HMCS Calgary sailors learn Vietnamese while deployed in Asia

Sailor First Class Richard Vuong (left) and Sailor Second Class Peter Bui were thrilled to visit their homeland of Vietnam as the ship progresses on its Operation Projection / Artemis deployment. Photo by Cpl Lynette Ai Dang, Imagery Technician

Sailor First Class Richard Vuong (left) and Sailor Second Class Peter Bui were thrilled to visit their homeland of Vietnam as the ship progresses on its Operation Projection / Artemis deployment. Photo by Cpl Lynette Ai Dang, Imagery Technician

Capt Jeff Klassen
HMCS Calgary PAO
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Two HMCS Calgary sailors, both with Vietnamese heritage, have remarkably similar stories and were excited for the fuel stop in Cam Ranh International Port, Vietnam, even though they couldn’t step foot on land because of COVID-19.

Marine Technician’s Sailor First Class (S1) Richard Vuong and Sailor Second Class (S2) Peter Bui are natural-born Canadians brought up in families that follow traditional Vietnamese customs; both parents were born and raised in Vietnam.

Despite not being able to go ashore in Vietnam as part of Operation Projection, both sailors are studying Vietnamese during the deployment, an affirmation of their heritage.

S1 Vuong’s Vietnamese girlfriend has been teaching him the language. He hired her as a tutor before going on deployment. They hit it off, he says. They frequently video call and she helps him with his pronunciation.

He started learning Vietnamese just in case he could go to Ho Chi Minh City in the South and Haiphong and Hong Gai, near Ha Long Bay in the North to meet his ancestors.

“I wasn’t able to go to a Vietnamese coffee shop on this deployment, but I was still excited to actually see the country with my own eyes, even if it was just from the ship,” he says.

S2 Bui worked on a small northern Vietnamese farm as a teen.

“When I found out we were going to Vietnam, even though we couldn’t get off the jetty, I was really happy. I was so excited to see my home country again.”

S2 Bui’s parents moved to Canada when he was young and for years his knowledge of Vietnamese culture was based on his home-life. As a child, his parents followed a more traditional Vietnamese lifestyle, working a mushroom farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and preparing Vietnamese meals at home.

After graduating high school, his parents sent him on a trip to Doan Lap, a farming area just outside Haiphong, for three months so he could connect with his ancestral roots. It was the first time since he was an infant meeting his grandmother and the rest of his extended family.

On that trip, he went from his comfortable and familiar life in Canada to working on a rural northern Vietnam rice farm where he didn’t speak the language. It was a life-altering experience.

“Everything was so different. I loved the Vietnamese sense of community. People in the same village eat together and look out for each other in a more intimate way than in most Canadian communities” he says. “There is a very communal spirit. People feel free to walk into each other’s homes and eat together. They have tea and coffee together. It’s definitely different than in Canada, but some ways it relates as people in Canada do look out for each other, and of course we have coffee together.”

S2 Bui’s Vietnam experience, which happened just over four years ago, made him realize the world was a rich and fantastic place, and he wanted to see more of it, and that’s why he ended up joining the navy.

He is using language learning apps on his phone to practice Vietnamese.

“By learning Vietnamese I get to deepen my connection with my ancestral country. It’s just making the deployment so much more memorable,” he says.

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Filed Under: Top Stories

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