As a student, learning is not only through lessons in class, but also through experiencing new things. Earlier this month, Dr. Tran took the junior and senior Vietnamese students to New York City to watch the show Miss Saigon on Broadway.
At the beginning of the trip, we stopped at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Established in 1891, the 100-hectare garden in the Bronx originated from the Lorillard family. Nathaniel and his wife Elizabeth have sold this land to the government, and in 1967, NYBG was declared a National Historic Landmark. Over fifty plants were planted here, as well as laboratories built to create the best hybrids, along with hundreds of employees working days and nights to maintain the beauty of the garden. We went through a garden of magnolia, narcissus and cherry blossoms, each bringing a different shade to celebrate spring time. The magnolia and narcissus bloomed in bright yellow and pure white, dying the atmosphere in an endless field of warmth like rays of sunlight on the green lawn. But what blew my mind was the garden of cherry blossom trees. Light pink, dark pink, magenta, etc. – all shades of pink one could think of gathered in one place to celebrate a new season. Walking in this paradise laying hidden in the busy New York, I couldn’t help but feel surprised such beauty could be harvested in one of the world’s busiest cities.
Leaving NYBG after pictures filled with memories, we made our way to a Vietnamese restaurant for the traditional dish – pho. This big bowl of noodles cured my homesickness for a while, giving me a taste of home, and a taste of my childhood. Stuffed with food and nostalgia, we moved on to the Broadway theater where Miss Saigon is shown. Directed by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil – who were famous for the hit musical Les Misérables – this play returned after ten years in retirement. With the setting in the year 1975 in Vietnam, before Saigon collapsed, Miss Saigon focused on the theme of love and war, also portraying the conflicts between communism and democracy. The story retold the life of Kim, a Vietnamese bargirl, and her romance with Chris, an American soldier serving in the war. The singing and dancing of the actors is sublime, filled with so much emotion that delivered further than words ever could and brought life onto the stage. Kim’s death at the end and her broken love with Chris was heartbreaking, leaving the audience with a hint of sorrow that lingered even after the show had ended. It criticized the cruelty of war that tore mankind apart: lovers broken up, families scattered, and children left abandoned, as well as highlights the sacrifices made by the women of Saigon, giving away her youth for her lover, as well as her life for her child. After the play, I felt more connected than ever to my homeland, my roots, and my beginning. There was a tug in my heart, crying out for the pain our people suffered for many years, bringing me back to that gun and bomb smoked atmosphere that could suffocate anyone. Now, I treasured more the peace I live in and the people who gave their lives to make this possible for us. My attachment increased for the place I grew up.
Written by Trang Huyen Nguyen, IBY2 student from Vietnam