No, That’s My Name…

The Recovery Café sits on the corner of Boren and Denny, in downtown Seattle. It is a unique and remarkable place.

“Recovery Café and its School for Recovery serve men and women who have suffered trauma, homelessness, addiction and/or other mental health challenges. In this loving community, men and women experience belonging, healing and the joy of contributing. The Café and School for Recovery helps participants develop tools for maintaining recovery and stabilizing in mental / physical health, housing, relationships and employment / volunteer service.” —Excerpt from mission statement on the Recovery Café website [].

Writer/teacher, Anna Bálint, joined the Café community as a volunteer, teaching writing classes with the School of Recovery. Over time, her classes evolved into Safe Place Writing Circle, an ongoing and fluid group that has met weekly for the past year and a half. Its purpose is to provide a “safe place” for Cafe members to creatively explore many different aspects of their lives through writing, and give voice to their beliefs, hopes and fears. Some amazing stories and poems emerge, on a regular basis, from everyone involved. Here is one of those voices.


No, That’s My Name…

It’s Bong with an A, not bAng.  No, it sounds like bOng, but with an A.
Yah, yah, like a water bong, or the sound of a gong.  bOng!
It’s got an A, not an O.  You have to stretch the A: Baaang.
In Vietnamese it means equal.  Not anything fancy like Equality and Liberty.
It’s more common, like “same.”  Like “these two are the same,” or “we are the same.”
My whole name in Vietnamese means, “Man of the people among them”
and goes all the way back to ancient Vietnam.

Anyways, we’re just talking about the Americanized way to say my name.
In my language it’s not even said this way.  There’s a whole lot of accent marks missing
in your “American” language.  The “A” should have an accent mark like a bamboo hat over it.
That makes the A sound low, then high, then low again, all in one letter.
No, your language is too flat to say it.  No way you can pronounce it.

OK, OK. Bâng…
No, lower, then higher, then lower.  Start with a dip, go up, then pull back.
Bâng … Forget it.  Let’s talk about something else, and you can practice later.
And no, I don’t want to get stoned ’cuz of my name!

—Bang Nguyen


Published in Raven Chronicles, Vol. 21, 2015.