietnamese way in my heart, I would somehow wind up doing what was right” (p.170). The Vietnamese-ness also seems to get through the friend’s opinions and advice, like Huong, “a child without a father is like a house without a roof” (p.177). (Imazing, her memoir is like a book of proverbs). A paragraph from the page 178 as well – about tinh and nghia, and the advice from the su on 179.

Lại phải recall my opinion một lần nữa, bà Lý giàu đúng là do ông chồng cuối để lại gia tài, dù nghèo. Hóa ra là mấy cái bảo hiểm – trang 188-189. Trước hết ông kia mua bảo hiểm double indemnity tên vợ giá 1 triệu usd, mà theo ls giải thích về nguyên tắc mortgage insurance và ‘the death of the principal breadwinner’ thì bà Lý được ‘tặng’ không nguyên căn nhà, cộng thêm 100.000 usd tiền bảo hiểm nhân mạng do bà chị đứng tên nhận và hai người con riêng, và 1 ít tiền bồi thường từ công ty xe hơi vì ông chồng chết trong xe. Một cách hình dung nữa là coding cũng giống như đọc và tìm dấu vết của cảnh sát (Sherlock Holms) nhưng khác cái là mình nhiều lúc cũng không biết mình đang tìm cái gì, chỉ vi phân nó ra rồi lại tích phân ngược trở lại để cho ra một cái lý thuyết dù do mình tìm ra nhưng do thiên nhiên/bản chất tạo ra. Thêm 1 chi tiết nữa (tr 290) lúc bắt đầu làm hội từ thiện bà Lý còn cặp bồ với một (tỷ?) phú – Cliff kể là từng làm biệt kích và sau đó là ‘cleaner’ của CIA ở Vn. Hi, đọc đến trang 299 thì giải tỏa, Cliff là dân lừa đảo chuyên nghiệp, ‘ăn’ bớt một căn nhà của bà mệnh phụ ‘giàu sang’ và khờ khạo.

Back to business, Ly paid special attention to keeping relationship, as she did not want her relationship with the Hayslip to go the way of her relationship with the Munros (p.190). “I believed in the power of families to help kids grow up, and felt bad that Tommy had been lpped off like a thorny branch from the American side of his family tree. […] I did not want this to happen to Alan – yet here we were, drawing battle lines on legal papers, pitting Alan against his American half brother”. Another thing, “in Vietnam, restaurant owners were expected to be very paternalistic with their employees. If you treated your workers like family, it was thought, they would respond in kind. <Good parents> deserved <good children>, so considerate, generous bosses were usually rewarded with loyalty and hard work” (p.215).

Her study: third grade (p.193), classes for US citizenship like English grammar and rights, then later a course in business administration. Even here she recalled the past (compare between Lincoln and Ho Chi Minh p.194), the Vietnamese way of doing business ‘an it no lau an nhieu tuc bung’, and success in business that she knew mean a lot of time earning the trust of those on whom their success depended. The path between the mother, who spent most of her free time in temple, and her two older sons, who prefered the white church – the kind of American family life, became wider. Now she started to confrontate her boys, who one day decided she had to convert to Christianity to escape the flames of hell (p.197). For her, Washington was still an “adopted nation’s capital” (p.265).

The first pages of the chapter 10 is quite interesting with her account from the expensive visit to Russia and then hosting the two boys from there to San Diego. There was also a funny part about the custom officers at Tan Son Nhat airport, who searched her throughly because she has just 1000usd and 28 letters (which costed her several days with the court in Sg and then a fine equivalent to the stamps because of evading the lawful postage p.308-316). There were several interesting scenes like with American veterans help a father looking for his son’s grave mistoken them for Russian, or the crying translator at the orphan camp.

Again, the issue of relationship appeared, but between her mother and oldest sister and the village. The fear was too strong to allow her to burn incense for the father at home – Village relationship vs child responsibility (p.334-340 it’s rather a narrative analysis, wake up, hi hi). In the epilogue there is part about her lectures after the book and trips, after some grilled Q&A session, she was “ussually greeted by older Vietnamese and more mature students, who quietly say things like <it is terrible that some Vietnamese act like that in front of Americans. It makes me feel like a barbarian. I am ashamed to be Vietnamese>” (p.365-366).

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