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Superstition: Good or bad?

By Frank Trinh

In Asian societies, particularly Vietnamese society, people have a habit of being superstitious, and this has been part of their everyday life. On such occasions as marriages, funerals and moving house, people will try to choose a propitious date. On the Vietnamese New Year, people believe that the first person who visits their home during 'Tet' has a bearing on their welfare for the whole year, and those who sweep the floor on the first three days of this festive occasion might sweep away their wealth. As for other things such as setting out for an examination, embarking on a business venture or planning an escape from Communist Vietnam, people will try to avoid "crossing the path of a woman", in much the same way as Western people would try to avoid "crossing the path of a black cat" when undertaking something important.

When we were young, my father placed a lot of importance on his children's education. He looked after us, especially when we had the pressure of an impending examination. I remember when I was on my way to sitting for any important examination, my father would keep a watch out in the street for any women who might happen to cross my path, for fear that bad luck may dog me.

During an Australian Federal election, when the Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard, walked out from an important meeting with Kim Beasley, the would-be Labor Prime Minister, and a black cat streaked across his path in the corridors of Parliament House. Needless to say, the media had a field day in looking to this happening as having an ominous portent for the incumbent Mr. Howard. However, as luck would have it, it was not to be.

In the game of chance, gamblers, because of their superstitious mentality, try to take into account more than the above-mentioned precautions. Gamblers fear that when they are fully engrossed in playing their game, someone will happen to come along and ask them for a loan. It really "cheeses them off" to have to lend someone money, or if, all of a sudden, someone pats them on the shoulder. Picking up or looking at your cards with your left hand is also considered bad luck. Gamblers also don't like anyone looking over their shoulder while they play. They even go so far as to avoid the use of the word "lose", as in, "I will stop when I've lost this money."

Gamblers are afraid of the colour black, because it is synonymous with bad luck. During the construction of the Star City Casino in Sydney in 1997-98, the Australian yellow-skinned "big-time punters", of what was then the Sydney Harbour Casino, had to use the black-painted Casino shuttle bus to get to the "combat zone". It was expensive and very hard to get a parking space at the Casino's car park, so parking at nearby hotels was the better option, then get a bus to the Casino. Vietnamese people, within their own community, laughingly referred to the bus as "a hearse". There were those who purposely avoided catching "the hearse", because they felt better walking a kilometre rather than attracting bad luck.

It is rumoured that the Asian gambling community protested to the Casino management, and consequently the shuttle bus was repainted in two colours: bright yellow and dark blue. Well, since then, has the fate of Asians fared better? Has the Casino developed a "black hole" in their finances? No one knows. There are no figures available to prove or disprove whether the colours made a difference to people's luck. Confidentially, the only information available is that, those gamblers who chose to walk to avoid bad luck now have to be content to stay at home.

"Yellow-skinned" Australians believe that if you are unlucky in gambling, you will be lucky in love, the same as "white" Australians believe, when they say "Lucky at cards, unlucky in love." In this sense, East and West share a common concept. Because of this belief, people convince themselves that if they are unlucky in love they will probably be lucky at gambling. It's not known if, with beliefs such as this, when the gambler is spurned by their partner, they will enthusiastically enter into gambling, with the hope that Lady Luck will come knocking at their door. On the other hand, if the gambler is confronted one day with the situation of constantly losing, will he determinedly seek out a woman who is beyond his reach in the hope that she will welcome him with open arms? Has anyone's curiosity been aroused enough to record their winnings and losses under these circumstances, and to prove in black and white that both East and West are correct?

I don't know what you think, but throughout the whole process of assessing what constitutes good or bad luck, I found myself to be nothing but ordinary, having no psychic or mysterious powers that might help me to foresee whether I would win or lose on any particular day, when I went into "battle". Many times, I've been right, and many times I've been wrong. I would like to mention the following anecdote for your consideration.

Over three years ago, when Sydney Star City Casino was still being built, I decided to drive to the then Sydney Harbour Casino. It was over half an hour's drive. That's if you had a good run; longer if the traffic was heavy. It was a miserable, windy, rainy and boring afternoon. I drove into the Harbourside car park. While driving around looking for a car space, I hit the driver's side of another car whose owner was coming from my left. Bad luck had struck! Both of us exchanged details, and I admitted to being at fault. Not having done "battle" yet, I was down $350 in excess to the insurance company. Leaving the car park I caught "the hearse" to the "battle field". Sitting in the bus, it suddenly struck me as to whether I had made the right decision or not in coming to this place and meeting up with such bad luck to start. It was clearly a bad omen! Why shouldn't I just go home? Like many other people had done before me, I should have turned on my heels and returned home, in order to avoid the bad omens. But the fact is that personally, I do not believe in such nonsense, so I decided to leave it to fate. At that time, I told myself, if my decision to come here was right, then I would have a win of at least $1000 to make it worthwhile.

The result was that on that dismal, rainy and dark evening, I was lucky enough to win $1600, much to my relief. If I had tried to avoid the bad omens that day, then I would not have gained the good things, would I?

Frank Trinh

Sydney, January 2001


TiếngViệt Nhìnlại

Bài của Trịnh Nhật

Anh T. Nh. thanmen, 

Xin chuc anhchi mot nam moi nhieu suckhoe, ankhang, thinhvuong. Cung nhu anh, Dr Hoa cung la Thay cu. Toi cung rat daulong khi nghetin Thay da quadoi. Toi cung camon anh rat nhieu da baotin nay de chungta cung chiaxe. Chac anh con nho khoang giua nam 2000 chungta noi chuyen MT va toi muon nho Thay huongdan cho mot du-an MT. Va anh co noi la lucnay Thay rat ban, khongthe nhan them viec. Lucdo thattinh toi khong hieu la Thay daunang, khongthe lam viec nhieu duoc nua. Thay da radi. Do la mot su matmat lon cho tatca chungta. Anh la nguoi co diemphuc duoc noitiep sunghiep voi Thay. Con toi, toi da chuyennghe nen haunhu quenhan moisu trendoi. 

Tuynhien, rat nhieu khi toi van muon trolai goc xua. Va toi muon trolai bang conduong moi, bang MT. Conduong nay toi se khong di mot minh, ma hyvong la tatca chungta cung di, cung donggop. Conduong nay rat xa, mat rat nhieu thoigian va congsuc, khong lai, khongluong, khong danhvong. Conduong nay hoantoan phucvu cho congdong nguoiViet chungta, khong phanbiet congdong nguoiViet o Haingoai hay o trongnuoc. 

Truockhi chungtoi di VN, chungtoi co nghetin anh di AuChau qua cau chuyen 'so congdong hon so ..'. Chungtoi ve VN 2 thang va o Hanoi 40 ngay. Day la lan dautien chungtoi biet Tet lagi o Hanoi. Ngay Mong 1 Tet luc anh dang lamviec o Toaan, thi toi dang theozoi mot chuongtrinh Khoahoc Kythuat tren dai TV Hanoi, chuongtrinh 'Giaoluu...' chido. Nhando toi bietduoc mot congtrinh 'Nhandang kytu tiengViet'. Congtrinh nay mat gan 10 nam moi ra sanpham. Baygio da co version 2 va giaban rat dat, khoang hon 1,000 USD, toi khongco khanang mua. Congtrinh nay rat coich cho nhung nguoi lamviec ve baochi, thongtin, truyenthanh, truyenhinh, anloat, dichthuat, giaoduc... 

Hiennay trongnuoc ta dang buoclen buocnua, theoloi Chutich hoi Tinhoc VN, la dang nghiencuu phuongphap DOC va NGHE tiengViet. Congtac nay doivoi nuocngoai thi co giatri thuongmai rat lon, nhu hien thay tai cac nuoc vanminh. Tuynhien o nuoc ta thi haunhu khong co thitruong, khong muaban gi duoc. Neu thanhcong, raduoc sanpham thi changmaychoc sanpham se bi giaima, va copy ban day chotroi.

Anh la nguoi co tiengtam, chucvu lon, quenbiet nhieu. Neu anh chiu dung ra leolai, quytu nhung nguoi cung mot sothich, co khanang thichhop, thi chungta se cung lamviec voinhau. Toi cung hieu rang lo cho cuocsong cho giadinh baogio cung la uutien. Cung vi lydo nay neu moinguoi lam motchut, trong khanang cua minh, bietdau 10 nam nua chungta chang ra 'sanpham'. (?) 

Toi moi ve Sydney, va dilam trolai thi duoc thu anh gui tu daunam baotin Thay da mat...



Anh Ch., 

Launay khongthay tintuc gi cua anh. Lamgi didau? Xemlai lathu ve lamsach tiengViet o Vietnam, toi chuaro ho danglam caigi goila 'dacbiet'? 

Ma sao 'Nhandang kytu tiengViet' (caigi vay?) ban 'mac' den the! Toi hiendang day motlop tiengViet cho sinhvien cap Cunhan o Sydney Uni. Moiday toi co viet vaihang denghi voi SBS lienhe toi tiengViet nhusau: [Lai ammuu du-an ‘muoibai’ (a series of 10 talks) voi detai la ‘TiengViet Nhinlai’ cho SBS Radio. Chuongtrinh cothe ‘lenkhong’ (on air) vao khoang Thang 7 Amlich, khoidau mua VuLan ‘baohieu’, giua nhung tranmua Ngau ‘sutsui’. 

Taisao lai phai nhinlai tiengViet? Lydo: SBS (VietNgu) da co nhung chuongtrinh ankhach nhu ‘TiengViet cho NguoiViet’ (trinhdo cao), ‘TiengAnh cho NguoiViet’ (trinhdo thap), ‘Tuongduong dichthuat TiengAnh tiengViet’ (trinhdo cao), nhung chuaco chuongtrinh tiengViet nhin tu gocdo cua nhung thanhthieunien tiengAnh tiengViet nuavoi (trinhdo trungbinh), cua nhungnguoi noiduoc tiengViet thongthao ma khongco kienthuc ve tiengViet, ve nenvanhoa antang trong ngonngu Me. 

Trongso nhungnguoi nay da co nguoi noirang tiengViet dehoc, cu noira la dung, khongco vanpham, khongcan hoc vanpham. Vaythi ‘vidau nennoi’? ‘TiengViet Nhinlai’ co mucdich ‘tram’ vao lohong kienthuc do!... Loatbai nay cung se thuchien mot cainhin sosanh giua tiengViet va tiengAnh ve mat nguamhoc/amvihoc (amthanh, ngudieu, thanhÇieu), ve mat hinhvihoc (cautruc cua tu), cuphaphoc (cautruc cua cau). Cung se nem mot cainhin sosanh nua ve chuviet, chinhta, phuongngu, tudon, tukep, tulaplay, tutrungdiep, thuctu, hutu ...v...v...

Ngoaira, cung se co nhung cauhoi nhu: Chude (topic) va diende (comment) trong tiengViet khacvoi loinoi dung chungu (subject) va vingu (predicate) nhu thenao? Taisao nguoiViet thich modau cauchuyen bangcach hoi tuoi nguoikhac? Taisao o ngay buoidau gapgo, chungta muon lamquen, thanmat voi nguoikhac bang nhungcauhoi co tinhcach riengtu? Di xamxam vao doitu cua nguoikhac khien ho bi 'shocked'? Taisao khong 'say hello!' bang cau nhanxet ve 'troimua troinang troidep? (comment about the weather)? Taisao cauhoi 'An com chua?' lai duoc ke nhu mot loi chaohoi? Tatnhien la con nhieuchuyen khac de hoi, de traloi. Codieu la cauhoi va cautraloi phai vui, hay, moila va phai thoaman duoc tritomo cua thinhgia.]

Vaihang thongtin anh ro. Co gi la, dienthoai cho toi. Chungta se noi chuyen nhieuhon,anh Chung nhe! Than. 



Trịnh Nhật

Sydney, Tháng 5, 2001



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