So what kind of people are those Communists raising, anyway?

While we were staying in Saigon, we were graciously housed at my sister-in-law's place, which was situated in one of the numberless hẻm (alleyways) that make up the city's residential areas. It was a quaint little arrangement, us sleeping upstairs while the renters - two students from Biên Hòa currently studying in the city - stayed in the downstairs quarters. My wife and I ran in and out several times a day, never saying more than a few words to the students as we went out the door or up the stairs. But there was one day that we stayed home because of the rain and the two students, Khôi and Ngân, had gone home to visit their family. I took the opportunity to get to know them a little better, behind their back.

I've heard horror stories of the educational system in Vietnam as it is run under the Communists, brain washing the children and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment. But what I found in Khôi was not a walking zombie, not a brain-washed robot training to be government spy... I found a self-motivated, fun-loving, study-holic young man who lived within the "regime," but without the slightest hint of allegiance (or displeasure for that matter) towards the government of his country. His focus was good grades, family unity and preparing for a global economy that is pushing its way into Vietnam even as we speak.

He's studying to be an architect. His desk fluctuated between two and three computers at all times, and the clutter on the desk and bookshelf was constantly shifting. But what really impressed me were the notes he hung all over the place. He ran himself through a strict schedule, as this image shows: 5:30 am - wake up, put a pot of rice on, brush teeth; 5:45 am - move around, morning exercise; 6:30 am - go to the store, make food... 7:00 am - rest, read... and then it's studying for the rest of the day. Not only did his hand writing impress me (and that is his writing, not a font), but his desire to push himself forward, to set goals for each day, to increase his capacity to accomplish by working by routine. I found myself wishing I could work like that...

Over the next few days I watched him as he worked - yes, he actually followed that routine. I also found more notes scattered throughout the house, in places that he would frequently pass by. I found some sticky notes taped to the wall, probably stuck up there after a particularly frustrating lazy phase. "No TV, no games, no sleeping in, no wasting time, no staying up past 11pm" is listed, in bullets, on one of the sticky notes, prefixed by an underlined admonition: "Cast away frivolous fun to focus on accomplishing your higher dream!!!" (notice at the end he actually writes "of" instead of "của" hic).

There's too many notes and lists, some even framed, for me to detail each one. Quotes, "Plan of Work and Goals," a sketch of his 9-out-of-10 point (why not a full 10 I don't know) project... and below is a nearly-finished example of what he's creating now. Click on it to see all the pictures I took of his stuff. I know, it sounds like I'm obsessed with this Khôi person, but I'm not. I'm just wishing I could be like him.

Oh, and by the way, we just got word that he graduated recently... valedictorian.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

That's a very inspiring story, different than what I heard of about young generations in Vietnam nowaday. United States can use a lot of kids like this guy.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)