Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dear Mom

(in Seoul 2018 beginning my search for you)

(My first lecture at the ADS university in Vietnam, Saigon, 2018)

Dear Ms. Yoo,

How are you? First off I respect your privacy and if you wish to not make contact with me openly
I understand it is your life and we can keep this discrete.
I am your son Cameron Yoo Van Loos, now twenty-nine years old.
It is my honor to inform you that I am alive still and very happy, yet indeed your blood son.
And I don’t have words to describe how I feel now and have felt my entire life knowing you exist.
I can simply say that I am glad to hear that you are real.
If you are healthy and well I would like to meet and see your face for the second time in my life but as if it were the first time in my life.
I now live and work in Saigon, Vietnam at ADS Design Institute. I am a professor of Art and Design.
I also have a University degree in the arts from the USA. I am very happy and have the love and support of my friends and family.
I moved to South East Asia to discover more about my identity.
I am able to save money here for my future and develop my career in education in the arts.
See I have always felt this indescribable connection to you and have always felt your love from far away.
I really appreciate what you did for me Mom, thank you.
I was given a second chance in life and have lived my best life and still am.
Now that I am a man with a stable career and many hobbies I am having to face my deeper issues.
I am sorry for not reaching out to you earlier in my life this I do regret. It takes time to understand the differences we might have now in life as
I am now coming from the western world and you the Eastern but I will never forget where I came from beautiful Korea.
I love you and don’t have any regrets or sadness for what has been done. I will be happy to hear if you are alive and well.
I am the luckiest man alive for being given a life with everything you might have dreamed I might have.
I want to thank you so much for giving me the chance to be properly taken care of and share my love with the world.

Yoo Dong Shik

Monday, March 12, 2018

Caged Bird

Since I first saw you walk around that corner in the dimly lit street of Go Vap 
so naturally in your flower patterned wavy jumper pants and slim fitting black Fila top eyes and aura glimmering in the dark I knew there was something deep inside my soul that resonated. 
Driving to you on my 1960 Honda Super Cub was becoming like a ritual to the point of the most simplest mundane objects in the street becoming illuminated. 
My eyes dancing around in the flames of burning garbage piles passing by against the concrete walls charred by the passion of love and despair. When I finally arrived and gently placed your helmet on your head with the intentions of facing you face to face a gust of happiness that satisfied every molecule in my body to the point of life feeling as it could go on rushed through my veins the point of clarity. Slowly exiting the shadows of hẻm’s plastic bottle hanging lights and stepping into the light of Helski’s warm embrace.You held me tight and slipped your hands into my pockets from the back cushion of the bike and whispered into my ear. Flying through Saigon in a whirlwind of chaos passing millions of faces never to be seen again. Trying not to inhale the exhaust we gently but securely passed a cigarette between our lips sending little messages to our lungs telling them it will be ok.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just feeling homesick...

RIP (1926-2017)

Grandma Bev died  peacefully in her sleep last night (Tuesday). Dad had visited Gram Bev both
Monday and Tuesday. She wasn't doing very well but they had many good talks and laughs.
Among the subjects were: she was very excited to get to go to heaven, she loved the three of you like crazy, and she didn't want to go to "the funny farm," ( her idea of a nursing home). They had a nice dinner last night and Dad found her this morning when he got there.  She is happy.
Love , Mom and Dad.

I'm really missing home. Even though I just started this job I'm thinking of coming back to the USA.
It's difficult living in a foreign country not knowing the language it's frustrating at times.
Miss you all and I am so sad to hear about Grandma Bev! I'm very upset about this but she lived a nice long life and we loved her for being such a cool grandma! Over in Vietnam when an elder passes they celebrate their lives by singing Karaoke and playing music really loud in the street and invite all the family and relatives to a big street party for food and song! Maybe she would like if we did that for her? When is her funeral? Is everyone ok?

you know Grandma Bev- she certainly didn't want a funeral!

She was SO ready to go to heaven- very excited to go!!  Honestly- be happy for her- she didn't want to leave her place and go to a nursing home!!  I like the Vietnamese version of celebrating life!

Everyone is OK- It's amazing what you've done Cameron, and challenging- dad and I want to come to Vietnam!!

Hey dude,

I talked to mom and dad on the phone yesterday and Dad definitely went through all the emotions but he's doing ok. Recently Grandma Bev was talking about how there wasn't a chance that she would go to a retirement home. It was getting to that point where Dad was having to look into finding some kind of care for her and she just happened to pass the next day. She was still just as sharp as she's always been but I think she was just ready. 

It definitely sucks for all of us and I'm gonna miss her but personally I'm finding comfort just knowing that she was ready to go and had a good sense of humor about everything.

So had you been thinking about coming back to the states even before you heard the news about Grandma?

Love you bro,


Hi Cam: you have done so well in Vietnam and got your teaching credentials I really hope you will give it some time to help the students. I think you should see it through at least six months to show that you can stick with something even though it may be trying at times. You are almost 28 years old and I think it is best for you to stick with something and then good things will happen. Set some personal goals for health and maybe more of your art in Vietnam. You are good at making friends. You know I love you and want the best for you...but supporting you when you change your mind all the time is not good for any of us.  I am proud of what you have done.

Hi Dad,

Yes, Mac I was thinking about this before I heard about Grandma and I am very sad to hear about it I wish she could have met Kino. 
I am...
Just feeling homesick. I like the job and its a great chance to grow and learn a new skill that I might even want to use in the USA (teach art or photography in colleges or high schools). I appreciate the support and maybe just needed some encouragement as I am by myself over here. I understand its not good to change my mind this late in my life almost my birthday and will be 28 in May and I need to stick with it. I miss Kino, Mac, Whit and Mom. I will stick with it through the end of my contract. I signed for a year or so I will have this job until next April (2018). 

Its just frustrating not knowing Vietnamese. I am trying to learn it but its tough. I have been working out again and drinking rarely (staying healthy). I have some friends also but our schedules are different because I work on the weekends and they don't. But the new people who I have met at ILA my teaching center are on the same schedule so I am getting to know them. I don't want to throw away all the hard work I have done over here that quickly but lately I have been thinking about the USA and how compared to Vietnam it is a better quality of life. The cost of living is low over here but its for a good reason because of pollution, poor quality of produce, no clean water, corruption and communist society. It can be grim at times. But I can see the positivity all around me people are closer together here by force because the lack of space and density of population so everyone sees each other and spends more time together outside their homes, so thats comforting to see. The street life is very much alive out here.

If I came back I would have to start from nothing. I wouldn't ask for anything but for a place to live and from there I could manage my life independently. Over here I can take the next step in my adult life and afford nicer things and see tangible results in my life quicker opposed to climbing the ladder over in the USA where you don't get to see your earnings manifest themselves as quickly as they do over in Vietnam as a foreigner. I know its a special place over here. Some say its the last place in the world you can really start something from nothing... Ok off to my evening kindergarten class!   

Miss you all, love you all, 

Hi Cam:  This is probably the best letter I have ever received from you my boy!  You have expressed yourself as the man you have become.  You have made a commitment and to stay with it is what responsible people do.  You will gain valuable skills that will serve you well and that I guarantee very few of your friends are experiencing.
Live and learn every day and give yourself to your students.  Really happy to hear you are working out again- keep it up.
I’m very proud of you.  This will be an experience that will stay for you forever no matter what else you do in your life.  Embrace it.
We do miss you too.  Mom and I will plan a trip to come see you. 
Everything is the same here- you must know that Grandma lived a full life and she was ABSOLUTELY ready to leave this life behind.  I was able to spend time with her in her final hours which was great for both of us.  She really didn’t want anyone else around even though she loved you kids and always wanted to know the latest.  She was so amazed that you could make such a move to Vietnam and flourish there…she was proud of you too.
Anyway.  I thank you for your great letter and for being such a wonderful person and son. 
Love you pal.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Becoming and English Teacher in Saigon, Vietnam

A little about my Grandma:

My 90yr old grandmother decided it was cool to try skydiving for the first time in her life. 

Mind you she has never done anything out of the ordinary life people live in the USA she has never even left the country ever... she told me the furthest she has been from California was Boston, MA. She loves Boston and American antiques. She especially loves dogs and all dog related objects she even has some ceramic dogs as decoration in her home, she is the best and has always been very supportive with me and kept up with my life, she knows me better then most of my friends do!

Last week I wrote my Dads Mom (Grandma Bev) a letter talking about my experience so far moving to Vietnam:

Dear Bev,

How are you?? I miss you.

I was thinking about you today! I was discussing the way we communicate today around the world and how sending letters in the post is now considered slow but romantic. It seems to me that many of us not just my generation but yours as well have found out how easy it is to stay in touch on the Internet. Maybe Andy or Gwen could help you set up a small laptop or device that you could easily use to send emails or messages on the internet to all your loved ones. I hope you received my postcard that I sent to you in December. But for now Mom and Dad can print off my emails and relay them to you. 

Heres my update; I am currently living in Saigon, Vietnam alone in my own studio apartment. The same as the one I was occupying in San Francisco except it is brand spankin' new! Its very modern and even has two little windows inside that separate the bathroom and living room/kitchen, like a little house inside a bigger one. I also have begun an English teacher program called AVSE:TESOL which is an Australian certified program that will give me the opportunity to show schools and teaching centers out here that I have what it takes to be the best English teacher money can buy! I have already observed 3 classes with a wide range of ages from children to adults and it is reminding me of my education and how rusty my basic English skills are! So embarrassing but it is good to remember and re-learn some of the foundations of the English language. 

I also have a lightweight girlfriend named Kim and she is very supportive and beautiful. For now we are good for each other but I don't know if she is the one yet. I have been meeting so many people from around the world but my favorite have been the Vietnamese because of their open minded attitude towards those who wish to understand them. They even think I am Vietnamese here and cant tell the difference between Korea and their people but I find this to be good for me it makes me feel very welcomed. 

I thought teaching English would be easy but it looks like I am going to have to do some hard work over here training to become TESOL certified! I will make my own lesson plans and design my own classes to cater to all different learning styles. I hope to incorporate some creativity and the arts to my lessons as well.
The children's hand writing over here is surprisingly better then some of my adult friends back in the USA, which is funny! 

I cook my own food for myself and its mostly rice and noodles with vegetables. I drink less and smoke more so im sorry if you dont like this but its what I need to compensate for the lack of drinking, other then that I am very healthy and plan to skateboard and rock climb at a location near my house called Saigon Outcast (I just signed up for a monthly membership). It is an outdoor climbing wall and mini skatepark with a bar that serves food  in the back area, its a huge space! They even have colorful murals and graffiti on all the walls so I love it. 

Its been a long day and I am sitting in a place called Wrap & Roll I just ate deep fried samosa over cold rice noodles with all kinds of herbs and spices and some peanuts it was delicious. The food here is pretty amazing! 

Ok for now I will end my rant here. 

My favorite place in Vietnam (Ninh-Binh) and I am in an old grave yard with the large rock formations covered in vegetation, supposedly this place was once under the water and part of the ocean. The landscape here and the rivers filled with lotuses that run underneath all the mountains make this place like a dream.


Her response:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

I left my heart in Vietnam and my stuff in the USA

A lot of us are thinking the same fucking thing; why don't we just quit our jobs and start a new life somewhere foreign? It's not as easy as it sounds, but it is definitely worth the sacrifice. I am officially moving to Vietnam in a week from now to teach English. But I decided to come back for the holidays to see my friends and family once more before I possibly permanently move abroad. I also wanted to pick up some of my shit that I left in the USA such as rare camera equipment, whiskey and American condoms. Personally, I have not been happy living in the United States of America. I tried to fill the gaps in my life with people, a good job, material possessions, and a cute puppy Golden Retriever.  These things gave me temporary euphoria and didn't stick much, minus the puppy named Kino. When I left to visit Vietnam I was working a retail job at a clothing store in San Francisco as seasonal work. Don't get me wrong I love clothes and their significance and effect on the psychology of someone dressed really well but I also didn't feel like it gave me much purpose being into retail. Before that job and during I had been doing freelance photography with a variety of small start ups and offices which needed images produced at a high standard to place on their websites for eccomerce, which is internet slang for shit you can look at on the internet and then buy without even having to take a single step out your door. 

I saw the American Dream and the pressures of western culture bringing everyone and myself down. The pressure to go on dates and get a job that will support you in one of the most expensive cities in the country (San Francisco). Not even one job but I would meet people with maybe 2-3 jobs and for what? For the promise that someday you will meet a man or woman that will provide you with the opportunity to have 2 kids, a dog a house and a nice car maybe with some nice things to look at and make you fell better?? I don't want kids personally and feel as though the earth is over populated with enough idiots including myself. I will adopt a child in need because I am adopted. The most I can ever manage is a full-time job and freelance work on the weekend maybe. Let's be honest, I have had help from my family, which has allowed me to live in San Francisco for as long as I had and pay for college (THANK YOU MOM AND DAD) (about 7 years total of living, working and going to school in the Bay Area) and get to and from Vietnam (once), but without abusing this privilege because my intentions are good. No one can afford these big American cities anymore except the rich new techie yuppies who have zero imagination. 

I left partially because of how ridiculously expensive the rent was and I'm sure lots of others were faced with the same problem, plus all the Larry's invading Frisco. The other reason was because I was ready for change and to pursue a career in photography somewhere with room to grow (New York City or Los Angeles). People being evicted in the mission and their homes being invaded by techies...I love San Francisco and all the people I managed to stay friends with and what they represented as natives or people who support the culture of the city. I learned so much from the Bay Area natives and I love you all!  I am not saying I have all the answers here in my life or know where I am going but I can confidently say that I am on my way to a place other than the USA!

People in Vietnam take care of their families and make it their priority to stay healthy to see that through. You live in your families home until you are married, which seems practical to me (besides the marriage part). They are having their grandparents even live in the same home! It's amazing how much these people are together but I still have time to discover if this is completely true. They are not facing housing issues the way we are here in the USA where rent is spiking. 

In Vietnam, a developing country, you can have a nice life as a westerner without all the extra bullshit. You might not have all the nice things that are readily available to you in the USA such as a grocery store filled with fresh produce, designer brands, cars, toilets that you can flush toilet paper down, Four Barrel coffee and super burritos. But what you can have is a life where you are spending less money and this is important. 

Money there is as much of an issue as it is here in the USA. They have a system where the poor can feel like they have a million dollars. The exchange rate is roughly 22,500 dong = 1 USD. Their biggest bill is half a million then there is 200k, 100k, 50k, 20k, 10k, 5k, 2k and 1k (a lot of paper currency, no coins). To give you an idea of what the value of $1 in Vietnam is I made this list; Cigarettes (15,000d), Bánh mì (20,000d), Beer (20,000d for a can, 10,000d for a bottle, 5,000d for a cup), Petrol $1.26 per liter (25,000d), Pho soup (55,000d). These prices all can vary depending if you are local or foreign, the locals tax the out of towner's and usually throw a dollar or two on top of the real price.

It's sad to see but the majority of the population is as money hungry as we are in the US but they do live off the land and what's local more than we do. They eat pretty much anything that moves; all types of snails, turtles, snakes and dogs...(not cool). It's a difficult concept to wrap your mind around when you are not accustomed to these foods as they are almost like pets to us or maybe considered endangered or just fucking weird to even think about eating.