Viet Nam – once it was –
All that I knew – now it is –
All I long to know
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion.
Notes to this poem…
I wrote this haiku after I had returned to Canada from my visit described in the introduction to the collection. I wrote it as an introduction to the collection, but it was true to how I felt returning for the first time in 35 years.
When I left as an eight year old child, it was under Communist rule. They had the media and school system controlled so well that even as an eight year old, I had no idea the world was any different than that which I had seen around me. I had no idea people had different colour skin, eyes or hair. I didn’t know they spoke languages other than Vietnamese and Chinese. I didn’t know the world was round. I didn’t know there were other countries besides China and Russia, both Communist, though I never thought about what Russians looked like despite knowing the country existed in hearing about it. I had been taught about Lenin, but the illustrative profile they had used in Viet Nam had made him generally look Asian. That’s how controlling it all were. Viet Nam was really once all that I knew.
Some 35 years after I left Viet Nam, I knew a lot more. I don’t just mean that as in me being an adult. No. in my fourth year of undergraduate studies in chemistry, I was one of four members of a North American university team general knowledge competition. There were about 10,000 students then, I think. While not the size of major American universities, it’s no small change to be one of four picked among a post-secondary institution of that size. I had learned a lot more since my undergraduate days, of course, 20 years later now. However, in going back to Viet Nam, I found myself wanting to learn everything I could about it before I left, not just to prepare, but also plan to experience as much as I could.
That was the gist of this haiku.