Thursday, April 26, 2007


Perhaps I should change the title of this entry to Interesting Information. However, I would probably be the only one who thinks the information is interesting while others consider what I am about to share in this entry is useless.

Round 2 of the Stanley Cup started last week. Instead of making any predictions (I usually jinx the teams by cheering for them), so I will write about a few interesting facts about hockey players, complete with their jersey number and how many stitches on their face (just kidding).

At 45 years old Chris Chelios (#24) of the Detroit Red Wings is the oldest defenseman to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The oldest player ever compete in this physical sport was Gordie Howe "Mr. Hockey" who was still playing at 52 years old. The youngest player in this playoffs is Jordan Staal (#11) of Pittsburgh Penguins. With all the media coverage, I thought the most youthful player was Sidney Crosby. This week, Staal was named one of the three finalists of the Calder Memorial Trophy for outstanding rookie.

There are two set of twin brothers, Henrik Lundqvist (#30) the goalie of the New York Rangers and his brother, Joel (#39) playing center for the Dallas Stars. The other twin are Daniel (#22) the left wing and Henrik (#33) Sedin, playing center for the Vancouver Canucks. The Niedermayer brothers (not twin), Rob (#44) center and Scott (#27) defenseman, got their wishes to play on the same team for Anaheim Mighty Ducks after the New Jersey Devils defeated the Ducks in Game 7 of the 2005 Stanley Cup. Hot off the press - the Mighty Ducks won game 5 and eliminated the Canucks last night.

A few last names that sound like good characters for a children book, Cheechoo, Ruutu and Tootoo. Jonathan Cheechoo (#14) a right winger for the San Jose Sharks, Jarkko Ruutu (#37) left wing for Pittsburgh Penguins and Jordin Tootoo (#22) right wing of the Nashville Predators.

How about Miroslav Satan (#81) right winger of the New York Islanders (was with the Buffalo Sabres). Satan is a native of Topolcany, Czechoslovakia. Satan is pronounced as "Sar ten", not "Sat'n". With a name like this, you would think Satan should play for the New Jersey Devils!

The majority of the players are from Canada, Russia, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Eastern European countries. There is only one player from Seoul, South Korean, Richard Park (#10) a right winger with the New York Islanders. Paul Kariya (#9) left winger of the Nashville Predators is Asian-Canadian.

You probably want to know who my favorite players are. Of course, Steve Yzerman is #1 on my list, following by more Red Wings players - Chris Osgood (#30) goalie, Da New Captain Nickolas Lidstrom (#5) defenseman, Henrik Zettenberg (#40) left wing and #13 Pavel Datsyuk, center. Datsyuk was named one of the three finalists for the Lady Bying Memorial Trophy, an award given to players who displayed sportsmanship and gentlemanly conducts.

If I have one wish, I would like to see the Red Wings re-sign Slava Kozlov (#13) back from Atlanta Thrashers. Another wish would be a job as an announcer with the Canadian Broadcasting, that would be a dream come true, watching hockey, talking about the games and getting paid for doing what I love.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


My brother came back from a two-week trip to Hong Kong and China. I was so thankful for the technology that allows us to somewhat keep in touch by a few brief email messages and short entries in VL's blog. I was happy to read the email that my brother arrived safely, half way around the world, in China and followed his vacation from cyberspace. I am very proud to introduce to my adoring fans my brother's blog, There are many interesting stories about VL's recent trip and of course, other entries about the World Greatest Qaptain Qwerty.

The entry VL posted about recycling in China showing a photo of public trash receptacle with separate containers for recyclables and non-recyclables was written the same week Earth Day was celebrated at Forest Park in St. Louis. It takes a person with environmental mind like my brother to notice plastic containers for the purpose of collecting used batteries.

I am not a committed conservationist. I do try to recycle paper at the office and at home, plastic bottles, newspapers, and other acceptable items listed on the side of the containers. At work, we usually provide soda, water bottles and snacks at committee meetings. I put a sign, in large bold print, with arrows pointing, right above the bins, "For soda cans and water bottles". Somehow no one read the sign nor saw the bin because the soda cans and water bottles were thrown into the trash can next to the bin. I also gave up on recycle bins for the papers because trash was also thrown into the bins.

The organizer reported that 2007 Earth Day celebration was twice as big as last year and perhaps the largest gathering ever, thanks in part to the beautiful sunny day. The hybrid cars drew a lot of attention. Participants took part in various events such as tai chi, children making toys from earth friendly materials, getting ideas on recycling and St. Louis Zoo offered lectures encouraging people to be more aware of wildlife in their own backyard.

Lately I began using washable napkins instead of paper napkins at meal times. It saves money and not adding to the landfill. I finally found a solution for collecting cans at work, I placed a different trash can and a sign on the lid in large bold print "Soda Cans and Bottles Only". I usually read articles for ideas on recycling and earth friendly items. However, let me make it clear that I will not give up on the double-ply toilet tissues. I paid my dues in the seven months living in the refugee camp. I refuse to go back to the "primitive" way when it comes to this necessity.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I have not been able to update my blog since last Monday. The new entry I plan to write became so trivia after the terrible event took place at Virginia Tech. I could not imagine the pains the families of the 32 individuals whose lives were ended so suddenly. I could only imagine the wounds so deep in their hearts, a million times over compared to the passing of my Dad. It is not my intention to make light of the passing of my Dad or anyone who suffered long term illnesses. It is especially so tragic when parents buried their children, most painfully the way their promising future were taken away in this manner.

There was no shortage of experts or people who parade on talk shows with their analysis of "should have, could have, should be, would be". I don't have anything to add to the discussion. Personally, I have thought what if I was the parent of the gunman, could I prevent the killing? Would I be able to see that he would become a killer? How would I as a mother overcome the pains and regrets that I gave life to a child with a devil heart?

There is a Vietnamese saying, "Cha me sinh con, khong the sinh long". As father and mother, you could only give life (birth) to the child but you could not know what the child will grow up to be (what will be in the child's heart).

I am not the only viewer who shut off the television when the media kept showing notes and video (sent to the network prior to the shooting) of the gunman final words. I became sicken when people began to exploit this terrible incident for their own gains as if what they say or do will in anyway lessen the pains inflicted on the families.

As an individual, I could only offer my prayers of healing to all the families and to our nation. The idea came to me after watching a special feature on the network, listing all 32 people who were killed, their names and who they were - a father, a mother, a son and a daughter. I began to repeat their names, imagine that they were my neighbors, my friends, my child, and not just a list of names in the mechanical television report.

Before church service, I quietly read the name of each person, praying for the repose of their souls, lifting their families up to God for healing, God's hand over the wounds in their hearts. To the families, including the family of the gunman, I offer my prayers of healing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


April 15, 2007 would have been my parents' 49th Wedding Anniversary. Mom told me one time that it was easy to remember their anniversary since living in America no one could forget that April 15th was also the deadline for filing income tax returns. Of course, when my parents got married, the date was chosen by an expert who consulted his astrological charts, checking compatibility of the birth dates of the groom and bride to-be to ensure a long lasting happy marriage. Families dead ancestors were also consulted through prayers and living relatives in high authority positions were also paid respect to and for their approval.

Like many marriages during that time, my parents' marriage was arranged by someone who was respected and knew both parents from business circle. The marriage was arranged but not forced. My maternal grandparents were business owners and respected in the village. There were many matchmakers already inquiried about their youngest and only daughter. My Mom was an attractive young lady combined with her parents' wealth explained the long list of many suitors.

After the initial contact by a business acquaintance who was also a well-known matchmaker, my paternal grandfather (A Cung) made a visit from Cau Ngang (my Dad's birthplace) to my maternal grandfather (Che Cung) in Cau Tau Ha (Mom's birthplace). A month or so, another meeting was arranged, this time my Dad came along. The first time Mom saw Dad was when she was asked to serve tea to A Cung, Dad and other guests as an informal face to face introduction. Mom said that she was so nervous that when she put the teapot down in front of Dad, she almost slammed the teapot on the table.

Later, Mom's parents (Che Cung & Che Pho) asked Mom whether she liked Dad and whether she would agree to marry him. Mom knew she was not forced and could refuse the arrangement. Fortunately for Dad, Mom responded that it was up to her parents. Che Cung mentioned that he had consulted others about Dad's family, his characters and based on Dad's facial features, he thought Dad would be a loving husband and a good father. Che Cung said that he did not pay attention to the fact that Dad's family wealth was not of the same level. His only concern was finding a husband who would be faithful and loving to his only daughter.

After the engagement was announced, Dad would visit Mom every other month during his business trips. They would go for a walk or to the park, not alone but with two elderly ladies following and keeping watch. There was no such thing as "roadside kissing" or drive-in movie, Talk about the big difference compared to what takes place in today's society regarding relationships and marriages. Mom still remembered the poems Dad wrote to her and the long letters she sent back each week.

The wedding was a three-day celebration with lot of relatives, and guests from both families attended. In the traditional setting, the groom's family took care of all the expense for the wedding and presented gifts to the bride's family. Normally the bride would live with the in-laws after the wedding. I have to ask Mom the reason why Dad live with her parents' family instead. There were many people who came to the wedding with gifts of expensive items and money to show respect and to express their gratitute for the help Che Cung had assisted them over the years.

An idea just came to me that I should write an entry comparing my wedding in America to my parents', where as mine had all the typical fanfares such as bridal shower, my husband' bachelor party, the sharing of expense of the wedding, and the traditional church service.

My favorite story was that as part of the wedding celebration, Che Cung gave a large sum of money to build a school in the village. The principal wanted to name the school after Che Cung and he refused. Talk about being a true humanitarian and modesty.

Three years later I came along. Then CH, TL and finally VL. Thanks, Che Cung for your choice of selecting the loving and faithful husband for Mom and a great father for us. From the humble home in Viet Nam, to the journey seeking freedom in the open sea, to the little hut in the refugee camp, to the new land in America, each step we took towards a good life, Dad was there with us, providing and caring the best way he could. Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. Thank you, Dad, for all you did for us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


By coincidence that I saw a book entitled, Culture Shock! A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Esther Wanning. The author explained that the book provides necessary information to help anyone who experiences cultural shock with hints and tips to make their lives as normal as possible. Cultural shock is defined as "a state of disorientation" that overcomes a person who has been thrust into unknown surroundings when they move to a new country.

I thought how nice it would have been if I was given this book when I first arrived in New York. I would settled in with the greatest of ease, knowing all about dos and don'ts and understood the behaviors of the people around me. But wait, how could I make use of the book since I did not know the English language? As if reading my mind, the author wrote on page 188, "You (the reader) presumably speak English well or you wouldn't be reading this book." Too bad if you don't speak English well, or not at all, trying to survive in the new country, especially in New York City, good luck (my post script)!

I learned quickly different ways people say hello or extend greetings, "What's up?", "How you've been?", "What's news?", "What's going on?" etc., all have the same meaning as the question "How are you?". Also, when someone said, "How are you?", they did not really want to know how I was and the appropriate polite, yet short response should be, "I am fine. Thank you."

More than twenty years later, I am still not comfortable addressing someone who is considerably older or in high position, by first name. My professors at Saint Louis University could not understand why I was the only graduate student who addressed them as "Dr. Anderson" or "Professor Scott". Call me old fashion, I am dismayed and could not accept young people, particularly children, calling adults by their first names. (RJS (February 19, 2007 entry) would confirm that to this day I would not address him by his first name.)

From the co-workers of my early days in America, I learned about "the long weekend" or the three-day weekends, when we all got a day off either on Friday or the Monday on major federal holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I noticed how people would stand around telling each other about the trips they took or how they enjoyed the days off and did not start to get any work done until almost noon.

I learned to say "Thank You" when someone complimented how nice I look or about my pretty new shirt/shoes. And when someone said "Thank You", I should say "You're Welcome" and not "It was nothing" or "I did not do anything". It took me a long time to join in the celebration when a co-worker celebrated her birthday. I could not understand why the person had to announce to the entire office or making sure that everyone knew and wished her happy birthday.

One of the funny thing I still remember to this day was my misunderstanding of an expression that was truly American. The first time a person said to me "Would you go to bat for me?" when he requested an order to be shipped the next day, I thought he said, "Would you go to bed with me?" I was so shocked. I handed the phone over to a co-worker. Later, I told MC, a trusted friend, after MC explained to me what the expression was, we had a good laugh for a few days.

More about my culture shock in future entries, for now, I am proud to say I have survived and have come a long way since my early days in America.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


I have been checking the Detroit Red Wings website for their playoffs schedule. As of this afternoon, it only listed Calgary Flames as the opponent for Round 1 of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. The exact dates for the games are not yet determined. Most likely the Red Wings will have home ice advantage as the best team in Western Conference. Since last week, I have been actually cheering for Buffalo Sabres to win all the regular season games so that they will receive the President's Trophy for being the team with the most win in the League. The last few years the Red Wings suffered the curse of the Trophy as it was eliminated and did not make it pass Round 1.

The title of this entry could also be "Why I love hockey?". I love hockey because I admire the skills of the players, the physical demand, the coordination (eyes-hands-feet) while speeding around the ice, knowing exactly where your teammates are and the accuracy of the puck being passed at the right angle, the rebounds and the savings. My favorite players are the goalies because they are in a very special position and they don't get the credit they deserved. When the team won, the players who scored the goals got all the credits. When the team lost, the fans blamed the goalie for allowing the pucks to get by. The goalies are special because they are crazy to try stopping the pucks flying at the speed that could crack not just human bones but could shatter a brick wall. Ok, I exagerated, but you must be a real hockey fan to appreciate my passion for the game.

I remember a childhood friend of my father came to New York for a visit in 1988. He was sponsored by his children and lived in Canada for a few years. Somehow he became a fanatic to the sport that he spent half of the time watching hockey instead of sighseeing. Come to think of it, it probablly was the Stanley Cup playoffs. My Dad could not understand what happened to his friend who had the same passion for soccer when they were kids, had turned into a fanatic for a different kind of sport.

Last weekend when we discussed our vacation for this year, I mentioned to my husband that before I turn 70 years old, I want to see all the home games of all 30 NHL teams. So far I have only been to Joe Louis Arena (Detroit Red Wings), Scotttrade (St. Louis Blues) and recently saw the Nashville Predators. My vacation plan for this year will include my first trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada. I also hope to include a Maple Leafs game when we are there.

I would love to be in the audience when Steve Yzerman, Da Captain of the Detroit Red Wings, be inducted into the Hall of Fame. In my office, above my computer, in a prominent spot, is a photo of Yzerman, his eyes focused, the intensity, the determination, I could see Yzerman flying on the ice, passing the pucks back and forth, setting up the play, and at the right moment, made accurate decision to go top shelf, out of reach of the goalie's glove or to go low and scored through the fifth hole.

I would like to start with attending home games of the original six - Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhaws, Detroit Red Wings (done), Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Next will be the other Canadian teams - Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, and Vancouver Canucks. Midwest, Southwest and East coast teams are next on the list. Because of the distance and the expense, I will leave the West coast teams last on the list.

Why I love hockey? Because hockey is similar to living - the game is fast, it requires focus, mental and physical strength, no allowance for distraction, eyes-hands-feet must be 100% coordinated, never lose sight of the puck (objective), knowing where your teammates as well as opponents are, making split-second decision without the luxury of correction, knowing when to capitalize on others' mistakes and knowing when to shoot and making calculation of where the puck would have the most chance to pass the goalie.

The Red Wings finally listed their Round 1 playoffs schedule. I plan to schedule my activities around all the games broadcasted on American networks. Unfortunately, I have work commitment on Wednesday (Canucks vs. Stars - Game 1), church group meeting on Thursday ( Red Wings vs. Flames - Game 1) and Cardinals baseball game on Sunday (Red Wings - Game 2). I could record the games and do my best to avoid all human contacts, not listen to radio, not watching television nor reading newspaper until after I watched the recorded games. Or I could move to Canada. NHL Playoffs - it is the most exciting time in the sport world. Let's the games begin - Go Wings!

Thursday, April 05, 2007


In keeping with the theme, I thought the saying, April showers bring May flowers, would be appropriate for the first entry of this month. (The entry for last month was March Madness, March 14th).

I also thought the meaning of this expression was fitting since April has a few important dates in my life. April 30, 1975 was the day when the Northern Vietnamese communist took over South Viet Nam. Four years later, April 1979, my family began our final preparation to escape the country by boat. I realized that there were many events in my life when something good (May flowers) happened (or may happen) as a result of unpleasant event (April showers). There are other sayings that have similar meanings, Every Cloud has a Silver Lining or Everything happened for a reason. Life is a picnic. You have to take the sunshine with the rains, the butterfly with the bees and the gentle breeze with the occassional wind blowing away the umbrella. (I am in the mood of Socrates wannabe).

My life in Viet Nam would be completely different, at the most uneventful, if the communist never took over and I never left the country. Actually a matchmaker already contacted my parents to set up a possible marriage arrangement. That family was in the same Chinese medicine/herbal business and I would be suitable for the oldest son which guaranteed that I would be well taken care of since the oldest son normally inherited the family business. While my family suffered in the four years living under communist control, endured the horrid boat journey, the seven months in the refugee camp, the struggle in the new land (April showers), we are grateful that we are living in America and receiving so many blessings (May flowers). If it was not for these events, we would not enjoy the freedom and living a good life in America compared to living in Viet Nam.

When I married my husband, I gave up the dream of working as a diplomat at United Nations. I always felt guilty for moving far away from my family. Yet moving to Grand Haven, Michigan expanded my horizon beyond New York City, driving in the extreme winter condition replaced riding the routine subway and experiencing life in the small town at much slower pace. Moving to St. Louis added another dimention in my American experience. The pace is just right, not too hectic and the cost of living not too high as in New York, yet the town is big enough so that it is not suffocating and plenty of opportunities to grow.

When we first came to New York, Uncle Ping informed my Dad that he would help secure an apartment in Chinatown for our family. He thought that would help eliminate the language barriers. We would be among Chinese speaking people and not worry about learning English. His wife then would help my Mom and me getting work in a sewing factory, of course also in Chinatown. The plans included finding a suitable husband for me, (again with the arrangement of marriage!), a man who was a cook to ensure that I would not be hungry! My Dad thanked Uncle for his assistance and thoughtfulness. Dad explained that he believed we should all learn to speak English, get college education, assimilate in the American culture, yet maintain our Chinese traditions at home.

Last year when the terrible storm left our area without power for a few days, the Association's major golf tournament almost got cancelled when the golf course did not have electricity until half an hour before the scheduled shotgun. Half of the carts were not fully charged and the rains continued to create problems on the course. One of the members commented to me, "Is this the worst day of your life?". I responded, "Compared to being on a crowded boat with water up to my knees, in the middle of the ocean, being chased after by the pirates, being threaten at gunpoint and not knowing where we were going, this is a picnic."

Yes, life is picnic. The next time I take things for granted, I will remind myself to count my blessings and stop whinning about a minor inconvenience. "An occassion of April showers will bring lovely May flowers."


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