By Isabella West, Calgary Journal
In August, a one-man show will take the stage at the Calgary Fringe Festival, taking viewers on a six-week motorcycle journey of self-discovery in Vietnam.
“Sadec 1965: A Love Story” tells the story of Flora Le’s discovery of her father’s country and culture, which she never shared with her.
In 2013, Le was living the life she wanted – the life she had fought for 10 years.
Yet within six months, Le was exhausted from her dream career, dealt with the grief of the end of a five-year relationship, and discovered that her father had been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
“Even though on the surface I had all the traditional standards of success, my life felt very empty,” she said.
Trying to bridge the estranged relationship between Le and her father, Le visits him while he is in the hospital, hoping to bond, but she is soon disappointed by his continued apathy.
Carrying her precious cargo, Le trekked 3,500 kilometers from the northern Chinese border to her father’s hometown of Sadek, hoping to find answers about her origins and why her father never talked about her past.
“Because it was difficult for me to connect with my father, I indirectly thought, ‘Maybe I can connect with his country,'” Le said.
hit the road
After picking up a Vietnam travel guide, Le learned that the best way to see Vietnam was by motorbike.
And she did just that.
Le bought a used motorcycle, which she doesn’t know how to ride, but despite that, she says she has bigger ideas.
“I was looking for answers to these questions: who was my father, why he never really raised me, why he was never there for me, these bigger questions that moved me, so things like being a motorcycle mechanic or driving Things feel so small,” Le said.
Le has been producing stage plays since 2014, after she found the key to making this story work: her father’s high school sweetheart, Hein.
Le’s father promised to marry Hein after graduating from college in Canada. She discovered the story after reading their love letters after her father died.
Le’s father, who graduated in 1971 at the height of unrest in Vietnam, was encouraged to stay in Canada. Soon after, Le’s father married his French-Canadian girlfriend, Le’s mother, and never returned to Vietnam.
“This woman (Hine) had been waiting for him for six years, and he left her behind,” Le said.
Language and culture not shared
The letters were in Vietnamese, a language she didn’t speak because her father never incorporated his culture into their lives.
It took 13 journalists to translate the letters, which are only Hines’ perspective. The letters are equivalent to 12 novels with millions of words, Le said.
Le said she spent so much time reading the letters and seeing Hein’s love, consistency and devotion to her father that he eventually abandoned her to pursue opportunities in Canada.
“When I met her, I knew what she was going through, and I felt abandoned, and in a way, I went through it too,” Le said.
When the two finally met in Vietnam, Le handed Hein a black-and-white photo she carried with her throughout the trip.
The photo is dated August 1967, a few days before Le’s father left for Canada.
Le said that at first due to the language barrier, she couldn’t tell what Hein was thinking when he handed her the photo, but in the end she burst into tears and the two hugged each other.
“We understood each other at that moment. We didn’t need words,” Le said.
The reason she gave Hein this picture was to get her to wrap up. She is seeking the same ending.
The play “Sadec 1965: A Love Story” will be performed at Lantern Community Church August 4-9.
Tickets are available online or at the door for $12.
This article was first published in The Calgary Journal and is republished under a Creative Commons license.
This story was originally published by the Calgary Journal Creative Commons License
Join the Good Guys Project today as a premium member.
All premium members can watch The Good Guys Project ad-free. All passes are available with a $50 annual membership. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community. A $25 annual membership gives you access to a class, a social interest group and our online community. A $12 annual membership entitles you to our Friday conference calls with publishers, our online community. Need more information? The full list of benefits is here.
Image source: iStock