By Trang Nguyen
Artwork by Josh Evans
I was cleaning my garden. Suddenly, I saw some writing on the wall:
‘B? nh? con l?m! Con gái yêu c?a b?!’ (I miss you so much! My lovely daughter!)
That was my dad’s writing!
Four years ago, a little 16-year-old girl left her home country, Vietnam, said goodbye to her family and friends, and went to Adelaide, Australia with a big ambition in her mind: to acquire the knowledge from the developed and advanced education system of Australia, then come back to Vietnam, and contribute to the improvement of her home country, using what she learned and experienced overseas.
That girl was me.
I still remember the last minutes I spent with my parents at the airport in Vietnam four years ago. My dad gave me a clover-faced necklace. He put it around my neck and said, ‘A lot of luck will come to you and don’t forget that I am always beside you, looking after you and protecting you!’ I cried, but my dad didn’t.
My dad is a sailor. The sea is his second home as he spends most of his time there. He often comes back to visit his first home—my mum, my brother and me—for a few days every three months. My dad is a tall man with sunburned skin. He is always calm, rarely talks much in front of people and never ever shows his feelings to others. For example, he never says, ‘I love you! You are my princess!’ to me, he never hugs me and also never praises me when I show him my high achievement report, which is often what other men do with their daughters. However, I know that he loves me a lot and is very happy when I achieve high results at school.
I arrived in Adelaide on a beautiful sunny day. Adelaide is so clean and peaceful. There is no noise from the buzzing of cars, there are no invitations from women selling street food. Children do not go out and play together, and all the house doors are always closed. It is completely different from my hometown with its “fast-living” lifestyle.
Adelaide is quieter at night. It makes me miss my parents so much more. The first few weeks were the most difficult time for me. Besides the torment of homesickness, I also had to start my independent life. I had to do everything myself without my mum’s help, from cooking and washing, to cleaning my room. I felt better when I started going to school. All of my friends and teachers were friendly and helpful. Gradually, I became accustomed to my new life. After two years living in Adelaide, I went back to visit Vietnam. Very sadly, I couldn’t see my dad as he had to stay in his “second home” because of his job. I missed him so much then, and still do even now, four years since I left home.
Fortunately, my dad came to Adelaide for work in April. And of course, it was a great opportunity to see him! Can you imagine what it felt like for a daughter who had not seen her dad for four years? Yes, I was extremely excited while I waited for him at Adelaide Airport. I couldn’t stop crying when he walked through the door. I cried with happiness and because I missed him for four years. But my dad—he probably wanted to cry but didn’t. He still hadn’t changed—he never shows his feelings.
My dad was in Adelaide for three weeks. He spent the first two weeks finishing his work and the third week with me! I introduced him to many beautiful places around town. We went to Rundle Mall and Harbour Town for shopping. I also took him to Hahndorf and let him try original German beer and sausages. We also visited McLaren Vale to see its immense and vast vineyards and try their wine. Most importantly, I took him to the UniSA campus at Mawson Lakes, where I am studying.
My dad was amazed at the airy and spacious studying environment of the campus. I showed him the OC building, the School of Information Technology and Mathematical Sciences, where my office is, and also introduced him to my Program Director. Then, I took him to the C building, where the library is located. He kept nodding when looking at the huge amount of books and great facilities in there. I showed him one of the lecture rooms in the GP building and showed him the lecture recording availability system, the smart white board and air conditioners. I even mentioned UniLife, the student association, where I can voice my own opinions and ideas, receive useful advice, and join different clubs and events which help me balance my social life. My dad still kept on nodding and said to me, ‘All of these are still a dream of universities in Vietnam. It was the right decision when I let you come here to study. You are a lucky girl, so you should use your time effectively in here.’
Three weeks went so quickly. Then, the time came for my dad to go back to Vietnam. On that morning, at the Adelaide airport again, I cried. I cried because I had to say goodbye to my dad. I cried because I didn’t know when I could see him again. I don’t know whether my dad cried, because he walked away very quickly into the waiting room. I don’t think he did, he is like that—never shows his feelings.
I have just come back from the airport. I miss my dad so much. I decided to do some gardening with the hope that I would be in a better mood. Suddenly, I saw some writing on the wall…
“B? nh? con l?m! Con gái yêu c?a b?!” (I miss you so much! My lovely daughter!)
That was my dad’s writing … and that was the first time he showed his feelings!