Camellia in the Sand

Vietnamese bloggers have recently been busy sending their friends a link to the blog of an AO victim and have launched a campaign to raise funds for this special blogger.

Tra My learns to walk with the aid of a walking frame (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Tran Tra My, a dioxin victim, was born in the central province of Quang Tri. Now 21 years old, she has always been unable to walk because the effects of dioxin have paralyzed her.

Named after a flower, Tra My (camellia), has never been able to go to school as she cannot speak, walk or use her hands like the others; she cannot clasp her arms around somebody or spell a word.

In her blog, she writes, “When I was six, I cried so many nights, waiting for a fairy to appear because I had always believed in fairy tales. I learnt the alphabet through Scrabble games and I learnt how to spell the names of my parents, friends and others. I could even tell the time. But I couldn’t understand why I was not sent to school like other children!”

“When I was nine, my younger sister went to school. Everyday when she came home from school I would ask her what she had learnt. Every morning when she did her homework, I would sit beside her. I would imitate things to learn and survive. I imitated her until I knew how to write and do math.”

“At that time I had only one wish. I wished to have my own voice so that I could go to school and become a psychologist”.

When she grew old enough to realize that her wish could not come true, Tra My started writing, “When a door closes, another will open”, she thought.

She wrote with her twisted fingers, which soon became moist with blood. She wrote about the windy seasons in her hometown, about children in the central provinces trying to get back to school after severe floods and about blooming cacti in the sand. She also wrote about the long nights of a handicapped girl who dreams of a happy life.

Tra My writes everyday (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

After writing for five years, Tra My was awarded third prize in a writing contest of the Quang Tri Pedagogy College. The jurors were taken by surprise at the award ceremony when they realized that she was not a student, she could not even speak.

Tra My writes in one short story: “I am living, not surviving. To live means to cope with adversities of my destiny, and to survive just means to eat, sleep and breathe.”

Paper cranes, stars and flowers made from cloth decorate her room, in which she sits everyday to write at her computer. In front of her, she keeps a piece of paper that says, “Only three years left. Try on, Tra My!”

Everyday she gets up at 5 a.m. to do her exercises before starting her work for Kim Dong Publishing House and other newspapers and televisions.

Tra My no longer needs to use a wheelchair, her exercises have enabled her to learn to walk with the aid of a walking frame. During the extreme heat of mid-July, Tra My even managed to drag her walking frame to Truong Son Martyrs Cemetery to burn incense at the tombs of unknown soldiers.

Tra My says that she will save her royalties until she has enough money to travel to Ho Chi Minh City and undergo treatment.

Tra My’s Profile:

By Yen Trinh (Tuoi Tre) – Translated by Thuy Hang

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