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“I learned the way which Americans have treated me.”

Thienvy

These essays of Across Cultures and Denominations brought me back to the first period of time when I came to the U.S.A. I could not imagine who I am now. During several first months, I lived among Vietnamese parishioners who were members of the Vietnamese Martyrs Church, Galveston – Houston Archdiocese. It was difficult for me to integrate into the parish activities although they were all Vietnamese. Different thoughts, dissimilar food, bilingual language, and the Vietnamese American lifestyle made me nervous and uncomfortable. I attended the first mass in English in downtown of Houston with a strange and sad feeling. It was the feeling of being kicked out of my country and Vietnamese culture. I asked myself, “How did Vietnamese survive in this country when they came here after the Vietnamese war?”

The second year in the U.S was the challenging time when I moved to live with an American community; it was the Basilian Fathers’ House in Sugar Land. However, it seemed easier than I thought. All the fathers in this house welcomed me and treated me as a member of their community. Many questions appeared in my mind: “Is it true or not when they treat me like this?” “Have they been trained to live multiculturally?” And so on. Being there for one and half year, I got used to American culture, food, English, and the new lifestyle.

In the conference of the Vietnamese priests, sisters, and seminarians who have studied in the U.S.A., I was surprised when most of people shared on the same idea about living in the American communities: “They treat me as I am.” This thought reminds me of the conversation during dinner at Carith House of Chicago last month. The Formation Director, Brother Daryl, told me about a novitiate who came from Vietnam. He answered the question “What did you learn in the U.S.?” with “I learned the way which Americans have treated me.”

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