About Catherine Dinh

My name is Catherine Dinh. I'm a freshman in Pierson. I'm from Fremont, which is in the Bay Area, California. I am considering majoring in English or Psychology. I enjoy reading, writing, watching movies with friends, shopping, graphic design, taking walks, eating, imagining, and learning new things. I'm a member of ViSA and TAS, but I joined the APA blog because I wanted to reach out to more of the Asian American community here at Yale. In short, I hope this blog will be a huge success and am looking forward to seeing it grow.

Reach Out Vietnam

It’s been almost three weeks since Spring Break. I’m still answering some questions about my Reach Out trip to Vietnam with friends that I run into, and it’s interesting what I remember after three weeks.

I remember certain scenes vividly, imprinted in my mind after all this time, maybe because they were strange and new to me.

I remember walking through clay-like, orange mud, past houses where clothes hung out to dry and chickens waddled on the front lawns.

I remember the outhouse by the library – a white basin on the floor, an enormous monarch butterfly perched on it, making it difficult to pee, if having to squat didn’t already.

I remember the classrooms of the middle school we taught at – the shabby walls, the rows of rectangular tables, and the rules of good citizen-students under “Father Ho Chi Minh” posted in the front.

I remember in particular a teacher who served on the board of the college we visited.  He was an elderly man, with squinting eyes and pockmarked tan skin. He had dyed his hair black, in the way that some aging Vietnamese men do.  He said our group’s visit to the college was a diplomacy trip, one that helped bridge the gap between the US and Vietnam. I was skeptical that our mere visit was all that important, but then I realized by the fiercely proud look on his face that our presence was anything but mere to them.

I remember… not a lot. See, I’d been to Vietnam three years before. I didn’t want to write about the trip through the lens of someone who couldn’t see the country with fresh eyes, so I’ll include perspectives from some of the 11 other Yalies on this trip.  One told me that he remembered most vividly the experience of crossing the chaotic streets of Đông Hà, the rural Central Vietnam city where we spent most of our trip, something that had shocked me the first time visiting the country as well.

Another trip member was awed by the shops of the open markets, how merchandise spilled out on the streets and lined every wall, piled up to the ceilings.  Behind these storefronts, were homes.  We were all awed by the unusually tall houses. Some were on stilts and some had several stories.  Families build on each other, so that when children grew up and married, another floor was added.  It’s a small country with a dense population. That makes sense.

People asked me before and after my trip whether I felt any strong emotional connection upon returning to the country of my birth, the site of my heritage.

If there was one connection I felt to my homeland, it was through the language.  I remember singing a Vietnamese children’s song, “Ngày Đầu Tiên Đi Học” (“The First Day of School”), one day with a kind, local man.  I conversed with the young man who worked on a bus that transported us from Đông Hà to Huế.  He clung to the door like a monkey, swinging and sliding across the seats, bending himself to fit into the car when the bus filled to almost twice its capacity.  The entire time, he wore an impish smile.

Remembrance also came in a different way, in remembering the Vietnam War, and its impact on the locals.

It is the living who suffer the most.  On the first day of service, we talked to landmine victims, two adults and two teenage boys who had lost limbs when they accidentally detonated the bombs leftover from the war. I had heard of these bombs, had been flashed with pictures of these sad, handicapped victims in Church-sponsored videos asking for donations from America that my mother often made me watch. The most chilling fact, I recall, is that these bombs were designed to maim.  It took two additional soldiers to help an injured one, whereas if the bomb killed it would only take out one soldier, the guide explained. Now the innocent would have their lives changed forever.

The Vietnamese do not seem resentful against America, but they are scarred.   They desire peace and fear war so much that they are willing to put up with a government most are not happy with.

Looking back on the trip, the days of service do not stand out the most to me.  The experience is not really coherent in my mind. I think I remember most bonding with the incredible people on the trip, the jokes, the laughter, the communal silences on the bus ride home.  The trip, for me, is made of images. The last image I remember are the narrow, rain-soaked streets of Hà Nội, where we spent the last three days of the trip, so beautifully silent and empty the morning we said goodbye to Vietnam. Maybe I did go to another world after all.



AASA New Year Celebration

Come celebrate the cultural New Years of AASA’s nine member groups by tasting various foods from each culture! From mochi snacks to mango lassi to rice cakes, each cultural specialty will be a delight.

Wednesday February 9th

9:00 – 10:30pm

Berkeley Dining Hall


The following foods will be served, by the following AASA groups:

CASA (Chinese American Students Association):


JASU (Japanese American Students Union):

Various Mochi Snacks

KASAMA (Filipino Club):

Maja blanca is a Filipino dessert made from coconut milk, cornstarch, sugar, and sweet corn. Like a type of coconut pudding, maja blanca is a very popular dessert for family gatherings and special occasions. The ingredients of maja blanca reveal a little about the history of the Philippines, which was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries. The dish combines the coconut, a fruit of the tropics, and corn, a grain originally brought to the Philippines by Spain from the Americas.

MSA (Muslim Students Association):

Dates are the fruits of the date palm tree, which is abundant in North Africa and the Middle East. It has traditionally been eaten by Muslims to open their fasts every day during the month of Ramadan, and so it holds a special religious significance. Dates are very sweet and can be eaten alone or with a drink, such as milk or water. In Muslim countries, dates are also made into breaded sweets, similar to Fig Newtons.

SAS (South Asian Society):

Lassi is a popular traditional Punjabi drink from India and Pakistan. This delicious yogurt based drink, blended with milk, water and Indian spices is often flavored with cumin, mango or other fruits. Meant to quench your thirst and refresh your soul, lassis are ideal for any time of the day!

ViSA (Vietnamese Students Association):

Mung Bean Pudding

TAS (Taiwanese American Students):

Nian Gao (small New Years cakes)

Berkeley College in collaboration with KASY (Korean American Students of Yale):

Korean Food


Peter Pan Syndrome

Funny how much I think about Yale when I’m not there.

We all groan and feel awkward when people say this to us, but when you go home over the breaks and see the people who raised you and knew you before college again, you can’t help but notice that you’re growing up.

Emphasis on the gerund. We are in the process of growing up.

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APA Blog Takes on Ashley’s Downside Watson

For our end-of-semester outing, the APA Blog staff decided to take on the legendary Downside Watson at Ashley’s. Did we make it out alive? Yes, we did. And we have pictures to prove it.

7 Scoops. 3 Toppings. 6 Spoons. 10 minutes. Yum!!

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All About Dad: Clash of Cultures

All About Dad, the last film in this year’s AACC Film Festival, is a comedy-drama about a Vietnamese-American family, the Dos.  While I felt that I could relate to some aspects of the film, the portrayals of Asian Americans was a bit exaggerated. You can see this in the cast of characters:

Dad: the titular character, set in his ways, conservative, and usually invokes his life in Vietnam to justify his strict demands

Mom: the dutiful wife who watches her children grow up, move out, and distance themselves from her. The montage of her standing in front of the door, taking a photo her children before they leave, one by one, is very poignant.

Xuan: the eldest sister, is in medical school but secretly plays the guitar and sings

Linh: engaged to a Vietnamese man who is *gasp* Buddhist. She never works up the nerve to reveal to Dad that he’s not Catholic so Bao reveals it one day, but not before leading a strange letter-like prayer (“Dear God… Sincerely, Bao”)

Dinh: the bullying older brother who has a white girlfriend that he’s afraid to introduce to the family

Ty: forced to major in Biology, Ty quits and pursues filmmaking instead

Bill: the crass next-door neighbor who refuses to trim the tree branches that shed onto Dad’s perfect lawn

The movie is also very scripted: the Vietnamese dialogue (with English subtitles) sounds stilted, almost as if translated from English to Vietnamese when the script was written.

The director, Mark Tran, hails from San Jose, California, the city where I grew up, and the character of Ty is based on his own struggles with breaking into filmmaking as an Asian American.

Ultimately, Tran’s movie was embraced by his family and, based on the laughter of the (modest) audience at the screening, also embraced by Yalies.  Indeed, the charm of the actors and the earnestness of the script, the decidedly Indie style of the film with its establishing shots of bicycles wheeling by on the sidewalk in front of the Do household, and light-hearted humor made me proud to know that this was the work of a Vietnamese-Californian whose film and life teaches us that being Asian in America is indeed an art.

ViSA Pho Night

“Just scallions.”

No lime.”

“Give me everything.

These are the varied requests I got while manning the condiment station during ViSA’s spectacular night of Unlimited Pho, Vietnam’s most famous dish.  This God-send alternative to dining hall “Pho noodle bar” took place last Saturday at the Af-Am House. For the most part, the third request was most common.  That is, people who had never tasted Pho before (gasp) were very eager to get the authentic experience.

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Tips for Life After Yale

The discussion panel hosted by Dean Mary Miller and guest Ellen Susman took place on Wednesday, September 24, 2010 at Rosenfeld Hall as part of UCS’s Life After Yale series. Although I don’t think the particular question of how to balance work and a family was centrally addressed, I found the panel to be extremely interesting and useful in putting our time at Yale into perspective.

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The Angel of Saigon

Betty Tisdale (fourth from left) posing with students at the Morse Master's Tea on Thursday.

“You can’t accept ‘no’” said Betty Tisdale, at the Morse Master’s Tea on Thursday, September 16.

This small, grandmotherly lady is tougher than she looks.

Whether she’s calling government officials’ mothers or dressing up as a steward to secretly collect food for orphans in Vietnam, Betty Tisdale stopped at nothing to do all she could to help the helpless.

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Just Another Upperclassman Advice List for Freshmen

Welcome to College! Here’s another compilation of tips from someone who has tread the path you’re about to walk.

Study abroad in the summer. See photos of the advanced studies in England program, courtesy of Patricia Veasey, a fellow participant in the program: http://veaseyengland.blogspot.com/

Don’t waste time. I don’t need to restate how much there is to do at Yale. And of course, you can’t do it all. But you should do as much as you can. That means minimize the sleeping in and time-sucking Facebooking, get out there, and keep yourself busy. Every minute is precious.

Chart How You’ve Changed. I think the best way to do this is to blog or somehow to just write about your day and to take pictures of the good times with friends. You’ll look back on them at the end of the year and be amazed at how Yale has changed you – hopefully for the better. I didn’t really record much of freshmen year and now a lot of it is fading. I have no pictures of what I looked like when I began, and kept very few class notes except those on my laptop.

Do Laundry in the Early Morning… if you don’t want your laundry touched by strangers.

Put some time into your appearance. This is not as superficial as it sounds. Looking back at some of the photos I did manage to take as a freshman, I can’t help but cringe at some. Take that extra 10 minutes to make your hair look presentable and trade in sweatpants for jeans, and you won’t mind showing your children those photos later on.

Skip classes… when necessary. I was one of those freshmen who showed up to every class, every section, even though at one point I was taking five classes and had two discussion sections. Listen to your intuition when it tells you you’re overdoing it. Though it’s a last-choice decision, not attending a class so that you can get enough sleep for the day or so that you can do some work for a more crucial class later is okay. Just don’t do it often. It’s counterintuitive but school is not always the priority. College is not as straightforward as high school.

Eat light dinners for two reasons: you’ll sleep better and won’t gain weight; and secondly there’s usually LOTS of late-night food available for you if you do get hungry later. I also recommend you keep a stash of healthy snacks, like fruit from the dining hall, grains, and nuts, stuff you won’t regret binging on after everything closes.

Take risks. Do one thing that scares you every day. Well, within limits. Don’t walk the streets of New Haven alone at night.

Get to know faculty, Deans, and Masters. Easiest way to do this, especially if you’re shy, is to chat with them when you have to make appointments for signing papers and stuff. You’ll also see them in the dining halls, which is more awkward but worth it. Warning: You may see classy people chew with their mouths open.

Know that you’ll improve. Surrounded by brilliant, talented people you’re bound to feel inferior at times. Don’t be scared of your weaknesses. What’s important to realize is that you’ve got the core skills that Yale admissions has recognized as your potential to do great things. Therefore, take every opportunity to learn as much as you can. Remember that classes are not the only part of a Yale education – learn from classmates, from your family when you go back home full of college experiences, and most importantly, learn from your mistakes!

Save money. I don’t care if you have a four-year full ride scholarship to Yale. Just finding ways to save money – hunting out discounts, DIY, and cutting and tracking excess expenses – is a valuable skill that will serve you well in life. It’s not too early to look for some charities in need of donations. And if you’re counting on Wall Street to fund your future, obviously that’s not a safe bet.

Read advice. You don’t have to make the mistakes to learn from them! Take other people’s experiences and build up your wisdom. Also, the internet is truly useful to find out things you’re too shy/lazy to ask people about. There are great resources out there AND some that are both fun and educational, the perfect procrastination tobacco patch. Take internet information with a grain of salt, though, unless you’ve read it on this blog, of course  :)

Bulldog Buzz Week of 4/25: Last Buzz! :(

College Days Multiple colleges celebrated their College Days last week, include Timothy Dwight, Trumbull, Berkeley, and Pierson. Students relived their childhood days with inflatable obstacles courses and slides, played games, and basked in the sun.  Pierson had an epic Jell-O Wrestling match, which started between Dean Fabbri and Master G and escalated to a free-for-all among Piersonites… and some people who weren’t in Pierson (ahem Trumbull crashers).

Controversial immigration bill passes in Arizona. In an effort to crack down on illegal immigration, the state of Arizona recently passed a bill that will require immigrants to carry documents at all times and allow police to request documentation on “reasonable” suspicion. President Obama has called the bill “misguided” and has asked the Justice Department to examine it. Read more at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100423/ap_on_re_us/us_immigration_enforcement.

Spring Fling is for Lovers: A Musical Alternative to the Ying Yang Twins, featuring music by Juliet Buesing, Tina Colon, and J Prophet, will take place in the Trumbull courtyard or the Af-Am House (rain) during and as a protest against the performance of the Ying Yang Twins at Spring Fling tomorrow. The inclusion of the Twins in the Spring Fling line-up sparked various degrees of outrage across campus due to their explicit, misogynistic and all-around offensive lyrics.

Numerous security guards were stationed at the entrances to old campus in preparation for Spring Fling to check people’s student ID’s when they entered and to ensure that no one was trying to smuggle in alcohol for the event. Various people report being accosted by security even though they were merely returning to their dorms on old campus. Entrances through LC and the post office, however, remained unguarded.