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“Nhà” - Hello, Goodbye and Hello

Edited by my beloved friend K.L

This article is accompanied by a video (in French with English subtitles).

Trois-Rivières, 8-2023

My apartment, my dear cocoon…

I am writing these lines 5,641 km from where you are. And by the time I make my way back to you again, it will be our turn to say “Adieu”.

In Vietnamese, there is this one very special word: “nhà”.

This word indicates the physical place where you live, be it a house, an apartment or a studio … And on the other side, this word also denotes a place you can call “home”.

For us, “nhà” means both a “house” and a “home“.


And you were my first “nhà” in both senses of the word.

Before you, throughout my adult life, I’ve never had the chance to stay in an apartment for more than a year and a half.

People often think that someone like me, someone who chose to relocate myself from one continent to another, must be comfortable with being on the move nor having any fixed shelter. Or at least, I should have learned to be comfortable with it.

However, all these switches and changes only make my desire to have a place to settle down, or more precisely, to finally rest, grow bigger and deeper with time.

I met you when my heart, my head and my presence were still attached to another place.

I still remember when me and my life partner walked through your door for the first time, he said to me: “Look at all these colors, even if it doesn’t look pretty, it’ll always be cheerful here”.

That was the first time you drew a smile on my mind that was filled with anxiety. At that time, instinctly, I knew you would be a good “nhà”, a good house and home. And for five years, you never failed to keep your promise with that colorful joy of yours, on sunny days and on rainy days.


But what you gave is much more than that

Soon after we moved in, you witnessed my first burn-out, my multiple failures, and the deterioration of my physical and mental health.

I was drowning in an ocean of voices. They were waves of thoughts about my choices. They were waves of doubts about my decisions. They were anger, sadness, disappointment resulting from the course of actions I chose to pursue at the time (most of which I regret).

People thought that the cause of that mess in my life was me distancing myself from my roots, from the noise of Hanoi, from the dynamism of the events to run, and from the rhythm of the gatherings that I was used to.

However, it was the silence that did me good.

You protected me with the silence you brought, the very kind of silence that all introverts would  need, would love, and would cherish.

You made it possible for me to take off the mask of this dynamic extrovert girl, to put down the cap of this woman engineer that weighed like 5,000 tons on me, and to take off this sickening skin of a people-pleaser that I was trying to be without cease.

You know what’s funny?

In 2019, when I was back in my hometown Hanoi, I realized for the first time, clearly and strongly, that I did have a “home”, a “nhà”.

But it wasn’t Hanoi. It was YOU!

My apartment, my dear cocoon, thank you for the way you look and for all the space you offer, which allowed me to record all my short films.

Thank you for your silence, which allowed me to write down on paper all lines, that would later become my blog posts, my video scripts, my screenplays.

Thank you for being a complete safe zone for me, so that I was able to draw again and came to define my own drawing style.

You saw me fall. And you helped me stand up again.

Our farewell will be quick.

Not long ago, I was informed that I’d have to move out as soon as I get back to France. In just three short days, I’ll have to pack, clean, and leave you.

If any chance was by my side, I would have loved to spend a week alone with you, and say goodbye to you in a more special way.

Or who knows, perhaps it might be just a week filled with melancholy.

In a way, how this turned out could be for better, a goodbye in action.

Did you know that the word “nhà” in Vietnamese has a 3rd meaning?

In where I come from, we use this word “nhà” to refer to a person who gives us a sense of belonging. We say “nhà tôi” to call on our life partner; “anh nhà” means my husband; “chị nhà” means my wife, and so on.

Dear nhà, I’m leaving you to reunite with my “nhà” in human form.

It was thanks to you that I came to realize this person is genuinely my “nhà”.

He is the one who made me first notice your colors.

He drew smiles in my mind that is filled with anxiety on sunny days and rainy days. He saw me fall countless times, and he was always there to help me stand up again.

Nhà, I am leaving you. But you will always be my first “nhà”. And I am sure that you will make a wonderful “nhà” for the next lucky person who could find you.

Nhà, I love you so much.

Thank you for everything.


Tu Ha An

This article’s title is named after the song Hello Goodbye & Hello, from the movie Hoshi o Ou Kodomo (Children Who Chase Lost Voices) of Makoto Shinkai.

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