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Viết cho ngày 30/4 - A few words for 30th April

30/04/1975 - 30/04/2015

[Please scroll down for the English translation]

Tôi sinh ra tại Hà Nội năm 90 - rất lâu sau khi chiến tranh kết thúc, và khi trưởng thành cũng không hề có một chút khái niệm nào về những cuộc giết chóc thảm khốc diễn ra trên quê hương mình, ngoại trừ những câu chuyện của những người đi trước nhớ lại những năm tháng ấy. Sau này, tôi có may mắn được ra nước ngoài học tập và làm việc, cũng là dịp gặp những người khác từ phía bên kia chiến tuyến, những người chạy nạn và cả con cháu của họ (nhiều người trong số đó là bạn thân với tôi).

Tôi nghe những câu chuyện từ trận bom trên phố Khâm Thiên (cách nơi tôi lớn lên chỉ một dãy phố), đến hành trình tha hương của những người tị nạn - chỉ có một cảm giác rất buồn. Buồn và mệt mỏi hơn khi những ngày này (40 năm sau) vẫn phải chứng kiến cảnh người Việt Nam mãi vẫn không thể hoà hợp, từ cả hai phía, bằng cách này hay cách khác và tệ hơn là thấy những người trẻ của chính thế hệ tôi "kế thừa" những thù hằn và chia rẽ ấy.

Nếu bạn là một người Việt Nam ở bất kỳ nơi đâu trên thế giới, dù bạn có thù ghét những người ở "phía bên kia" như thế nào, hay lý tưởng của bạn là gì - xin đừng để những thế hệ sau phải thừa hưởng những định kiến, hận thù và chia rẽ ấy.

Xin cảm ơn,

[English translation]

I was born in Hanoi in 90 - a very long time after the war ended, and when I grew up, I had little idea about the attrocities that took place in my country except for stories from older people reminiscing about those days. Later on, I had the opportunity to go abroad to study and work. This is about time I met many other people on the other side of the battlefield, war refugees and their children (many of whom are my very close friends).

I have heard stories ranging from the Hanoi bombing and the destruction on Kham Thien street (which is only less than a mile away from my childhood home) to the long and miserable journeys of refugees after April '75 - it was all very very sad. It is also sad to have to witness the ever-lasting division amongst the Vietnamese people after all this time (40 years). To make it worse, many of those in my own generation have "inherited" that hatred and division.

If you are Vietnamese, despite where you are, how much you hate the people "on the other side" or what your ideal is, please do not pass down the hatred to your offspring.

Thank you,

Note to self - Always bring a business card

Side story on a football trip

A shot of Bath that I took a long time ago

So every year there is this Vietnamese thing in the UK where people in each city form a team, wear shorts and kick some inflated balls at each other out in the cold. We went for the qualification round down in Bath, Somerset on Sunday and stopped at a Thai restaurant for a quick lunch before the matches.

Here's where we ran into a lovely elder couple by the window, and had a long conversation with them over the meal. Vietnam, crazy motorcycle trips, how crappy the traffic is these days in Oxford and Bath, technology, Silicon Valley, entrepreneurship and start-ups etc were all in the mix of topics. I talked about my little project with a red compass icon, at which point he asked me for my card.

I was in a hurry, and I thought I'd never need my cards anyway because we'd only play football then come straight back, so I left all of them home. I ended up writing my contact details down on a Sainsbury's receipt and handed it to him, and now I really really hope it was not a receipt for something too embarassing. It could be worse...

Moral of the story: always bring your business cards, people, even to football matches - you never know where and when you might need it.

PS: I got praised by the old lady for speaking the Queen's tongue very well, so I got that going for me.

"You sound like you were not born in Vietnam, are you?", she said. Me: crying a bit inside

San Francisco stories (no.3)

Land of the lost

Random photo just for the sake of it, woohoo

San Francisco has all sorts of people. There was this one night when we decided to stay up really late and have a slice of pizza in the city centre.

A homeless guy, with an almost deformed face (as far as I remember) and could not speak properly, walked into the pizza place asking people for money. Of course, he was not welcomed there and one thing led to another, he spat on to a customer. Then as he walked out, BAAAMM! there was a really loud noise behind us. It was a water bottle thrown from behind the counter straight to the homeless guy's face.

Then as we walked back we saw 2 people chasing each other from inside a Starbuck's. Apparently one was trying to steal the other's phone, and the latter was chasing the former with a bike chain in his hand all the way down the street.

It was a fun night.

San Francisco stories (no.2)

Land of Code

I believe that in order to find out about what's hot around town, the quickest way is to hear what the people sing say.

Workshop Cafe

I personally prefer quiet places to work, and would try to endure the background noise as much as I can before resort to the big bad headphones (although I don't mind if the Rebel Army Theme is playing - best music to work along).

If there are two young girls gossiping next to me in a cafe (to be clear on this, I hate it) then typically it would be:

  • In Hanoi: who's gonna get married and expecting babies next month.

  • In London (1): what gig is on this weekend or that new clothes shop.

  • In San Francisco (2): a local build cannot get its dependencies because it cannot reach the Maven Nexus repo from outside the firewall.

That last one seriously messed with my mind because it is the kind of distraction I hate with a passion, but I actually can still understand.

(1) Okay, okay, maybe not at the Timberyard, but it looks so hip that it might well be

(2) And yes, next time you are on a short business trip to SF, check out the awesome Workshop Cafe on Montgomery.

San Francisco stories (no.1)

Land of opportunities and surprising encounters

It was a long Wednesday, we went around town to sort out a few things and decided to find a coffee place nearby to regroup, sit down, and gather our thoughts on what to do next.

Philz Coffee

We found Philz Coffee, really crowded with people buzzing around. Somehow all the four of us found some seats, and we started discussing ways to approach people in our upcoming pitches. It soon came to whether we should sell our Oxford origin.

"But do people over here actually know much about or are even familiar with Cambridge or Oxford?" - me asking Essa

And what was the chance of the person with the Macbook on that photo above being a Manager at Apple and also former Oxford student? :) She overheard and cut into our conversation. We had a bit of Oxford nostalgia going on, then mentioned our iOS work and we got introduced to a contact from Apple side to help with our upcoming app launch.

Now we've got yet another valuable contact in Silicon Valley by wandering around town. What is the chance of that?