After so much unimaginable trauma from the Vietnam war, how does a young Dutch-Vietnamese woman begin healing the emotional rifts in her family?
In Episode 6, I’m speaking with Yennhi Le and Orihana Calcines in the Netherlands about their documentary, “The Scars of War”, and how their Third Culture perspectives helped them to find each other, and embrace their identities as global citizens.
To get the most out of this episode, first watch "The Scars of War" (27 minutes) here: https://www.yennhile.com/documentary-scars-of-war
Watch "The Scars of War" (27 minutes) here: https://www.yennhile.com/documentary-scars-of-war
Sen Zhan, Yennhi Le, Orihana Calcines
Sen Zhan 00:23
The third culture is what emerges at the intersection between your culture of origin and the other cultures by which you've been shaped. Beyond Asian is a place for stories of global nomads with Asian roots brought up in diversity. Together, we explore the interplay of our pasts with our presence and our relationships with the multiple cultures we move in. These are more than conversations about Asian identity, their portraits of whole people, what keeps them up at night, what their hearts longed for, and the impact they hope to have on their communities. I'm your host Sen. Jan, A third culture kid born in China raised in Canada I'm currently based in Berlin. This series is a first step towards making peace with my own Asian background. And it's my hope that other third culture Asians will hear themselves reflected in our stories. After so much unimaginable trauma from the Vietnam War, how does a young Dutch Vietnamese woman begin healing the emotional rifts in her family? In Episode Six, I'm speaking with Danny Lee and organical seniors in the Netherlands about their documentary The scars of war, and how their third cultural perspectives help them to find each other and embrace their identities as global citizens. Welcome to the beyond Asian podcast to Jenny Lee and Ariana cockiness today so I'm speaking with the both of you today about your recently released documentary, The scars of war, which is a very personal story about Jenny, your family who comes from Vietnam and who emigrate waited to the Netherlands, where you were born. And this is a documentary is a short documentary of about 27 minutes. And it covers your personal journey to getting to know your your own family history better to understand some of the things that have happened to your family, as well as what it's been like for you growing up in the Netherlands and starting to slowly see these pieces of history come together. And Orianna is your filmmaker and oriana is from Venezuela originally. And she and her family also immigrated to the Netherlands where you both met. So this is a really interesting intersection of very different cultures, but also meeting in this liminal third culture space where both of you have similar experiences, despite your very different backgrounds. So I wanted to start first by asking you Jenny a little bit about what the background of this documentary is, and Maybe you can give a little bit of history first as to where things kind of got started for you and your family. So let's start maybe with the fall of Saigon, which is kind of what precipitated a lot of the things.
Yeah, sure. Okay, so it actually all started during World War Two, when Japanese forces invaded Vietnam, and to fight of both Japanese occupiers and French colonial administration, hoochie Minh was a political prison in Vietnam. He was inspired by Chinese and Soviet communism, and he formed the Viet Minh, also known as the lead for independence of Vietnam. And at one point, the Japanese withdrew, and the French left an emperor called doubt in control. And Holtzman saw an opportunity to seize control and took over Hanoi and declared it the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with hope as a precedent but the Emperor That was left in the south, claimed Saigon as its capital. And both sides, sides wanted the same thing. a unified Vietnam, however, both of them at different interest, as the South really wanted to stay connected with the West, and the North was inspired by communism. So they didn't want that. So the vigman, who once fought against the French, and the Japanese, became the Vietcong. And America started supporting the south, because they were really scared that communism would take over. So the war started in 1954. And in 1975, America withdrew and kind of abandoned the Vietnam really, and that led to the fall of Saigon in on the 30th of April 1975.
Sen Zhan 04:53
And how did that precipitate things for your father and his family?
So much And my mom like they were living in Hanoi back then. And hoy is situated in the middle of Vietnam. So really on the border of North Vietnam and South Vietnam, so that area was bombed a lot. And my dad, he didn't want it to be a communist. So he had no option but to to flee the country and go somewhere else.
Sen Zhan 05:23
What were they doing to the people who didn't want to be communist?
They were sent to camps. And basically, they were these camps where they said that they would teach you to learn more about communism, but really, it was just a concentration camp, and a lot of people died there and never came back from these camps. So my father really didn't have a choice but to leave and flee the the communism that has took over the country. Mm
Sen Zhan 06:13
So when the fall of Saigon happened, your father decided that he had to leave Vietnam. Yeah. Yeah. I imagined that that was not an easy thing to do.
No, definitely not. Because he grew up there. And his mom and his brother were still living there. And all of his friends were still living there. And he really didn't want to leave. But he really saw no other option, because he is also disabled. And he was also scared that he wouldn't be forced to go into military but he wasn't able to do that. So he was just really scared about what would happen to him if he would refuse to do that.
Sen Zhan 07:22
And that process of trying to leave Vietnam, can you share a little bit about that part?
So my father told me that he tried to flee three times. The first time, you're supposed to go on the boat to Malaysia, that would take him to Malaysia. And there was this person that would help him do that. But everything was done illegally, of course. So person told him to give him money, and it was also quite a big amount of money. And they were like, okay, after you pay, you have to come to the beach. We will pick you up and we'll take you to Malaysia. So we try to do that. But when he came to the beach, there was no one. And he basically got scammed. And he lost a whole lot of money. Yeah. And after daddy actually went to prison because the police found out that he was trying to flee. After he came back from prison, he tried again. And that time, he also got scammed again. And the third time he tried to flee. It was true the same person, but he went not. He went partly by boat. So he took a boat that was close to Cambodia. And then from Cambodia, there was a car to pick him up, and the car would take him to a refugee camp. So it was two different ways. And I think that was one of the reasons that it might have worked this time and not the other times.
Sen Zhan 08:56
And and your father was in the Cambodian refugee camp. for quite a while,
he was in a refugee camp for a few months. Which, which actually, I heard someone telling me the other day that some people aren't enough gems for 10 years. So I think that for many 18 months, I think I still think it's a very, very long time because also the circumstances in these camps are not that great. There isn't a lot of food. You don't know when people will be able to help you. You're just waiting there and living day by day, and really see like, there's almost no light at the end of the tunnel, we could say.
Sen Zhan 09:36
And your father, he was in his mid 20s or so when that happened.
Yeah, he was 23 when all of this and I'm turning 23 this year. Wow.
Sen Zhan 09:47
How does that make you feel?
I just can't believe it. I can't believe that at my age now turning 23 that I have to leave the country because it's not safe, not knowing where you're going and also moving to a Completely different country. When you don't know the language, you don't know the culture and you lose everything, you lose everything. And it really, really saddens me to think about something like that. And then there are still people nowadays that have to go through something like this.
Sen Zhan 10:16
Yeah, when you take such a big risk, you don't know if First of all, you're going to make it. And second of all, how long it's going to take. And if you you're ever going to see your family back at home again, you have no idea what your future is. You've basically thrown yourself into the universe and you hope for the best.
Sen Zhan 10:36
Yeah. And quite fortunately, things turned out better for your father in some time. So can you talk a little bit about what ended up changing for him after the time he spent at the refugee camp?
Yeah, after 18 months, he was invited by the Netherlands over because the Netherlands was accepting some refugees at the time. And of course, if it means more I was going on so they knew that there were a lot of refugees. From there. My father went on an airplane and went to the Netherlands and he arrived in an asylum center in Appleton, and from there on, they will organize like a house for you. They will organize a job for you. So that's how my dad finally ended up in Marsan thing with my mom and my sister.
Sen Zhan 15:35
You were born in the Netherlands some years later. And so you're a Dutch and you grew up in the Netherlands. So you speak Dutch you speak English and you speak Vietnamese. And you've also had a really interesting growing up experience because when your family moved to the Netherlands, they moved beside the house of an older couple who became your Dutch grandparents kind of your adopted great Dutch grandparents which is such an issue interesting, unique situation. What was that like to grow up with your Vietnamese parents and then your your adopted Dutch grandparents next door?
Oh, it was it was so beautiful because my grandparents like I think it's just so special already that I call them my grandparents because we're not blood related, but they really really see me as their grandchild. It was also quite difficult because, you know, like I grow up in a house where my dad really wants to maintain this Vietnamese culture. My mom was always a bit more flexible, you know, but my dad really wanted to maintain this really nice culture. Normally throughout the week, I would go to my grandparents because they were babysitting me five days a week, basically, from morning to the evening until my dad came home from work and then my dad would pick me up but they really raised me with Dutch norms and values and they are very clashing they are they are complete opposites. So that was really it was also really different. But also, I think really beautiful because I got to see two perspectives, and so curious as to how this just came about. Because in the documentary, there's a picture of you as a baby, basically, as an infant, with your grandparents. So they started taking care of you very, very soon after you were born. How did that that come to be? So when my mom came to the Netherlands, she saw that we had these Dutch neighbors. So you know, as your neighbors you, you go to each other's house, you introduce yourselves. And my mom told me that told my grandpa, my grandma said she would work a lot and my dad would also work a lot. This My dad was, my dad is disabled. So for him, it was a little bit hard to take care of me alone. And then my grandma said, Oh, you know, like, I wouldn't, I wouldn't mind watching her, you know, once or twice. I mean, I could do that. And that resulted in 10 years of taking care of me really, and I was more at their place, and I was at my own house and even so I was there from Monday to Friday, right? And then on Saturday, my mom and my dad were home. And then on Sunday, my grandparents would come over every Sunday to have a coffee in the morning and talk just about the week about life. So they really, really became my grandparents. And what I find really beautiful is that, at one point, my my Vietnamese grandparents in Vietnam from my mom's side, my grandpa was fluent in French. And he actually wrote a letter to my Dutch grandparents thanking them so much for taking care of me as they are not able to do it. But my my digital impairments were, this is so touching. I can see you know, how, how there could be the potential that there's jealousy or envy, that you know, you have these adoptive Dutch grandparents, but there wasn't there was just there was just gratitude that someone was there helping To You know, fill in for them when they couldn't. You were mentioning of course, the Dutch values and the Vietnamese values are sometimes in direct opposition with each other. What kinds of things were there friction about? I think there was a lot of friction in my parents, for example, they have extremely high expectations of me. And that put a lot of pressure on me and I'm talking about high expectations in school. They always really pushed me to be the best or do even better and take extra classes and but they also really had high expectations of me when it came to a beauty standards, for example, they could be very mean and I feel like a lot of human these people they are really close off at some point with saying things directly to your children about how they look is something that's very normal. And for me, that wasn't normal because no one would ever tell me these things. Like when I was at my grandparents place, they just accept me for who I am this, like despite of the pimples I made a might have had, or you know that my front teeth were a bit bigger than the other ones with my parents could just be so mean about that and they made me feel so insecure. Well, my grandparents were always so accepting and open where we open.
Sen Zhan 20:20
Yeah, yeah. How was it for them to navigate those differences with your parents, you know, because they're raising you with the Dutch values and the norms and the cultural norms and they were right next door to your parents. They were basically let you imagine that you're living together and you're just sharing, you know, a backyard or something. How did how did all of that kind of play out?
Yeah, it's um, we were actually sharing a backyard because we didn't have a fence. So,
Sen Zhan 20:45
so you It really was effectively like a family unit?
Yeah, it was like a family unit, basically. Yeah. But I have some great examples actually to explain how that situation was because I'm getting used to Culture, it's quite normal to hit your chest children. If they do something wrong, you know, you can just hit them. And that's okay. Because, you know, what else would you do? Why or to talk about stuff like that's not really seen as a solution. And my Dutch grandparents were absolutely shocked when How can you just hit your children like that? And my parents and my grandparents actually had a fight about that. Well, actually, my dad and my grandparents had a fight about that, because my dad would just scream like, this is our culture. And in our culture, this is normal. And this is what we do. And my grandma had tears to her eyes, because I think all of this happened when they were having coffee on Sunday, as they would usually do. And I think something happened and my dad would hit me and I think my grandma saw that and she was just so shocked. And she decided that she wanted to say something about that, because that's what Dutch people do. They're very direct, and we don't like something they would just tell so so my grandma My top my belly, why are you doing this this is so this is not normal. This is not how you treat your children. And I think that was really difficult for my dad because of course, he grew up in the knees, and he is now in this country where they have different norms and values. And I think for my grandparents, it was really hard to see, because they couldn't, they couldn't say something about it. But that's it. That was they didn't have any other power to change it because they were still my parents. Mm hmm.
Sen Zhan 22:28
I imagined that even if they weren't able to directly change something in the moment, that because there was this different kind of input that you wouldn't have had if you hadn't lived next door to them, or if they hadn't been in all involved in your life, that it might have caused your parents to reflect a bit afterwards. And you know, if it were to happen again and again, in different circumstances, maybe there would be something to make them think a little bit about what the what the differences were not to say that, you know, there's one right way or one wrong way. I think that this whole discussion about Third culture about you know, cross cultural values is really interesting because a cultural systems evolve within cultures, and everyone does things for a reason. That's something that I'm learning as well, because of course, from a Chinese background, it's very similar to the news background, everything that you said. I was like, Uh huh. Uh huh. And, and I didn't have Dutch grandparents, I didn't have Canadian grandparents living next to me so. So I didn't have those kinds of direct inputs the same way as you did. You know, and I also went through like, the, the whole kind of, what's the problem with my family? How come they're treating me so much different than how I see my friend's parents treating them? And which culture is better? And you know, like, what's wrong with Asian culture? I thought a lot about those things. I talked a lot about those things. And these days, I'm really trying to understand how things seem to be right when you have the right context for them and I wonder you know, in Vietnam When the parents are hitting their kids, but all the parents are hitting the kids and so that really is a normal thing. Does it feel as traumatizing when that happens? Because you just talk to your friends, right? Yeah, we all roll getting beaten.
Yeah, actually, I'm talking to a lover, other Asian friends right now I see that, you know, it was not just my parents, I see that it was really all Asian parents that are doing this. And I don't think it's okay. But I do see now that my parents also see that it was wrong. And they also see that talking works much better than just hitting your children. Because in the end, if you don't go to the root of the problem, you won't solve it. And you're not getting to the root of the problem if you just hit your kids. Because you're just Yeah,
Sen Zhan 24:45
yeah, it's it's trying to address the symptom of something else that's going on deeper.
Yeah. And on the other hand, they also somehow don't blame my parents because this they are doing. That's what I see now though, but back then. I do, but now I do. They're also doing the best they can and the best that they learned from their parents. So in some way, I don't want to blame them. But I'm happy that they see now that this might have not been the right the right way.
Sen Zhan 25:17
Yeah, and I think that's a really mature conclusion to have come to, or maybe it's a process that we're all kind of working through, which is, we can only do what we know. And what we know is determined by the environment that we live in and the resources that we've had access to, and how we've been treated when we were growing up. And so there are all these like, innate things that you don't ever really question until you might come into a contrast when you go to a different place or when you encounter you know, other parenting styles. Tell me about some of the other things that growing up was like, you know, so you were you were a minority of visible minority growing up in the Netherlands. But you know, your Dutch you're a completely integrated into Dutch culture. Did you feel Dutch while growing up?
Um, I feeling Dutch came with phases in my life. I think anything could be like, I feel like the first couple of years I felt very Dutch because I was surrounded by white people. My grandparents were white people. And I didn't I just grew up as a normal Dutch kid, even though there was a difference because my parents were getting to me. So sometimes I would learn something about getting this culture. But as I became a little bit older, I saw that I was different and people started treating me differently. And people also started bullying me by how I looked, because, you know, I didn't have blond hair or blue eyes. And I also didn't want it to be linked with being Vietnamese because it was something that Make me look different than the rest of my whole class or the friends that I have. It was quite hard because, you know, like, when you're younger, it's so nice to see a role model to see, you know, a big diversity in, let's say, for example, commercials because that makes you feel accepted. And that makes you feel seen. But as a young child, at one point, I didn't feel seen at all. And the bullying that was, that was really bad. And I would come home from school and tell my parents that, you know, these kids at school would bully me and they are saying, like, calling me Chinese and saying that my eyes are so chunky and that I don't look normal. And I will tell all these things to my parents and my parents would just say, Oh, you shouldn't say something back. Just keep quiet. Like that's the best thing to do. Just keep quiet. And by saying that to me, I felt like I was not heard and I was not seen And that my parents were not taking me seriously. And then I would go to my grandparents. And I would tell my grandparents that this was happening. And they were like, you have to say something back, you have to say that this is not okay. And you have enough for yourself, you really need to do that. So next time someone says something to you just start doing that. And I actually started doing that. And people stop saying all these things to me. But this feeling of not being heard and not being seen, it still remained in after some years.
Sen Zhan 28:34
I think about why the advice was so different. And I wonder if a confrontation was so discouraged by your parents, because confrontation with authorities, or people who are picking on you back in Vietnam could have resulted in something really tragic. You know, you could have been beaten you might have been killed. And so I wonder if the advice to just keep quiet and don't do any thing that comes from that kind of self preservation to be like, you know what, just let the person have his way, it's better that you come out of this alive than making a stand and possibly not being able to come out of it. Whereas in Dutch culture, totally different circumstance, you know, it's not being ruled by, by an authoritarian regime, and there's a lot more civil society and, and, you know, it's just, that's just what you would do in the Dutch society. So it makes sense to me that they would have taught you that, but I can imagine if you know, they had been in Vietnam, and that was the advice they had given, then it wouldn't have been
appropriate. I definitely agree. And I think that somehow because my mom she was, she always tried to make me feel better when I came home crying and all these things, but it was mostly my dad, and I think he was still in this survival mode. You know, so maybe would have had like back, you know, in Vietnam, as you're saying. So I think that actually might be true. Yeah.
Sen Zhan 29:59
And so You said that, you know, feeling Dutch came in phases, how did things change?
So, in the beginning, I felt really Dutch because all of my friends were like that. But at one point, you know, I started being bullied. And that made me aware of the fact that I am Dutch, but I'm also something else. But the only frame of reference I hadn't fit in this culture was, of course, my living my home situation, my family situation. And that wasn't that great. So for a long time in my life, I didn't want to know anything about getting in this culture, about about the traditions and norms, the values that they have, because I saw it as something really bad and something that really hurt me, also made me somehow traumatized. So I didn't want it to be linked to that at all. But at one point, I started to become really interested in the culture and I saw that what makes me different, makes me unique, and it makes me stand out. as well, so I started seeing it as something to be proud of. And that's that led to me doing a lot of research and starting to ask my parents a lot of questions about, you know, how Vietnamese culture is and how my family is living out there. It's really funny because when I look back at it, I see these clear phases of, you know, being somehow in denial, and then going from denial to accepting it. And I think, right now, I'm at this point where I'm really owning it.
Sen Zhan 31:31
I want to talk about how it came to you and Orianna to decide to make this documentary together.
Right. So I am a fashion school right now. And at one point, my textbook program started and I wanted to follow this arts minor at the Arts Academy. And I did that and basically, our assignment was to create a product that could be anything and that was around the time that it I started doing a lot of research on the Vietnam War. Because I want to understand what had happened and what kind of impact it had on the people there and even my own family. And I watched this really long and extensive Netflix documentary on the Vietnam War. And that's around the same time that I started to ask my father a lot of questions. And it was really funny, because normally when I talk with my dad on the phone, we literally talk for one minute and it's basically Hey, how are you? I'm good. How was school? Yeah, it's good. Okay, well say hi, tomorrow.
I can relate.
Yeah, that's basically how our conversations would go. But then I was watching like, it was over the summer. And I called him and I asked him like, hey, like, I'm watching this documentary. And I'm, you know, I'm seeing this American perspective. And I was just wondering about your perspective. And then we talk for 20 minutes on super long, you know, that's Yes. interest and then I was like, Okay, so this is interesting. I want to know more about this. And I realized like, okay, I should do something that's personal, but also has a big impact on society nowadays. And that's how I realized that I wanted to do a documentary about the Vietnam War, and about how it has affected my family and everyone nowadays in society. So I met Ariana about two years ago, I think, or even longer. And we met somewhere very randomly on a sad it was a recording of a music video from this Dutch rap group. And I don't know we just started talking. And she was so incredibly nice and I instantly felt a connection that whole day long and
we're hanging around like we were friends for 10 years like right buddies. It was so weird. So we I it's was such a very, very strong impulsive because I saw her sitting there. Wow, she's really pretty. There's something about this girl, shut up or you know. And then like five seconds after that she was like, Hi. I was like, Yes. And we were just I don't know, like, the dynamic duo of the day. Yeah, we were really hitting it off and I
felt this energy and I was like, Okay, this is so nice. So, um, when I decided that I wanted to do a documentary, I was like, okay, because I had no experience in creating a documentary at all. And then I was waiting. And I remember that Brianna told me that she's doing production and direction and editing and all these amazing things. So I literally sent her a text and I was like, Can I call you because I have this idea? Oh, yeah. And I called her. And then I basically pitched it like really quickly. And she was like, Yes, yes, yes, I want to do this. I want to do this. And I was like,
Oh, my God, amazing. And then we met at the school where I dropped out. I dropped out of school. Were you any good at that? Academy I dropped out of it because I was like, I can't do this. I so it's the most funny circumstance ever. So you're like, I'm back. I'm back baby and I'm gonna we're gonna own this place. And we did. We mean you
Sen Zhan 35:20
did and you did. That's amazing. I wish I were there to see it just kind of like the two people showing up and and just deciding that you're gonna overwhelm the art school with this
project. Absolutely. For me, it was also like a rocky thing where I was like, you know, I don't need this school to make something amazing. And then we got like the highest grade of all of the students It was such a me fighting final rounds to come back.
Sen Zhan 35:45
Why was it that you had dropped out?
Um, I very, very quickly realized that the people in my class were nothing like me and and I always have a little bit of trouble. Connecting to two people. So you know, I was in fights with teachers. And after two months, I was like, I can't do this for four years. I don't care about that stupid diploma, you know what I'm out of here. And I'm sure happy I did that, because I would have missed four incredible years of fantastic, and not fantastic experiences that really helped me to where I am now and I wouldn't have met in so.
Sen Zhan 36:28
So you decided to make this documentary together. And of course, it's going to be with the nice family, and there's going to be a lot of interactions in Vietnamese. So I wanted to ask the both of you what it was like to do that interview. So, you know, Jenny, how was it to interview your parents on camera about these really sensitive topics, and Adana? What was it like to be the person holding the camera and not understanding what was happening unless you speak Vietnamese, which I'm guessing
you don't? I do not It was absolutely terrifying to interview my parents because we had never talked about these topics before. I always wanted to ask them, but you know, I didn't want to hurt him them or, you know, make them feel bad or whatsoever. And so when I asked them like, Hey, I'm making this documentary. Is it okay for you guys to be in it? I was so surprised that they actually said yes. Especially my dad, like, you know, he's a very close person. So yeah. Like when they say yes, I realized, like, I think they do want to talk about it, but maybe because I never asked, they never really opened up. Right? So it was also really scary to talk about this with them, because that would mean that they had to be vulnerable with me. And that's something that is extremely difficult for them because you know, in, in Vietnamese culture, and I think in Asian culture, also a little bit it's not really usual to talk about your feelings to really Be able to process them is something that's very difficult to them. So with this in mind, I just knew that it was going to be difficult. But I really felt like I had to do like, there was this feeling inside of me from the beginning. Like, I just knew I had to do it for me and for my family, and that made me decide to really pursue it.
Sen Zhan 38:22
And how is it for them to be talking about it on camera to you?
I think starting with my mom, I think it relieves a lot of emotions for her because she is so incredibly resilient. And after talking to her, I really saw that and realize that and the sacrifices she made for us are just like just Well, just really like they still amaze me and I really saw that she really enjoyed talking about it because I felt like she wanted to talk about it for a long time. But of course, we cistern I like we never really asked her. And for her, I think it was also easier to talk about all these things. metadata, my dad, because my dad is a very close person. And, you know, like my mom, she didn't really experience the war like my dad did. So for her, it was always easier to talk about things. But for my dad, he was so incredibly nervous while talking about what happened to him, and Orianna. And I actually had to record the interview with my dad a couple of times, because in the beginning, there was something wrong with the camera, then there was something wrong with the microphone. And then we had to come back a week after because something else was wrong. So we ended up recording it three times. And every time we talked to him, he told us a little bit more, and told us a little bit more about his emotions and about the things that he had seen and the things that he felt. And I really I'm so happy that we made those mistakes because I feel like you We only had recorded this once. He wouldn't have told us as much as he did now.
For me, it was very nerve racking. I don't know if anyone can make a documentary for cheaper than we did. I mean, I did the camera work, the sound work, I edited it, I was a director and I'm really used to working on projects that have a very, very extensive pre productive phase. Like I usually write sketches or music videos, and that just takes a long time before you get on set and everyone knows what you're going to do and this is the exact opposite. You have like an idea, okay, Yanni. Today, you're going to talk to your mom, do you have some questions you want to ask her? Okay, great. Let's see how it goes. And you have such an enormous responsibility to just make sure everything goes well. And there isn't a lot of margin for error. anyone's very nervous to talk to her parents, but I was very nervous, just making sure everything went well. You don't really get a lot of shots at this. It was a very, very, very stressful but I'm really happy with everything we've got at the end and I'm really happy that we didn't rehearse it and try to make it as spontaneous as possible. For example, Danny's mom really openly just cried and talked about really hard things and I could have cried in front of a stranger. I don't understand how things went the way they went, but it was pretty perfect to speak with this Vietnamese family about very complicated subjects and have it go so well and never have a feeling that anyone is very uncomfortable except for maybe your dad. Yeah, any but that also got a lot better than that. During conversation, I saw him relax. So I think a lot of it was just luck. Yeah.
Yeah. My could have gone very differently very, very differently. And also, I think, especially my dad, because this was that was also the last interview we were doing. Like, although I felt really confident about doing, I mean, of course, I was scared to do all the other interviews, but I felt a bit more confident. But with my dad's, I just, I just, I was terrified. I was terrified, because I didn't know what to expect and, but he was just so nervous, and also during the interview, and he's sitting there, hugging this pillow, and you can really, really see that, you know, for him, it was so tough to to talk about these things. Wow.
Sen Zhan 42:39
And this coming from someone who's lived through such unimaginable places. And but but I can also see, you know, maybe this is the first time that he's talked about it in such detail or maybe been asked about it. Because even with the other Vietnamese people who came with him, maybe it's something that they don't want to talk about. When they see each other. Maybe they want to rather forget about that time. And so who else would he have to talk about that? You know, it's even something that of course, he would probably want to forget himself, even though we can't just forget those things,
because they are what made us. But definitely, and I think there is this, no one in the Vietnamese culture really talks too much about, you know, all the refugees and what happened to them. And I feel like my starting asking these questions, you know, it's not like my parents don't want to talk about it, but just no one ever asked them. And I think asking them is just such a great first step to opening starting the conversation.
Sen Zhan 43:38
Do you remember what words you said to your parents when you first told them that you wanted to interview them for the documentary?
I tried to explain it to them a little bit. But you know, like, normally when I try to explain something to my parents, they kind of understand it, but you know, not completely. So I think they only ended Dude, what I had done after I released a documentary about three to two weeks ago, and I started telling them about other Vietnamese people living across the globe that are seeing this documentary and that they are seeing that my parents are such strong people, like I've told them this and that's the moment that they realize like, Oh, so you made a documentary. Oh, okay. Okay, so, only after you finished the documentary, did they understand what it was? Yeah. Like I. I asked him to interview them. They were like, Yeah, okay. Sure. Yeah, you can do that. And I I tried to explain it. I was doing a documentary, but I don't think they realize like, what kind of impact it would have on the Vietnamese community. And
I don't think anyone knew that would happen. And no one could have ever, ever, ever predicted the impact this would have. No, I didn't know. I have no idea. Definitely
Sen Zhan 44:54
not. And it's just beginning. This is just the
start of it. It is just the beginning. You know, I made this documentary to start the conversation with my parents and heal our family somehow. And I never would have imagined that it would have this big of an impact on on everyone. And I just, you know, I get these messages from people that are telling me that they are so inspired that they also started asking questions to their parents. And it's not only people from the Vietnamese culture, but also people from different cultures. And seeing that it inspires other people. It It leaves me speechless every time because starting a conversation is the first step towards healing and everyone deserves that inner peace and everyone deserves to be reconnected with their roots and their family because that's where
it all started. Have you parents seen the documentary?
Yes. My parents have seen the documentary. In first instance. I wanted to watch it together as a family, but my dad is still In Vietnam due to the corona virus, and yeah, but he watched it by himself and my mom also watched by herself and I actually maybe even preferred that over watching it together for the first time. Actually, yesterday I had a really long conversation with my mom about this because after she watched it, I think she needed some time to process everything. And yesterday, we had a really open conversation on our family. And I asked her if she sees the difference of before the documentary and after, and she said she she did it herself human Yeah, in herself and in our family. And seeing that it affected her and seeing that. She realizes that talking is a really great solution to come to the root of problems. Seeing that she's not too old to change really makes me feel like there's a lot of hope, even for the older generations because If you like younger generations, like my sister, for example, they are very adaptable, they are very flexible as it's easier for them to to learn all of these new things.
Sen Zhan 47:10
What this reminds me of is in storytelling, it often seems counterintuitive that the more specific and the more personal The story is, the more universal it is. And I I think about that a lot when we do these interviews for the podcast, which is that, you know, we go really deep into the personal stories of our guests and, and I really believe that the more details we can get, the more you can imagine what it was like for this person. Like you're reading a novel or watching a movie about someone's life, the more you can kind of, you know, see the parallels in your own life about something. Yeah, I definitely do see that too. You recognize yourself? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. My parents had Luckily, not gone through anything as traumatic as your parents did, but Of course, they had their own traumas, you know, we immigrated from China in the time of political unrest. And also my parents grew up during the Cultural Revolution. So communism has touched all of our lives in a very big way. And not only because of Asian culture, but I just think of parent children relationships. There's always some kind of communication divide, there's a generation gap. There's going to be differences if you're an immigrant. And what I'm learning now is just how far the trauma of immigration will carry on to future generations, even if those are not first generation immigrants. trauma can carry on to second and third generation or even beyond if the trauma is significant enough and if it's not processed by each subsequent generation.
Secondly, what Mr. Sachsen our fantastic psychologists. Ah, yes,
Sen Zhan 48:51
yeah. So this brings me to my next question, which is so you you sought some treatment for yourself at war trauma treatment center. Enter,
I have gone to a shrink myself. And that was not for what treatment but because I thought there was something wrong with me. And that is why my parents were treating me the way they were. And yeah, I always thought that I was the problem. And at one point, I think I saw my shrink about a year. And then at one point, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't really the problem. It was my dad and his trauma. And that gave me such a different perspective on everything. And that's what makes it so interesting, because for my documentary, I talked to this amazing head of trauma at the Senior Center, which is a center that treats people with war traumas. And he also says in the documentary that he thinks it's so strongly I was seeking treatment because if you think that you are this annoying little girl Because that's what your parents made that happen. That's how your parents made you feel or made you believe, then that's what you pass on to your children. And yeah, and after talking to him, it was so amazing because that was the first time I met him. And he could say so many things about my life, while he I never told him anything about myself, but he knew so many things about me because this is this pain is connected. It's with all people that have gone through what trauma, whatever word it is, because I've also gotten a lot of reactions from people that have told me that their parents experienced the Japanese invasion war, and the symptoms are basically the same. And I think that's what's so great about the documentary too, that it's about Vietnamese culture, but it's also touching so many other cultures.
Sen Zhan 50:56
And can you share what some of these really common symptoms Have trauma work for you, the ones that you identify with?
Yeah, I think what I really noticed with my dad is that he had these mood swings, or he could go from really happy to really angry, you know, just just like that. And that was always really scary. And then when he got angry, I was so terrified of him because there was this deep rage inside of him that just, you know, made him like, almost lose control that made me really afraid of him. And I think these somehow thought that he was still in the war because he was extremely overprotective of me. Then at one point, he even installed cameras inside of our living room. And my sister and I, we always felt so weird about them, because why would you like Do not trust us? Do you, you know, like, I always saw that he just never really trusted anyone. And that made me realize that there was something going on because you know, when I was over at my Dutch friends there My parents weren't like that. Their parents didn't have cameras installed in the living room. And that made me realize that there was something going on. And it was not because of me, but because of something that he must have had experienced.
Sen Zhan 52:15
This is something that really speaks to me. I'm thinking about all the things that I believe about myself that was told to me by my parents, and I carry those things, you know, and I believe them to be true. And I've never really thought, you know, is it because my parents are they were afraid of something when they put that stuff into me. And now I just go around my life being like, Okay, well, I guess I guess I'm just kind of this person. I guess those are my weaknesses. I guess this is always how I behave. When really, those might be the echoes of their own trauma that they haven't realized.
Yeah, and it's really hard to reflect on that because if you think that that's the way you just are, and you'll never really think about where it really really comes from on the deeper layer than you will never get To what made you this way? And I think that's why it's so important to really start these conversations with your parents and see what happened to them. Because you know, when you're young, you copy so much on what they teach you.
Sen Zhan 53:15
Do you think your parents would ever think the same kind of treatment for themselves? I don't think so.
I don't think so. I don't think it's not in the culture. I I do believe that after doing this documentary, they do see that talking about certain problems is really good. actually have an example for that. Like a while ago, mom, my sister and my parents had a really big fight about something. And normally, they would always call me and ask me to be the medium or they don't really ask, they just assume that I'm the mediator. I guess I am. Right. And, and I was mediating and I one point I was like, You know what? No, we are all we all learn from doing a documentary. We're not going to do it the same way as we always do. Or actually, I'm actually going to force that Have you to sit down with each other and we're going to talk. And my dad's reaction was, what do you mean talk, I had already said everything I wanted to say there was nothing left for me to say anymore. And, you know, like, that's how it usually goes. So after having dinner with my parents, I called my sister downstairs, and we sat down, and I was still the mediator, but it was a bit more open, because I asked my sister to tell her side of the story. And I asked my dad to tell his side of the story and this in Dutch or Vietnamese or both. Um, it's always like a mixed culture language. Yeah.
Sen Zhan 54:38
That's a nice, I don't know if you have a word for it,
or Yeah, exactly. It's always like a little bit of a mix. And then we talked about it. And at one point, we came to conclusion and my dad said it out loud. He was like, I just, you know, I just don't want something to happen to you. That's why I'm saying this. And I think he was a bit shocked that he said that himself because it was really you know, Know the root of who emotion Yeah, whoo emotions. Exactly. So he was very like, Oh shit, I actually sent that. And then we just all started crying because my sister as well because she realized that he's not being so overprotective because he wants to bully her because He cares. And for him to say that to my sister, you know, it made them realize like, okay, there's more going on. And the day after my mom called me and she was like, thank you so much for bringing all of us to the table and talking about what happened because this is the first time in 22 years of my life that we actually talked about the problem, discussed it properly, and listen to each other, actually, not just screaming things at each other, but actually listen to each other and what you feel and what you're going through. That just showed me that the whole documentary I did it, you know, with a reason and that it's working. My family's opening up and it's just so beautiful. It's so beautiful. Yeah.
Sen Zhan 56:00
It's a huge milestone. It's such an event, because now you have a precedent. Now you can say, Hey, remember the time that we all sat down, and we talked about that problem and how much better it went? We can do that again for the next thing and the next thing.
Exactly, exactly. And I see that we're all growing. And my parents are also still growing and seeing that, you know, I was so afraid that even after making this documentary that it would be too late because they're older and especially my dad like he doesn't adapt that quickly to anything you know, after this conversation. Salt that they're open for change. And that gives me so much hope for the future. And you know that I can process this, start healing, and not pass this on to the next generation.
Sen Zhan 57:14
Well, it's already starting with your sister, you're already starting to heal things for her. So it's not even the next generation. It's already happening in this generation.
Well, it's my two.
Sen Zhan 57:24
Beautiful thank you so much for sharing that. It's It's such a personal deep thing. And what I can say about my own situation is that sometimes healing feels like it's so far away, as you say, you know, sometimes I wonder, Is it too late? I don't think it's too late. I don't think it's ever too late. But sometimes it feels like we're worlds away from each other. How can we possibly start to connect with each other? There has been so many hurts of the past, there's been so much misunderstanding so much miscommunication. Where do we even begin? And sometimes they wonder, you know, do we begin small or do we begin big or is there really Right answer. You know, for some people making a documentary, which is a pretty big thing, I think, starting from not talking at all to be like, I'm gonna make a documentary about our our life. That's a pretty big thing, you know. And I wonder what might be a small step towards that if you're if someone isn't ready to take such a big step.
I think to start small, I think it's really important to show kindness, to show openness to each other situation and to the circumstances. Because when you don't have that attitude, you'll always be blaming each other. It's always but you did this and that's why it hurt me and do that. And then, you know, it just gets worse and worse. And for me, I could only start this healing process by thinking, Okay, my parents only did this because they were trying their best. And I tried to, I try to accept that. And that was, I think, the most difficult like part of this whole process because How do you just accept all this pain? How do you accept that they treated you that way? That was the most difficult step. But after you are trying to get at peace with that, that's when you can start healing and listen to each other. I think that's the best advice I would give. If you want to start small, show understanding and show kindness.
Sen Zhan 59:25
That's it's such a beautiful and simple way to start. I'm wondering about fear. And this is a question for both of you. Because I find that what sometimes stops me from being open and curious and wanting to show kindness and wanting to be generous, is that I'm afraid that it's not going to be reciprocated or it's not going to be well received. Or I don't know what's going to happen. You know, if I reach out, how have you both dealt with situations of fear when you want to do something, but you just don't Know how things are gonna work out?
That's a very good question. I am a person who I always try to be as logical and practical as I can. So anything that has to do with dealing with any kind of emotion, that is very, that is already, like uncontrollable is very hard for me but fear, I have learned by experience really just by just by trying that usually, the fear of the problem is so much bigger than the problem itself. And it has until this point in my life, it has never not been that way. But being afraid, ultimately is always such a it's so much bigger than when you actually do the thing. I always think oh, okay, well maybe didn't go perfect, but it really wasn't as bad as I had thought it was with making this documentary. I really went into it with that attitude. It was of course way harder for Danny because she was actually the person who was going to do that. But we also know when we were driving, when we're in the bus, for example, talking about oh my god, how are things gonna go? We always came to the conclusion that it was even if it went wrong, that was also okay. I think fear is something that is much bigger than the problem itself, usually. And that's just, you just got to go through a lot of different kinds of situations to realize that.
Yeah, I think I agree as well, because we made this documentary about one and a half or two years ago, and there is a reason that we didn't release it sooner. I was so terrified. I was extremely terrified because you put yourself in such a vulnerable spot with every you know, difficult decision you do. You put yourself in a vulnerable spot. And by being vulnerable, it's so easy to get attacked. And and at one point, I decided that I'm going to own this because this is my story. And this is who I am. And as difficult and as ugly as sometimes was, this is who I am, and I can't deny it. And seeing that after really owning this and putting this out in the world, only good has come up this. And I also truly believe that there is no way for you to grow inside your comfort zone. And yeah, this was so far so far out of my comfort zone. Oh my god, like, this was really far out of my comfort zone, but I just, I just thought about what it might do to other people and how it might affect other people. And with that in mind, I decided to do it anyway. And really, all I see now is just a chain of positive reactions. And also for me personally, right, like also like, seeing that it affects so many people. You know, it's it's Really all over the world, it's really beautiful. And I am, I actually recently watched this other documentary that also made me decide to release it. And it's a Vietnamese documentary with English subtitles. It's called living in kindness. They say that kindness is in every person. And just the thought of kindness inspires me so much like, how kind am I actually how kind Am I to other people, and that really opened up everything. And it showed me a different perspective. And I was like, I'm so inspired by this, I want to show kindness to the rest of the world as well. And that's what made me decide to release it. After all, yeah,
Sen Zhan 63:40
of course, there's been such a chain of positive reactions there. There has to be when you put yourself out like this and you share something so vulnerable and so personal. It's going to resonate with people who and we know there are a lot of people who must resonate with the story, as you say, whether they're in the Netherlands or elsewhere in the world because the Vietnamese accident Has, it's just been such a cataclysmic event in history. And now there are people of the second generation or even still the first generation who wants to deal with these issues, you know, and they want to hear about other people's stories like that. So I can totally understand. And, you know, I'm not surprised at all that there's been such positive reception. And I'm wondering, you know, this is kind of like a personal wonder as well, which is, when we put ourselves out like that, we do make ourselves potentially subject to criticism and things like that. Was there anything that you were afraid of, in terms of criticism?
I was scared that documentary wouldn't be good enough, somehow, that yeah, that I didn't explain the story or the situation. Because it's so personal, right. And I knew that there were other people that went through this and I was just scared that I didn't represent them good enough. Or, you know, like told the story good enough. I think that was my biggest fear, too, that had nothing to tell that people will be like, oh, okay, well Yeah, okay, like, I don't know, I was just really scared I would have been, you know, also, I think that Ariana put so much time and effort in the editing and everything and and when I saw the last version, I literally was in tears again because she again because she was able to tell my story in such a good and amazing way that it couldn't have been done better. This is literally the best version of my story and I am so eternally grateful for that because I don't think it happens that often that you call someone you pitch your life story and they're like, yeah, sure let's do this sounds good. And I don't think that happens a lot and I don't think you have any idea what you have done for me and by putting your name on it. No, I'm serious. You putting all this time in me like it literally you So kind, it's so extremely tight. And I'll be eternally grateful for that really
well, staying in the theme of being kind, you know, a lot of people ask me for help. But I don't always really get the idea that people really want to do something with a vision and with passion. And after two minutes of talking to you on the phone, I was like, she really wants this. I have no idea how we're going to do this, but I think it's worth to try. So, you know, thank you as well. This has been one of the most one of the most special projects in my life. So
yeah, you're amazing. You are so amazing.
Sen Zhan 66:53
I feel, I feel I feel like I am so lucky to be able to witness this kind of beautiful connection between the Have you know, I'm the documentary maker now. audriana who knows what will happen in the future for you as a result of the work that you've done here? It seems like you have a really great talent for making these documentaries and framing the life stories of people.
area of expertise, but apparently, it worked out. Okay.
Sen Zhan 67:23
Yeah. I want to ask you some questions about yourself now. So you were also an immigrant to to the Netherlands and you also grew up as part of Dutch society. You are Dutch in your own way. What What was it like for you to grow up in the Netherlands?
Terrible, was extremely hard. And I think the most important word is lonely. I am not sure if I was such a lonely kid because I'm just a weird kid or what I'm certain that not being Darch and not being able to fit in with at least others. Kids interests and other kids families was a very large part of it. Yeah, it was a very lonely and very existential you for someone you know, you're you shouldn't be nine years old and thinking about things like like you just said what culture is better? And where do I want to fit in? What part of me is resonating more with what I want to become in life you shouldn't be playing with like stupid kid stuff was very I don't know. It's like like any said in the documentary, you're just forced to grow up so much quicker than you usually would, I think, but I always try to look at it this way. If my childhood was really easy, I would not be the person I am today. And there was a long time where I wanted where I really craved to experience the other side of it just being this normal, blond, blue eyed, skinny white kid with like two parents who still go out on together and I was just didn't happen and it's okay now. I'm so okay with everything. Now if I told you it was easy, I wouldn't be lying.
Sen Zhan 69:10
I don't think any immigrant or immigrants kid can ever say that their lives have been easy,
right? Yeah, that's what I'm learning. Yeah. Yeah. I don't really know a lot of I don't really know a lot of immigrant kids. The first time I actually like talked about a lot of these things was with me, which is so weird. It's so strange. Like, of course, I have my sister and stuff, but it's different. Like it's queens things as a bundle and but like an external person. The thing that's all that I'm never going to forget ever is that Guinea was like, Yeah, I used to have to translate all these government papers. And I was
Oh, my god, it was so hard and and I didn't, and I was like old shit. Of course. Of course. Of course. We share these experiences, but I never thought about it that way. So it's, it's getting even easier, even though I'm sort of over it. Because, yeah, you can always find connection. If you just keep your eyes open. I don't think I did. I don't I don't think I had my eyes open. I think I was very closed off. I was like, I don't want to have. I don't want to have anything to do with this. And that's changing also because this document
Sen Zhan 70:28
you didn't want anything to do with the process of thinking about what it meant to be an immigrant, what it meant to fit in.
At one point in my life was just kind of done. I was just so tired, and it's just so, so difficult to just constantly be thrown around. So difficult to constantly be thinking about things. I am not really a worried person. I'm not a person who worries a lot. And this took away so much of my time. And at one point I was like, You know what? don't even have to think about this anymore. Way too much stuff to do to constantly be like, Am I Latina enough? Am I Dutch enough? No, you're not. You're not. You're not either. And you're not both just leave it. I don't want to I don't want to do it anymore.
Sen Zhan 71:15
Yeah, it was very frustrating. There is this interesting thing that happens with people who live in a culture in multiple cultures. And I definitely relate to this myself, which is at one point, you feel like you have to make a choice. And yes, I'm wondering how, and and of course, that that, that is kind of like a false binary, right? You cannot just choose one part of ourselves, you know, you're not half of one thing, half of the other as if the two things could be separated. And I always tell you
what I wanted it to be I'm sure we've all wanted it to really want Yes, yeah, yeah. When I was a child when I was, I don't know, like 11 or something. I remember very clearly being really aggressively anti Dutch stuff? No, I am South American. We do things this way. Oh, is that how your family does that? Ah, how lame. And then a few years later when I was a little older in high school, I had the complete opposite thing where I was like, Damn, the South Americans are really problematic in many, many ways. Why did I want to cling on to that so much? No, no, no, I'm just gonna and then when people ask me where I came from, I was uncomfortable. Because I speak Dutch very well, you I do not have an accent. So but people will look at me and they're like, you're not Dutch. Yeah. So yeah, exactly. Yeah, you you get exactly what I mean. So at one point explaining what, what are you it's very complicated and it brings it up every single time for yourself as well. Wow. And I was just done with it. But I have come to terms with With something that he said, as well as that, you just really have to realize that you can have the best of both worlds. And that that also is a privilege. I get to stand with one foot in this world and the other foot in the other and experience the best parts of both the worst parts of both as well, but also the best parts we get to choose. No one can say that. Not everyone can find I'm wondering how you both have navigated this potential divide, you know, how do you deal with the contradictions that are in yourself? When one, you know one of the culture says, oh, it should be this way. The other culture says, oh, it should be the other way. And you agree with both of them and you disagree with both of them?
Interesting question. Very good question too.
I think for me, it really has been age and experience just really getting older. Now I can look at things with a less of an emotional journal attachment to it. I can be very, very black and white about Okay, this is how you guys look at it. This is how you guys How do I look at it, it's it's just a way more practical way of thinking. I think growing up identity such a, such an important and difficult part of life even even if I grew up here as a white, blonde, tall Dutch girl identities always an issue. So I think that just now being in our early 20s and getting a grip on our feelings and who we are, I think that's the thing. It's just time do need time. The problems we're faced with are just too much for a 16 year old to handle. Their 16 year olds are dealing with enough crap in their lives. I mean, existential crises about culture, even a little bit of time Promise you things will get so much better.
Yeah, I think you and I are maybe a bit the opposite because I think I'm, I can be practical to you and think very practical, but I'm also
remote. Yes. But I've already cried twice. Yes. Very emotional. Yeah, I think that's a really great thing because I think that emotions really reflect are reflections of what you think of what you really think so whenever I'm not sure what I should choose, I really just listen to my emotions. I try to feel my emotions and then from there, I'll make a decision. Yeah, and I think that that really works for me now, but I was always a bit afraid of my emotions, because I thought they were making me weak, but it's actually just what's making me human. And this was maybe also one of the reasons and I was a bit scared to put up my documentary because it's so emotional and you know, emotions are sometimes seen as something bad, or as something that you should be Avoid, but I've gone at peace with my emotions and my feelings and my thoughts and not an I am I feel really aligned and centered. And that's given me so much peace, really?
Sen Zhan 76:13
So do you feel, Jenny? Do you feel not so much the strength of this contradiction in you so much anymore?
No, not that much. Because as the analysis said before, we have this privilege that we can choose. And even if I agree with both, why not incorporate both? I think that's one of the most beautiful things about having this surf culture thing. You You get to decide what that means to you. And that's why exploring your identity is also so fascinating and exciting, because you get to go on this journey that some other people don't. And it's making you Yeah, and it's making you whole as a person. And like, how beautiful is that?
What a wonderful message.
Sen Zhan 76:58
Do you both feel Dutch in similar ways or what does being Dutch mean?
That's a fun.
I don't know if I will feel Dutch. And I don't know if I will ever fully feel Latina. And I'm not looking for that anymore. Where I really wanted to cling on to feeling any of anything. I am now really like it doesn't really matter to me. I think it's I tried to look at it like I don't have the experience any had any like going back to the roots into Vietnam. I do not have the same feeling that that is going to help me. I think just letting it go for me has been so wonderful because I can tell people you know, I grew up in Europe. I was born in South America and I have Very funny and terrible and strange and hilarious experiences. And that's okay. What does it mean to feel Dutch? I don't know. I'm also so different from my friends. It's Jesus. This is such a hard question. I'm gonna give it to you. I think what it means to me to be Dutch because, you know, I do resonate with some Dutch things. And what I really admire about Dutch culture is that they are so open. And I've seen that with my grandparents, because what's so interesting about them too, is that if an infant will be America, they would vote for Trump.
That's the kind of people they are your grandparents. You mean? Yes. My Dutch grandparents, they are actually quite, they can be very racist towards other people. But so interesting, is I know and I think that that's what makes it so interesting, because that's also what I really pointed out in the interview I did with my grandpa. I told him that even though we're not related, our connection is social. Strong, but you were just open to us. And that's why, you know, because he would always say, oh, like, all the foreigners have to leave the country because you know, like, because he's, I think he's just really terrified. But then I told him like, oh, but Grandpa, you know that dad is also a refugee, right? Like, he was also refugee just like the other people. And then he would go like, no, but that's different. And I'm like, no crap, but it's not any different. It's exactly the same different because he knows him. Yeah, exactly. And that's what makes a difference. And that's what I've been trying to tell him and explain to him that you have been open to us. And that's why you see as as no tread, you know, like, home. I would say that. That's why you don't see us as a threat. But what do you think would happen if everyone would be that open to each other and that kind and understanding what wonderful things could happen from that? You know,
I have something to add. Jenny, you say the Dutch are very open, but I have never experienced it that way. Because I sometimes Have I think it's a problem of juxtaposition and point of reference one of you, the Latino are they say everything that's on their mind and are so expressive and talkative and they don't shut up. So for me the Dutch are very closed in comparison, so for us being Dutch is such a different thing. I like it I like it that the Dutch I like it the Dutch are a little bit more practical and a little less emotional than the Latinos are Yani probably loves it that we are that the Dutch are so emotional and more rights, right? You come from totally different ends of the spectrum. What is it? What does it mean to be Dutch? It depends on what continent Yes.
Sen Zhan 80:46
Yeah, yeah. When you two are together, Do you speak English or Dutch together? Yes. Yeah. Okay. Okay. So that's, that's the more comfortable language that's the one where you feel more yourselves more easily expressive.
Yeah, yeah. So,
yeah, but I also really like English actually, because I have so much international friends. Yeah, me too. I don't know like, yeah, and even if you're not like I speak Vietnamese, but I, you know, I don't speak Japanese as well as Dutch. So when I talk to people that would be in English, but I'm really comfortable with English to and I feel like it's such a universal language and you get to communicate with everyone no matter like me. Yay, exactly.
Sen Zhan 81:29
If that is what I am, I suppose that that's what I am. Oh, God. Yeah, I know. I know. So you were mentioning going to Vietnam attorney. So I know that you went to Asia this January. And you spent some time in Vietnam and you actually went with your father, just the two of you. That must have been such a mind opening journey.
Yeah, it really really was a I was in Vietnam for several reasons because I wanted to spend some time with my dad and I wanted to spend time with my family. And I went there, around Lunar New Year's, and that was super special because I never celebrated. That's how we call it with a nice, I never celebrated before with my family. And you know, in Vietnam, I have like seven uncles and five Auntie's and like my grandparents lived there. And I have so many like nieces. And, you know, and I never really got to celebrate that because I didn't want to, I didn't knew and didn't know anything about my culture. And now I felt like, it was time for me to do that. And I discovered that, you know, like, I've never saw him as a person that's super funny, or super witty, but he really, really is and to see that, you know, he was around that with his friends and that he was so comfortable with the culture and the language to see him in that kind of daylight was so different for me because I feel like you know, for him being in the Netherlands, you really become a different person and you show a different side of yourself because you lost everything. And seeing that he went back and that he was so reconnected with everything familiar to him was really beautiful to see. And yeah, and he showed me some places and we have been hanging out there. And I think spending that time together was really important for him to see that I'm really interested in learning more about the culture and learning more about my roots, and then I'm proud of them.
Sen Zhan 85:44
It sounds like you're going through this process of really reclaiming what it means to be Vietnam, Vietnamese for yourself. And I think that's really special because a lot of third culture people they continue to live in this in between space, you know, And they they kind of touch their home culture and then they kind of go away and they touch and they kind of go away into another one another one and and it sounds like you've really embraced what it means to be Vietnamese and also on your own terms, right? Like not just what your family's views of being beaten amuse are but what the whole Vietnamese culture is.
Exactly, exactly. And what that means to me. And that's why I'm saying like, I'm so incredibly privileged that I get to get both perspectives like Dutch but also Vietnamese and that I get to choose, that is so special.
Sen Zhan 86:36
I want to finish up by asking the both of you a question, which is in this, that's my job. Questions. Through this process of making the documentary, what did you both learn about yourself? And what would you say to other third culture people out there who are also going through their own struggles of belonging and understanding themselves.
Can I sorry, I've come to discover that I am so resilient. And that doesn't come from, you know, nowhere that really comes from my parents and I'm making this documentary, I see that they're so incredibly strong and I've definitely copied those traits from them because I'm a person that never ever gives up. If I want something, I will get it. I will somehow do it, you know, and, and I think the message that I want to give to other people is that really, you are not alone. There are so many people who want to share their experiences with you. Look for them, find for them. And the most important message is Be kind to each other, be open to each other and have an understanding to each other.
Ariana Like I said, I have a purse I am a person who has a lot of problems with, with actually deeply connecting to people because of many different reasons. But this documentary really has taught me that the people you're looking for may not be where you think you will find them. Which means that you really have to try your best to always be open for new experiences and new connections. Not only were you that has to be like a continual process, because you might be shutting people out that may be there for you. For example, I really really didn't know if I was supposed to go to that use the rapping music video thing because I thought those are not my people. I'm not I love rap, but I don't belong to the rapping like I don't like people who like rap. I shouldn't do that. White people like that. whole group of people. It's so stupid. Um, so for me, it really has been learning to let that mindset go and just try to I'm always going to have this problem. But I have learned that there are creepy healthier ways to deal with it. And that comes to the exact same conclusion as any, you really aren't alone. And the at the end of the day, there are millions of people who have stories like you and they're never going to be exactly the same, but it's going to have so many uses, you will see patterns and you will see parallels and you will be able to talk about things you cannot talk about with just anyone, but you have to be open to it. You have to be open and inviting to be able to have the experiences with others that you are looking for. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure. That's what I've learned.
Sen Zhan 90:03
These are such important things that you both said. And I think they're, it's, it's really important to reinforce these notions because I think, many critical true people or immigrants, or really anybody who's had a challenging time finding where they fit in, we've all gone through these interactions where, you know, people are kind of telling us No, you're not this thing, you don't belong here, I think you should actually go over there. That's kind of where I think you should go. And after some years of these kinds of experiences, or for some people like decades of these experiences of being questioned or being challenged as to who they are and where they belong, sometimes it can be really easy to internalize that and believe that there's something just, you know, either wrong or too different about you. And you know, you start to get more and more conservative in how you approach the world you know, yeah, become less and less open. Like I myself, I remember how Oh, When I was when I was in my 20s, and now I'm in my mid 30s. And I'm like, Well, I'm not as open as I used to be, you know, I think it's because I've just, you know, seen too many things in the world, you know, just gotten gotten a little bit cynical and jaded about the world. And this is, you know, we have to remind ourselves, because that's how people get set in their ways as they get older and older is that they become just kind of withdrawn from, yeah, a bit more rigid in the world. And we have to actively work to overcome that. It doesn't happen by itself. As you said, Jenny before, growth doesn't happen at all when you're in your comfort zone. And we have to first be uncomfortable before we can learn to be comfortable in in a situation. And it's also really important to reinforce that. There are your people out there, we just need to be persistent and keep on looking for them. And it's getting easier and easier to find the other people like us because of the connectivity. How good is for the internet, I wouldn't have found you I wouldn't have found the two of you 10 years ago. There's no way I would have found you. And now it's like we can, you know, find others just with a click of a mouse, which is just, you know, incredible to me. So it's really important to be persistent. And I really liked what you said early on is that sometimes it's unexpected where you find your people, I have often been surprised when, you know, I always used to think, Oh, I'm Canadian, so I should fit in with other Canadians. And when I've looked specifically for, you know, Canadian groups to hang out with, or even, you know, Chinese Canadian or Asian Canadian groups to hang out with, often I've been really confused and put off by feeling like, actually, I don't think we do have anything in common except for our passports, which is very strange. And then you're like, Okay, well, then what, what does bring us together? Seems I thought we had shared values, but apparently we don't. I thought we had shared this ethnicity, but actually, that doesn't mean that much. So what does it mean? And you have to kind of really ask yourself the questions of what's important to me what to I like what kind of people resonate with me. And you kind of throw away all those other external label filters and you have to go to what is what is the essence what is actually true just for you. And that can take some time. Because it's not easy. You know, you can't just like,
use your eyes. To search for it. You have to kind of use your heart to search for it. Like we did.
That's beautiful. That's really beautiful.
Sen Zhan 93:24
Yeah. Yeah, like you did exactly. In the end, Ariana, this has been such an enjoyable interview. Thank you both so much. I really feel like I opened up a box of special experiences, just hearing the two of you talk to each other and what a wonderful dynamic you have with each other. Not to mention the this this incredible, life changing documentary that you made together. So the scars of war. We're going to put that in the show notes. And it'll also be in our resources page on the beyond Asian webpage
Fantasticks. Yeah, thank you so much. So much. Pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.