Loving a Teacher
In a small school in the corner of Nha Trang, Vietnam, 40 students are seated of varying ages and backgrounds.There is a loud buzz from small chatter.The doors swing open and the sunlight beams through, creating a halo around a delicate figure of a woman. She flows gracefully to the front of the class and turns with the hush of the crow. All eyes are on her, the men mesmerize and the women in full admiration.
“Chào các bạn, tôi tên là Thảo” 1 says she in a stiff French accent.
The class turns to silence, and carefully observes her while she passes out the syllabus. She is in her mid 20’s; she has an oval face, skinny nose, long black hair, and skin like white snow.Her body is covered with a long white French-like dress; she does not look Vietnamese at all.
The first day of class lasts for thirty minutes; Ms. Thao studies the students’ names and then had everyone write a short essay about their expectations for the class. However she is surprised by one of the essays without a name. Instead it contained the line “Ms. Thao, I wish to know you”.She feels uncomfortable but pretends to look around the class with a fake smile trying to figure out who this vogue student was.
The next day, she comes to class in a traditional Vietnamese long dress with a conical hat in her left hand. Gust of wind flows through her body, kissing the laps of her dress as she glides freely in the morning sunlight, the whole class is amazed and can not take their eyes off her. She is admirably beautiful. She begins teaching her lessons starting with the sentence “Mon nom est …” 2 At the end of the class, she collects the writing, and spots the writing of that rogue who teased her on the first day.
“…Hung…” she calls out prudently “please, see me after class”
Hung is a young man whose father is a farmer and a fisherman in Cam Ranh, Central Vietnam. His mother died at childbirth, and he is emotionally quilted by that. He feels like his life is for purpose to help others. His father sent him to a French school in Nha Trang City. In the French domination everyone had to learn French to be able to work to make good living. Hung is not very good-looking but he has the heart, he is funny and has a way with words.He is a part time student. Most of his time, he does volunteer work in a nearby hospital where he helps people with disability. Thao is an orphan, half-French and half Vietnamese.She was raised in a convent by Vietnamese and French nuns. In all those years she never gave up on seeking for her biological parents.
After Hung met up with Thao, they both realized that they were attracted to each other; her by his benevolent heart and him by her impeccable beauty. They both had a similar goals in life in which they wanted to devote their lives to help others in needs. However, they could not freely express their love.They loved each other in secret, afraid of what others may say about their relationship as teacher and student. Their love was shown in exchanges of poetry, writing. They arranged secret meetings in some familiar place in which they call “chốn hẹn ḥ”3, where they can meet, and enjoy the last minutes of sunset. On the corners of the street, they share the same bowl of soup with intimate kisses and hugs.
Unfortunately, their love story did not last for long, in the 1954; the northern Vietnamese 4 won the battle in Dien Bien Phu against France, and toppled the French domination, which led to a divided Vietnam with a communist North and a Republic in the South.
Hung has lost Thao, and Thao lost Hung. Throughout this hard time in Vietnam’s history, Hung and Thao held onto their fond memories of each other to get them through. One believes that Thao was pushed back to France but she still searching for Hung and her parents, and Hung went to join the South Vietnamese Military, and sacrificed his life on the battlefield.
~by Kevin Le