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There is no other place like home

For the past thirty-four years living overseas, I had never felt this type of affection for my country, or this level of attachment to my people. This time it was completely different. All came so suddenly and I am overwhelmed with emotions.

This is my second week in Ha Noi. I have been thinking a great deal about my family, especially my paternal grandmother, who passed away in 1971, when I was twenty. My father, now in his 90's, was a local hero who had spent a good part of his life for revolutionary cause. He even received revolutionary credentials from a Prime Minister.

I am conscious that this is my homeland. Having lived in the United States, England, Hong Kong, and now in France, I've come to realise that there is no other place like one's homeland.

Last weekend I spent an entire day with my new friend Dung. In the morning we visited Uncle Ho's memorial site, then to the great museum of Viet Nam's recent history, just right next door.

Personally, I have deep admiration for Uncle Ho. I admire his long struggle and huge sacrifice for the country. In fact, I have read many books about his life, while living overseas. Most books written about him by Westerners have been biased. I rely on books written by genuine Vietnamese authors. I've also learned a lot about Uncle Ho from my father.

The memorial site had been closed for maintenance works. The day Dung and I visited was the first day it was reopened to the public. Dung said it was a good omen.

We walked to the history museum. As soon as we arrived, a security guard signaled to us that we should move to the line for foreigners. Dung protested, and I said to the guard, "I am Vietnamese". The guard then let us walk through the line for the "Vietnamese" without making a fuss.

This "discrimination" wasn't new to me. Often, my family in Sai Gon and relatives in the Mekong Delta said that I don't look like I belong to this country. They said the way I dress and the way I behave are "different". For them, that may be a compliment. For me, without admitting it, such comments make me feel alienated.

Dung and I walked leisurely along Ho Tay (West Lake). The autumn season had just begun and the weather was perfect that day. It was my first time visiting Ho Tay. I admired its beauty, the color, and the tranquility. We found a bench and sat for a long time, enjoying the lake's misty view.

I had met Dung only a few days before. He was increasingly dear to me, like a little brother. We had lunch at a restaurant on the bank of Truc Bach Lake, serving local specialties. This lake was another beauty. We sat at the restaurant for some hours as I was reluctant to say goodbye to the charming scenery.

We went to the old Thang Long citadel. There, witnessing the ruins, I felt a sense of profound resentment. Dung mentioned the Ly Dynasty, beginning 999 years before, at this site. I remembered very well the history lessons in high school in Sai Gon. I remembered all the Vietnamese dynasties. My mind quickly turned to the French. They did this to my country and to my people.

As we walked away from the site, my mind led to the American war. Suddenly I was overcome by a sense of guilt. I have lived in both countries. The French and the Americans had invaded my country and left behind so much destruction. The Vietnamese have forgiven their mistakes and their cruelty. But the Vietnamese will always remember.

This visit makes me think about my own future, especially about old age. I now know that I will go back to where I really belong, when I die.