Chemistry Teacher Returns to Vietnam after Seventeen Years

by Mai Thy Pham

Photo: Mr. Pham in his chemistry class

Last Christmas, Tran Pham, a teacher at Montgomery Blair High School had the opportunity to return to Vietnam for the first time after seventeen years away from his homeland.

Tran Pham has been a chemistry teacher in the Science, Mathematics, Computer Science Magnet Program at Montgomery Blair High School for five years. Like many other Vietnamese people, Pham had to leave his mother land to seek freedom and a better future in the United States by sneaking out of the country in 1980. "I got to Thailand, and stayed in the camp for four months and then came straight here," Pham said.

Pham saw some good things in Viet Nam during his stay in Viet Nam. Seventeen years is a long time period so things can change a lot. "Now in Vietnam, people don't have to get in line to buy gas and food like before the time I left," Pham said. "They have open markets and, if you have money, you can buy everything that you find over here."

Beside the good feeling, Pham also had some negative feelings about his homeland. "I felt I lost a lot of freedom," he said. Pham also noticed that the business in Vietnam is growing and improving a lot, but on the other hand, the housing condition is getting worse. "The government moves people from their houses to build highways that attract business, and they pay the people with only a small amount of money."

Before Pham went back to Vietnam, he called home quite often because he has his parents over there. These phone calls helped prepare him for his return visit. From that he knew that the living and housing conditions in Vietnam are not as good as here in the United States.

Pham is not sure about when he will go back to visit again. "I don't think I plan to go back that soon even though my parents want me to go back next year." But Pham also said, "I wish that it [Vietnam] could change to a different direction, especially the government. If it changes and is the same as this country, then I won't mind to go back to live there."

Copyright 1997 Silver International, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, MD USA

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