Birthday thoughts


Birthday isn’t a special day for me; it is always so similar to other days that I don’t find the need to celebrate, receive wishes, presents, or do something to reward myself. So, I decide to do nothing different from my usual routine. I will still have a busy day like many others, going to teach, finishing work, and talking with friends.

But, I like the idea of birthday. It is one of those days when you feel like you are thought of by other people, or even missed. You feel somehow a little more important, even though it is fleeting. If I were more connected with my Mother, I would tell her that I think my birthday is my Mother’s day. That, my birthday is not my day, but hers, because she had to go through so much pain to give birth to me this day 21 years ago. I want to tell her how thankful I am, and how I appreciate all of the things that she has done for me, how I am so sorry that I couldn’t be more open about myself with her (yet), and how I think of her a lot, care for her, and cry so much because of her.

My family always remembers my birthday, without being reminded. My grandparents, my uncle sent me wishes from last weeks. This is the time when I feel guilty most, because I don’t think that I have ever been aware of everyone’s birthday in my family. I have been away from home for four years. But that shouldn’t be an excuse. I have written down a note, forcing myself to ask my parents the dates of birth of my relatives. If it is not action, it is not love.

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Evaluation versus Interpretation of Art

By Nhi

“Even though I watch a lot of Korean soap opera, to be honest, I consider them bad art,” I said, thinking about my unhealthy obsession with Korean dramas for many years.

“I don’t watch soap opera. But I can understand why people watch them. For example, if you work in a hair salon for many hours a day, and you have all of these family responsibilities, then soap opera is a great escape. And sometimes, bad art is great. People can connect with it, ” my friend said.


As everyone in my family didn’t grow up in an artsy environment where they had access to an education that valued art or received encouragement to pursue aesthetic pleasure, they also raised me in the similar way. Rather than looking at art with seriousness, I used to view it as a hobby unworthy of evaluation and inferior to ostensibly important subjects at school, such math or science. Yet, I was luckier than my grandparents or parents, in the sense that Internet, which they did not have until the 1990s, helps me travel through time and space to find excellent art works, and my education in the later half of high school and college nurtures art appreciation. The observation of my family is not meant to chastise my origins, but to appreciate those as the context giving me the advantage of cultural awareness and wider knowledge of how art influences people, no matter where they live and how they think. Knowledge obtained through my background and my education helps me grow to look at art evaluation and interpretation with reverence and full expectation of complexity.

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A Starter’s Thoughts on Film Photography

By Nhi

New York City

After several months of reluctance and unfocused attention on an old film camera sitting at a corner of my small room, I have finally taken this little “toy” out of the gray bag, fiddled with it in my clumsy fingers long enough to finally absorb the marvelous beauty of something so ancient and distant to my existence. A film camera? How could I have got used to this bizarre feeling while growing up in a world full of fleeting moments created by digital cameras and smart phones that make the arduous job of capturing beauty seemingly easier than it really is?  Why would I nervously look at this strange item and endure the searing insecurity of my photography skill, while I could opt for the easy option of choosing the best one from many photos shown immediately on my digital screen? What creates this unwanted excitement that thrills me, persuading a frugal college student who likes to limit her food expense to fifty dollars a month into finding every reason possible to justify the money spent on rolls of film and developing them?

The film camera that I am using now is a Canon AE-1 Program, which was first introduced in 1981.

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first draft



today i have heavy boots like Oskar Schell and carry all the loneliness in the world like Leo Gursky. i would like to talk about myself very much but i think i am slowly losing the ability to talk, like that man who carries around a notebook to write down the short phrases that still stay with him. i miss literature. i miss art. i miss singing. i miss telling people that i love them very much.

i also miss my memories. memories don’t stay. they escape.  they die. they force people to let them go because accepting that you are living in the past is painful.

i don’t know what i am writing about. it is weird because if i stop to think about what i am writing, i won’t be able to write and that upsets me so i keep writing. that makes me start to wonder: what if the first draft is always the best draft?

tonight i am in desperate need of beautiful writing and raw emotions. i want something tender, sweet, unpretentious and humane. i want a writer to tell me what means to be a human and how to live because living, how do you do that? it is so difficult to live well that people don’t live anymore. and that upsets me.

someone wrote about stars in the sky this time last year and i want to read that piece again. it is beautiful and makes me dream and wonder. it makes me want to live.

artists, where are you? i need you tonight.


60km from 22/03

A little report of how the 22nd March was to those living 60km away from Brussels, for whom the historical day was just another 24 hours added to their everyday life. After one week there are now still much talk about it. But sometimes words can’t say enough and our new image culture provided by the news and digital information sources doesn’t help giving an objective look on the situation as it’s supposed to.

So why not use subjectivity to challenge objectivity?

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On Choices

By Nhi

To live alone and make the most of my time require disciplines.

Sunlight peaks through my window

I am writing from a small room in New York City. I have an hour to write for myself in future, who is eagerly waiting to read about her younger self. To my disappointment, I don’t know what to write, as I am not objectively aware of what I am doing right now with my life. And as clichéd as these words may sound, I will have to repeat them – strong and loud – because it is the truth, so as to fully absorb that my transient life — the life that I subconsciously regard as special and meaningful — is also as mundane as the lives of others. We are all lost, sometimes lonely, doubtful and even ignorant.

“I am a lost in the world of adulthood – a word that I cannot define.”

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