Dustin Kelley: This is Dustin Kelley it is August 3, 2020. I am in the Watzek Library chatting with Khoi Dinh via Zoom. Thank you for being with me.
Khoi Dinh: Thank you for inviting me.
DK: So you first recorded an interview with us one year ago. Are there any topics you are hoping to discuss today in our second discussion?
KD: I did not realize it had been that long!
DK: Yeah, it was September of 2019.
KD: No kidding.
DK: Eleven months ago.
DK: Are there any topics you are hoping to discuss with us today?
KD: I do not think I have a topic in mind that I want.
DK: That is okay.
DK: I have a few questions.
DK: You previously mentioned not knowing many other Vietnamese immigrants in Portland. I am curious if that has changed in the last year? Have you been able to connect with any organization?
KD: No, I have not been involved with the Vietnamese community here. That has not changed much. Basically I connected with a woman who owns a nail salon in Portland. When her business got shut down as part of the lockdown she started selling masks made in Vietnam. So her family has an import-export business in Vietnam that exports masks to Japan. But because she could not do nails during the lockdown, she started importing masks to the United States. So I bought some masks from her, and I have given away some masks to some of the people that I know from Lewis & Clark College, some friends. So I have gotten to know her. But other than her I have not gotten to connect with the larger Vietnamese community here. I mean partly because I am still practicing social distancing [laughs].
DK: And we thank you for doing that.
KD: You are welcome!
DK: Well thank you for that answer. It is really fascinating to hear what other individuals are doing to help our Portland community.
DK: So you mentioned that Portland was an interesting place to move to in part for the Asian food here. You had mentioned the grocery stores, the restaurants. I am curious what some of your favorite Vietnamese cuisine includes? When you are shopping for Vietnamese cuisine in grocery stores what are important staples that would be included?
KD: So I have been cooking quite a bit. Especially since the pandemic started. I make a lot of stir-fries, noodle soups, different kinds of noodle soups, usually pho. The famous pho. I do not go out to eat at different restaurants because number one, I am not a huge fan of the Southern flavor because I am from the North, so I prefer Northern dishes. The other thing is the Vietnamese dishes here are made to suit the American palette [laughs]. So they are not quite authentic, and so that is why I go shopping quite a bit. When I go shopping I typically look for a lot of herbs which are not that many here in America in Portland. But if you go to Fubon you can pick up a lot of Vietnamese herbs, and vegetables. Those are very very important for the Vietnamese dishes that I make.
DK: Very neat. So 2020 has been a challenging year here in the United States but also around the world. This is reflected by the COVID-19 pandemic and also the protests following the death of George Floyd. I am curious if you can talk about your experience both living in Beaverton, but also working in Portland and how it has been for you living in 2020?
KD: I consider myself quite privileged because number one, I have not lost my job. Number two, I get to work from home remotely so I can practice social distancing. Number three, I live alone. I do not have children or a spouse to worry about, and my family––especially my parents who live in Vietnam––are doing fine because overall, Vietnam has done a great job managing the pandemic even though the country is experiencing a second wave now. The only thing that bothers me is that living in Portland or in Beaverton and in America in general… I mean at first, I was a bit… concerned about the increase in the anti-Asian hate crimes. So I thought to myself, “Okay, am I going to wear a mask?” Because when the pandemic started in Vietnam, everybody started wearing a mask. So my parents said, "Hey Khoi, are you wearing a mask yet?" Well nobody is wearing a mask here in America. I do not want to get beaten up [laughs]! I do not want to stand out." Then I said, "Well and the other thing is, I do not think I can get a good mask. Like there are no masks in stores to buy." So my mother had to send a bunch of masks to me––a lot––about thirty, and I gave away a few masks. But as soon as I saw some people in a grocery store wearing a mask, I thought okay well now I can wear a mask. Because I have not had to go out a lot, I have not experienced anything that I would consider negative. The only thing is that I think that Portland and Oregon, in general, responded a little bit too late to this pandemic. The mask mandate came in only recently––when I have already been wearing a mask since, what? March, right?
You did mention the George Floyd protests that are pretty much still going on. I pay a lot of attention to the protests with what is going on in the Portland community, and as much as I do not want to bring up the political topic, I have got to say that because I am a part of a lot of different Vietnamese groups because they are all Vietnamese. A part of the reason why I have not gone out or reached out to the Vietnamese community is because I get a sense that a lot of people in the Vietnamese community are not supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and that is something I am very supportive of.
DK: Well, a quick follow up question––I had a couple from your last response––You mentioned that you think many Vietnamese may not be supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement. I am just curious if you would expand on that?
KD: I think that what I have noticed is that a lot of Vietnamese people in America are small business owners. They have suffered from the lockdown, and on top of that, some businesses have been destroyed as part of the riots, but the problem is that they cannot tell the difference between the riots and the protesters, right? So now they blame the Black Lives movement protesters for the destruction of their businesses. They do not understand… or their experiences in America have been very different in that a lot of them say that they have not experienced racism in America. So they do not see that they should be a part of this movement. They see themselves as part of the larger American community, but they do not see that there is a benefit to supporting another minority group.
DK: Thank you for that, that is very helpful. Something else that relates to one of your previous responses, you discussed how you were in contact with your family in Vietnam, and how they helped send you masks early after the pandemic. You mentioned that Vietnam has had a very positive handling of the COVID-19. I am curious if you could expand on that and talk about some of the differences between how Vietnam is approaching the pandemic versus the United States and the State of Oregon?
KD: Well first of all Vietnam is a very, very different country, so comparing Vietnam to the United States is like comparing apples to oranges. However, I can tell you a few things about what Vietnam has done. Number one when we learned about the virus in China, Vietnam was one of the first countries to respond quickly because the Vietnamese were afraid that the virus would come to Vietnam very fast. Of course, because Vietnam shares a long land border with China, the Vietnamese banned flights to and from China right away. Chinese citizens were banned from coming into Vietnam. Other foreigners upon entry into Vietnam, they had to have their temperatures checked, they were quarantined immediately upon arrival, they had to declare their travel record history upon arrival. Here in America when the government tells you to self-quarantine, you quarantine at home, right? But in Vietnam when they tell you to quarantine they take you to a central quarantine facility. To make sure that if you are positive you do not spread the virus to other people. If they detect that you might be positive for COVID then the whole area where you live is also quarantined, right? So the whole neighborhood. They bring you food in the area where you live. Also when you are quarantined in a central location, the quarantine is free, food is free. If you are positive you are treated for free. So the hospital––even though the health care system in Vietnam is not developed––it is not yet overwhelmed like the hospitals in some states in the United States are. The government declared war with COVID-19 right in the beginning and everybody seemed to comply with all the orders, mask orders, hand washing, social distancing, there were no protests against mask wearing mandates or the shutdown of non-essential business. So yes, those measures have worked quite well. In general, everybody seems to be on the same page. Whereas here in America, different groups have different opinions about how to respond to the pandemic.
DK: That is a very astute observation. There is certainly a strong dichotomy [laughing] between the different responses here in the United States. But going to a little lighter discussion track now. In your previous interview you mentioned enjoying spending time in nature, and being near beautiful scenery. I am curious, how have you been able to engage with nature during the pandemic? How has that been different before the pandemic?
KD: It has been very very different because I used to go out and travel a lot. I love hiking. But I have not gone on a hike since the pandemic––Even though when you are out in nature there is so much less risk. The issue here is that at the beginning of the shutdown a lot of the hikes were closed. Now that they are open, I heard that they can be quite crowded on the weekends, so I have tried to not join the crowd by staying home. I am going to take a two week vacation starting next week, so I am going to go on a few hikes on the weekdays instead of on the weekend. Of course I still go out, but I live in a neighborhood that is very quiet. So I go out for a run every morning. That is how I connect myself with nature, but not in terms of hiking or kayaking––that sort of thing. That is what I really miss.
DK: You work in prospect development for Lewis and Clark College.
DK: You described your position in detail during your previous interview. I am curious how COVID-19 has impacted your work response-ability, and I am curious about what your day-to-day work looks like and the prospects of donations for the college.
KD: Yeah so, at the beginning of the pandemic, all of a sudden my priorities had to shift a lot because we used to do a lot of [background research] for events that the president attended. But all those events had to be canceled. Now we still do some events, but a lot of those events have gone online, right? So because they are online we do not really need a lot of materials, and I do not think that the president has attended a lot of those online events. Online events are very very different. Basically––“all you can join” type of thing, right? But the day to day work has not changed that much. What I have noticed is that the number of donations I do not have an exact number to give you but I do not think the number of donations has gone down because of the pandemic. In fact, I think it is safe to say it is just that a lot of donors are shifting their priorities. So let's say we created this COVID-19 emergency fund, and a lot of donors have shifted their priorities to give to that fund instead of to other funds, right? I personally have also given to that fund here at Lewis and Clark, and other places too. So yeah my work has not changed that much.
DK: Well this is really helpful. You have given our listeners and perhaps some future researchers some interesting insight into what it is like to be living through the daily changes that we are experiencing in the year 2020. I am curious if there is anything else you would like to add in at the end or something that one of the questions stirred in your mind that you wanted to discuss? I wanted to give you the floor at this time.
KD: [shaked head]
DK: Thank you so much. Again, this has been Dustin Kelley speaking with Khoi Dinh via Zoom, on August 3, 2020. Thanks!