Goodbye Saïgon

‘The soil in our area is Red Mud, RED-BLOODY-MUD.

It drives me mad … It’s the only place in the world where you can be bogged down in mud up to your neck and get dust in your eyes.’


In tribute to my uncle and his inspirational life

When I went back to Vietnam after 14 years of absence, I found a powerful source of inspiration: an extraordinary family story that I knew nothing about. I immediately felt the urge to pay tribute to my uncle, my mother’s brother, whose inspirational life has made me want to write. I started to ask him some questions about his past and one thing leading to another, he slowly opened his heart, talking about his memories, his fears, his hopes, and his life, before, during and after the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

When I started the interview, I could feel his hesitation, his answers were short and punctuated by long silences. I thought I’d better stop, maybe it was a bad idea to bring up the past. But I looked at him and spotted a sparkle in his eyes. He began to smile and his face suddenly enlightened. He just needed time to put his memories into words.

He started to recall his childhood, his youth and his strong commitment to a cause he thought was right. I realised that he had never confided in anyone about this chapter of his life. I felt extremely grateful and privileged to be the one to hear it.

The story that follows modestly relates the time of his commitment in the Vietnam War in 1973 as a South Vietnamese officer, fighting alongside the Americans. It is based on his true story and real facts, although I’ve brought my personal style.


My wit and wise uncle

I dedicated 10 years of my life to the war: five years to the famous School of the Officers in Thu Duc in Vietnam, two years fighting at the front and three years as a prisoner in a labor camp in the hands of the Communists. Ten years in a lifetime seems little, but these ten years have changed my life forever.

My name is Hoàn, I am Vietnamese born in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The second son of a family of three children, my father worked at the French embassy and my mother was a French teacher. We were mostly immersed in French culture, the tricolour presence at that time was dominant in what used to be called “l’Indochine” (Indochina: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). From this family heritage, I can speak Vietnamese, French and English, languages that I learned when I fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War in 1973.

I was born with a natural appetite for culture and knowledge, literature, music, Medicine, Law, languages, and everything that came from overseas used to fascinate me so much in my younger years.

Cambodia during my childhood was peaceful and quiet. King Sianouk was the king at the time and he has always been tolerant toward the Vietnamese community. I was fortunate enough to get a solid education. I went to a French school and graduated from University majoring in Medicine. I had the best time over there, probably the best years of my student life. I met an exceptional Cambodian professor who became the most brilliant Minister of Culture that Cambodia has ever had. I loved this oblivious and happy life and yet, I decided to leave everything behind. I made the decision to join the army and fight in Vietnam. How to keep living a quiet life in Cambodia when my homeland is put to fire and the sword? At the age of 25, it was time for me to find a purpose in my life.


23 January 1967, Phnom Penh. Departure to Vietnam. 

I left without turning back. Jaws tight, with a heavy heart but determined and committed to my purpose. I got accepted to the prestigious School of Officers in Saigon. My mother, like all mothers, cried all her tears at the idea of her son not coming back; my father, with his usual self-control, gently tapped my shoulder.

“Do what you have to do brother, I will join you later. If we both go now, we’re going to kill her,” said my older brother, the “hothead” of the family and looking at my mother in tears.

“You will come back big brother, right? You’re only going for holidays?” asked my little sister,  who is seven years apart in age and too young to realise.

The picture of my father, when I told him I would fight alongside the Americans, the antithesis of his convictions, still haunts me today. In his eyes, I read the deep sadness and the strong disappointment from a father, powerless towards his son’s irrevocable decision.

March 1973, Châu Dôc Front – South Vietnam.

The war is raging. From one side, the North and its popular army and the “Front de libération” of the South called “Vietcongs”, and from the other side, the South-Vietnamese troops supported by the Americans.

The sound of the bullets whistles in my ears and yet, I am not fighting on the front line. I can hear my companion soldiers yelling to give us some courage and attack the “enemy.” At the back, holding a radio in my sweaty hands, I am in charge of reporting every combat scene to my superiors. I don’t know what is worst. Watching my dear companions getting shot or keeping my self-control and accomplishing my official duty. To inform, to get commands, to obey, and make sure the orders are applied. This is what war is about, a succession of obligations coming from the top. And at the bottom stand the soldiers, the ones who kill, and the ones who die.

25 April 1974, Chàu Dòc, 8 pm. 

A thousand clapping hands resonate in the big room of the army camp. I hear the cheerful whistles of my companions, impatient to see on stage the beautiful Khanh Ly, an emblematic and engaged Vietnamese singer who came to support the troops. The Asian Joan Baez in a way. It feels so good to hear the soldiers laughing, the yells, the sound of the glass of beers banging together, the thundering voices of the fervent soldiers and to feel a jubilation warming up our hearts numbed by the cold of the war.

The Vietnamese and engaged singer Khanh Ly

1st May 1975 – Saïgon. 

The American troops are pulling out. Vietnam endures a reunification on the authority of the North. The Communist are coming to power and rename Saïgon, Ho Chi Minh City. In a complete rout, the Americans are leaving, distraught Vietnamese people take refuge to the American embassy with the hope to be evacuated by plane. My superior, the captain J. whispers in my ear: “Hoàn, your place is not here anymore, we can send you to America and get you the status of ancient officer. You will be able to live a quiet and comfortable life other there.” I firmly reply: “Thank you, I really appreciate your help. but my place is here, in Vietnam, beside my comrades in arms and my family, until my last breath”.    

The Vietcongs have won. We have lost. When my troop had been taken by storm by the Communists, I did not fight back, just lowered my head, my weapon, and gave the order to my soldiers to surrender. Penned in a big truck with other prisoners, they are taking us to a labor camp hidden in the forest, somewhere in the North of Saïgon. (I still don’t know today where it is). I can picture the procession of torture imposed on “traitors to the motherland”: brainwashing, extortion of admissions and more… but I am not losing my hope. Hope is all I have left.

5 June 1975, labor camp, 5 am 

“Hoán, wake up!” My cell comrade pulls me out of my sleep. I can barely open my eyes. It’s time to do our collective gymnastics in the main foyer of the camp where more than a thousand prisoners are squeezed to work out and “keep in shape.” I can hear the stomachs rumbling, craving for the two sweet potatoes, the manioc root and the small piece of fish that constitutes our meal of the day.

We’re heading to the forest to cut some trees. Huge trunks, bamboo stems, bulrush we have to collect to build the shack, cover the roof and make the straw mattress for our beds. Carrying enormous burden on our shoulders, bringing tree trunks using the force of our arms, with an empty stomach, weakens the strongest of us. The hardest to endure is the lack of food.

21st December 1975, Labor camp, 6 pm.

It’s time for our regular “brainwash”, poor lost souls that we are, the pariah who have disowned our homeland to join forces with the enemy. As usual, we are gathered in the main foyer to attend the political class about the good deeds of communism. Today it’s the apology of Karl Marx and Marxism. At the end of the class, our professor asks to stand up and shout: “Communism is the only regime that can save our country!” Like robots, we all repeat a sentence that does not mean anything to me.

15th April 1976, Labor camp, 2 pm.

“Hoán, mail is here!” yells the prison guard. On the envelope stamp, I read “France”. A smile enlights my face. It’s my little sister, Dung (Eva is her French name), the youngest of the family that my father has sent to France so she can build a new and safe life. In the letter, she says she has given birth to a healthy little boy. She’s named him Christian, Hanh in Vietnamese. A happy event that appeases the excruciating pain of having lost my older brother, shot on an immaculate beach in the center of Vietnam in Summer 1972. He also joined the army to fight alongside the Americans a few months after me…

In my misfortune, I consider myself lucky. Life at the camp is very hard but we are not mistreated. I have even managed to find my own place, to adapt myself to a hostile environment and to establish a contact with my jailers. Many of them ask me to teach them French and English. During our free time, we read, we draw, we build instruments with wood and bamboo. I’ve discovered that the camp shelters an educated and cultured elite: intellectuals, architects, doctors, former ministers. My aptitude for foreign languages gets the attention and the curiosity of the leaders, step by step I have won their trust and esteem. I remember this corporal sergeant who could not stop asking me to recite Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem: “l’Automne est mort” (Autumn is dead).

16th June 1978, Labor camp, 8 pm.

The railings of the main gate open. But this time it’s different. They’re not opening to go to the forced work in the dark forest but to offer me something that I have cherished like a lost treasure: my freedom.

My exemplary behaviour during these last three years of detention got my jailors to free me, with a few of my comrades. I feel like a child who’s been rewarded for having done something good. In the truck that brings me back to Ho Chi Minh City, Saïgon in my heart, I realise that everything is over. Strangely enough, this war that I have hated so much has been the purpose of my life. It has allowed me to move forward and to bear the pain of losing my brother in 1972 and my father in April 1976. This inner strength, with its weaknesses, has guided me during all these years. I thought that I endured the worst but getting back to a “normal” life seems as frightening to me. I hope to keep my head clear and find again the peace of a life tormented by the war for too long.

Vietnamese New Year (Têt) 2008, Cambodia.

It’s my first pilgrimage in Cambodia, my country of heart and where I was born, after 40 years of absence. An initiatory trip that I haven’t had the courage to do earlier. I am getting teary-eyed when I see, as I am crossing the border between my two countries, the alley of palm trees where I used to walk when I was a child.

Everything has changed and the house of my childhood does not exist anymore. But I can still feel an imperceptible breeze of days gone by, only palpable by myself and probably by a subjective memory. The country is healing its wounds, I cannot compare the horror of the Cambodian genocide to the trauma of the war in Vietnam.   

But one thing is sure, I will carry, forever in my heart, the country of my happy childhood. No regret, no bitterness, only an immense gratitude towards life that has brought me all these exceptional experiences and enriching encounters.


April 2014, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Hoàn is 72 years old today. He has managed to go back to a “normal life” and has kept his head still filled with the souvenirs of a vivid past. His memory has stayed untouched, so have his convictions. Married, father of two daughters and a son, he has six grandchildren who love him deeply. He is still teaching English to a new generation of students and lives a peaceful life in the suburbs of Saïgon. Every now and then, he spends the weekend in our family house on the shore of the Mekong River. He loves going there to rest, read, sleep in the hammock in the shadow of a palm tree. But what he loves the most is fishing in the little river near our home. Patience and silence is his philosophy of life. “Never complain, explain sometimes” is his motto.

Happy grandchildren
Our family home near the Mekong river
Brother & Sister (my lovely Mum, Eva)

I consider myself very privileged to have witnessed my uncle telling his story. There are so many questions I would like to ask but I feel it’s time to stop now. I have to leave him with his secrets and his beautiful reticence. I wanted to ask him why he decided to fight alongside the Americans, against his father’s will and the majority of the Vietnamese people… but then I realise it was not the point. From one side to the other, from a conviction to another, the consequences of the war stay the same for everyone who experienced it.

But above all, when he confessed these few words that I knew were the truth: “I have not killed”, it touched me so deeply that a tear rolled down my cheek.

Thank you, my dear uncle. Live and be happy forever.



Dear Mum & Dad

To my Mum and Dad, without whom I would not be here today. 

Friday 2nd of February 2018, Fuzhou, China.

Dear Mum & Dad,

Today is a rainy, cold winter day in Fuzhou and the sad weather always makes me feel nostalgic about the old times. Maybe because of the yellow and grey colours that give the surroundings a vintage look and feel.

I’ve never told you why I wanted to write a book about the memories of my childhood, but it seems pretty natural to me that the main reason comes from you. I owe my beautiful childhood to your loving parenting and deep in my heart, I want to pay tribute to the most meaningful moments of having been this shy little girl of yours.

I want to remember the child I used to be. The little things I used to do, the walks in the woods with you Dad, the smell of your perfume Mum, or the love letters I used to write to a boy who never noticed me at school.

Despite my bold decision to leave everything behind and go venturing on the other side of the world, the woman that I have become today has never ceased to love you and think of you.

I know the worries that I have caused when I left and I try not to think about it too much because it makes me very teary-eyed. However, by giving me your unconditional love and support, whatever my decisions are, you have helped me to fulfill my dreams and to be at peace with myself.

Sometimes, I wish I could travel back in time and get to know your young selves. Fleeing a country at war in your twenties and building a new life so far away from your homeland is the ultimate act of courage. I can’t imagine what it was like, and I feel so lucky and grateful for the life you’ve given me.



My heart will be forever filled with gratitude and admiration for both of you. As parents, it is hard to let your children spread their wings and fly. You’ve allowed me to be a free bird, exploring the world to find my own tree and build my nest.

You’ve respected my decision to choose a different path for my life. Even though I would have loved giving you what most parents expect from their children, somehow, you knew that I was different. A safe path and safe choices were not goals to fulfill anymore. What is the point of your life when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait to lurk to surprise you?

Sometimes I feel selfish for thinking about my own happiness. But this is the price to pay to enjoy my freedom to the fullest. I feel the urge to enrich my life with as many experiences as I can. I am passionate about learning, discovering and facing new challenges. This is the fuel that makes me move forward and keeps me forever young. I want to share my appreciation for life with people, and spread inspiration around the world.

I know you want me to settle down and I am, but at my own pace and staying true to myself. Don’t worry too much about me because everything I do, I do it with a good balance of wisdom and boldness. I am using what I’ve inherited from both of you: Dad’s voice of reason and Mum, your romantic heart. The mixed culture I’ve been brought up with has had a huge impact on my perception of life. The wisdom from my Asian heritage fused with my passionate French free spirit have shaped my mind clearly. I’ve always loved and have been inspired by my Philosophy class at school. No wonder why I got my best mark writing an essay about Liberty.

Freedom to me is being able to live my truth and listen to my instinct and my guts. It has led me to live the most enriching experiences so far, the kind of adventures I will remember until the day I die. It has helped me to be stronger and brave. From this shy and reserved little girl living in a small French village, I’ve become a determined and fearless woman exploring what the world has to offer.

I hope you are proud of me as much as I am proud of you. I want to thank you for everything you have done for me and for our family. Even during tough times, we all stick together to face and overcome the challenges of life. I might be far away, but my heart will be forever with you, no matter where I am in the world.

I love you both deeply.

Your loving daughter,


















Shanghai Mon Amour

Sunday 31st of December 2017, 5 am, Fuzhou, China. 

My alarm clock pulls me out of my sleep. I slowly open my eyes with a big smile on my face. It’s time to get ready!

I could not find my sleep last night. It always happens when I am too excited. Today, my friend Yance and I are flying to Shanghai and it is the most exciting way to end the year and start a new one.


On the way to the airport, I am thinking about the NYE and the one before that. Two years ago, I was contemplating the fireworks over the Harbour Bridge in Sydney. Last year, I was in Auckland, unpacking boxes and drinking champagne with my ex-boyfriend in our new apartment. This year, I am in China, free as a bird, and I am going to spend NYE in Shanghai with my dearest friends. Life is truly unpredictable.

The icy air of Shanghai instantly freezes my face as I get off the bus. It’s much colder than Fuzhou and today is a bad day. The air pollution is quite high and a giant misty cloud covers the city. An unusual palette of colours gives the surroundings a vintage look and feel. Yellow, brown, grey, I have the impression to discover Shanghai through the reels of an old movie.

My first Shanghainese discovery starts at a lovely suburb called The Former French Concession (FFC). The French Concession is the area of Shanghai that the French government administered from 1849 until 1946. Time seems to move a little slower here and an air de déjà-vu brings me back to Europe. I love the gorgeous tree-shaded avenues, which invite lingering strolls and exploration. The architecture, the fine, old houses, the many wrought iron fences and stair railings remind me of Paris.








As we walk, I spot many restaurants, breweries, concept bars, boutiques, art galleries and antique stores. I am amazed by the beautiful streets, quaint and pretty with outdoor cafés sprinkled here and there. The French Concession is brimming with little treasures that are delightful for the eyes.


A lovely window of a café catches my attention. “Pain Chaud“, a French bakery. My craving for French food pushes me to open the door. A familiar and exquisite smell tickles my nostrils. The myriad of pastries, croissants, croissants aux amandes (almond croissants), pains au chocolat and baguette sandwiches make the taste buds dance in my mouth.

Pain chaud window



After feeding our greedy bellies, we are setting into our Airbnb where we will be staying for the next 3 days.

“What the hell,” says Yance at the doorstep once we’ve arrived. We look at each other, both wanting to laugh and cry at the same time. We’re standing at the door but the place looks like an old barn that is about to collapse.

We’re starting to ask a few people and look around, but for a moment we’re thinking that we got scammed! As the last attempt, I dive into a little street a bit farther away, when I finally see it. The wooden door, number 46 that we’ve been praying would exist. In our defence, how confusing is it to have two 46s in the same area?


Filled with excitement, we open the door and the most charming vision enchants my eyes. The place is a cosy little loft with a very artistic design. Each detail has been well thought out and put together, resulting in the most original decoration. There’s a smart combination of hippie, natural and vintage style. The atmosphere is so peaceful and details like a turntable, a vintage retro projector, and a ceiling rocking chair make me want to live here forever.






“They are here!!!” shouts Yance. We rush outside and run like lunatics to welcome our dear friend Christine and her boyfriend Jeff whom we haven’t seen for a year.

I met Yance and Christine in Sydney 3 years ago and they’ve become my best friends on this side of the world. How beautiful it is to meet up with your dearest friends in another country, and start the new year with a huge dose of friendship?


The best thing about real friendship is that no matter how long you have not seen your friends, you always feel like it was only yesterday.

We start to talk like old times, catching up about our lives and what’s been happening with all of us. It’s good to hear Christine’s laughter again, she has the most infectious laughter and I like when she giggles.

We decide to go for a night walk and explore the surroundings. It’s really cold outside and the smell of some beautiful food makes us stop at a little street food stall. The shop is tiny and run by a lovely Chinese couple of oldies. I have no idea of what type of food it is but the old lady is talking about “Chinese pizza” with mince, spinach, pickled vegetables and it smells just like it. We order two and while the old man is kneading the dough, I am observing his every move. It does look like the making of a pizza but in the Chinese style. The best part is how they cook the pizza. The oven is a big barrel with fire at the bottom and the pizza is “thrown” on the side of the barrel for 5 minutes until it’s cooked. I’ve never seen that before and the result is pretty delicious!


For our first reunion night, we set up a giant bed in the attic of the loft so we could all sleep altogether. It’s like a pajama party and we talk about everything and nothing until one of us falls asleep. I finally close my eyes after a big day, squished by Yance who’s literally sleeping across the whole bed we’re sharing, and lulled by the cute sound of Christine’s snores.


Monday 1st January 2018, Shanghai, 9 am.

“Aaahh, aaaaaaah!!” Yance’s yelling brutally wakes up all of us.

Yance sometimes talks during his sleep, but this time he must have had a nightmare by the sound of it.

“Let’s go have breakfast, I know where to go!” I say all excited.

Of course, I had to take everyone to “Pain Chaud” and start the day with some delicious French pastries and coffees.


After stuffing our faces with croissants and coffees, we decide to go to Tianzifang in the French Concession district, a must-see fascinating arts and crafts destination. The area retains an “organic and original” look and feel because of its untouched human marks. While much of the older homes and buildings have been replaced, the character of this old European district has been carefully preserved in its architecture and layout. The design is a Chinese-style Shikumen (stone gate) building fused with French Colonial architecture.


I am delighted to discover the small laneways and green alleys begging to be explored. There are small galleries and craft shops on every corner. Artists can be watched working on their craft in their little studio.

Tianzifang is an artsy area, flooded with hundreds of bars, cafés, craft shops, design studios, art galleries, and boutiques.



We are wandering in each alley, each shop, sometimes we’re getting lost in the multitude of laneways and boutiques. Food is omnipresent and the stalls are filled with a variety of local food.



It’s time for a break and we all want a refreshing drink, something typical. We spot on the other side of the street a line of people queuing to get in a milk tea shop called Hey Tea. 


The place seems to be very popular and even though there’s a line, we’re getting in the queue just out of curiosity. The drinks menu is quite surprising: cheese green tea, cheese ice blended strawberry. Tea with cheese? I have a mixed feeling about that but we are all keen to try.

The shop is so busy we have to wait for our number to be called out. After 30 minutes (we got lucky that day, I’ve read that it’s usually way longer!) we finally get our drinks.

The layer of cheese is an about an inch, a mixture of whipped cream and cheese (cream cheese, I assume), lightly seasoned with salt poured at the top. The cheese layer is fluffy, thick, creamy and rich. It is surprisingly good and quite filling.



After getting our bellies filled with cheese tea, we are heading to Yu Garden to unwind from the busy city. Yu Garden has been built in the Ming Dynasty, more than 400 years ago. The unique layout, beautiful scenery, and the artistic style of the garden architecture have made the garden one of the highlights of Shanghai. It perfectly blends decorative halls, pavilions, glittering pools, zigzag bridges, pagodas, archways, and impressive rockeries.




After a morning of walking around and exploring the city, we decide to have a massage. The idea of getting pampered for an hour sounds appealing to all of us.

Yance, who’s turned into our tour guide today, is already looking for a well-rated massage place on his phone.

In China, there are some really good massage places where you can stay for the whole day, have lunch or dinner and rest in your room while eating fresh fruits and drinking tea. It is pretty much like a hotel and I find the concept really smart.

Yance has found a massage place where they can have 4 people getting massaged in the same room. We get in pretty excited, get changed into a kitsch pink outfit and lay down on our comfy beds.

Four masseurs come in. Two women and two men. I ask to have a woman but I probably shouldn’t have. I did not know but the women are trained to massage men and the men are trained to massage women.

So this tiny Chinese woman is massaging me with the strength of a man and my sensitive body can feel every inch of pain.

My cries and yells make everyone laugh. The woman goes hard, she jumps behind me and twists my arms pushing her feet at the bottom of my back.

What the hell is that? I feel like doing sports combat on a massage bed and I am clearly not winning. After getting pampered (assaulted in my case) for a couple of hours, we are heading back to our Airbnb to get ready.

Tonight we are going to The Bund, a famous mile-long stretch of waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River. For a century, The Bund has been one of the most recognizable symbols and the pride of Shanghai. To the west of this stretch stands 52 buildings of various architectural styles: gothic, baroque, and neoclassical styles. It is often referred to as “the museum of buildings”.



It is the perfect way to end a beautiful best friends reunion in Shanghai.

I got in touch with a friend of a friend from France who’s been living in Shanghai for 4 years. She is running a cocktail bar and lounge in the heart of The Bund. Her name is Lucile, “Lulu” to her close friends and the Chinese people who find it easier to pronounce.

The taxi drops us off in front of an impressive early 20th Century building. The sophisticated entrance and hall let us guess that we’re about to discover a special place. Little did I know that it would be one of the most glamorous nightspots of Shanghai.

Upon entry, I am struck by the kaleidoscope of art on the walls and the mix of styles that bring a very original and unique look and feel. The place sparkles with an eclectic decor, gourmet bites and a cocktail menu that dazzles the senses. The bold colours splashed on the walls mixed with masterpieces from a private collection give a playful, fun and chic atmosphere. Not to mention the peacock peering at you.



I spot Lulu straight away and she warmly welcomes us. She leads us to a table and we all follow her, eyes sparkling and bursting with joy. She has reserved a table near the window with a spectacular view of the Shanghainese skyline. As we’re sitting down on stylish chairs and sofa, the waiter brings us 5 flutes of champagne, offered by the house.


What a perfect start to the night. Canapés and gourmet bites follow the champagne and it’s like a succession of delightful delicacies. Tonight, we are the privileged ones and we are enjoying every second of it.

As if it could not get any better, Lulu takes us to the private balcony of the dining restaurant. I could not hold my joy and I let a scream of amazement. Standing here, in such a special place, makes me realise why Shanghai is called the Magical City.




Besides the breathtaking view, it’s the atmosphere that strikes me the most. I feel like I am in a futuristic space city, ready to see a spaceship flying down the Oriental Pearl Tower. The misty clouds enfolding the buildings and the silence high up on the rooftop give an impression of solitude and mystery.

I can’t get my eyes off the Oriental Pearl Tower. Its architecture fascinates me. This 468m (1,536ft) high tower is the world’s sixth and China’s second tallest TV and radio tower. Built with eleven steel spheres in various sizes, hanging from the sky to the grassland, the body of the tower creates an admirable image. It is described in an ancient Chinese verse as “large and small pearls dropping on a plate of jade.” (大珠小珠落玉盘).


Standing in front of such beauty with my dearest friends makes me reflect on my life. Who would have thought I’d be in China in 2018, teaching English to children and so far away from my comfort zone? At this very precise moment, I feel fearless, I feel powerful. I am the captain of my life, the master of my destiny, and even if I don’t know what the future holds, all my decisions, my actions define me and will lead me as far as I want to go.

Yance pulls me out of my reverie and after taking a hundred photos we get back to our table. The rest of the evening is a decadent feast for the belly and the senses ­– delicious food, surprising cocktails and to close an amazing night, Lulu orders a beautiful 2 tier cake stand overflowing with desserts including my favourite: a Pavlova, a meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside topped with fruit and whipped cream. I could easily get used to getting spoiled like that. It is truly a magical night.


It’s now time to head back home and we’re getting in the taxi, our minds filled with amazing memories and very content bellies.

Wednesday 3rd January, Shanghai, 5 am.

Yance and I wake up silently to get ready to go to the airport. Our Shanghainese trip is coming to an end and we have to leave our dear friend Christine and the charm of our cosy loft.

As we are about to walk out the door, Christine wakes up, still half asleep. We all hug, quite moved as we won’t see her for a while. Then we depart, leaving the warmth of the studio to a cold and windy dawn.



One day one night in Hong Kong

I had to leave China to do a visa run a few weeks ago and it led me to visit Hong Kong. For those who don’t know, a visa run is a quick, one-day trip across the border of a neighboring country and returning. This is usually done a few days before the expiration of one’s visa.

It can be seen as annoying to do but I was actually pretty glad to be forced to leave the country to discover another one. It gave me the chance to experience the Hong Kongese lifestyle for 24 hours and although my trip was short, it was quite intense because of it.

The first thing that struck me was how multicultural Hong Kong is. After 3 months of total immersion in Fuzhou, a very “Chinese city” where no one speaks English, seeing the waves of foreigners on the streets brought me some comfort and I felt like I was home. I must have looked like a creepy lady, staring at people and smiling. I just wanted to say “hi” and talk to everyone!

As soon as the taxi dropped me off at the hotel, I quickly checked in, threw my bag on the bed and jumped straight away in a shuttle to go explore the city. I had no particular idea where to go, I just had the urge of discovering as much as I could in a limited period of time.



I took the subway and stopped at Central Station, in the centre of Hong Kong. I ended up on a very busy street named Queen’s Road. As soon as I got out of the subway, the Hong Kongese vibe made me think of New York. A Chinese NYC. Lively and busy collection of streets filled with restaurants, fancy bars, cafés and stylish shops. Big buildings, skyscrapers, international brands, a multitude of red and white taxis on the lookout for customers and hurrying businessmen hustling down the street.

Hong Kong is an intriguing mix of Asian and Western culture. A unique place where “East meets West”. As a foreigner living in China, I was really fascinated to observe the Hong Kongese lifestyle which is quite the opposite of mainland China’s. The vast majority of the population is ethnically Chinese but the long period of colonisation and exposure to the Western culture has resulted in a very distinct cultural identity from China. Most of the Chinese people living in Hong Kong speak English and the mainstream culture is an Eastern culture influenced by a British lifestyle.

As I was walking down the street, a tiny but colourful entrance of a place that looked like a café caught my attention. Spongebob’s and Patrick Star’s faces were plastered all around, making me want to discover a bit more. I ended up having afternoon tea at Dim Sum Icon, where you can eat steamed egg yolks buns, quench your thirst with a full-sized pineapple drink and have a bit of a Spongebob ma lai gao, aka the Spongebob spongecake.

What I do best when I explore a new city is to get lost. I don’t really mind getting lost, it’s part of the adventure. Without knowing it I ended up in Soho, a vibrant district filled with lively little streets going up and down. Every 5 square metres there’s a pub, a restaurant, a bar, a café and all of them are busy. I kept walking for a long time looking for a French restaurant called La Vache. Of course, I could not find it and after asking directions from 3 people who gave me 3 different answers, I started to worry a little. My phone was dying and my Chinese internet data was unusable in Hong Kong. A small detail that I flippantly ignored. I was supposed to meet up with a French couple that I virtually met via WeChat for dinner.

In China, it’s a common thing to find power banks in cafés to recharge your phone but here in Hong Kong, I could not find any. My old backpacker’s habit led me to McDonalds where I nicely asked the cashier if I could charge my phone and use the free wifi.

I finally managed to get in touch with the French couple who came to rescue me. They took me to La Vache in Soho (check out their website, it has the cutest design!) which is probably the best French restaurant in the Hong Kong dining scene. I was craving a steak-frites and La Vache, took me back, for a couple of hours, to the heart of Paris.




The stylish, Parisian-style brasserie serves a unique menu: an organic green salad followed by a USDA prime ribeye with unlimited crispy frites served with generous pots of La Vache’s house-made sauce. A beautiful treat for the taste buds.

On my last day, I met up with a friend of a friend who is Chinese. That’s what I love about travelling – meeting new people is one of the most enriching human experiences. Yolanda took me to the most typical Hong Kongese places and we talked for hours about our different cultures and lifestyles.


We walked down to a secret place that only locals know. It was located underground, in a small shopping mall. The restaurant was crowded with a line of people waiting to be seated.   

The place was so small and packed that we ended up sharing a table with two other girls. That is one of the facts that I have noticed. The lack of space in Hong Kong. With about 7 million Hongkongers in a territory of 1,104 km2, Hong Kong is one the most densely populated regions in the world. People live in tiny studios in the city and the rent is very expensive.

Hong Kongese food is a fusion of Asian and Western food. It reflects the history of the country. Local Hongkongers like eating buttery toast while having noodle soup. They love drinking milky tea and coffee. I was surprised to see some Italian pasta in an Asian bowl of soup with potatoes and tomatoes. This fusion also characterises Hong Kong’s cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food coexists with haute cuisine.

After a traditional Hong Kongese lunch, we went for a walk to Victoria Harbour, a natural landform harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in Hong Kong. We enjoyed the colourful Christmas decorations and an impressive panoramic skyline view.

And that concludes my short but intense Hong Kongese trip, one day, one night full of flavours, beautiful encounters, and unforgettable memories.









10 Random facts about China

After 3 months of observation and getting more acquainted with my Chinese life, I have to say that the customs and habits in China are pretty fascinating. Especially the behaviour towards the digital world.

Here’s a list of 10 random facts about China that strike me the most.


In China, you can order EVERYTHING online and get it delivered to you. I insist on the word “everything”. It literally is. Food, clothes, furniture, groceries, plants, anything you can possibly imagine. My friend Yance even bought some tropical fish that arrived two days later in a special container! The best part is that it gets delivered to your door or left in the mail room that each building has.

Digital life

Chinese people always have their heads down looking at their phones. It’s very common to see motorbike riders typing on their phone while driving!




Cash is pretty much dead in China as the country is living the future with mobile payments.

Chinese people don’t use cash or coins anymore to buy things. They use their mobile phones. They have a digital wallet with money and all you have to do when you purchase something is scan a barcode and type in the amount. The first time I saw Yance paying the taxi driver this way, I watched it with my mouth wide open. I thought it was the coolest way to pay for stuff. It actually made me want to buy something just to try it out.

The online payment technology is incredibly advanced. No wonder why China’s economy is one of the world’s fastest-growing in the worldThe Chinese mobile payment volume more than doubled to $5 trillion in 2016*.


The two most popular online payment apps are WeChat and AliPay. They are the major players in China.


In many ways, using digital money makes your everyday life easier. It’s just more convenient and faster. There’s no need to carry cash or a credit card. You only need your phone.

I like the “transfer” function. If you owe money to a friend, you can just look for his/her contact in WeChat and transfer the amount. It’s so much faster than getting their bank account details! I was a bit concerned regarding the safety, but my digital wallet is locked up with a passcode that I have to type in every time I make a payment.

The only crucial thing is not lose your phone! You can’t live in China without a phone!

*Source: Analysys data cited by Hillhouse Capital. 



WeChat is a magical app that makes the impossible possible. It has been called China’s “App for Everything” because of its many functions and platforms. It is one of the world’s most powerful apps.

If China lives in a digital world it’s mainly due to this kind of multi-purpose social media mobile app. It has such a huge social impact on Chinese behaviour. With WeChat you can order, pay, book and pretty much do everything. It’s crazy to think that an app has replaced real life and physical actions like going to the supermarket or getting cash out at the ATM. It fascinates and scares me at the same time.




With the rise of the Internet in China in 1994, the country has struggled to strike a balance between “opening up” to the Western world and keeping its people away from the Western ideology. The Great Firewall of China, formally known as the Golden Shield Project, is the Chinese government’s internet censorship and surveillance project developed in 2000.

FIrewall China

This Golden Shield Project caught my attention as I think it reflects pretty well the position of China towards Western countries. I believe it poses one of the most interesting dilemmas in modern history.

On one hand, the Chinese government wants to use the information technology that comes with the Internet to build its blooming economy and make it thrive. On the other, the Internet inherently encourages diversity of ideas and represents a tool for democratising society. While the Internet is important to China’s economy, its very existence also undermines the political stability of the country. China is constantly seeking to strike balance between these two ends.

With the firewall, much to my desperation, I must say, many popular websites are banned in China. You can say goodbye to search engines like Google, Yahoo, but also media (Youtube, The New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, Le Monde – Yes, even French media!). Social media are of course the focal point and are completely banned (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and more).

You can check out the list of banned websites here.

But don’t panic if you’re planning to go to China. There’s a way to bypass this firewall (otherwise you would not be reading this post!) and still get access to your favourite websites. You will need to download a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Any mobile app store will have VPNs. On my end, after trying at least 3 different ones, I have purchased Star VPN which works pretty well and costs me $3 a month.

You just have to be aware that there’s no perfect VPN and sometimes the connection can be slow or not functional. All you need is a lot of patience!



But only if you have a trained eye! The first time I saw a shiny 90 sign, it really enticed the western shopper in me. I thought “Wow! 90% off?! That’s the best sale ever!” However, I was just a fool. 90 isn’t as great as it seems.

I found out that Chinese discounts work in a completely opposite way to western discounts. While a western shopper sees 90% off, a Chinese shopper sees that you pay 90 percent of the price. That means 90 is actually only 10% off!


But generally speaking, there are always ways to get cheaper things in China. They have insane discounts and special deals that defy the rules of competition. Especially when it comes to food. Let’s say you order online and reach a certain amount, you can sometimes get 30  50% off. It’s also very common to see sales guys from restaurants giving away vouchers in shopping malls to get 50  100 RMB off your meal.

Online prices are cheaper than retail stores. My friend Yance buys all his clothes online and I have started to do this as well. In case we’re not happy with our purchases, we just call the courier who comes to our place to pick up the items and we get a refund straight away online!



A red packet is a monetary gift in a little red envelope which, in the Chinese tradition, is offered during holiday seasons or for special occasions (weddings, graduations, births etc).


But there’s also a digital version of the red packet that blew my mind the other day. After working hard for Thanksgiving at the school where I work, our managers, as a reward, sent to our WeChat group a rain of red packets! The concept is simple: someone sends in a group a red packet with a defined amount of money and chooses how many people he/she wants to share the amount with. The first person to click on the red packet earns a random amount of money.

For instance, I can send to the group a red packet of 100 RMB and choose to share the amount between 5 people. Once the red packet appears in the group conversation, its members have to quickly click on it to see how much they’ve earned. That’s when it gets funny and exciting because the whole concept of the red packet is based on luck. The first 5 people who’ve clicked earn a random amount. One can get 30 RMB, another one can get 2 RMB and so on until it reaches 100 RMB. The amount of money you earn goes automatically into your WeChat wallet!


For Chinese NYE, people send big rains of red packets and the amount can go up to hundreds of RMB! It’s probably the easiest way to make money just by clicking some links on your phone. There’s no doubt, Chinese people love playing with money! No wonder why they love gambling so much.



In China, the tap water’s not clean and you’re better off not drinking it. The first day I got here it was so hot that I poured a big glass of tap water and started drinking it.

“What are you doing?! yelled Yance laughing at me. Don’t drink tap water in China, you’re going to be sick!” I emptied my glass and I suddenly missed the clean and fresh water of New Zealand.


Chinese people drink hot water (even under 30 degrees) and it took me quite some time to get used to it. It’s not even tea, just boiling water. When I ask a Chinese person why they drink hot water, the answer is usually “it’s better for your health”. I did not really get it at the beginning. Apart from burning my throat, I could not see the benefits. Now that I’ve reviewed my habits and that it’s freezing in Fuzhou, hot water has become my new tap water.

But to be honest, hot or cold, water is water and both are fine to drink! It’s just a question of beliefs and habits.



Hot pot! Each region of China has its own food specialty. In Fuzhou, you will find many hot pot restaurants. Hot pot is a soup with a variety of East Asian foodstuffs and ingredients, prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and cooked at the table.

Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leaf, vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings, tofu and seafood. The cooked food is usually eaten with a dipping sauce.

It’s the perfect dish to share with family and friends as it’s very convivial and can last hours! I absolutely love it, it’s delicious!



I wrote about the nightlife in Fuzhou in a previous post. I am still amazed by the Chinese hospitality when it comes to party or going out. The nightclubs are insane and they really make an effort to put on a big show. People in nightclubs talk to you and naturally buy you drinks. They don’t expect anything from you except having fun.




China never sleeps. It’s constantly developing and expanding. Buildings, skyscrapers and massive shopping malls are popping up like flowers. Towers appear in little to no time and in a couple of months, a new suburb is born. China is like a giant tree whose branches keep growing.



Diary of a little Vietnamese Girl in France – Story 1

I am sharing today a little piece of my heart. The text below is the first page of my children’s book. I am still putting the text and the illustrations together, it’s taking way longer than I thought. Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever get it through. Making my own drawings and self-publishing my book are such big challenges. But it’s also my dream, so I will keep going until the day I feel the pages between my fingers and smell the cover of my book.



My name is Julie, I am 10 and I am French with an Asian face. I am French-namese (as in French and Vietnamese). My parents came to France a long time ago because something really bad happened in Vietnam and they had to run away from the country. They don’t talk much about it but I know it has something to do with war and stuff.

I have a big head, very dark hair and a funny fringe Mum loves to cut too short and uneven. I am very little and skinny. Everything in me is small. I am the smallest girl in my class. My feet never touch the ground when I sit.



Sometimes I spend hours looking at my face in the mirror. My eyes are smaller than my friends’ and I don’t really have eyelids. I do weird things like pinching my nose because I don’t want to have a flat nose.


I have a big brother, Christian, and a little sister, Ketty. I also have a cat, Lilo, who is black and white like Felix, a famous French cat who does TV commercials.

My favourite colours are navy blue and pink. I like grilled chestnuts, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and French fries. I like riding my bike, playing with my toys, my friends and rummaging in Mum’s wardrobe or anywhere where it’s messy. I don’t like onion and celery, I am scared of spiders, I am very scared of the dark and I get angry when people make fun of me because I look different.



Lost in Translation Part III – China’s nightlife

My new life in Fuzhou is slowly taking shape and after a difficult start, I finally feel like my time in China is going to be amazing. I can see myself living here for a while, learning what I have to learn, discovering and experiencing as much as I can. 

I remind myself every day the reason why I came here and where it’s going to lead me. It makes me feel good.

I am eventually feeling what I love so much about my life: enjoying my freedom.


Fuzhou city, a night at the Life Club, 2 am.

The music is so loud that I have to shout in the ear of a guy who’s asking my name.

“My name is Juliiiie!!” He says something back but I cannot understand a word. I shout a very ungraceful: “Whaaat??”

That’s pretty much the only conversation you can have at the Life Club, the place where you lose your memory (or your consciousness) while having countless shots of vodka and feeling the vibes on the dance floor.

I’ve never really been a party girl but this place is probably the craziest club I’ve ever been to. Going to Life Club is like doing a triathlon of drinking, jumping and dancing. You need a full day to recover.

Clouds of mist and confetti spray on my face every ten minutes, huge balloons floating in the air, free bottles of vodka on every table, performers are diving into the crowd on inflatable boats and DJs are dressed up as pandas. It’s a fun madness. Jumping and dancing on the bouncing stage in front of the DJ booth has been the best exercise. I have to say it, Chinese people know how to party.


Fuzhou’s nightlife is quite lively and offers a diversity of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and pubs. Wherever you go, no matter what the time is, you will always find a place to entertain yourself. Chinese youths go out a lot and love hanging out to play games, to party, to have drinks or to eat a festive dinner with friends. There are many ways and places in Fuzhou to socialise and meet people. You just have to get out there.

One night, I randomly ended up in an underground club. A dance battle competition was on. I am not a dancer but I stayed all night. The Chinese dance scene is unbelievably good and it was interesting to observe something new. I’ve found the dancers to be crazy free, bold and really daring. Like they were freeing themselves from a strict and pressured everyday life.

It’s so easy to get carried away here. The Chinese hospitality when it comes to partying is limitless. Chinese people love making toasts shouting: “Gan bei!” (cheers) every 5 minutes, offering drinks and giving cigarettes to everyone. Not the best way to stay healthy but definitely the best way to bond.

I’ve been meeting more foreigners lately which has considerably diminished the feeling of isolation. I am feeling again what traveling and what being an expat is truly about. New encounters are such a huge part of it. It reminds me of when I left France to move to Australia 5 years ago. I was on my own, but I met along the way some amazing friends to share beautiful adventures with.

Moving to a new country and experiencing such a strong cultural shock really pushes you to open your mind in a big way and to accept different customs and habits. Adaptation and acceptance are fundamental.

Applying these principles are making my life in China way easier and because of that, I feel happier. Even if the language barrier is still omnipresent, I am finding my own way to create a new life and to fit in a completely new environment.



Goodbye my Love

My dear Ezra,

I remember you said, “If one day our love story ends, I would feel so grateful for the amazing time we’ve had together.”

Deep in my heart, I’ve always hoped that this day would never come but today, life has decided it was time for us to go our separate ways.

The most difficult part has been the acceptance. When you told me we could not be together anymore as I was starting my new venture in China, I was in shock. I got angry, mad, extremely sad, I felt lost and powerless, but now, I know I have to let us go and find my inner peace.

Finally, I feel grateful too and I can think of our wonderful memories without tears of sadness rolling down my cheeks.

I want to keep in mind the best of us and the beauty of our love story. It was an amazing and unique experience to share our dreams together.

Despite the gap between our two worlds, our love for each other and the strong vision of our relationship kept us together for two beautiful years. Our trip to Europe will remain one of the most memorable events in my life. I was so glad to bring you overseas and open your mind to something that would inspire you.

I know we both have learned a lot from our relationship which will make us stronger and more prepared for the future.

We are giving ourselves the freedom to go for our respective dreams and that’s a beautiful reason to go our separate ways.

Believe me, it was so hard for me to think this way. I’ve been through the whole mental process, trying to cope with my crazy emotions.

But now, I am okay. I am not crying anymore, I’ve found my sleep back, my appetite and I wake up with the feeling that I can conquer the world again.

I wish you the very best, I know you will make it because you’re the most passionate person that I know. Keep pushing, hustling (I know you’re very good at that!), don’t give up until you’re at the top. I am so proud of you for what you’ve achieved so far and my support will be with you forever.

I am sure I will hear from you and about your company sometime soon.

On my end, it’s time for me to work harder on my dreams too, and I promise I will send you a copy of my children’s book!

Please keep the crafty book that I made for you, in the memory of our beautiful story.

With all my love,


Julie & Ezra’s Special Book:

Ez_and_Julie_Hipster01 (1)












Lost in Translation – Part II

I am feeling fear as I’m standing on the corner of an intersection. A hundred of motorbikes are sitting there, waiting impatiently for the green light.

“Don’t hesitate, just go and don’t stop. They will avoid you.” says my Chinese friend Yance.  I grab his arm tight and dive into the madness.

I am still trying to overcome my fear when I cross the street in Fuzhou. Motorbikes are like pedestrians here, so they use pedestrian crossing…It is so impressive (and scary!) to see on the other side of the road, an army of motorbikes that literally ploughs into you.

China is a real cultural shock that I am still in the process of getting used to. It will happen in the end but it takes time. Everything is so different and it’s a big change from my western life.


My life in Fuzhou is challenging. I am feeling a mixed bag of emotions that make it quite intense. I am so excited to discover a new culture and immerse myself in a new environment. But it is also alienating as the cultural shock is so strong.

It reminds me of the turmoil of Vietnam. Insane traffic, a hustle and bustle in the streets that never stops, a cacophony of horns and the smell of Asian food emanating from every corner.

Fuzhou never sleeps, it’s constantly developing and expanding. Buildings, skyscrapers, and massive shopping malls are popping up like flowers. Towers appear in no time and in a couple of months, a new suburb is born. China is like a giant tree whose branches keep growing.


I have observed a curious mix of advanced technology, modernism, tradition, and conservatism. It’s everything and its opposite. They fancy the luxury of the Western world but forbid you to be truly exposed to the outside world (Google, YouTube, social media are banned). The access to information is restricted and controlled. If I am still able to update my blog and socials it’s thanks to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that I have downloaded.

It’s for sure one of the most difficult things to cope with as a foreigner. I was born in a democratic country whose main principle is liberty.

But the most challenging part is definitely the language barrier. I did not really think of it before leaving. I was way too excited about the amazing teaching opportunity. I naively thought that people would speak English. At least a little bit.

The reality is no one speaks English in Fuzhou. All the signs are in Mandarin and I have no clue of what’s happening around me.

Luckily, my Chinese friend Yance is with me. He’s been guiding me so patiently but relying entirely on someone is somehow, alienating and frustrating. Not being able to communicate or understand people are the biggest frustration I’ve ever felt in my life.

I remember the first group dinner we had. I felt so diminished and powerless not to be able to interact with the rest of the group. It’s a very unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling. I have never faced a struggle like that before and I did think: “What am I doing here”.

I am so out of my comfort zone that it scares me. The thought of going back to Australia has crossed my mind many times. This natural instinct that pushes you to go back to what you know because it’s safer and easier…

I do miss my Western lifestyle, but I do know I need to put in the effort to build a new life in Fuzhou if I want to make the most of it.

I have to think about the long-term and I want to recall this experience 5 years from now saying:

“My year in China has been the most enriching and challenging experience in my life. I am proud to have given myself the chance to live over there and open my mind to a new world.”



Teaching in China

Fuzhou, China – Friday 3rd, November, 7 am,

The squeaking sound of a jackhammer brutally pulls me out of my sleep. I can’t recall a night since I am here without being awakened by these bloody machines.

The building and area where I live in Fuzhou are still being constructed and the noise has become part of my new world. Somehow I got used to it.

It’s time to go teach at the school.

“Wake Up Yaaanceee!” I shout at the door of his bedroom.

(Yance is my Chinese friend I met in Sydney. He helped me attain a position as an English teacher at the school where he works, which has brought me to China. Teaching a second language to young children has always been one of my aspirations).

15 minutes later we’re running late to the school. Thank God it’s only 200 meters away from our apartment. In Fuzhou, no one wants to be stuck in the insane morning traffic.

The school is brand new. A month ago when I arrived, it was still a construction site and I thought it would never be ready on time. I was wrong. In a month, the site has transformed into a beautiful school.


What really caught my attention is that this school is not a primary school or part of an academic system. It’s a creative educational school that offers 3 courses: English, Drawing, and Dancing.

When Yance told me about it, it sounded like a dream. I have always wished to be able to teach languages in a fun and creative way, using games, music, art and role play.



The challenge was also to discover a new country. China sounded ideal. A real disruption of culture that would push me far out of my comfort zone. Again.

France, Australia, New Zealand and now China. I like to think that I have lived many lives in my life. I am a traveler at heart and there are so many things to discover about the world.

I have started to teach my own class and I have met so many different types of children with different personalities. From the shy little girl who does not want to leave her Mum to the exuberant boy who disturbs the class. I find extremely interesting and challenging the fact that no matter what, I need to engage with the children enough to catch their attention.

Once it’s done, it feels so good and rewarding to see the cutest happy smiling faces, having fun while learning another language.


I am discovering how to make teaching plans, curriculum for the year, and the greatest part is that we have the freedom to be creative. We incorporate songs, dance routines, games, art, role play. It’s so much fun. Way more fun than my old school memories.

Teaching and playing with children is a therapy to me. When I teach, nothing else matters. Worries and problems are gone. My only goal is to make the children happy and teach them the love of learning.

I do believe that Education is the foundation of a better future for humankind.

When I was a child I remember being so bored at school and not interested in the class. I used to daydream a lot and imagine crazy stories. I wish I had more encouragement from teachers to see above and beyond. And that it is okay to be different.

I want to encourage children to pursue their dream and I want them to feel great about themselves. Because that is just what youngsters are. Great.