Entry 15-The White Boy Shuffle
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The White Boy Shuffle presents a valid, yet sarcastic alternate of the intercultural and interracial understanding of the society. The book shows the conflicted nature of diversity in its rawest form through the journey of the protagonist in adjusting himself trying to fit in different communities. The concept of assimilation is brought up frequently throughout the book to show the difficulty of fitting in a world when one seems like an outcast to others. The experiences of the main character, Gunnar Kauffman, poet and basketball extraordinary player, struggling to find his place in both the multi-ethnic community of his West Los Angeles neighborhood and his affluent white high school conveys the upheavals he’s gone through to immerse himself with others. The same issue of being an outcast to the society haunts Gunnar further on when he attends Boston University. Even when people here idolize and worship him, Gunnar still feels like an pariah because no one seems to understand who he really is, nor does he have anything in common with them.

As a satirist, Paul Beatty deliberately pinpoints the flaw within his society and ridicules it with his sense of humor throughout the book. Racial discrimination is the main major idea that has been incorporated into Beatty’s book as a main thing to lampoon at. At the first few chapters, Beatty already depicts the differences in ethnicities bring up difficulties in the process of growing up. The way that Gunnar was taught in San Monica white school has turned his attitude against his own self-identity by saying that his people “are different” from him. He begins to look down own other blacks just because of racial differences. Beatty further reinforces the idea of racial-discriminating violence through a satirical Rodney King’s riot. While in reality the brutality of police based on racial ethnicity is devastating and destructive, Beatty presents it in his book as a fun game for people. Looting and snapping stuff off the stores are the main goals of the riot; people don’t protest to stand against the racist brutality but rather to satisfy their desires. By creating an indifferent tone on the issue, Beatty actually emphasizes the horror of the act.

Blinded idolization toward someone or something is constantly poked fun at throughout the White Boy Shuffle. At the beginning of the book, Nicholas Scoby is the first one to feel the pressure of public idolization. As a never-missed basketball player, Scoby is praised with all the compliments as well as expectations from the crazy fans out there. Beatty conveys the fact that these people blindly worship a person that they don’t even care to actually understand. They admire the achievements on the surface without pay any attention to the person’s real aspiration. Consequently, Scoby feels as if he was not who he is but a person others want him to be. Gunnar later on experiences Scoby’s issue when the poems he wrote out of self interest attract people’s attention. The people who worship Gunnar’s works are depicted in the book in the book ridiculous, insane, and self-destructive. The way Beatty ridicules these crazy fans makes the whole thing seem satirical.

Toai Tran.


Entry 14-My Bucket List
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  1. Buying a big house for my family

Ever since my family came to the United States, we haven’t been able to afford for our own house yet. My parents have been working so hard just to keep up with the renting cost and other utility bills. Back when we were still in Vietnam, we even had to rent houses as well; I could never forget the times we needed to change houses… My parents always sacrifice themselves for me and my siblings; thus, it is always my dream to finally make them proud and provide them with a better life.

  1. Visiting Viet Nam again

Leaving a place where you spend all of your childhood in is never easy. Viet Nam is the only place that holds my precious memories with friends and relatives. I always want to get back to the time when I ran freely in the school campus with my friends. Furthermore, I just love to see how my friends would change after many years apart; it must be a great experience. This is a must-be on my bucket list.

  1. Taking my maternal family side on a vacation

Even when my family was still in Viet  Nam, we barely had a chance to be close to my maternal family. It is always unfair for my maternal grandparents because they live in a poor countryside of Viet Nam, trying so hard to keep the family together. I once talked to my grandpa on a long-distance call, but he cut me up after a while. Before hanging up, I accidentally listened to him talking to my grandma “It’s gonna cost her a lot of money to make this call. We shouldn’t talk for too long” I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to take care of them as much as I should do. Before I die, I wished that I could take them on a trip together.

  1. Traveling to Japan and Italy

It might sound silly, but the reason I want to travel to Japan is to see my favorite mangaka Junji Itou. I started reading his mangas two years ago and got totally enthralled by it until now. His mangas are mostly about the inner horror of humanity and the distortedness of human nature. He is totally my idol of all time. Furthermore, taking Art History this year really intrigues me with the fascinating art that has taken root in Italy. My dream is to finally observe the Colosseum and Pantheon with my own eyes and to feel the greatness of such masterpieces.

  1. Getting in UCLA

UCLA is my dream school and my ultimate goal to get into next year. I had a chance to view the school campus and facilities online, and to be honest, it really impressed me. As a matter of fact, I want to actually be on the school campus and feel the grand fresh emotion in my heart. Majoring in psychology in UCLA is what I really want to achieve before I die. I’m heading there with enthusiasm.  

Toai Tran.


Entry 13-Random questions
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1. Describe your favorite pet OR if you've never had a pet you liked, describe what your favorite pet would be/be like.
Among all the cute little animals, hamster is just my favorite pet ever. How could I resist holding and caring a chubby tiny ball with soft fur as such? I used to have four Campbell hamsters back in Viet Nam. Campbell is known for its friendly nature and small size. Among the two yellowish ones, the other have a slightly beige color. Not to mention their furriness, my hamsters are like four little balls with soft furred covers. The funniest thing is when you bathe them with water, no matter how chubby they are, hamsters normally shrink down to those teeny creatures because their fur is wet. I love hamsters!

2. Where do you feel safest?
No matter how strange some of you might think I am, a locked room is still the safest place for me. Before I go to sleep, I always check if my room's door is locked carefully. I always have a feeling that something or something would stand at the doorway while I'm sleeping safe and sound, and that is very terrifying for me. Also, when I lock myself in a room, I feel that I can be myself to the fullest; that is, I don't need to care about others' judgment or criticism. I hate it so much when people stare at me while I'm doing anything, so I feel much safer in my own room/world. 

3. Write a CREATIVE excuse (absence) note for the attendance office.

Dear Attendance Office,
I would have attended History class today if it hadn't been for a horrible incident on my way to school. As I stepped outside the house, I was completely frozen because the street had transformed into a flowing stream with sedimentary rocks and fishes.  I struggled a lot just to jump from rock to rock; my clothes were soaked with water while I was trying to keep my bag pack from being wet. After more than two or three hours of suffering, here I am standing in this office with an urge of getting back to class. I hope you understand since I still have a hard way to get back home.
Sincerely,
Toai Tran

4. If you could punch any one character from a book or film, who would you punch?
I've always wanted to punch and yell in the face of that immoral murderer from the movie "Seven", starting Brad Pitt. If I had a chance to punch any character, that would be him. I don't give a darn care whatever his insane reasons for killing are; he must pay for what he's done. I cried a lot at the end when it is revealed that Brad Pitt's wife, along with the baby in her tummy, was murdered heartlessly. Only a trashy person like that killer would have thought he was God and ran around slaughtering people for their sins. A punch from me is not even close to the vicinity of punishment he deserves. 

5. You're given an empty storefront and startup money. What kind of business would you open?
I'd love to open a pet store with that amount of money and the storefront. My infatuation toward little pets has always motivated to dream of opening a small pet store. The thought of taking care of something fragile and small makes me feel responsible and independent. I want to show me love and care to the things I love and treasure, and I want people who have the same love for animals have the chance to take care of the healthiest and cutest pets from my store. Though it might involve a lot of works and a heart full of dedication, I do believe in the success of this pet store. 
6. If you could go back in time to change any  one historical event, what would it be, and how would changing it affect the world moving forward FROM THAT POINT OR if you could un-invent something, what would it be and why would you un-invent it?
If I could un-invent something, I'd totally un-invent the atomic bomb due to its horrendously dangerous impact. The horrible incident in Hiroshima, Japan is enough to diminish such a tool that has no other means but warring purposes. Without the atomic bomb, nations would not have anything to "scare" one another and innocent citizen would not have to worry that much about a weapon that can wipe out a vast population in such a short period of time. Thus, I see no harm in un-inventing that dangerous weapon. 

8. Pick a poster/piece of art from Mr. Ross' walls and write about why you picked it. Do you love/like/hate it? How does it make you feel?
One of my favorite posters from Mr.Ross' walls is the self-portrait of a graduated Wendy Ho. By portrait I didn't mean a painting of your face because Wendy took a further step in depicting the insight of her soul. The composition is harmonized with a theme color of yellow-orange with sharp black outlines. A boat rising to a vast beautiful sky from a bottom world full of mechanical components centers the painting. Wendy is conveying of perspective about life and dream in this piece. She is the flying boat ready to break through the generic stiff world. Wendy declares her freedom of hope, dream, and life through a simple representation of a boat in the vast yellow sky. I think her painting skills and creativity are brilliant to be praised. 

9. Describe your favorite piece of clothing/accessory and why you like it (hat, shirt, shoes, etc) OR if your house was burning down, what 3 non-living things would you grab?
The pair of Toms Shoes is my favorite clothing piece up to now because it is my brother's present for me for the first time with his own money. He's been studying really hard lately just to keep up with the school's requirements for an A in order to be eligible for Financial Aid. After months of hard work, he actually achieved it and used part of the money to buy me and my mom two pairs of shoes. I really appreciate his care for me despite the fact that we've been fighting each other since like forever. This pair of Toms Shoes will surely be my favorite thing in the whole world forever! 

Toai Tran.



Entry 12-My pet peeve
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As my favorite heroine from Charmed, Piper, is about to blow up a demon with her Molecular Combustion, suddenly there it goes again. An acne commercial for Bioré pops out of nowhere, stopping my movie at its climax with the typical monotone. Why on earth would I want to hear about "the most advancing facial protector" in the middle of such a suspenseful scene? All the time this happens I just want to turn off the computer right away! I long for the old days when Youtube wasn't invaded with tons of commercials of all kinds. I can understand that the webpage needs funding to keep the site alive through advertisements, but each one every fifteen minutes is just irritating. 
           Sometimes these commercials are just plain awkward. I remember sitting with my family watching a family-reunion scene. Our eyes were filled with tears and our hearts were touched deeply. And boom! “Are you upset with the size of your breasts? That’s OK. You have us now!” I swear I was completely frozen! An awkward silence gradually lurked in the air. My family’s moment was completely in ruin. I mean, at least they should’ve sorted out which commercial to be shown at which specific time. I really don't mind having a commercial about drink or food coming up once a while, but they should seriously be appropriate for the viewers. How exactly do they expect us to feel when our stream of conscience is interrupted constantly by all those meaningless commercials?
           In addition to the inconvenience and awkwardness they bring, I personally think that these commercials are often deceivable. They are created for the profits of the brand name that they represent. Just observe thousands of commercials for shampoo and hair conditioner with all the exaggerated features that bombard our lives consantly everyday, how many of those are actually beneficial for us? They trick us into thinking that only their products are superb and effective for our health and beauty. Though there're still many other authentic brand names out there, really nowadays it is hard to trust any television commercial at all.
            Commercials are just the most horrible pet peeve of all time! 

Toai Tran.


Entry 11-Girl, Interrupted and The Bell Jar
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COMPARE:

  1. The movie Girl, Interrupted and the novel the Bell Jar depict the journey of seeking for true selves of the two protagonists. In the society where their roles are defaulted as typical housewives, they desire to get out and prove to the world their ability. With the feminist mind, both of them view the discrimination of women as injustice. Consequently, the common major theme is the personal struggles of women against the society’s conventions and mental illness. 
  2. Both the protagonists in Girl, Interrupted and The Bell Jar, Susanna and Esther, suffer deeply from social indifference and discrimination. Upset with the hypocrisy and judgment from others, Esther and Susanna always feel ostracized from the society they live in. Consequently, they take a further step in releasing themselves from the limitations that others put on females: committing suicide. The reinforcement of death and suicidal keeps reappearing in both the book and the movie to depict the common depression both characters have to bear. The act of ridding themselves from the world signifies their declaration of independence to this unjust society.
  3. Despite their effort to run away from the society, both Esther and Susanna are still trapped in the box of insanity, or literally speaking the sanitarium. The ignorant society puts them in this place as a way to isolate the rebels from a so-called organized environment. The sanitarium in both the movie and the book symbolizes the isolation and the sealed trap of our characters. Their mental breakdown has led themselves into the psychiatric institution that eventually changes their perspectives on life significantly.
  4. Besides the two protagonists, we can see that other minor characters are also depicted with similarities in the book and the movie. Dr. Melvin of Girl, Interrupted and Dr. Gordon of The Bell Jar seemingly share some resemblance with one another. Just like Esther, the first time Susanna met Dr.Melvin, she noticed his family photo put half-view to the patients and the other half into his side. This detail indicates to both our protagonists the distance between themselves and their doctors. Susanna and Esther both address directly that such intuitive men with typically happy families would never understand how they feel. In fact, Dr.Gordon and Dr.Melvin represent the American society, punishing Esther and Susanna for going against social expectations and rejecting marriage and family.
  5. In addition to the social restraint, both Susanna and Esther have to deal with family conflicts that are mostly caused by their parents. As seen in the book and the movie, Esther and Susanna’s mothers are ignorant to their own daughters. Instead of accepting the fact that Susanna and Esther actually needs help and support, their mothers deny it and keeps on reassuring themselves that their daughters would somehow be fixed to normal again. The phone calls that Susanna’s mom made and the visits that Esther’s mom paid are not meant for their daughter but merely for their responsibility to the society. As seen in the movie, Susanna’s mother cares about the family’s reputation to the point that she keeps forcing Susanna to quickly recover for the Thanksgiving party, for she doesn’t want anyone to know that her daughter is in a mental institution. The same goes for Esther’s mother when she asks many people to come and talk to her daughter in hopes that somehow Esther would return to a normal girl like any other.
  6. In the midst of insanity, our protagonists still luckily find a source of comfort and support; that is their personal doctor and helper. Dr.Nolan from the Bell Jar and Valerie from Girl, Interrupted are influential people that not only save our protagonists but also give them chance to believe in life again. By fulfilling her promises with Esther, Dr.Nolan gains her trust and gradually changes her way of thinking. The shock treatments Dr.Nolan gives Esther contrasts drastically from those of Dr.Gordon’s in a way that they purify her and alleviate all of her tensions. For Susanna, after the conversation wit Valerie, she realizes what her problems really are and that she needs to confront them, instead of denying and stating how she doesn’t know what they are. Dr.Noland and Valerie are, in fact, the saviors that pull Esther and Susanna from the deep depression and encourage them to keep on fighting for what they believe and for who they are.
  7. The suicides of Daisy and Joan in the movie and the book reinforce the idea of death throughout the whole plots. Their roles are to finish the goal that both our protagonists have been yearning for. The deaths of Daisy and Joan appear as a twist in the plot that eventually leads to the climax of our protagonists’ stories. Though Joan’s suicide doesn’t impact Esther as deeply as does Daisy’s death to Susanna, it still signifies the ridding from life that the characters desire.
  8. The idea of sexism and male dominance is once again depicted in Girl, Interrupted and the Bell Jar. In Girl, Interrupted, Susanna rails against the ‘”sexism” in her diagnosis of being borderline, stating that she was promiscuous, even though she only serially flirted, and perhaps had had a few experiences. She questions whether this ”diagnosis” would have appeared if she were male, and how many sex partners and/or acts would she have needed to have to be so labeled. Facing another aspect of sexism in life, Esther had to deal with male dominance in her society, in which only males were respected and treasured, while women were treated as mere objects of sex and house works. The stereotypical judgments that women had to bear are all shown in the movie and book as important causes of the characters’ mental breakdown.
  9. Esther and Susanna share the same explicit interest in expressing themselves in writing. Throughout Esther’s whole life, she always shows an excellent talent in wording. Significantly, when she loses her chance in getting to a writing program, that’s when her depression begins. As for Susanna, taking Valerie’s advice, she begins to write diary as a way to alleviate all the tension and worry in life. Writing actually helps Susanna release herself and feel much better, yet it eventually leads her into trouble when her friends read the diary. Writing seems to lead them both in eventual misery.
  10. In the end, both Esther and Susanna realize the importance of being alive. After the shock treatments with Dr.Nolan and Joan’s death, Esther seems to rid herself from all the worry from before and assure herself to keep on living as she walks out the psychiatric hospital. Susanna shows the same desire for living when she tells Lisa in the basement “Maybe everyone out there is a liar. And maybe the whole world is stupid and ignorant. But I'd rather be in it. I'd rather be fucking in it, than down here with you.” She yearns to immerse into the sinful life out there once again.

CONTRAST

  1. While in the Bell Jar, Esther was depicted as an excellent student girl with all the privileges and educational achievements. Though she’s often upset with the social norm, Esther still behaves herself within the boundaries that were set up for her. On the other hand, Susanna expresses more aggressively through rebellious act. As seen in the movie, Susanna doesn’t want to continue onto college, for she doesn’t see the need to. The major contrast between the two protagonists is once again their educational interest that signifies who they really are.
  2. Though both Esther and Susanna suffer from their depression, it is clear that Susanna in fact finds friendship and connection in her sanitarium, while Esther immerses more deeply into isolation and depression. Susanna seems to bond to other girls in the institution and actually lets them influence her feelings and thinking, especially Lisa. The real relationship Susanna has with these girls is something she can’t seek in the world out there. Consequently, when Toby asks her to run away with him to Canada, she refuses and says “I have friends here. If those girls are crazy, then so am I” On the contrary, Esther seeks no relation in her sanitarium; even Joan’s appearance seems irrelevant to Esther’s mental health. She doesn’t have any friends or even anyone to relate to; loneliness seems to be her only companion.
  3. The playroom in Girl, Interrupted symbolizes Susanna and other girls’ desire for freedom, where they can actually release themselves and forget the oppression of the mental institution. On the other hand, throughout her time at the sanitarium, Esther doesn’t seem to have a chance to console her problem to anyone but Dr.Nolan. She is double-trapped in the physical institution and the larger bell jar as well, which signifies the social limitation that she’s been bearing. Consequently, the mental institution in this case seems to be a prison for Esther, while it teaches Susanna a lot about friendship and life.
  4. Though the relationship between Esther and Joan doesn’t really resemble that between Susanna and Daisy, the fact that Joan and Daisy decides to hang themselves shows impact on our characters differently. While Esther accepts the news in an acceptable and somehow indifferent way, Susanna is completely shocked by Daisy’s death, and that changes her viewpoint in life. Ultimately, the way our protagonists deal with such a twist in the plot reveals their maturation during the time in the mental institution.
  5. In the Bell Jar, Esther desires to rid herself from the restraint that sexual activities would bring to her by getting a fitting, while Susanna, in Girl, Interrupted, doesn’t seem to care about any of that. Susanna is more like a free lost soul, running around indulging her satisfaction in sex. Esther, on the other hand, even when she wants to, never really had any sexual activity with men until the end of the book. Significantly, Susanna’s experience in sexuality and Esther’s first attempt in sex contrast one another to depict different problems that these girls have to deal with and how they decide to overcome those obstacles.
​Toai Tran.

Entry 10-The Bell Jar Mixtape
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1. Track 1: Seal, This is a Man’s World

As the song starts, Esther’s typical world of male dominance is depicted clearly in the lyrics: “This is a man’s world/ This is a man’s world.” Throughout the book, Esther has always struggled in her society, where men are respected and treasured in every aspect of life. Needless to say that this set of lyrics visualizes the world in the 1950s with man controlling and manipulating the trend of lives. With this respect, the song further describes the power of male domination upon the society’s perception. “Man made the cars to take us over the road/ Man made the trains to carry heavy loads/ Man made electric light to take us out of the dark/ Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark.” The world is conveyed with male role having a crucial part in different perspectives. Just like in Esther’s world, a man is expected to accomplish important things and become the main breadmaker in the family, while women are only mere objects of sex and house chores. However, Esther is different from other women at the time, for she strives to prove her ability and talent. The last lyric of the song conveys her declaration of woman power upon men “This is a man’s world/ But it wouldn’t mean nothing without a woman or a girl.” The lyrics are what Esther’s been yearning to prove. She believes that the woman role in this society should as well be equal to that of men. In fact, Esther desires to claim a simple truth that men need women as much as women need them.

2. Track 2: Tăng Nhật Tuệ, Tự Nhiên Đánh Rơi (Suddenly I lost)

“The mirror is shattered/ My mind is insane.” depicts the uncontrollable insanity of Esther in the sanitarium. As a matter of fact, Esther is “broken” when she sees her bruised face and shaved head that she drops the mirror. The incident with a broken mirror put Esther in a much worse situation, where she feels isolated from the rest of the patients and doctors. She’s gone insane as the perfect world she’s been yearning for is shattered, just like that mirror. “I’ve lost the sun/ The sunshine is shattered/ The smile is shattered/ The heart is shattered.” clearly speaks to Esther’s unstable emotion. All of Esther’s achievements now seem to be merely illusional, for she has lost her golden time in the past, where her talent and ability were acknowledged and praised. Trapped in the sanitarium, her pride, her happiness, her soul, and her everything are destroyed and shattered into debris. Out of pain, Esther/Tăng Nhật Tuệ/Plath all scream out desperately “Suddenly I lost/ Nobody pays sympathy/ Suddenly I am shattered.” They’ve lost their identity along the struggle for self-acceptance. The society where they live in expects them to fit in while they’re unique, and thus these characters are rejected and pained by their own society.

3. Track 3: Ray Lamontagne, New York City is Killing me

“There’s just something about this hotel/ Got me wishing I was dead/ Gotta get out of New York City, son/ Somewhere I can clear my head” This set of lyrics depicts Esther at the beginning of the book. As Esther is sitting in her hotel room in New York, she feels adrift and uneasy. Gazing out the hotel windows gives Esther a sense that she’s staring at a flat poster of some luxurious place. The living exciting New York City doesn’t seem to live in Esther’s mind, for she doesn’t belong to the people and objects out there. The song further says “I just got to get me somewhere/ Somewhere that I can feel free.” That speaks to Esther’s desire for freedom and escape. Throughout her 19 years on Earth, Esther is always expected to live her life based upon the social norms and social expectations. Even when she’s has got a lot of achievements, her life is still fated to be a typical housewife in the eyes of others. Desperate with the absurd society, Esther desires to find a place where women like her can easily live their lives to the fullest and can express themselves freely. However, the more she tries, the more upset she gets. “New York City is killing me.” is her ultimate cry to the sufferance and pressure everyone’s putting on her shoulders. Yes, New York City is the start of her long depression that eventually puts her in a sanitarium, ending her everything.

4. Track 4: Trịnh Công Sơn, Dear myself Don’t Despair

“Don’t despair, dear I, don’t despair/ Autumn leaves fall amidst winter time/ Don’t despair, beloved, don’t despair.” sounds like a painful comfort that Esther’s been telling herself. In the midst of sorrow, what can Esther do besides telling herself not to give up? Then, she begins to question her existence “Who am I who still conceals my tears/ Who am I who am too human/ Who am I, am I, am I…” Throughout the book, Esther often describes her heartbeat as “I am, I am, I am”, yet she’s never once determined any noun, pronoun, or adjective to define who she really is. “Here, an endless road under a solitary sunset/ Here, a soul in which sorrow rises.” is an end note for the sorrowful melody in Esther’s life. Even when she tries to end her life abruptly, it is still an endless road that Esther is fated to keep on walking and enduring. However, the longer she drags on, the more it pains her soul. Along with the pressure from society, her depression and sorrow only rise with time.

5. Track 5: Regina Spektor, Hero

Living a golden life in New York City at nineteen years old, Esther’s never foreseen herself as a mental patient in a sanitarium. “He never ever saw it coming at all/ He never ever saw it coming at all.” depicts her life under the clouds without any idea that an abrupt twist in the future will change her life forever. “And the T.V.s try to rape us/ And I guess that they’re succeeding.” speaks right through the typical life that Esther’s been living. Just like Dr.Nolan once mentioned, propaganda is everywhere, lurking into people’s minds and manipulating them in certain ways. During the 1950s, almost all the media is targeted to create a false perception of women’s role; women are expected to stay home, take care of the kids, and serve the men. These propagandas are “raping” all the women’s souls and minds. Despite all that, Esther never once stops trying to prove herself different from the social norms. “I’m the hero of the story/ Don’t need to be saved.” is Esther’s strength at the end of the book. After all the sufferance and pain she’s been through, Esther realizes that she needs to accept herself for who she is first before anyone else can. In the end, only she can save herself but anyone. 

Toai Tran. 


Entry 9-What a day!
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I can't believe Mr. Ross is making me do this when I could be sleeping by now. It was such a tiring day with full of essays and homework. I have never felt so exhausted like this before. I don’t know if I could get into the science program or not; it seems so competitive. OMG, I’m so sleepy now, and I really can’t think of anything else. Hmm, the song I’m listening to sounds so depressing… Why did I even choose to listen to it at this time? Oh I miss the summer days so much; I really need some break soon, or else I’ll break down from lack of sleep. I look more like a panda now. I love watching horror movies! It seems too late now and I don’t feel like having nightmares at this point in time. That’s the last thing I want to deal with. However, the horror movie I watched this morning was pretty interesting now that I think of it. Though the ending seems a bit unrealistic, the overall message is very powerful: friendship and love are the only things one needs in life to live on. Ahh… my back hurts; I’ve been sitting the whole morning writing essays for such a program, which I don’t even know if I can get into. So tragic. I’m worried about the SAT so much; I don’t wanna fail any tests in my life, especially such a crucial one like that. I wonder what the SAT prep class is like. Full of practice tests and vocabulary? It’s so quiet now that I’m the only person awake in the house. I hate how my grandma snores a lot… Sometimes I barely get myself to sleep because of that annoying sound. Damn it, I hate spacers! They’re much more horrible than what I’ve expected. I can barely eat, bite, or chew anything. My life now officially depends on banana and porridge only! Dude, my little brother is dream-walking again, and it’s freaking me out! It’s creepy how he talks to someone in his dream but seems to me like an invisible person, lurking in the dark. Man, I shouldn’t describe that right now in the middle of the night. Hey, is it fifteen minutes yet? I wanna go to sleep now. This stream of consciousness seems really awesome at first, but now I just wanna to fall into sleep right away. Tomorrow besides Art History Study Guide, I need to finish the freaking Bio Lab Report. I hate how I’m always the one who finishes it while my partners can act ignorantly. I swear I don’t get a single calculation in that lab; I seriously need to adjust myself if I don’t wanna fail it. Gosh, I hate when teachers don’t update the student’s grades so often. I got a 69% in BIO! Screw that! Oh now my neck hurts too. My eyes are so tiring now that I notice. I HATE TODAY SO MUCH. 

Toai Tran.


Entry 8-A day to remember
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I didn’t how or why it happened, but it did. At some twist in time, I found myself safe and sound awake in the little shabby bed in our family’s old apartment. At first I thought it was a dream or at least it was an illusional nostalgia, but as my eyes got more accustomed to the dim light from a yellow fluorescent light bulb dangling from the ceiling, all of my dearest personal stuff from the small pinkish pencil case with cute animal decorations on to the hamster cages placing neatly on the desk appeared vividly and realistically. By the time I ran downstairs, it was exactly five in the morning, and strangely I felt completely conscious as if I had slept for so long and now woke up to relive my life. Not until I realized that my parents were out of town through a little sticky note on the table that the idea of having a day to remember for the rest of my life came to mind. Restlessly dressing up in blue jeans and shirt, I grabbed the little bag with money, put on my favorite sporty hat, and jumped right on my bike, leaving the house immediately. I’ve got a plan for the day. The street from my house to school was still the same since the time I left Viet Nam; the little noodle stand with smoke coming out from the fireplace below, the vintage coffee shop with old grandpas and grandmas sitting side by side and reading out loud the news for each other, and the honking from motorbikes breaking through the silence from somewhere on the main street collided together to depict a new early morning scene that I’d been seeing for almost my whole life. Slowly riding through the tender morning breeze, I breathed softly and let myself feel the wind lurking through my skin and hair.

The pedals were loosening as I was approaching my school. There it was, standing permanently right on the same spot where I left it three years ago. I stopped by the sidewalk opposite to the gate, looking for my friends from afar, and I felt almost like shouting and screaming when I saw them walking to school. Couldn’t wait no more, I grabbed the bike and chased after them. The morning seemed almost startled by the loud scream of us. They hugged me tightly and kept on asking questions of why and how I got there. Of course, I had no answer. As the heavy drum sound reminding us of schooltime, I hastily told them about my plan of having a blast for one day. Reluctantly at first, they finally gave in after my philosophical speech about how to enjoy life to the fullest, and again I didn’t even know what I was saying to them. Five best friends, 2 guys and 3 girls, 3 bicycles, and one plan. As a matter of fact, we stopped by a little Vietnamese Cuisine restaurant on the street to eat bánh cuốn, my favorite dish of all time. I remembered eating it on the way to school everyday. As I walked in, the restaurant owner looked at me and gave me a warm-welcomed smile as she always did before. The food tasted deliciously the same with the well-flavored spice in the roast pork combining with the soft salty rice paper wrapped outside. My life was fulfilled as I looked at all the dearest friends and places around. By the time we finished, Tiến, one of my best guy friend, suggested to go to The Virgin’s Cathedral out in 1st district to take pictures since it’d always been our favorite hang-out place. Two hours of riding bikes didn’t seem to matter because the path was shorten with laughter and happiness in our conversations. The Cathedral has always been Sai Gon’s symbol with its elegant architectural design in rendering the high campaniles on the west façade, texturing the rough look on walls, as well as in modifying the whole internal structure to signify the holiness and divinity of God. We came inside to pray blessings for each other in silence for awhile until we decided to go out to the flowering garden to take pictures. I hadn’t been able to laugh that much since I moved to the States, and now the feelings were just overwhelmingly indescribable.

We all agreed to try out the Ghost House after while of running around crazily take pictures of each other. This type of game was really popular in Sai Gon where they would imitate different horror characters and stand in a big dark tent to scare the heck out of you. Though eager with the idea of experiencing the thrill and fear, I still felt a bit uneasy since I got scared pretty easily. Had my eyes not closed the whole time in the tent, I would have had some interesting stuff to describe to you guys already, but too bad… It was pretty scary, I reckoned since my friends were out of breath when we got out of that tent. After buying each other some vanilla ice-cream, we decided to park our bikes at a supermarket to take a bus to the beach. This was our trick to save money because it was free to let the supermarket watch our bikes while we pretended to walk inside. The bus was almost empty since that was a Monday; the wind was blowing in through the windows, easing the tense heat within the big bus. It took us no more than an hour to finally reach the beach. We felt as if we were the rulers of the whole beach, for everyone was busy with their work and school. My friends and I ran quickly to the vast blue shore with soft waves coming in. Our favorite game was always water-splashing-each-other. We soaked ourselves into the salty ocean and soft wet sand. The sky was beautiful and high above, reflecting our happiness to the deep blue color. We lied down next to each other under such a magnificent and peaceful scene like that for a long time until the sun began to set down behind the skyline. For the first time, I’d laid eyes on such a wonderful sunset at the beach. Life was gleaming inside me, a sense of satisfaction. By the time we caught a bus to get back to Sai Gon, it was pretty dark already. Hungry, exhausted, and furious because no bus was around, we stood closely together in hopes of a truck or van. Suddenly, out of the darkness, a dim light crawled quickly toward us. A taxi! The driver was a middle-aged man with a big visible scar from his left eyebrow to the big oily nose. An uneased feeling suddenly troubled me for a bit, yet we still managed to get in. The air was full of pressure as if no one dared to make a sound, even a soft cough. I could feel as if the driver was staring directly at us through his rearview. Just when I was about to break through the silence, he made a great turn into a narrow road with rows and rows of trees covering up the whole area. We couldn’t see anything, nor could we decide if we were even alive at the time. I finally said to him softly: “W..where are we going?” He startled a bit before my question and then answered menacingly: “This way is much shorter to the city” Was it me or I just caught a sneer on his face? I began to worry, and I know for sure that my friends also felt the same. The radio for all of a sudden began to show static and then muted. Now, there were only our breaths that proved to us that we were still alive. The taxi stopped abruptly at a turning point. As the driver walked outside, we felt the need to open the door and ran fast for our lives. Yet, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves together. He said there was something wrong with the engine. We waited in silence, praying from Buddha to Christ and whichever saint that we knew. Slam! The trunk was shut, and the driver slowly walked in, holding something in his hand… “Here yall go, drink something, you must’ve been thirsty” The driver smiled awkwardly as he handed us a bottle of soda. Ha, I knew this all too well already, you wanna drug us with this bottle? I cautiously pretended to drink, and he seems amused. Not until the city lights began to lighten up the area that we knew we were back in Sai Gon. So… he was not a murderer like those in horror movies! He parked next to a sidewalk near the supermarket to let us out. In the end, he said “Have a good one, folks. Better go home, it’s pretty late already” I felt relieved and ashamed at the same time like a child gets confronted by his parents for breaking a luxurious vase. We smiled brightly at him and thanked him gracefully.

I got home at around 10 at night. The house was still empty and dark. Leaving all the stuff aside, I felt exhausted. What a day! I got to experience all happiness, fear, and surprise on the same day. I laid down on my bed and slowly fell to sleep….

Toai Tran.


Let's enjoy the party =)
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James Blunt would be the first and foremost person I want to have at my party. As the first time I listened to his song, I felt as if he could express all of my feelings through breathtaking lyrics and musical melody. His songs vary from the deepest pain within one’s soul to the sweetest taste of first love, and that is why I’m drawn to them. His voice reveals a sensational world of different perspectives, touches my inner sense, and provokes me to stand up from time to time. For that, it’d be superb that he sang live at my party.

To be honest, I go on Facebook on a regular basis quite frequently, and I have to admit how it has become an important part of my social and school life. For that, I’d love to invite Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, to my party one day. With a creative brain, he was able to create such an influential social network that links everyone in the world, and I find that extremely fascinating. If he ever came to my party at all, I’d ask him to tell the story that led to the creation of Facebook as it was portrayed in the movie “The Social Networking”, which I haven’t had a chance to watch yet.

The third person that I would invite to my party would be Hillary Duff, for she’s always been my favorite actress since I first started watching Disney Channel. Not like any other celebrities, who choose to ruin their career in vain and drugs, Hillary Duff lives a good life herself and tries to keep it low. Since I was still in middle school, my favorite Disney series was Lizzi McGuire, starring Hillary Duff. Consequently, I grew up looking up as an idol and admired her ever since. Having such a decent celebrity at my party would be a total blast.

It’s weird for a girl to be into horror stuff, but I myself always find interest in psychological thrillers or macabre books. Edgar Pollen Poe is one of my inspirational authors who actually gives me goosepumps every time I read his story. His writing skills as well as the creative plots always impress me as I read through the suspenseful story. Normally his story starts out very casual until it reaches the end where the result is totally not what you expect from the start. Even though he’s dead now, I’d be a great honor to have him at my party anyhow.

Last but not least, Nguyen Ngoc Tu would always be on my list of party pals. As I’ve mentioned earlier in my blog, she’s the most influential person in my life besides my parents. Unlike Poe, who indulges my dark senses through literature, Nguyen Ngoc Tu rather brings me back to the reality where life is totally not a satisfactory dream. She shows me the world through different lenses as the people in it are suffering, yet they would never lose hope. My perspective on this world is formed and shaped through Nguyen Ngoc Tu’s works that way.

“Charmed” has always been my most-watch TV series of all time, for its influence on me as a kid always stays the same as it was 10 years ago. The four powerful sisters in Charmed, Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige would always be my most-wanted guests at the party. Throughout my childhood, they showed me the world where good deeds and righteousness would always defeat evil and menace. The characters taught me how to believe in a world where good and bad are balanced out, and then no matter how worse the situation is, having faith and hope will change everything. Attitude toward life is the key.

Theodore the Chipmunk from “Alvin and the Chipmunks” would be my most adorable guest at the party. Ever since the movie first came out, I fell in love with this chubby little dude, whose voice is angelically amazing. He reminds me of myself when I was little, for I always depended on my older brother and family members. Theodore is the littlest so everything he does reflects upon his older brothers. I think he is the cutest creature in the world, and having him as a guest would be a total wonder.

Most Vietnamese kids like me grew up holding this very particular comical series in hands “Doraemon”. Doraemon is a chubby robotic cat who comes to the past from the future to help Nobita, a clumsy yet kind-hearted kid. The series centers around their growing friendship with each other and how Doraemon and his futuristic equipments help Nobita become more and more confident in life. Nobita lives a typical life of any kid where school is a nightmare sometimes, and friends are bullies and hypocrites almost every single day. Yet, the adventures of Doraemon, Nobita, and their friends always lead to believe in a better world, in which friendship would be the most powerful source to fight back any obstacle in life.

Besides from Doraemon, Detective Conan is another manga (Japanese comic) that I’ve grown up with. Conan is a 17 year-old high school detective who is drugged by two black mafias to shrink down to a 6-year-old elementary kid with the same high IQ. From there, he has to find his way back to the original form, and on his journey, the puzzles are gradually resolved as the path to the mafias is shortened. My childhood centered Conan’s adventure to seek for the truth and all of his suspenseful mysterious cases. Nowadays, I’d love to invite him to my party and thank him for being a wonderful childhood friend.

Finally, not to sound as a creeper, but Happy Tree Friend is also my favorite cartoon of all time. Despite the disgustingly extreme violent scenes, Happy Tree Friends is such an entertaining series to watch. I’d love to invite all the animated characters from the series to my party. They’re adorable and extremely friendly. Hopefully, my party wouldn’t turn out to be a disaster like most of them in the real series.

Toai Tran.


Entry 7-Interview Questions
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1.   Brewster's Millions: If someone gave you $10,000, but you HAD to spend it all in one week, what would you spend it all on? Be specific and include why you'd buy the things you'd buy/do the things you'd do.

      If I ever had $10,000 by any chance, the first thing I’d do is to book my parents a holiday in Viet Nam. Ever since my family moved to the United States, my parents have been working really hard every single day just to make ends meet. They barely have any day off to spend with my brothers and me anymore. During winter break, I got a chance to help them at the salon for couple of days, and I realized how hard it is for a hairdresser to satisfy the customers since everyone demands differently. As I see my parents sacrifice their own lives for us, I wish I could do anything at all for them. Consequently, with that amount of money in hand, I wouldn’t think again to give it all to my parents to have some day off with each other, relaxing and enjoying their lives to the fullest.


2. Describe a time that you changed your mind about something important and include why/what made you change your mind (for example, deciding to be pro-choice or to be nice to a sibling or to start trying hard in school or whatever).
      When I first started middle school, I was an online game addict. School didn’t really mean much to me since I was so into the virtual world where I could be a wonderful superwoman with all the magical powers and strengths to fight the dark side. One day, as my horrible report card came home with mostly Ds, I decided to change the marks with whiteout and black pen. Of course things went well enough that my parents just signed in without any doubt. As they always say “Consequences come after”, my teacher found out about that and called my mom in for a conference. Not until I saw my mom blurry eyes with tears and her shocking reaction as the teacher told her everything that I realized how stupid I was. My mom sacrificed everything for me from the day I was born, and still I was pushing away all of her effort. That night my mom did not yell at me or blame me at all, but instead she gently told me one thing “Anytime you want to lie, think of me first.” My mom is a real hero in my heart forever after that incident, for she uses her tenderness and consideration to point out my mistake and to make me understand the situation. Consequently, from then on, I’ve always tried my best to concentrate on schoolwork and anything in life. I thank my mom for it. 



3. If you could be anyone in the world for one day, who would you be and what would you do for that one day as that person? OR If you could marry any celebrity, who would you pick and why?

Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, would be my ultimate choice. To be honest, my family has never owned a house of our own, but we rather rent houses for months. My life was basically full of moving in and moving out of the house. Seemingly, my parents have to work really hard just to provide us with necessities and even a bit more than that. Thus, my only goal is to make enough money to have my family a comfortable life. With the possession that Bill Gates has, I’d buy my family a big house with all the convenient facilities that they need. Moreover, I’d book a trip back to Viet Nam for all of us to stay there for 3 months at least. Finally, I’d also give money to my relatives in Viet Nam as well. This might sound selfish, but my family is my priority.

4. If you could choose any one food that would NOT count as being unhealthy for you in any way (calories, artery clogging, etc), that is, that you could eat endless supplies of and it wouldn't be unhealthy, what food would you pick and why? Note that you could pick a specific food like cheese or chocolate or pork or a meal like chimichangas or hot fudge sundaes or fried chicken. Why did you pick the food you picked?

       My favorite unhealthy food of all time is ICE-CREAM. As a girl, I get really conscious over my weight and appearance in front of others, so I often find myself abandon ice-cream even when I crave for it desperately. When I eat ice-cream, the freezing numb I get at the tip of my tongue gives me a little excitement and satisfaction. Ice-cream reminds me of the time when I was taken out by my dad to this shabby little ice-cream stand, which had the best ice-cream of all time. Thus, if I could choose any food that would not count as being unhealthy that I could eat endless supplies of and it wouldn’t be healthy, I would totally go for ice-cream. 


5. What is your most valued personal possession? IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE ABOUT HOW MUCH IT'S WORTH MONETARILY! Describe it, how you got it, and why it means so much to you--is it worth a lot of money or did you save your own money to get it or is it a gift from someone you love or did you find it on a really good day or what?

      Ipod Touch Screen is my only most valued possession that actually belongs to me fully. Ever since it first came out, the simple design with a delicately elegant thinness and the sophisticated black theme color really attracted my attention. It fits my aesthetic sense of beauty perfectly. Not until I came to the United States that I finally had a chance to save up the money to buy the iPod. I suppressed my temptation to buy clothes or any unnecessary accessories, and I began keeping money neatly in a safe place. Finally, I got to hold the iPod for the first time and purchased it with my own money and effort. Yes, my most valuable iPod meant to me a lot, for I had finally known how to work for something I want and putting effort to possess it. 

 

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