Cô Phúc, Vietnamese Language Teacher

“In my 20s it was love, 30s money, 40s family and 50s and 60s my health.” (Cô Phúc, late 60s, Vietnam)

I take private Vietnamese  lessons every Thursday afternoon. I was surprised to see Cô Phúc in the classroom. Cô Phúc is the oldest teacher at VLS. She’s lived in Saigon since 1957, and witnessed the city’s dramatic change during war and peacetime. During the war, her family had to share one toothbrush. Even as a government worker, she was only allowed 500 grams of pork/month for her entire family.

I was supposed to spend this day with my regular teacher learning curses and insults. Feeling rebellious, I broached the topic with Cô Phúc and she said, “language should be fun to learn, so ask me your questions. But never use any of this language again.”

Gulp. Cussing someone out was not something to be discussed with elders. 

So I chose to use our hour to discuss my new side project instead, a podcast asking people about their perfect day.

Of course I asked her how to ask such a question in Vietnamese.

Theo bạn, thế nào là một ngày hoàn hảo?

And covered likely answers in Vietnamese:

  • Health – sức khoẻ 
  • Money – tiền bạc 
  • Relationships – quan hệ
  • Family – Gia đình 
  • Career – sự nghiêp
  • Love – tình yêu 
  • Friendship – tình bạn

What’s most important to you? Điều gì quan trọng nhất?

According to Cô Phúc, the priorities of her perfect day changed over time. In her 20s it was love, 30s money, 40s family and 50s+ her health. 

Today, in her 60s, her perfect day priorities would be: 1) health 2) family 3) friendships and 4) money. She could care less about her profession.

Health to her means: 1) having a balanced, peaceful mind 2) eating healthy 3) exercising and 4) a day full of social activities. To her, health means balance. “A healthy person with no friends is not balanced.”

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