Women's Studies - SE Asian Women
[beginning is inaudible]
. . . Houston, and of the struggles and changes that have characterized that history. The living archives also serves to introduce the community to the Women's Archive and Research Center, which we call fondly WARC, at the University of Houston. The archive, which opened just this past fall, serves students, scholars, and people of the community as a whole. We've just completed its first collection--the papers of the Houston Area Women's Center from its inception till now. The Archive and Research Center will continue to focus on papers of Houston's women's organizations and on the oral histories of Texas women. Tonight we will hear the oral histories, so to speak, of two families of southeast Asian heritage. One family is Cambodian, the other is Vietnamese. As women, as families, they will talk about their experiences in the United States and how these may have differed from experiences they had in their countries of origin. Following the interviews, there will be an opportunity for questions from you, our audience, and we ask that you write your questions down on the three by five cards during the interviews and give them to us at the end for our vol-- our panel to answer. And after the program, we invite everyone to stay for a wonderful reception for our guests, including some very good tastes from local restaurants that feature Asian foods. I especially want to thank this evening our co-sponsor, the Asia Society of Houston. Now as you may know, the number of Asians living in city-- in Houston has grown dramatically since the mid 1970s. In the 1990 census, Asians made up about four percent of the Houston population. By the year 2000 it is expected that they will exceed seven percent. And much of this growth is due to the immigration of Vietnamese, Cambodian, and other southeast Asian groups. Today Asians living in Houston represent over twenty different countries, with the largest number being Vietnamese. And we also have one of our country's largest Cambodian populations. Well now I want to introduce our speakers for this evening. Perhaps they could stand just briefly as I introduce them so we know who is who. First Lucie Bo-- Bowing, Bowing, who immigrated from Vietnam to the United States in 1975 as a single mother with two young daughters. From 1985 to 1990 she owned and operated a travel agency, serving mostly the Vietnamese community of Houston. Lucie now works as office manager in her daughter, Philoan, law firm. Philoan Tran, also born in Vietnam. Philoan immigrated to the United States at the age of ten with her mother and a younger sister. In 1987 she graduated from B-- Houston Baptist University, and in 1990 completed her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree at the UH law center. She practices civil litigation. She could be the person to know. And in nin-- in 1993 she started her own law firm. That's where mom works. Yani Keo was born, raised, and educated in Cambodia. She and her daughter also immigrated here in-- se-- 1975. In Houston she worked for fifteen years for Catholic Charities, and since 1991, she's been program coordinator for the Refugee Services Alliance. There she coordinates programs for people of many nationalities, including orientation for new arrivals, paralegal services, and counseling on domestic violence, sexual abuse, and drug and alcohol abuse. Her daughter is Rothmani Kou. Also born and educated in Cambodia, since 1979 Rothmani has worked for Conoco in Houston, where she is now senior assistant for lubricant marketing. We can find out what that is. She is married and has two children. Our moderator this evening is Lydia Lum. Lydia is, is a reporter at the Houston Chronicle where she writes about higher education. Lydia, believe it or not, is a native Houstonian and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. Her ancestry is Chinese. Her great grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1905, and her grandfather brought the family to Houston in 1946. So take it away, Lydia.
Lydia: Thank you, *. And I want to thank everyone for coming out here this evening. I think that we're going to have a really good program tonight and really looking forward to hearing what you all have to say during our question-answer later on. I've had the opportunity to visit with each of these women before tonight and to kind of talk about issues and what we'd like to share with you this evening, and hope that everyone here, regardless of our backgrounds and our life experiences, are able to find something that we can connect with and appreciate, as I did, with these women. Sorry, at first I thought you had your hand up or something. I thought, a question so soon. What a sharp listener. Okay. Based on my visits with all of these women, I've decided to pick a few topics this evening to kind of focus on. Things like professional opportunities, personal opportunities, things that aren't really discussed as much in textbooks and in news articles and magazines and newspapers about southeast Asian's women's experience. I think a lot has been written and portrayed on television and in movies about immigration, about refugee resettlement, and while it's certainly something very important, I think that there are a lot of things that aren't as well portrayed, not as well known, and so I'm hoping that we can share some of that this evening. And certainly, if there are questions about things that we don't go over, there's opportunity to discuss that during the question and answer. So without further delay, I'd like to start the program and move the discussion to Yani first. Now, when we were talking, you said that you were talking about growing up in Cambodia, living with your family, going to school, having friends, the things that I guess most of us as, as kids have. Right?
Yani: Yes, yes. Okay. Yes.
Lydia: Now. And you went to school and then something happened when you were about fifteen years old. What happened Yani?
Yani: One day my grandmother call me to her room and my mother with her, too, said we will let you get married. I didn't know which one.
Lydia: What was your reaction?
Yani: Kind of surprised, but our family we know that my aunt, my uncle they all parent arrange the wedding. And when I look at my grandmother, I said, You sure it's me? Because I have my older sister that's older than me, two years older than me. And my grandmother-- my mother just smile and look at me and said, Well Grandma are you sure it's me? 'Cause I, I don't feel like is it time for me to get married. I still-- I love to, you know, play all the games and run all over and said, my grandmother said, Yes, in a couple of months we will arrange you wedding. What can I say?
Lydia: Well did you smile?
Yani: I have to respect. I cannot say no. I should not say no either.
Lydia: How common was that for girls of your generation in Cambodia to be married at a young age like that?
Yani: Yes. Most of the Cambodian girls get married very young. Fourteen, sometimes fourteen, fifteen, but if you are eighteen, or twenty years old, oh something wrong with you.
Lydia: Did you date any boys before you got married?
Yani: No. I never date. I never know how date. No.
Lydia: Yeah. Now you did tell me that you were acquainted with your husband before you got married.
Yani: Yes. My father was a judge and my father-in-law was a judge. My father younger than my father-in-law. And they work together. And I know the family. I call my husband uncle. I call him uncle. Do you know our tradition you should not call names. Somebody older than you brother or uncle or aunt or sister. And I call him uncle because he come and visit us and he left, he went to Europe to Paris, France. He went to school there. And I saw him when I was nine years old. I still remember some that we play together and my sister, oh my three sister. I have three girl. In my family we have seven, and four girls and three boys. I'm number two. My oldest sister she is older than me and she knows better, and for me, I don't care. I never pay attention. I never think nothing, just going to school. That's it. And I knew him. My parent-in-law that come to the family back and forth visit each other I didn't know. Until the day my grandmother, not my mother told me, because my grandmother is the older in the family that the person we should respect. And my parent-in-law at that time they were not-- They live in Kaboomchan because at the border that's a *, and I'm a city girl. I born in the capital of Nompwen, live in the capital Nompwen, and really city girl. And when they told me like that, I said, Well I, I cannot say no; number one I should not say no either, because this is our culture, the custom I have to respect.
Lydia: So that was very common for a girl your age.
Yani: Yes, common for everybody in my country. It's nothing new for me, for my aunt or for my *.
Lydia: You were fifteen. How old was your husband at the time?
Yani: He is twelve years older than me.
Lydia: I'm sorry. Twelve?
Lydia: Twelve years older?
Yani: Yes, yes, twelve years older.
Lydia: So he was about twenty-seven.
Yani: Yes, uh huh.
Lydia: Well I have to admit that I cannot imagine myself being married when I was fifteen. I'll admit my priority was more having a boy pay attention to me when I was fifteen, you know.
[talking over one another]
Yani: . . . Lydia, one thing that I ask my mother and my grandmother. Please allow me to go back to school after I get married. That's one thing come to my mind, because I loved to learn different languages. We don't need any money truthfully. Because I born, I saw everything, we had everything that what-- I enjoy love, like a girl. Go to school, full-time school, come back home, have everything. One thing I ask my grandmother, my mother, said, Please allow me to go back to school after I got married. The only one girl in Cambodia after got married that go back to school.
Lydia: So they let you continue on to school.
Lydia: . . . I want to turn that question also over to Lucie. You're about four years younger than Yani, I believe. And what I wanted to ask you, what your -- to kind of talk about your experience in getting married in Vietnam. It was different than with Yani. You were not fifteen. Why don't you tell us, you know, how, you know, how it was with your husband in Vietnam. How you all got together.
Lucie: Oh. I was married when I was twenty-four. And uh.
Lydia: Did you all date briefly or know each other.
Lucie: Oh, I, I, we know each other for four years before we decide to get married.
Lydia: So you all decided?
Lucie: Yeah, we all decide, but with the parents approval.
Lydia: Sure. But it was not your parent's idea...
Lydia: --to do that.
Lydia: So I think that's an interesting point. It's something important is that we have two women, even though they're of the same generation, there are differences between Asian countries of things going on. I was wondering if there were a lot of arranged marriages of women of your generation?
Lucie: Oh yes, there were. Yes, there were. But I * , you know, I, in my family I only was a --have the one that's a -- My family always said that I was the one that's always ahead of my time.
Lydia: Good for you.
Lucie: Because I would not agree with arranged marriage, number one. And, but I told my mother that when I met Philoan father that I told-- I was very open. I did not hide to my mother at all. I went home, told her. I even took him home. And so when I decide to get married, to marry him, my mother ask me was, Are you sure? I said, Yes, I'm sure. But I don't, I'm not sure what's going to be. But whatever gonna be, I will accept it. I will take it. Because that's my, my fault. If it turn out wrong. So um, so, so, um.
Philoan: She forgot to tell you that my father was the only person she ever dated.
Lucie: Yes. Yeah.
Philoan: There weren't other choices.
Lydia: One hundred percent batting average.
Lucie: Well, that's. Well you make me sound like a reject of society *. No, no actually I had several other young men after me at that time, but Philoan father be one of the, them that I was interesting. So we date for four years, but talking dating, I mean that I was-- I did not have much freedom to go out with him any time I wanted to. So I have a very limit permission to go out with him. And--
Philoan: And when you did go out you had to take your niece and nephew along.
Lucie: Yeah, yeah. When I, when I was allowed to go out that I had to have a, a long tail. You know. Niece, nieces and nephew to took with me just like my chaperon.
Lydia: You never got lonely.
Lucie: Yeah, so. So after I marry, my ex-husband for one year that I had Philoan. So that was my mistake. The very, very-- [laughter] No, no, no, no, no. That mistake that mean that I had Philoan too early. You know, I rush into motherhood too early. It was not-- I not-- I did not regret in my part, but I partly I * regret because my marriage didn't work out. And I realized that I found out later that because we have Philoan too early and we didn't have enough time for probably romance or whatever that her father wanted to, so because of that I think that he felt-- Because after I had Philoan, I devote my time, my attention to her. So my-- her father felt that I was desert him. So that why my marriage didn't work out, the first marriage didn't work out, because that. Not because I regret to have you.
Philoan: I certainly hope not.
Lucie: No. I never regret to have you. Okay? But I regret that I have you too soon.
Lydia: Timing is everything. Well Yani I'd like to talk about your experience in getting married. You were married in the United States after you all had immigrated. You know, what was your situation. Did you-- How did you and your husband get together.
Moni: Well, the first time when I get to -- I lived in Paris for a while, and then when I came to Houston I was eighteen years old, and I, I'm not interested in getting married that time.
Lydia: You said you had all the boys after you.
Moni: Oh yes, a lot.
Lydia: I never had that problem. I don't know. Anyway.
Moni: Well the reason there because to me the boy find me challenging.
Lydia: Oh, okay.
Moni: Yes, because I, you know, I'm a little bit like-- I have inquiring mind.
Lydia: Uh huh.
Moni: And, you know, like they were saying that no you cannot do that. I say, Yes I can. You wanna bet. You know. It just like that and they -- Because when I was in Cambodia I graduate in math. And then I went to Sorbonne, I, I ask pre-engineering, and then my father came to United State and he said-- you know he want all of us joining him in United State. So I told him that well I want to finish, you know, my degree first. He said no. United State is the richest country in the world. This is the better place for you. So * I came. And the first time I went to the University of St. Thomas, that's where I -- and I have a British accent, very strong British accent. And so all this student came to me and they said, Moni where you from. I say Cambodia. And he said, Cambodian and you have British accent? And I say of course, you know. And so they, they be just try to find out, you know, get to know me, and I'm very private person. You know, I just, no I'm not interested. I just want to go to school, you know, finish my degree, and then after that I think about it. And my experience with my husband is something else.
Moni: Because I remember he, he was in-- See my father came over here and my father organize a Cambodian association in Houston and my husband is his secretary.
Moni: And, you know--
Lydia: Put him to work.
Moni: Yeah put into-- and, you know, my father told me, he said, This is my secretary. And I said, jeez, really? And he so arrogant.
Moni: He wouldn't look at me straight in my eye and he just said, okay. I said, Hi Sam. He said, Hi Moni. And then he just like, you know, okay. So I told my father, He's so arrogant. You know, and my father, Well but he's a good man.
Lydia: And I guess you eventually agreed with him.
Moni: Not really, I told him the first time I met him, I hate his guts.
Lydia: How did that come together? Did you choose to marry this man, or how much of an influence was your parents?
Moni: Well my father hs a lot of influence on it, because the-- on that time I was the-- I have some friends, you know, but he used to have a different nationality, and my father told me that my husband, Sam, he's interested in me. And he said that Sam is a good, will be a good husband for me. Because he said, I want you to marry a man, not a boy. And so, I say, Are you sure he's the good one for me? He says, Yes of course, because I'm a man, I know when I see one.
Lydia: But it was your choice.
Moni: Half and half. Half of my choice and half my father's choice.
Lydia: Yani, how much influence did you have in this?
Yani: Well, because I went through that and that all my fortune and choose the love one. I let them do-- I told all of them you have a right to know anyone. You have to learn how to see, how to find your loved one. This is your happiness. That's why I keep in my heart that I'm lucky to have a good husband that he take care of me, he did a lot of thing that a lot of Cambodian men never do it. He cook, he take care of everything. He babysit the children, he take care of my clothe. My job is terrible; without his support I cannot do this kind of work. Leave home in the morning, get home at night. Sometimes stay at the hospital all night or in jail or somewhere that working with the refugees. No Cambodian men do like this. And you know how the community is.
Lydia: You're very lucky.
Yani: Yes. Yeah. We married for forty-three years. That's what we stayed together, and I told all my children. When we left Cambodia, we sent three children to Paris, France. Went to school over there. Only the youngest boy stay with us. We only-- only two hours that we know that I have to start my life on zero. We could not return back. And no husband. I had to go to Paris with four children, no husband, my sister, her two children, no husband. That is hard for me, and I never be prepare myself to work. 'Cause in Cambodia I don't need to work. I just volunteer do what I want to do. I travel around the world, and in two hours, when the ambassador told me that I could not return, I almost pass out. I did not prepare myself what I should do, you know? No husband, no money, three children in Paris. I'm here, you know. That's what should I do? I'm surviving here today.
Lydia: I wanted to, before we forget, at the end of the program, Yani has graciously sort of loaned for display some family pictures if you all would care to look at. They're up there. Now I wanted to move to Philoan as the single woman of this group. We talked about dating in the United States versus, you know, how dating is perceived in Vietnam. What are some of the differences, you know, as far as male-female relationships among single people.
Philoan: Oh they're very strict there. It's between Asian -- Vietnamese women and Vietnamese men. Even in this country. I mean it's just in just Vietnam. As heard earlier, my mother had talked about her dating experience. She only dated one person and that was the person she got married. Dating is not the same as it is over here. The Vietnamese definition of dating is, when you date that person you have the intention to marry that person or that person is a marriage possibility. You just don't date just to get to know each other. Over here it's very easy for us. We can just go out and say, okay well we're dating this person just to know this is who we want to get to know better, but that's now it works. And so I think a lot of time that there are conflicts arise between my mother and I because she would think the concept is if I'm going out with a guy then that means, you know, this is who I want to get married. I go, Mom, I don't even know the person; I'm just trying to get to know him. So we've learned we've got a common ground is this way, unless I bring the person home, the guy home, then don't worry, it's not a marriage possibility. Okay?
LYdia: But does she see them at the office?
Philoan: Oh yeah, I mean, she, she, you know, she, she's there, she see or she talks to them but it's no, it's not a big deal because, sometime it can be--
Lydia: It might be a client.
Philoan: Yeah be a business client or some, someone you know in term networking and stuff. So it has nothing to do with that. But you know in our society, you know, it's different over here. Over here, you know, when a man and a woman can be friends, platonic friends and it's okay. You can hug the person or pat the person on the back, it's no problem. But in our culture and even in our society here, a man will not put a hand on a woman's-- any part of her body at all, will not touch her. Especially if that person is a married woman. And that's how strict the barriers are between men and women. We just don't touch each other. And--
Lydia: Shake hands?
Philoan: We shake hands, yeah. But that's over here, but, you know, actually, according to my generation, we can do anything we want. But their generation--
Lydia: [overtalk] . . . confusion though when your parents see you and say--
Philoan: Well no because we, because we have learned is there are two personality. We have assumed two personality. There is one those that's our true personality and then the one when we are in a Vietnamese reception or a wedding. We would assume this very docile, you know, demure manner, and we just do not want, you know, to ? and start talking to the guys. So there, there barriers. We know, we w-- I know I have to learn to keep that tradition when I'm in a, at a Vietnamese function or reception.
Lydia: Just just kind of step in and out of those roles.
Lucie: We have that problem sometime. We, we, you know, we went to the some function--
Lydia: Uh huh.
Lucie: --and I saw some young man approach Philoann and hug her so tight.
Lyida: How tight
Lucie: Yeah and then, you know. She, she. I think to be polite she, she hugged back the young man--
Philoan: We, we were friends.
Philoan: She gets upset. She goes-- well Mom that's just normal. We do that over here, you know, it's no big deal.
Lucie: I said, yeah, I said but it's just the way, you know, the way he hugged you and the way you hugged him.
Lydia: For ? it's just *.
Lucie: It's still hard for me to accept it, you know.
Lydia: Yeah, yeah. Now Yani you mentioned that your family, you wanted to finish school after you got married and your family let you finish that. But what was your major, what was your--
Yani: Home economy. I don't need a job. What should I take? I just like to learn a lot of things, new things. That's why I took home economic.
Yani: I don't *
Lydia: Women were not expected to work outside of the home at all. And Lucie tell us a little bit about your education in Vietnam.
Lucie: Oh. I finish high school and after that I did not go to the college for profession, for professional, for profession like to be a teacher or to be a lawyer, doctor. I went to-- I don't know what the reason, but I was the only in family at that time, I just -- I was only interesting to go to the English school. And my family really against that. Everybody. My father says, Why do you go to the English school for? You know, what you study English for, you know. I says, I don't know why but I just interest going to English school, this special English school. And so I went to the school called the Vietnamese American Association. That was a large, large, a very well known school in Saigon, the only one in Saigon that's to teach and to, to train people with a four-year program. And if you finish four years, you have to take the exam, which is um, um, um sent back to Michigan in United State here. And the, if you pass it, the certificate diploma would be granted by the Michigan University here. So that was equally like the bachelor degree here. And, but I didn't finish four years. I was in four years, but I did not finish the four years. And see my family alway against that, but I still want to. And then after I, you know, I, I attend the education, but I didn't have opportunity to practice my English at all because at that time the American, you know, government was in Vietnam, you know, the, * was in Vietnam. So there was so many opportunity for the job, you know, for the job, but I was not allowed to get any job, to work for any, you know, American, the organization or department or whatever. I was not allowed. So my English would just fell away until '75 that I came over here that I have a chance to practice my English again.
Lydia: Yeah. So. Talk about that a little bit. You and your two daughters. You had divorced just pr-- in the 1970s, in 1975 you all came to this country. You didn't have very much. I remember you telling me you didn't know anyone in the United States. Soyou-- I'm sorry.
Lucie: Yes. Go ahead.
Lydia: Uh. You were going to school, you were working quite a bit. You all-- We talked about how you worry about preserving things like the Vietnamese language and ways of life and culture and things like that.
Lucie: Oh actually the, the Vietnamese language was the least--
Lydia: The least worries.
Lucie: worry. Yeah, the least worry--
Lydia: What were you worried about?
Lucie: --The least worry that I had at that time. I was a worrier about, at that time, you just, you just im--, just, just imagine I came over here without family, without friends, without money. What just little money, that's what's not considered a money, you know, that for the future or anything. So I had nothing but myself with my two children, which Philoann was ten and the younger one was two years old. And we were sponsored by the Catholic Church. So we went to West Virginia, and *--
Lydia: you were there for several years...
Lucie: --in my mind. First of all I had to deal with the, the depression.
Lucie: And then had to deal with the, what, how we gonna live, what we gonna do, how my children gonna be. So the Vietnamese language really was the least worry at that time to me. So after I, we settled-- Actually at first the church, some family in the church, one of the, the professor, he's one member in the parish, and he, the both husband and wife had like four kids. They wanted to sponsor us. They had the big house at the, you know, house outside the town. And, and they, they want to sponsor us to, to bring us home to stay with, with them to-- I think they just want their kid to get to learn about different cultures, so that why they want to sponsor us. And I told the father, I said, Father, I like to have my own place. And, and so he, he went out and tried to get apartment for us, but no one would rent us the apartment at that time because, number one, at that time it-- the refugee, especially the refugee, the Vietnamese refugee was a something very strange to that little town. Number two,that my records was a divorced woman with two kid. And that was a small town. People kind of, you know, very, not very open mind about that. So they did not let me rent the apartment at all. So finally my husband, my -- So the father and the whole parish came to me said that listen we have a hard time try to find a apartment for you. Why don't you go to the, you know, the professor and stay with them. I told the father, I said, I was a very determined. I told the father, I said, Father, I want to raise my children in my own way and in order to do that I have to have my own place. I don't care what's that but I will wait until we can get the place. So we were stay at the one lady in the ch--, at the parish that she had a house, if we stay in there for two months and after that my husband, present husband right now, the current husband right now, his uncle had the place. They fix it up so we can stay. So he tore out there, is apartment for us to stay next to, to his family. So that how I get, after three years I got married my current husband.
Lydia: So that's how you met.
Lucie: Yeah, that's how I met--
Lydia: ..you know.
Lucie: Yeah. So.
Lydia: Okay. So you remarried in West Virginia.
Lydia: Yeah. And that's how you all met. You had talked about some of the th-- some of your worries about raising your daughters, you know, teaching them certain things.
Lydia: Can you elaborate on that?
Lucie: Oh yeah.
Lydia: You were, you know, wa-- you were talking about making an impression on them that they be polite to elder, to older people.
Lucie: Oh yeah, uh huh.
Lydia: Remember we talked about that.
Lucie: Uhmm. I, I teach them that whatever you do, you go out, you always remember one thing, you alway have be compassionate but firm, be strong but not cruel, and specially be fair, be reasonable. That how I teach my children.
Lydia: Yeah. And after you moved to Houston, this continued. You were telling me about some of your concerns about how certain cultural norms in America, such as television really worried you.
Lucie: That's why, that's why the, one thing that I always worry every since I set my feet on this country, that's the thing, that why I, I told you while ago that, the language, the Vietnamese language was the least worry, but the, the, the most worry that I worry that how can I raise my children in this country, you know, to, to go along with the tradition, the custom in this country, but at the same time I still can remain my own culture, my own tradition or custom. That is very-- I know the very first time I, I, I came over here that I knew that would be very tough. And I determine to raise my children--
Philoan: That's why she didn't let us have television set in our room.
Philoan: Even to this day--
Lydia: Do you have a tv now in your room.
Philoan: And I think even to this day I think we're the only family in America that does not have cable.
Philoan: When mom *.
Lucie: We have three television set in the family. One in the kitchen. I allow them to eat and watch TV, so they can enjoy, you know, themselve because like after one day home in school and at work. And then one in the family room and one in the study. That's it. But no, no television set in any bedroom in my house. And even my room. I don't have-- See whatever I rules are I teach my children that I have to set example for myself. Whatever I tell them not to do, I don't do it. Like I don't like my children go to the nightclub. I don't go to the nightclub. I don't drink. I don't smoke. You see. So I, I have to set example for my children. I cannot, like-- I, I, I saw, I know a lot of family in Vietnamese community the parents drink and smoke and go to the nightclub, you know. But they, they forbid their children to do that. And that's not gonna work.
Lydia: Now, Lucie, you told me also of an example, we were talking about how you set the example and we were talking about sacrifices that you made for your family and you were talking about a trip.
Lucie: Oh yes, yeah.
Lydia: Tell us about that.
Lucie: The trip.
Lydia: . . . no, no, no, no. Alaska.
Lucie: Trip to Alas--
Lydia: Trip to Alaska.
Lucie: Oh yeah.
Lydia: She forgot to tell you.
Lucie: Well when the -- my -- all my life, the only thing that I like the most, most of the people like the money, but I like to have the money to have a nice comfortable living. But I, I like to have that I can afford to travel all the time. I love travel. That why I was in travel business. But when I was in travel business for five years, I didn't get to go much at all. Because see there was the, the fan(?) trip, like a promotional and they give it to the Asian travel agent to go. It's very cheap, very, very inexpensive. But I couldn't go because I couldn't leave my children home. So one time that I took the trip to the Orient, like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok, I have to buy the airplane ticket, send to Paris, ask my sister came over here stay with them for three weeks. See, but the end I end up only two weeks and I came home. Then I just you know left the last part. I didn't go to all of it. So I went home because I call home and check all the time. So, so that was a big sacrifice. You know I was in travel business but I didn't get to go many places because I couldn't leave my children, children home.
Lydia: Was there a trip to Alaska I think you mentioned?
Lucie: Yeah for five hundred dollars.
Lydia: Did you go? Did you go?
Lucie: No, I didn't go.
Lucie: Like I said.
Lucie: Because I didn't want to leave my children alone home. At that time they were both in school--
Lucie: --you know, so I couldn't leave them home because I want, I want to make sure everyday that they came home they have good food--
Lydia: Uh hmm.
Lucie: --you know, at the table.
Lydia: That was important to you.
Lucie: Yeah, uh hmm.
Lydia: For you to be there.
Lydia: And you told them that didn't you?
Lydia: That you were passing up this trip?
Lucie: Oh, I don't have to tell them. I, I -- whatever, you know, I, I do for my children, I don't even have to tell them.
Lydia: Uh huh.
Lucie: I do it.
Lydia: It's too bad I didn't know you then. I could have taken the trip for you. Okay, okay. I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. No, what -- I think there's a larger point here which is that a sense of family is very important among different Asian countries, and that's something that you're not always going to see in a textbook or a newspaper article or something like that. Kind of going with, handed -- sorry. Going in hand with that is that many Asian families live together. It's still common, you know, in a lot of circles where people will live together. Yani, when you all were in Cambodia and after your husband and you got married, who-- where did you all live?
Yani: Live with my mother.
Lydia: So he moved in.
Yani: Yes, yes. He moved in. For us Cambodian, after we got married, the man move to the woman's house. We had three -- After I got married I stay at my mother's house. My sister got married, we stay at my mother's house. My young sister married. All together we have a very huge house and each of the child have a servant, each of us have a driver, a cook, a very big house. And all -- each of us have four children. I have four children. My older sister, we live together, very happy family. I moved out in 1970 just five years before because we had every children had their own land and we prepare everything for the children. They don't need to worry. They just go to school, like Moni graduated from English school, the only one Cambodian girl that graduated in math and English. That what we send her to Paris and my young son. But the -- we live together. Everybody live together.
Lydia: Now sometimes that continues when people have immigrated to the States. Feelawn, now you still live at home, right? Want to talk about that a little bit.
Feelawn: Sure, but I don't intend to live with my mother once I get married.
Feelawn: My mother will not live me.
Lucie: But she intends to live next door to my house. [inaudible]
Feelawn: But I can still get the benefits, not without having to hear the lectures everyday.
Feelawn: No, no.
Lucie: She is a very bad cook in the kitchen.
Feelawn: Oh yeah, I-- You know the Asian tradition-- I mean the Asian woman is supposed to be really good in terms of cooking and everything. I think I sort of defy that stereotype altogether because the only time I ever cook was when my mother went to Hong Kong, and I think all I did was cook tofu, and my sister, my stepfather, both of them got really sick of my cooking. They say they don't want to ever eat my tofu again.
Lydia: So you would ruin the survey or something--
Lucie: Oh yeah, I definitely ruin the --
Lydia: Or be the test case, yeah.
Feelawn: --blew the statistics. Oh yeah. I ruined the statistic out there and everything. But yeah, it, it's just-- Well you know the thing is that over here it's very common for children to live with their parents when they are still single. That just the family tradition and everything. You just don't do that. But for some reason, that tradition is even more so-- I mean it's practiced more so for girls, I mean for, for women. Young men can, can, you know, get, you know, a job and can get their own apartment and move out, it's okay. But a young woman cannot move out of the house if she's single. Well she can but then she be labeled--
Feelawn: --by the community as being too wild--
Feelawn: --or too liberal--
Lydia: She not good family.
Feelawn: --or family's just too open mind, you know, too, too easy. And so you just not allowed to do that, so there's a double standard in our community.
Lydia: Yeah. Well let's talk about careers a little bit. Moni, you told me that when you were in Cambodia, you were interested in becoming an engineer.
Lydia: How common was it for girls to pursue that as a career?
Moni: Well, in Cambodia most of the ladies over there it's not common to be a professional.
Lydia: Yeah. Your mom had been saying most of the women stayed at home, so even with your generation it still was fairly common to stay at home.
Lydia: Yeah. What-- So for the most part there weren't too many careers the girls were seeking. How did young men sort of treat you when, you know, they found out what you were studying to become?
Moni: Well most the young men in my country all very-- I think they, to me I would say afraid of women, career women. They always said that well if you know too much, you know, we not gonna marry you.
Lydia: But they were still after you. I--
Moni: Right. Well they after me because they try to get even with me, you know, like they said-- For instance, on my thirteen-- Well Cambodian we have thirteen years in school in high school. Over here you have twelve. In my country we have thirteen. Number thirteen year I chose to be an architect or an engineer, and I'm the only girl in the fifteen, there are fifteen guy, boy, in the class and I'm the only girl in there. And they all pickin' on me, you know, say, Why are you-- Are you sure this is what you want, you know. And something wrong with you, you know. And I said, Nothing wrong with me.
Lydia: What's wrong with you?
Moni: Yeah. So that's why asking them, you know, and then they said, No, because, you know, you supposed to be like domestic engineer, you know, not a civil en--
Lydia: A domestic engineer.
Moni: Yeah, domestic engineer.
Lydia: Oh okay. wrong engineering department.
Moni: Yeah, right.
Moni: So it's not a civil engineer.
Moni: So I said, wrong.
Lydia: Now when you came over here, of course circumstances were changed. Of course you all had to work to basically start over.
Lydia: And so that-- You had told me that you still have hopes of going into engineering one day even though you have not taken that path at this time.
Moni: Well uhm.
Lydia: I mean you got married, so of course--
Lydia: --that became a priority, and you have two children. That becomes very time consuming.
Moni: Yeah, I went to St. Thomas for three years and I got my associate degree in accounting, and then after that I went to professional school, Massey Business College to get my degree in executive secretary. And after that, you know you just keep going.
Moni: You know, and then I went to Houston Community College and I took some courses that relate to civil engineer. That's what I'm doing now.
Lydia: Uh hmm.
Moni: I just take, you know, one course at a time and see how it go.
Lydia: Well we wish you well with that.
Moni: Thank you.
Lydia: Now Feelawn, what kind of career do you think you would have pursued had, you know, if you were in Vietnam at this time. Do you think that you would have gone into law?
Feelawn: No, I don't think so. I mean, especially my father's family, most of them are medical doctors, and I know for, you know, there're like eight grandchildren, five boys, and all of them are doctors, medical doctors or dentists. So I know it's not an area where my father's family would have approve of because I know when I decide I wanted to go to law school, he say, Why law school, you know, why not medical school. Should be medical doctor and everything. And not only that, in our country, women have such a subservient role in society, even tho-- I mean, like, like what Moni had said earlier is like they want a woman to be well edu-- to be educated because that makes you much more attractive in term-- in the marriage market. But not too well educated, because then you become unmarketable because then you b-- you can speak up your own mind, you're self-sufficient. You're not gonna take it from a guy. And no-- and a guy will not want to marry you, you too well educated, because then you'll be telling him all time. Yeah, so I think that if I had been in Vietnam I don't think I would have gone and pursued a legal profession, just because of the way the society expects out of you. I-- With my family, we were different from other families that education is greatly emphasized, even for women and everything, so I would imagine that I would have been sent abroad fto France or somewhere to get an education abroad, but that it would be in the medical profession, because if my family is paying for the, for the education, believe me they're going to put the pressure as to what kind of career you can choose.
Lydia: Do you think that if you were in Vietnam at this time, you would have been married by now? No pressure, no pressure.
Feelawn: Well it depend on whether or not I been, I would have been educated in Vietnam or in France. I think if I had gone off like my aunt and get education, and get my education either in France or in Par-- I mean in Switzerland, I don't think I would have come back to Vietnam. And even if I did, I don't think I could have survived with the way that women were treated over there and everything. I think I would have stayed abroad. And if I have gone back in Vietnam, yes, there would be the pressure to get married. It's not because something you really want, it's because as a married woman you have better opportunities than as a single woman. You can go to places that you couldn't go as a single person.
Lydia: I see.
Feelawn: You, you, you know, 'cause you have a husband. It's okay. Whereas a single, you know--
Lydia: It gives you--
Lydia: --added social status, you think?
Lydia: Would you consider moving back to Vietnam to-- as a lawyer, you know, opening a practice or something. No. You're looking --
Feelawn: No way.
Lydia: --at me like I'm out of my mind. Okay. Why is that? Why is that?
Lydia: Why would you not want to--
Feelawn: Well first of all, the way the laws over there, there's only so many attorneys that allowed to practice in Vietnam, and you have to be registered. First of all, my Vietnamese is not that good. I mean I can speak Vietnamese, well, you know, fluently, and I can read it, you know, but my writing's not that good, so I don't think I could be able to do it. Second of all, I think if I go back over there and I see the way how women gets treated over there, I wouldn't want to live in that country. From what my cousin tells me, they can-- a man can go over to Vietnam and buy a woman, a young girl, sixteen, seventeen years for two hundred dollar and do anything he wants with her. That is-- That to me is outrageous. And I couldn't put up with that kind of, you know, injustice to women and everything, and so-- Not-- Especially with having been educated over here--
Feelawn: --I couldn't go back over there without starting a revolution or something.
Lydia: Well then I could write about it and-- I guess going-- I guess that would answer the next question, which is would you, you know, if you had a choice between raising children in the future here or in Vietnam, would you, which would you choose given choice?
Feelawn: Oh, definitely over here, and I think it's because, not just because of the opportunities that are available to both men and women but it's because there's less emphasis put on the class system. Like in Vietnam there's so much-- it's put-- so much emphasis that's put on where you from and what background you from and everything. And, you know, fortunately for me, with my family background being, you know, of prominent families, oh it's okay, a lot of doors are opened for you. But a lot of time because of your family background a lot is expected out of you, too. You're expected to behave a certain, to do things a certain way, because your family members have already done that way.
Lydia: Uh hmm. Lucie, you have worked in the United States and you have also worked in Vietnam. What advantage do you think that working women have in the United States.
Lucie: Oh in United States women has a lot of advantage. And, and opportunities because that's over here. Actually you can do any type of work if it fit your, you know, expertise or, or whatever that, that, that the job that you can get to bring home the income to, to support your family. In Vietnam it's not that way. In Vietnam unless you grow up in the family that you have the opportunity to have the education become like professional or a doctor, lawyer or a professor or, you know, pharmacist or whatever, other than that there are not, there were not many opportunity, job opportunity for women because--
Feelawn: The public school is not that good in Vietnam.
Feelawn: You had to have a private education.
Lucie: Yeah, and in order to have the opportunity in, in the, the career, then you have to have the, the education first. But it's not, not many people had the opportunity for education.
Lydia: So you think that more women in the United States have a chance for success.
Lucie: Yes. Uh huh. Over here, if you cannot, if you cannot obtain the degree, you know, the higher degree, you always can go to the training school to get the, some, you know, see, like that, it's easier for than in Vietnam. In Vietnam, besides, like in Vietnam some type job that woman do that is have to, it is not only fit to the woman, it's have, the job have to fit to the family status. That you cannot, like your family came from they're well to do, you know, have a good background, you cannot go out and work any type job, you see? So you rather stuff yourself, stay home and stuff yourself, then go out there and get the job that shame your family, you see? So here it has is that more advantage for a woman.
Feelawn: But in Vietnam we have maids and servants, so you don't have to worry. You go to work, you come home.
Lucie: But one, one, one thing in Vietnam, I have to say that I enjoyed working in Vietnam because when I, when, even after I marry, I was working at the-- I was in travel business over there also. And I went to work at eight o'clock. I was at work eight o'clock. Have to be at work eight o'clock, work until twelve. Then I have three hour lunch. I went home for lunch, had the lunch with my daughter, you know, I, but the maid already prepare the lunch. When I came home, the lunch was already prepared, so I had the lunch with my daughter, had a, took a nap with her, then I got up and went back to work at three o'clock and got work six o'clock, I came home, supper was already prepared by the maid. So it was much easier for women over there, working women over there in that, in that sense, you know. But other opportunities and, is, is not like over here.
LYdia: Three-hour lunch.
Lucie: I know. Uh huh.
Lydia: Can you imagine?
Feelawn: It's kind of, because it's the , it's based on the French society, so, you know, when you take two-hour lunch--
Feelawn: --and everything. So it's normal in Cambodia and Vietnam and a lot of countries that you take off for two or three hours for lunch.
Lydia: Let's-- Go ahead.
Moni: * after lunch.
Lydia: I'm a big proponent of siesta. You don't even have to go home to do it.
Lucie: I had a hard time to adjust, you know, when I first came over here to work straight eight hour a day.
Lucie: Sometime I fell asleep, and sometime, you know I, like before that I didn't work for myself. I work for the people that I had only like a forty-five-minute lunch, and it was tough, you know. Run, run, run, run, you know. So it was really tough, you know, so I had a really hard time to adjust with it. So that why I decide to went back to being my own boss again because *.
Lydia: What advice do you have for Vietnamese women trying to raise their families in the United States?
Lucie: Oh, that's a very tough job that I really do feel sorry for all Vietnamese mothers here to raise the child, the children. In Vietnam we always have to deal with the different generation. You know, we raise the kid, all we have problem because a different, you know, between generation. But over here, we still have to deal with that, plus we have to deal with a different, two different cultures. It's a very different, very tough. But, oh I just do from my experience that, that to raise my children here for the past twenty-one years that I realize that you have to open, have to be open mind, have to adapt whatever good in American culture and, and then keep the good things in Vietnamese culture put together. But you cannot just, you know, be prejudice and stay with the whatever, you know, tradition, Vietnamese tradition, Vietnamese culture, you stick with that strictly applied it in a family. It won't work, you know. And--
Feelawn: And a lot of Vietnamese families here, one of the requirements is that when their children get home they can only speak Vietnamese only in the home. And my mother was not like that. She allowed us to speak both Vietnamese and English. So now it's like I could be able to say one sentence and half in English and half in Vietnamese. I've mastered the art of saying, you know, same thing in two different languages at the same time.
Lucie: It's to me it's really the language is not that very important. It's just the important thing that how you teach your children to put in their mind that to understand what is the right, what is the wrong, what is the good, what is the bad from the two culture, that-- And I, I saw and I know I have a lot of Vietnamese friend that I know that they, they have children, some of them speak very fluently English, very good English, but at same time they are still, they, and at home they still remain in a Vietnamese culture. I mean they respect their parents and good student, you know that. But I also know a lot of Vietnamese kids, those that just came over later on, as you can call the boat people, you know. They came over late like after eighty, eighty something. Those kid, some of them they can't even speak English, but they are, they have the punk hair with all different color and they go to nightclub all the time. They smoke and they use drugs, they drink. So you see so that is the, the language is not that, you know, important. The important that that you have to teach the children understand what is the good, what is wrong, what is right, what is good, what is bad from both culture.
Lydia: I'd like to close by asking Yani the same question. What advice do you have for Cambodian mothers trying to raise their children in the United States?
Yani: Yes. You know, even until today we still have a lot of problems with the boys and the girls. A lot of parent cannot change. Because they are too old to change. Very hard. I still have people hang herself, the father kill herself, commit suicide, because the children did not respect them, did not follow their, you know, advice. It's-- And the children come to me, said, Auntie Yani, I wish that I have a mother like you.
Yani: Because you understand. You know? And I feel so sorry. They said to me, I don't know who I am now. I'm so confused. I'm not American and I'm not Cambodian either because I don't speak-- They came here young. They don't know good Cambodian, and when they go to school that's more Americanized. But the parents don't accept them. And that’s very hard, for both sides. And like Lucie mentioned, from seventy-five to eighty years well-educated family. But after eighty you don't see a lot of well-educated refugees come here. We have a lot of problems, especially in my community. My whole families are working very hard. The young one, the boy, I sent to my son. The girl I sent to Moni. The girl take care of * and the problem I send to in law. Until they come up crisis come to me because I don't have enough time to work with everybody. But the sad thing that the parent come to me, said, I-- How can I live like this? Because my parent no re-- my children don't respect like I'm the parent. And I begging them, please, this is United States. Allow your children to decide it, guide them like Moni mentioned, my husband guide her to the, This is good, This is up to you, but I see this good. For me, I allow the children-- And they said to me back then, oh you are very lucky, Auntie Yani or Grandma Yani, because your children are well educated. I said, yes, you can say that, but you can do the same thing like my family do. If you just go, you know that this very big country but you have to choose the right one. And I begging. The parent more problem than the children. The children move out, the parent very upset. Like all of you know, Asian single girl should not move out. Even you are thirty years old you should stay with your mother, your parent. And your-- and when you move out, you're not a good girl. Even the boys. And my, my son, my youngest son just married two years ago. He live with us. After Moni married, they live with us. At the second one married, all the three of them live with us, but don't forget, they live they save money. When they move out they bought their own home. That's different. Yes. * it was all my people said please understand that yes we should keep the Cambodian culture, but we have to understand American culture too. Allow them to have freedom, but freedom has a limit. If you have problem, a lot of places that you can go to get help. You know the family violence we still working hard to tell them, you can call the police that your husband should not treat you that way. But it's very hard to change.
Lydia: Yeah. Well I'd like to thank all of our guests for being here this evening, and--
--that is the planned part of the program, and now we're open to questions and answers, and I think Penelope is taking those up, and I think some people are going to prepare-- bring out the treats, which I know everyone is excited about, and we can have those in a little bit. Okay. Oh, okay. I am just going to -- There aren't very many, so I'm just going to read them out loud, and if they're not specifying a certain person, maybe someone can volunteer an answer? Oh, okay. Now this question is, Do you think more men than women immigrants would be interested in returning to Vietnam or Cambodia?
Feelawn: Definitely because there's sh-- Well, just from the Vietnamese point of view, there's a shortage of women over here for the men. Because the women, they come over here, they, they, they learn to be more self-sufficient, they have their career, so they don't have to put up with, the, the sexist attitude. So now a lot, we're seeing a lot of Vietnamese men going back to Vietnam to get married over there, thinking that they can find a very subservient wife and everything. And I tell them, Wait, give them six months, they know they have credit card, they can get a job, and boy, you know, they're not going to put up with you guys.
Lydia: And then they go back to Vietnam, no.
Feelawn: No, they, they dump their guys *.
Yani: * the same thing that the Cambodian man because * educated. See they said it's hard to control the girls in United States. It's true and especially my daughter, my youngest daughter, she, she went back to Cambodia. You know what she did now? Three years now? She educated women to be a leader, to be strong, but the man did not like us. Moni and me went there every year. We go there, said, You should change your mind, you should live without a man, you can live without a man. A lot of single mother in Cambodia. You know that they kill a lot of men. But the men from here like one hundred dollars you can get fourteen, fifteen years old girl, married, and he just enjoy in love. We hate that. That's what I told the, you know, man, I said, Sorry, not my generation, not my children's generation. Yes, a lot of them go back to Cambodia and got married and bring them here. And she's like, you know. And I told them when we had a party you go to temple or church, Get up girls, this is the United States. You need to go to work. One income cannot pay the mortgage. Yes, he love you, but prepare yourself.
Lydia: Okay, this question is not addressed to anyone in particular. The question is, Why do many southeast Asian nationals choose to study in Europe, such as France or Switzen, Switzerland, not in America?
Moni: Well I could answer that. Because the southeast of Asia our curriculum and our school system just like Europe, European style. So we can adapt to it. Especially French is our second language. Everybody in Vietnam, in Cambodia know French. And I bilingual and know three languages--Cambodian, French, and Spanish. So--
Lydia: And English.
Moni: And English. Of course. Four. Yes.
Lydia: -- so many languages, you can't keep up.
Moni: Yes. Four languages.
Lucie: Yeah. Too Vietnamese because, you know, you know, the French was in Vietnam for hundred years--
Lucie: --so we very much influenced by the French, you know, civilization and culture and everything.
Lydia: Uh huh.
Lucie: So because that the French are considered second language in Vietnam. Even we, we, we went to school, the high school, and we have to study French for second language. And, and because of that, we already have the French language.
Lydia: So you already have those skills.
Lucie: Yeah. We already have skills so that's--
Lydia: Easier adjustment.
Lucie: Yeah it is. Beside that most Vietnamese people have a relative in France anyway, in France, so we go over there we have relative there. Like me. Most of my relative in France and in Switzerland. So now after seventy-five I have relative all over the world. Everywhere I have relative now. So that's because that the, most of parents--
Feelawn: The, the irony of it all is at the same that southeast Asians resent the French for colonizing us, but at the same time everything about the French must be good. We adopt everything but at the same time we hate the fact that they colonized us, but you know, we like their culture, their history, their education and everything.
Lucie: Most of very well educate man graduate from France and went back to Vietnam forth back to France.
Lydia: Yeah so okay. Now this is a question, looks like it's addressed to both of the mothers here. How did you cope in your situations with children and not having a husband at the time? When you were raising your children alone--
Lucie: Uh huh.
Lydia: This person wants to know how you coped with that. You had said earlier that it was very difficult for you.
Lucie: Over here or in Vietnam?
Lydia: They don't say, so you can answer that as you choose.
Lucie: Here, in my situation is different because of my current husband right now is the second husband and the step father of my children. So to me at the job even double harder because-- and also I forgot to tell you that my current husband now is American. So you just imagine how difficult it is. You know, and I, my husband is-- I'm very fortunate that my husband now, he's a very open mind, that he willing to learn about Vietnamese culture and he understood, he very, very understanding, and, and, you know, in the Vietnamese culture. So. And, and before I marry him, I already told him that I said that I like to raise my children in, you know, not totally in the, with the Vietnamese tradition, but I like to just still remain whatever is good. You know, I still like to remain it. So please do not interfere. You know, I told him that. So, so he agreed that. So we, we already had agreement from first. So, like I said, in Vietnam you know that the, even the father, the real father, cannot go into the daughter room when the girl like a teenager, you know, at the age. So I told my husband, I said that I like to remain that culture, that, you know, tradition in my, you know, in my culture that if you want to talk to my daughter, talk to them out at the living room or the kitchen whatever. Do not go into their bedroom, okay? And also, please, have the decent dressing when you go out of the bed-- our bedroom, you know, like I do not, I do not tolerate what the man, even my, even with their father, I would not tolerate that. The man wear just like a have no shirt on or have just a shirt and tie, you know, shorts on, or you know whatever *, they walk around the house with the two teenager all in the house that I would not tolerate that. So I ma-- had to deal with him that. So my husband very understanding. So the past nineteen years we live together that I never seen him even one time walk out our bedroom without the robe on. If he had the pajama on.
Lydia: Well you've got him well trained.
Lucie: Yes, well trained. Yeah.
Lydia: And Yani, I-- you know, the same question--
Yani: Yes, yes--
Lydia: --how would you cope in your situation.
Yani: It's very hard for me because I never prepare myself to work full time as a mother, as a wife and to drive. I hate to drive in this country. Because I no choice I have to drive. Yes. See as Moni that everybody, you know, go to work, go to school. We get home late and we stay until one in the morning. I have to go to school myself to get my degree. We had to learn everything, everything from the beginning. That's very hard for us as a woman, a mother, a work girl, you know. Do everything that I never prepare myself to do it.
Lucie: Every since I been in this country for the past twenty-one year, I never had even one day, except weekend that I allow myself have like a seven, eight hour sleep. But the weekday I never had seven or hours sleep. I had the maximum only five hours sleep. When my children were young that I had to go to work and then I came home, I stay on my feet until one, two o'clock in the morning prepare the food for the next day. They came home for school, they had their food, you know, ready for them, because I work, I came home like at seven o'clock. Would be too late for them to eat and say. So that's like that's just a habit until now. Even my children already grown up and I have Feelawn and her firm and I still same way. I still do full, two full-time jobs. You know, work eight hour in the office, come home, stand on my feet cooking, and it's still same. Still the same for the past twenty-one years. And I, I wonder when I going to be finished with that job.
Feelawn: She got married.
Lydia: This question is not addr-- actually it looks like it's addressed to each of you. What is the thing you like most about living in Houston and what is the thing you like the least? And I think we are going to close with that question then, you know, perhaps we could continue visiting over refreshments and so forth.
Moni: Well then, living in Houston to me I like it because I have a lot of freedom, freedom of choice that I can do what I want. And, you know, I ex-- can excel myself, and without, you know, having anybody was telling me that you can't do this, you can't do that, you know. And so to me is, I like the culture here. Is very open and is an eye opening experience for me, and I have two children, and I, you know, tell them the same thing that whatever you want to do, you set your mind to do it, you know, and I support you all the time. And the least that I don't like about living in Houston is the weather.
Lydia: It is kind of hot isn't it?
Moni: Yes, it's very unpredictable. And, you know, and the other thing is the traffic. You saw the sign said Drive Friendly, but it's not. They run over you.
Lydia: It is a bit of a misadvertising. Oh, someone else like to take that question? What do you like the most and what do you like the least about living in Houston?
Feelawn: I think for me it probably has to do with the diversity in the population and the culture, because I never realized how diversified Houston is until I went to Paris. And, you know, I came back and I go, thank God I live in Houston because over here, you know, you just walk down the street, go down Richmond or Westheimer, and you can be exposed to every single ethnic culture that you want. You have, you know, any kind of food you want--Lebanese, you know, Asian food, you know, Italian, anything you have. And the atmosphere in Houston is so much more friendly, and we're so much more open minded and much more tolerant of other people ethnic background and culture, and it's not like that in Europe. I thought it was until I went to Paris. And I go, Thank God I'm not a minority living in Paris, because the opportunities are not there and there's so much prejudice, stereotyping and everything, and I go, No, I like Houston. And I have to agree with Yani that I hate the weather. Not the wea-- not the heat. I can deal with the heat. I just hate the humidity because it take the curls right out of your hair.
Lydia: It makes you wonder why you washed your hair.
Feelawn: No, it makes you wonder why you paid good money to get a perm.
Lucie: I agree with Feelawn that, yeah, that.
Lydia: Yani, do you have anything that you would like to add.
Yani: The same thing. I hate traffic. I hate to drive. Yeah. But I like my job. I dealing with different ethnic groups. I can share, I can contribute something to the communities. I like that.
Lucie: One thing I like the most is here you can find any supply to cook Vietnamese food.
Lydia: You had a hard time with that in West Virginia, didn't you? Weren't you telling me you had a hard time in West Virginia?
Lucie: Oh yes. Uh huh. When I first came, came there in West Virginia, oh I couldn't find anything to cook Vietnamese dish, so I had to cook like a, you know, Vietnamese dish, most of Vietnamese dish have to cook with the fish sauce, you know, anchovy sauce. But I couldn't find it, so I had to cook with the soy sauce. And because of that I became pretty good cook in Chinese dish. Because I went, because I went to the library and I borrowed the cook book and so I learned from the cook, the Chinese cook book, so I, so I said, well I cannot cook Vietnamese dish too much so I just have to cook Chinese dish. So that how I learn how to cook real Chinese dish.
Lydia: Now you also said--
Feelawn: The grocery store didn't even have a little Oriental section like they do down here, you know. They have like maybe a couple of soy sauce bottle and that's it. You know here you got like entire aisles that devoted to Asian--
Lydia: You told me that you also eventually started to mail order some things.
Lucie: Oh yeah. Eventually I found out that Arlington, you know, Virginia, that there was a Vietnamese store there. But the price was outrageous. And at time that I really, I mean I, my, my budget was really, really tight. So it was very, very hard for me to buy all the things that I wanted. So I order some and I save it, but I didn't use much, you know, just say whenever the, the, the, the good occasion that I use that, but I did not cook daily. Daily that I have to stick with the Chinese dish.
Lydia: You couldn't exactly mail order vegetables, could you?
MC: This, this reference to food I think is, is--
Lydia: a nice segway to the food...
MC: ...lovely smells that are coming from this side of the, the room, and we want to invite you all to enjoy some wonderful, wonderful good tastes from local restaurants. And thank you to our guests this evening and our moderator. How about a round of applause. Thank you so much for giving us insight into your lives, your homes, and your hearts. And I think showing us once again that women can do everything. They are the most resilient people on earth. Thank you so much.