I was born in 1965 at Saigon. Of course, I still speak and write Vietnamese quite fluently (to answer some of your questions). I have not came back to Vietnam since I left more than 20 years ago. People told me there had been significant changes.
In 1983 I left Vietnam and stayed at Philippines as a refugee before I came to US. I had a mixed feeling about Philippines, some people are so poor and others so rich. I came to live in Portland with my parents.
I had not met Ngoc Lan personally but I listened to her a long time ago when I started to go to University of Oregon. She sang with so much feelings and emotions. When I grew up as little boy in VN, I always thought that ThanhLan is the best singer. But now there is no comparison in my mind. NgocLan is the best performer ever.
After college at University of Oregon, I went to work as a computer engineer for a small scientific company of 1000 people in Portland. It had been a peaceful and quiet life for me at a relatively small town, coming to work daily and then go home and have dinner with my parents. So it seemed.
A few years later there was an extremely beautiful lady coming to work in the company. She is two years younger than me, somewhat like Ngoc Lan, tall with long hair, very attractive, sweet, and glamorous. She has NgocLan’s dark eyebrows and wear fashionable clothes. Same as NgocLan, she always has sad eyes even when she laughed, as if she was crying all the time. She told me she had lost her mom when she was a teenager. She told me about her first love in VN and how she ran away from home with him, then her second one in junior college in US, the third boyfriend, then the fourth. She told me about her love of playing piano and about how people said that she had a wonderful voice as a singer when she sang on the Karaoke.
In the company all of the single (and even some married) guys including my shamelessly 55 years-old married boss chased after her and crazy about her. But somehow she chose to love me, a simple, quiet, and boring guy (as she usually called me too boring). Maybe because we are both Vietnameses and both of us loved Ngoc Lan.
At the beginning she had quietly left some chocolate candies on my desk when I was in meeting during lunch hours. It took me some effort to find out it was from her. Then during Chinese New Year, she gave me some traditional Vietnamese foods. I gave her poem “La Dieu Bong”. Then she gave me a fountain pen on my birthday because I liked it. On her birthday I bought her a pearl necklace from Macy.
So the next few years was the most wonderful time of my life. My parents surprised why I suddenly loved the Oregon snow and its cold weather, chose to live here alone and refused to move to Orange County with them. I told them I love the magical winter here at Oregon with snowfall as in “Mua Dong sap den trong thanh pho”. We frequently eat out at our favorite Thai or Chinese restaurants or went for a walk on the beach.
All the happy times, all the sadness and sorrow when we argued, all the misery when we are away because I travelled on business were intensified with Ngoc Lan’s voice. I used to send my ex-girl friend Ngoc Lan’s music so that NgocLan can say it for me to my ex, in a better romantic way. One of the songs was “Em mo ve anh”. Probably love had made the music becoming more wonderful. My ex had been sensitive, full of emotions, and very sweet like NgocLan in some songs, very sad like other songs, and very passionate and energetic in some of NgocLan’s video. However when she got mad with me, no one had been meaner and colder in those occasions as compared to her. She had been very moody! Do you know what moody means?
Someone young and naive would ask, “Tai sao hai nguoi chia tay?”
Well, aren’t most reasons in any love story as follows: someone moved away, someone lying, someone cheating, or someone had changed. In my case, all of those things unfortunately happened.
For others it may be fast but it was a slow painful ending for us and at the end we used to argue a lot; she became extremely cold and easy to get mad with me. After the breakup I was so hurt and depressed for a couple of years that I could kill myself. The Oregon snow was not wonderful and magical anymore and the long winter suddenly became freezingly cold for me. After work, it became extremely lonely for me because I have nothing to do in this small town. I usually had dinners with some Vietnamese friend families; then went to my empty home.; forcing myself to sleep meanwhile Ngoclan music (Khuc Thuy Du) was playing all night long.
One winter night, I wandered in the Serrano park that we used to hang around and thought about committing suicide . If I lay down under a cedar tree with the falling snow and slowly die under the frozen snow. Tomorrow, when she read on the newspaper about my death; probably she then would understand what kind of pain she had caused to me. “Khien nguoi ten Duyen dau kho muon nien”. Fortunately, being an engineer, logics is always stronger than emotions. I did not want creating my aging parents any more misery in their lives.
When I heard about Ngoclan’s illness, it in fact provided me an opportunity to worry about something else. I gave up this insane and stupid idea of hurting myself for revenge and planned to go to Orange County in hope to see her perfoming in person for the first time. So after a few years full of nightmares, I quit my high-paying job, sold my home, left the snowy area of Portland Oregon, and headed to warmer and more crowded Orange County for a new environment, a new job, and a new life.
By the time I moved to Orange County, it was too late; NgocLan had passed away for a few months, another failure in my life. My parents however were delighted with my sudden change of mind. They tried to find a wife for me, their only son. I was hoping I would find someone else in Orange County and start my new life. By the way, this Little Saigon area is packed of Vietnameses, especially during the weekend. But you will never find another voice as beautiful as NgocLan, with the same feelings and emotions in presentation as NgocLan; I cannot find another person like my ex.
Since then, I had taken a couple of trips back to Portland alone, just to walk in the same town that she lives, inhale the same cold air that she breathes, and wonders what has happened to her life, or just to stand on the Oregon bridge and shout out loud to the running river below that I love her and I miss her so much.
Even though I did have someone new eventually, my better half does not have a special interest in NgocLan. I slowly discover, even though a small numbers of Vietnamese people that I know living in Orange County are richer, they seem to be more stuck-up, distant, insanely competitive, and obsessively materialistic. It is not the same friendly atmosphere as a small serene community at Portland. (Sincerely apologize to Thao, just my observation with very limited people in Orange County that I met which is not correct at all).
Fast forward a few years flying by without any special events. I was so glad when I accidentally found ilovengoclan.com. However I do not foresee that listening to the music has also brought back to me a bittersweet memory that I desperately want to bury. Wish to erase the song “em mo ve anh” from my mind. So my worst problem is that I cannot let go of the past, my worst enemy. My ex seems to adjust much better than me. Sometimes the music seems more and more unbearable because it reminds me strongly about my ex and the time we are so young, so innocent, and deep in love. Probably that is the best time of my life.
So now during party or dinner time with my family, I carried a pain inside but could not talk. Always a smile to hide a sorrow, as if wearing a mask.
Thank you for your welcome and sincere friendship. Some had e-mailed and others commented with good advises, simple but effective. I appreciate so much of the wonderful dedicated web site for Ngoc Lan. You guys should be very proud. I guess that most of you probably are younger than me, energetic youth with a wonderful heart. I respect and envy you for what you do and live: Helping others. You are awesome!
I had visited NgocLan final resting place many times and will stop by NgocLan’s grave this Christmas and buy her a rose. Yes, to cry for the loss of an exceptional talent as well as the death of my first love.
Living in the West, our lives are so busy, overwhelmed like a small boat tumbling up and down under a tropical storm, each of us may go on different way in life, you may not hear from me anymore. Today, it is sunny and a little cold in the morning in Orange County. Winter is coming but it never snows in Orange County. I wonder what happens at Portland. At this time I am mentally much better but the pain is there when I hear NgocLan’s wonderful music with the greatest-ever voice.