by Sister Renee Domeier, OSB
In keeping with the purpose of Cultural Connections, this week’s story gives some reflections on the culture of Vietnam by a Vietnamese sister who lives at St. Benedict’s Monastery.
When asked what two aspects of her country she loved most, S. Kim told me: “The life styles of the Vietnamese are very focused on hospitality and community sharing. Just by opening the door or window, we can talk and share food with each other, anytime. Secondly, our house is considered a blessed and sharing place. It is our home where we were raised, grew up, are waked when we die. I truly love the traditions and culture of my homeland.”
When I asked if she believes there is need for changes, she said, “Children should be encouraged to go to school for a better future. It seems girls, especially, succumb to a prevailing norm of not having to study since they will marry and remain in their homes as mothers, homemakers and housekeepers.”
She wants to see changes.
“Men remain separate from anything their wives customarily do,” she said. “If husbands were willing to share housework with their wives, life would be lighter, happier and more meaningful, and their children would begin to see the benefit of their sharing.”
Because S. Kim has been in the United States for more than six years working toward a degree in liturgical music, I asked the same questions of her experience here.
As an immigrant, she, like most immigrants, thought of America as a kind of promised land where people live well, where there’s room for everybody, where one can find help and work to solve problems. Why would the Statue of Liberty indicate: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . .?”
She told me of her sadness, however, about other things experienced here.
“This is a free country but in reality, what about freedom if people possess guns which cause fear, death and carelessness? And if this is a developed country, why are so many people hungry, homeless and unemployed?,” she asked. “Before I came, I heard this is a very clean country, but I am sad when I see the level of pollution and trash. Is it because of unequal distribution? Are people too lazy to work? Or is there something else I do not know?”
Many of us ask the same questions, dear friend!
If you have any questions about this column, contact Juliana Howard at 715-791-8976 or Jamal Elmi at 320-310-2351.