Tuesday 30 January 2007

Humourous Economists

It’s fortunate of me, I think, to be working now in mass communication, an area presently considered to be emerging and to get into vogue someday. The sector itself is divided into publishing and journalism. Journalism, in its turn, is composed of broadcasting, printed media, and multimedia, so on… well, it’s not my intention to categorize different branches of journalism. Among these, broadcasting, or more specifically, television, is apparently emerging as a “hot job” of the globalized economy.

And, if you ever look at the program listings of big televion channels in Vietnam like VTV or VTC, you will probably notice a lack of TV shows on economics. No wonder practical economics in use – in the simple form of market and business knowledge – are of interest to many TV producers, and the number of economics-related TV shows will be on the increase, I guess.

Along with economics, entertainment is another aspect of media industry that will attract a high proportion of TV viewers. Yet unlike the above-mentioned case of economics, there have already been tens of TV shows focused on entertainment. For certainty you can watch an entertaining show on any TV screen at any household at the night time.

So when we talked about hot jobs in the new-era economy, I once joked, “Well, there will be a boom in TV shows about practical economics and business, while the need for relax and leasure is an eternal need. So if we are, or if we can learn to be, humourous economists working in media area, it is likely that we will never suffer from unemployment.”

That was certainly a joke, but there was some truth in it. I really meant practical economics, business, and management, are now of concern to many Vietnamese these days, and will still take much attention from us in the long terms. (I would like to highlight the term “practical economics”, or applied economics, possibly referred to as “microeconomics” sometimes, because as layman we need more of what we can apply to life rather than something only leaders of an economy can deal with.)

Thus I will be pleased to learn more about business, to gain more market knowledge, and to upgrade a poor skill of mine: management. And because I consider myself to be a typical Vietnamese, I am sure I am not alone in being bad at this skill. If any of you, readers of this blog, has anything to share involved economics, business, and management, please don’t hesitate to give me a lecture for free. On my part, I would be incredibly arrogant if I told you the very little and unsystematic knowledge that I have gathered for the past few working years. Forgive me; I don’t mean to practice a policy of obscurantism, I just have too little to share. Anyway, I’ll try… in the next post.

Next post: Lessons of Business

Sunday 28 January 2007

Journalism (cont. and concluded)

I will need at least 15 more entries to talk about journalism, but I guess that will cause you to think this blog’s contents are focused mainly on journalism, a “bull-shit” profession as one of my friends put it. So it’s time to conclude the story now although I know I have so far referred to journalism as seen from a very personal point of view clouded by so many prejudices and emotions and very little logical thinking.

So we get here, and you may ask if I love journalism after all what I’ve written about in the 5 previous entries.

I wrote about sadness – when we desperately wanted to do something better and at the same time told ourselves that we could not make any change.

I wrote about loneliness – when I felt back in my heart beautiful memories of a dead past, and I could not share what I felt with anybody; when alone I had to struggle against so many evil things that acted as obstacles on my way “to nowhere”; when alone I had to learn everything from the beginning and try to overcome all difficulties.

I wrote about wrath – when we faced a system of control that led to unequal competition.

I wrote about the lack and loss of freedom, and the prevalence of evilness, untransparency, and corruption.

All are bad things that we can find in great abundance in this land. All are challenges to our love for journalism, if we have any, collegues.

In the end, do I still love journalism as I once did?

There is a Beatles song that I think can best describe what I feel about my job, although journalism, unlike the love described in the song, is never my first love. (I am sorry that I have quoted Beatles lyrics too much.)

Oh my love for the first time in my life
My eyes are wide open.
Oh my love for the first time in my life
My eyes can see.

I see the winds, oh, I see the trees,
Everything is clearer in my world.
I see the clouds, oh, I see the sky,
Everything is clearer in my world.

Oh my love for the first time in my life
My mind is wide open.
Oh my love for the first time in my life
My mind can feel.

I feel sorrow, oh, I feel dream,
Everything is clearer in my heart.
I feel life, oh, I feel love,
Everything is clearer in my heart.

Monday 22 January 2007

The Importance of Being Ridiculous

(The title should have been written as "The Ridiculousness of Being Important" to be exact. However, I would like to borrow the title of a famous play by Oscar Wilde.)

One of the things that insprires me the most to work as a journalist is the chance I get to witness different aspects of a society like ours. One of the conclusions I reached after my first two years of working was that we were living in a place where all ridiculous people are centered. I don’t know about other countries, but Vietnam I think must be the climax of ridiculousness in comparison to the rest of the world.

The Vietnamese (including me, of course) are characterized by two seemingly contradictory personalities: vaingloriousness and humbleness. These characters have long confined them in their own cell. As TV reporters we often conduct filmed surveys for our reportages, and part of the job is to persuade people to stay in front of the camera and answer the given interview questions. The success of the interview is always thought to depend entirely on the interviewer, in this case the reporter. In fact, as a German TV editor once confided to me, it depends almost entirely on the interviewee; I personally guess the proportion should be 60-70%. So the hardest task for us would fall on how we can convince the intended interviewees to accept our request, and then on how we can make them give effective answers, meaning the answers that our “superiors” can accept. It’s really wretched, especially when you have to work with Vietnamese interviewees. It seems that every Vietnamese hates to appear on the screen, to publicize their opinion, or just to say something that makes sense. The reason I guess is that they are not much confident in their appearance, and that they have the tendency to evade responsibility. To put it another way, the Vietnamese dislike to appear on screen because of the fear that they may be bad looking or that the interview may possibly cause some bad consequences for them afterwards.

Strange as it is, at the same time many Vietnamese people like to see themselves on TV and make the most of every chance they have to show their preeminence, that they are more talented, more knowledgeable, more intelligent, more powerful, more influential, more like a dissident, etc. than others. So it goes without saying that although we must try hard to persuade people to talk to the camera, once they get started we find it equally hard to stop them saying or to say something to the point. And every idea they give will include at least one “I”, or “me”, or “mine”.

“All through the day, I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine
All through the night, I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine
Now they’re frightened of leaving it
Everyone’s weaving it
Coming on strong all the time…”

Sometimes I think I am living in a vanity fair where everybody’s wearing a sheeny mask and doing anything to raise themselves up. Every word is meant to add more values to the speaker. I narrowly escaped from bursting into laughter when I got a name card from T., a famous writer, which read:

Mr…. T., Doctor, Poet, Writer, Novelist
ASEAN Award in Literature, 2000
ASEAN Award in Literature, 2001
ASEAN Award in Literature, 2002

… on and on and on…

I must turn my face away to hide a wry smile, struggling not to scream with laughter in front of him. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “A visiting card of size 6x9 must be too small to list all of his status. Why did he not think of a A4-sized card? Wow, may I suggest that he gets such a card designed?”

The other day I saw another impressive name card, which read:

Chairman of the Cao Bang Association of Literature and Art.

“Oh no,” I thought, “We must have seen a Vietnamese Leonardo da Vinci! Who thinks there is such a genius in that remote area!”

People like such can be found in great abundance in Vietnam. However, no matter what they say, I do not hold any prejudice against them. It’s natural that people have the need to assert themselves, only that they must be politic enough to show their need in a more subtle way. Because we are passing through the “transitional period”, we can’t expect to see million examples of subtlety. Rather we will inevidently find ourselves in a society full of ridiculous people and stupid things, with us being part of.

Next post: more on this subject

Wednesday 17 January 2007

Cien Años de Soledad

That’s the Spanish origin of “100 Years of Solitude”. In the 4 previous entries, I have written about all the feelings we shared of sorrow, grieve, pity, anger, hope, worry, anxiety, disappointment, despair, and love. I have not yet mentioned a kind of feeling that I think can many times occupy your heart and soul. It’s loneliness.

This feeling is possibly the hardest to describe, and I am not sure that each of us – inexperienced journalists - has experienced it once or twice. To me only, it comes very often so that I sometimes think my job is characterized by fighting and loneliness. Since I was small, my mother often complained that I was like “a colossal mass of solitude”. Not more than 15 years later I would realize that being a reporter only makes me more like what she described. And very often the thought that “I am out of the place” finds its way into my mind though I hate it.

I remember the days I was working as an art correspondent, and I was in charge of reporting news on cultural events, say, a film festival, a fashion show, or an art exhibition. Writing news on a guitar festival, for instance, was not necessarily a hard task for me as I had for 5 years taken extra lessons on classical guitar, and logically I must have enjoyed the chance of attending music performances for free. But what scared me the most was that such performances would fill my heart with a very strange feeling, that I would call it a blend of loneliness and sadness. How many times I listened to the soothing music played on the guitar, and felt myself overflow with sorrow as I knew I would never be able to reach it, my guitar. I was a failer in music. I could not, and would never manage to put just one foot on the threshold of the music world. I looked at the guitarist, the singer, the orchestra, knowing well that I could never be one of them; I am totally out of the place. How many times I told myself that I could not hold on forever, that I must get out of it – the world of music, and never to return.

But memories were too beautiful to forget. I remembered what I wrote after a guitar performance in winter 2000.

He bent down. His face darkened while his fingers slid over the frets, giving out the sounds that I would never forget, the sounds that brought back memories of the past. It was a distant past that dated back from the early 1990s, full of love and happiness. It also was sometime in the mid-1990s, with glowing sunsets when I was sitting quietly in the Phat Diem church, listening to the church bell’ sound. It was a more recent past of Christmas season of 1997, when Hanoi was dimmed with winter haze, and in a small, old Hanoi garret I was strumming my guitar and let my imagination flow…

An angelic face
An angelic melody
Was it rhythms of tides or rhythms of emotions?
Was it just a dream?

Time went by and I had to give up all the dreams I once had. I left university, and began to work as a reporter, and I avoided listening to the guitar so that my old dream might fall into oblivion. But time after time it revived in a way that grieved me again and thus made my heart unable to put up with.

I went to watch The Magic Flute. Once again I felt back in my heart the sorrow that I thought was dead. I burried my face in the hands, wishing I could cover my eyes and ears so that I would no more see the sparkling stage light and get the sound of music which just awoke a dead love. But the music kept resounding to break my heart. No matter what I wanted, the beautiful sounds still came into my mind and stayed there days later. And all the melodies that I loved before came back to me: Milonga, Serenade Español (Sigño Poli), Menueto (Beethoven), Prelude 1 (Villa Lobos), Memories of Alhambra, Asturias (Albeniz), Spanish Dance No.5, etc. “My God,” I whispered to myself, “It’s a long moment of happiness. But can’t it be an everlasting moment?” I got back home, trying to banish those beautiful themes, but I failed. In vain I was trying to escape from feelings; in vain also I made lots of efforts so that someday I could find myself in the stage light, bending toward the guitar, and enjoying the most beautiful moments of life: living in the world of music. Despite such efforts, I would eventually find myself out of the place. There was only loneliness and sadness that filled my soul. En mi alma sólo tengo soledad.

And that’s “the reverse side of the medal”. Although I love art and music, and I love journalism too, I can’t feel happy to blend the two. Perhaps that’s the reason why I both love and hate to go to concerts. That was also a long sad story of mine being a reporter.

Loneliness. I think it is attached to our life once we work as journalists. We can't flee from it.

Next post: more on this subject

Saturday 13 January 2007

To Kill A Love (cont.)

Note: This writing is not aimed to criticize the VTV or any other television in Vietnam. I DO NOT mean to say VTV is a rubbish bin or anything similar. Any negative meaning or misunderstanding my irrelevant use of word may cause is accidental and therefore should not be inferred. I am sorry for my very bad writing technique and hope you can, with much effort, see what I really mean behind the derogatory words.

If you are a novelist, you may suffer from the sensation of envy and pain when you read a masterpiece by another writer, and feel sure that you can never be good as him (or much worsely, her). But if you are a journalist, sometimes you feel envious and sad not because you can never be that good, but because you feel you can do better but are not allowed any chance to.

Someone will respond, “Who prevents you from doing what you like to be better than them? Why don’t fling yourself into work, building new relationships, going searching for news, discovering new stories, etc.? Why not learn more, read more, see more, hear more, and complain less? You can’t do better, because you are obviously inefficient reporters. Don’t be so arrogant.” Well, there of course have not been any written laws blocking our access to chance, but the chance will be more certain if your father is a high-rank government official, your uncle is a military general, your brother is managing director in a bank, you work for a monopoly TV empire, and so on. On the contrary, the chance will get minimized if you are just who you are, working for a small newspaper owned by a bogus state-owned company, and, in the worst case, starting from a zero point, standing on your own feet.

Things go worse for you when you meet your “covert rivals” everyday, seeing their poor products, finding in them hundreds of mistakes and misconducts, feeling their arrogance in the form of pride and self-satisfaction, and tormenting yourselves that “we can do better, but we can’t.” Gradually you will see that you are just a grain of sand on the beach, you can’t expect to do anything differently. Rebellion and reform are luxurious funs, and no matter what you do, you will inevitably end up in a rubbish bin like VTV if you want to be graded as a “successful and high standard journalist”.

To kill a love, one doesn’t need to do much. Just let it grow and taste all the bitterness – and get nothing in return.

Who knew how hard we tried? Who knew how much we loved, and then lost?

Tragic was our case, in which we were working for an unauthorized television whose slogan was “difference or non-existence” (which would finally be rewritten as “difference and non-existence” or “difference thus non-existence”), whose coverage encompassed just a small part of Hanoi, and reached not more than 70,000 subscribers. But, together we lived such days, dears, when we were (almost) side by side, when we struggled hard for something better, sharing all bittersweet memories, bearing in our mind a common naïve thought that we were fighting against evilness. (In fact, we ourselves were ignorant victims of corruption, a kind of evilness.)

There were images that were captured and engraved deep on my mind. Like that of you, the cameramen, standing straight in harsh hurricanes, trying to shoot heart-felt scenes from very dangerous positions. Like the moments when you, Ha Son, used your smile and good-looking appearance to persuade some figure that she should allow time for you to conduct an interview. Like the moments when I stood in the front yard of the Hanoi’s Protestant Church, almost exhausted, desperate trying to find someone who could accept my intentionally dishonest interview. Like the moments when I smiled in the dark with the singers of The Magic Flute, for the joy they brought to my heart.

We lived such days of sorrow, grieve, pity, anger, hope, worry, disappointment, despair, and love. And we know we deserve more than that all: We are worthy of happiness for the way we were.

Am I just fooling myself?

Next post: more on this subject

Wednesday 10 January 2007

To Kill A Love

Do you ever feel that sensation? If you are a reporter like us, you will experience it when you read the article by another reporter, usually a very successful and famous one, and the product sucks. Something like a mixture of envy, annoyance, and sadness will touch your heart, occupying your mind and mercilessly breaking your wish of peace. I did not tell you, Ha Son, that when you rang me up half way through the TV show “Integration Night” (what a translation for “Đêm Hi nhp) produced by VTV, saying, “Sister, I really think we can do better than what they are presenting to us,” you almost moved my tears. At the very moment, I saw in you my former image, childish and naïve, feeling the desperate need to do something better, and, at the same time, knowing well that we can never have any chance to do it better. Or, more exactly, we are simply not allowed any chance, however slim it is, to do what we desire. Any kind of competition with VTV, the monopoly, state-owned TV empire, is incredibly ridiculous. No matter how dumb their products are, as viewers we have to accept them (in fact, there’s no other choice for TV viewers), and as reporters we are naturally asked to learn from them with respect. What we should repeatedly tell ourselves is ‘Hey, you can’t do what they have done, right? So the best solution is to shut your mouth up. Any kind of comment is undeniably the manifestation of arrogance and envy.”

So it grieved me much whenever I watched a successful TV reportage by VNN TV. I will never forget, and very few viewers I think can ever forget, once they have watched, what you have done with all your love. “The Modern-time Herald of Our Precint” [1], “I Go Buying Purple Hearts” [2], “Game Theory in Rubbish Dumping” [3], “APEC Volunteers, the True Hidden Beauty” [4], “The Untold Story of APEC Drivers” [5], etc., the reportages “that will go down in history” as we often joked. Don’t say we are haughty fools. We may not have been highly qualified journalists, but our love was true.

Who knew how much energy we spent on those products? Who knew how much love and belief we laid on them? Who felt our love? Who imagined how we produced those reportages under such poor circumstances, with all the love our heart can hold for journalism, for truth, for beauty, for good, and above all, for a better life?

No one did. But that did not matter much to us, because we did our work just for love. There was, at least in our heart, a struggle against lies, hypocrisy, and social corruption. (In the end, we ourselves became victims of evilness.) But unauthorized VNN TV was not VTV, the huge monopoly, and would never have any chance to become one. So, Ha Son, though I told you, “OK, honey, things will be all right. We will try harder and do better,” I must confess now that what I said was just to console you. Actually I just wanted to say: “Don’t ever love anything too much, dear, as long as you stay in Vietnam.” I saw in you the fire that can someday transform you into a successful journalist, and I was scared that you will get burnt instead.

So we just can swallow our pain, collegues. Without freedom (and of course, a state of law), fair competition and development is something utopian.

Foot notes:
[1] Mõ phường thi hin đi (Ngc Anh - Bá Trường)
[2] Tôi đi mua thu
c kích dc (Ngc Anh - Bá Trường - Xuân Huy)
[3] Lý thuy
ết trò chơi trong chuyn… rác (Hà Sơn - Bá Trường)
[4] Tình nguy
n viên APEC - v đp tim n (Hà Sơn - Công Sơn)
[5] Lái xe APEC, chuy
n bây gi mi k (Tiến Cu - Công Sơn)

Although I guess you will never be granted any official press card to be recognized as reporters, I still think of you as true Vietnamese journalists. Always do I, my very dear journalists.

Next post: more on this subject

Monday 8 January 2007

I feel sorrow, oh, I feel dream

“If you're a journalist looking to cover the biggest stories of our time there are essentially two options: Islamic fundamentalism and the rise of China. Both are multi-generational in their scope, and they will both have a huge impact on the world's future. To use journalistic parlance, they are "stories with legs".

So it's no surprise that journalists are flocking to the Middle East and China. And so it should also come as no surprise that many of those same journalists are turning out books about these subjects faster than most people can keep up.”

When I read these lines from a review by Jeremy Hurewitz on the Asia Times a few months ago, I saw more clearly than ever before how far we are lagging behind the west.

When, I wonder, Vietnamese journalists can find themselves in “hot spots” of the world to report news, just as their western colleagues are doing everyday. How long will it take until we can freely go to every part of the world to do our job without being beset with millions of things, including a restricted financial budget? Money shortage has always been a haunting issue for needy newspapers in Vietnam whereas very few journalists can live independent of sponsor. Poor Vietnamese jounalists, if only they could work as happy freelancers, free from all kinds of oppression: censor, poverty, harassment, nasty competition in hostile environments, etc.

When the US anti-terrorist war broke out in Afghanistan in 2001 fall, the whole world press was seething with enthusiasism, and it seemed like every journalist was in a rush for news reported from the hotbed of war. Something like an irresistable temptation was telling you, “If you are a real journalist, you can’t stay outside, dear. You have to get there, to the boilingpot in minor Asia, to tell the world what people are doing there, and to tell yourself who you are.” I bet that these thoughts obsessed so many journalists of those days, and Vietnamese journalists were not exceptions.

Actually, An Ninh The Gioi, the best-selling rag in Vietnam, was one of the few newspapers that could manage to send their reporters to Pakistan. (Remember, the place was Afghanistan’s neighbouring country, not the battleground.) But what they did would later turn out to be solely a big ridiculous joke. The self-claimed war reporters would stay at the hotel, having lunch with other guests, chatting with them, gathering some trivial things about the war, then they would write (a more high-tech way was to email) the piece of news to the Hanoi-based bureau. The head quarter would then rewrite the piece with a more attractive tone and have it published as “top story” on the newspaper. They must, of course, never forget making the most of design elements - you know, large font headlines running across the page, written in a striking language and accompanied with blurred, frightening black & white photos. That was more than enough for a reportage “from the scene”. Design elements are always needed in communication and I am not suspicious of their ability to attract audiences and to add values to the plain text of an article. The only thing that matters is that they were intentionally overused in this case to shield the nonsenses written by a goddamned self-claimed reporter and international relations analysist!

And remember, too, that not every reporters working for the An Ninh The Gioi had the honour of “reporting from the combat zones of minor Asia”. Only high-class reporter and chief analysist Nguyen Quang Thieu did.

I believed that more than 100 journalists, after reading Thieu’s articles, must have thought to themselves, “Damn him, the liar. Any journalist can write the same rubbish thing without going anywhere.” And I was among them. But we must also have admitted that we did not and might never have just a little chance to do what Nguyen Quang Thieu had done. If asked, “OK, you are paid by the bureau to go to the frontline, and work as a real war reporter there. Can you guarantee that your articles will be masterpieces?,” my reply would be a dead silence. I don’t know if I can, and I can’t be sure of anything before I finish it.

So shut up, ok?

We know, colleagues, if we open our lips to say something bad about someone considered by many to be respectful, there will be dozens of criticisms and challenges against us, like, “OK, can you do better than them? Silence? Hesitation? No, you can’t? So shut up, will you?”. Little by little, our prudence has grown big. We know well now that the safest way is always to hold our mind back, or else we will make fool of ourselves.

Every journalist wishes to have chances to assert themselves. But if you work in Vietnam, the chances will be faint hope in the absence of independence and freedom. And I don’t say this as a cynic. I say it out of belief.

Next post: more on this subject

Saturday 6 January 2007


This writing is dedicated to Ha Son, Khanh Duy, and Thanh Thao, the most lovable Vietnamese journalists in my eyes. Should there be any lucky chance for people like you to become successful journalists (and I wish you lots of luck), I hope you would then remember the things I said today. No, no, I am not going to give any lecture; I just want to tell you what I feel it is like to work as a reporter in Vietnam. Please notice that I am certainly not qualified for giving any judgement.

“Excuse me, I am news correspondent for the... I would like to have a brief interview with you about… Would you please tell me… OK. OK. Just one more question please. What do you think of…?”

When I started to work as a news reporter, that was one among a number of structures I learnt by heart and would say like a speaking machine whenever teasing an interview on streets with westerners. Perhaps my “data transfer rate” then amounted to 9 or 10 words per second, and I noticed that most of the time, the interviewee would bend down and look at me very seriously, instead of turning their back to my face and walking away. Well… so he would fall into the trap that I had already set up. Speaking as fast as I could was one of my tips to tease an interview outdoors with westerners. But it was just MINE, because it would not work in others’ case. The foreigners, when stopped by me speaking English so fast (and tenderly), would often bend down to see what this small bad-looking strange creature wanted.

Sometimes I thought these words might be ones that slipped off my mouth the most when I first began my work in journalism, though they certainly were not Freudian slips. Later on when I got older, I often recollected the stories I had in the early days of work, and smiled, thinking what a naïve and zealous correspondent I was.

True. There were times when the only thing that made me work was love. I loved to go out, I loved to meet all types of peope, feeling their lives, and, most significantly, I loved to know more. Although I am notorious for being an impatient person who easily loses her concentration, I can spend hours listening to a physicist talking about Doppler effect and light cone, or to a taxi driver complaining how hard his life is, or to a farmer who must be living under poverty line, or to an unemployed music conductor, or to an old artist who loves Ho Chi Minh with all his heart, etc. To tell the truth, it's part of my nature. I love to be with different people, especially unusual or even eccentric ones, and I have a great need for new things. So I rarely regret laying so much of my energy on work. I was convinced that ones can never be good at anything without a love for it, and if you love and do good at something, it will, in its turn, affect you in positive ways. Of course it may also spoil your life at the same time, but the happiness you have is enough to make for the unhappiness.

Yet I have never been an efficient reporter while very often do I feel unhappiness weighing on my heart.

If you are a Vietnamese journalist, you will have many more reasons to feel sad, dears. Whether the sorrow is worth depends just on you. But if you really want to be at peace, you probably should not go in for journalism.

Next post: more on this subject. The writing will be posted in 3 or 4 instalments, so be patient please.

Thursday 4 January 2007

Year End's Summary

I am sorry for this belated summary on 2006, the year we’ve gone through. Technical errors of the net is my excuse. Well, what is my 2006 like? I consider a year of no change as a meaningless time, so it is good for me that I have undertaken a lot of changes in 2006.

Love breakdown: one

Marriage proposal: one

Business failures/bankruptcy: three or more (and that’s all right, because all the failures were eye-openers)

Disputes, debates: uncountable, as usual

Defraudation: two. I was the victim.

Street fighting: none (thanks God)

Mindset change: many, as usual (and that’s always good, totally good for me to keep changing)

Most wonderful experience: moments I swung with The Magic Flute. A lot more words is needed to write about these beautiful moments, so I shall refer to it in another blog entry.

New relationships: some are good ones with people from the upper strata.

In the end, may I take this belated occasion to wish you a happy 2007? My trusted friends, after so many ups-and-downs, I still think of you all as angels heaven sent to me. Although I am a blunt cynic as many consider me to be, I am always in your debts. Believe me, I have not said anything good about you just because words can hardly explain my love for you. Thank you all, friends, for what you have done for me. You are my guiding light because even when I fall, I can still think to myself that you are somewhere out in the crowd calling me back. Only with your help I can have peace in my soul.

Like Nguyen Tat Thanh said to his teacher, Professor Remy, in the movie Till We Meet Again, Sai Gon, “France gets beautiful in my eyes because there is you, Sir,” (Nước Pháp đp trong mt em là nh có thy) I would like to say aloud: “Life gets beautiful in my eyes solely because I have you. Although I have never spoken it out, and many times I would prove to be an indifferent person, what I really want to tell you is that when there are you and people like you, how beautiful life is made, and how the life in Vietnam becomes worth living in your presence.”

And, especially for you, my dearest friend, I truly hope that 2007 will bring us luck so that I can see another you and another me who have got out of all the impasses and crises. Even the bravest person on earth needs a shoulder to cry on, and I need yours.

Don’t you comment on this entry please, as I don’t want any blog reader to know who you are. I want to keep you for myself only, my twenty angels.