What’s In a Name?

512px-35_Vietnamese_boat_people_2Starting in the late 1970’s, I was actively involved in welcoming refugees from Vietnam – the “boat people” as they were then called  – settling them into their new lives in Edmonton.  My particular area of involvement was with children and I got to know many of the families very well.

One day the father of two little boys approached me and asked if I might give his sons more English-sounding names.   My own opinion was that they might want to keep their names in order to hold onto something familiar in this new place.  But their father was adamant.

Thinking about it now, I realize that the father and I were both treating names as a cultural symbol – their father wanted names that would help his boys fit into this new culture, and I was thinking about their names connecting them to the culture they had left behind.

I took the matter seriously.  Mulling it over on a trip through the Rockies a few days later, I hit on two names that were as close sounding as I could come to the names they had arrived with.

Over the years I have observed and marveled at the will and determination of these Vietnamese families to put down new roots, work hard and thrive in their new home.   I wonder how Ian and Neil have fared with the names they were given as they launched into their Canadian lives.  I hope they’ve served them well.

- Mary in Alberta

- photo credit:  Refugees awaiting transport in fishing boat;  PH2 Phil Eggman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons