Amicalement! Ma France. By Kelvin Nguyen Pham July 11, 2007

Kisses, tears, hugs, waving hands… Those were the last things that a 9-year-old boy got before his very first flight to France from his country. That little boy was me. Those waving hands were my folks and buddies. I turned my head away, smiled awkwardly and pretended that I didn’t cry. “ Starting today, I gotta spend my life alone”

“Je suis en France maintenant” Yes! I am right here in France .I opened my arms, looked at the blue sky. It is the real France right here-the country that I had learned about for 4 years and had done so many tests in its language. My eyes were sticking at the extremely tall people around me. Their high noses, “leur peau blanche”(white skin) and their blue pupils really impressed me at the very first sight. For a 9-year-old boy who came to another country, staring fixedly at the foreign people is understandable and forgivable.

“ Salut Kelvin (Pronounced as “ Kel Vain”)! C’est toi la`-bas? ”(Hi Kelvin! Is that you over there?) A French lady waved to me from the red, antique car. “ Oui, c’est moi" I kept saying “Yes. This is Kelvin” until my foreign guardian gave me a very French-like kiss. “ Je m’appe`lle Helene”. Her name is Helene. It’s a pretty name that I have been calling tenderly for years since. After two hours driving, we had dinner. Forgetting about my unopened suitcase, I took a long sleep until the nightingales twittered on my bedroom window. Everyday, Helene played the role of my real mom. She drove me to school, picked me up. She cooked and fed me with the delicious French meals. It’s so good when you live with a nice single woman. You will be treated like a prince who has no idea how to wash a dish or clean a bathroom.

Everything seemed so fine until one day.

It was a very ugly morning that I never expected it to come. I was at school. Checking my cell phone during the break, I saw many missed calls from the city hospital. “Something wrong happened,” I kept wondering until I was connected to the hospital receptionist. “ Ta mere etait dans un accident de voiture.” Here it came. The worst thing happened. Helene was in a car accident. I rushed immediately to the hospital. Opening the door, I saw Helene was lying unconsciously on the bed. I started to cry.

There were two choices for me at that time: Either move to Paris with my aunt or live by my self because Helene was unable to continue taking care of me. Unfortunately, I chose neither of those choices. I was too young to make my own choice but I did. I picked Helene. I stayed. It was my turn to treat her like a queen, like the way she had treated me. Spending more time with Helene and taking care of her meant I spent less time working on my academics. Therefore, I couldn’t pass the final tests and my scholarship, since, ran down until I was kicked out of school. How horrible! My folks got mad at me. My schoolmates in Vietnam mentioned about me as a real “retarded” child who wasted thousands of US dollars of my parents to be kicked out.

“ Ce n’est pas important” (It’s is not important). I kept saying that every time Helene mentioned about the objections of my folks and my friends. I could be a heartless boy with a good academic diploma. But I am so sorry. I didn’t choose to be that way.

Time flew. Years passed. My ashamed story was left behind. I am growing up and trying to study hard for "healing" my parents' shame of years ago. But, if I left Helene at that time, who would heal her “wound of loneliness”. A French doctor? A daily-nurse? The French welfare or insurance? They wouldn’t! I'm sure that nothing would be better than a child's care when you were sick and were unable to reach anything even it is in front of you. That was my first time I sacrificed for another human not me. Even the price wasn't cheap but I loved this deal. That is why I love France and always mention about its language and people, like Helene. I learned a lot from her. I learned how nice a single woman is. I learned how to cook a French meal. I learned how to swallow goat-cheese without leaving its smell in the throat. And more than that, a 9 year-old boy learned, more than a lesson from a book, a practicing test of his sacrifice skill. And he definitely got A on this life test. Amicalement Ma France- Sincerely my France