For years since when I was very little, my family has got a Lunar New Year’s tradition. Close to midnight of New Year’s Eve, Grandpa, Dad, and I (and later on, my little sister) would walk to Hoan Kiem lake (Hanoi), to watch the fireworks show. I would be standing completely still with my neck craning, marveled by the mesmerizing sparkly flowers blooming on the velvety black night sky.
Most parents, and of course, grandparents, would make ooh and ah sounds to kids or playfully clapping the kids’ hands together. But one year, Grandpa, being a former High School teacher in Math who’s extremely keen on natural sciences, decided instead to point at the sky-flowers and explain to me – who was, at that time, a tiny little five-year-old – how each different metals put into firework cannon balls would give off a specific colour when shot up and exploding.
To a five-year-old me, fireworks were something of a magic trick, and Grandpa gave me a peek behind the curtain. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to figure out more about the secrets behind all the other magic tricks that the world through a kid’s eyes offers.
Later, when I was in Elementary school, Grandpa would give me (children’s) natural science books and encyclopedias and asked me questions after I finished reading them. I took in all I could, learning about a myriad of things from why there are stripes of grass in a darker and a lighter green on a soccer field to the names of planets in the Solar system and their distance from the Sun. My curiosity has guided me to learn so much about this world I live in. It is what has taken me through what initially seemed like boring classes in High School and now long hours of lectures at university, with a positive and genuinely keen attitude.
I may have made a turn to a social science discipline, yet the curiosity Grandpa sparked in me – all the way back from those New Year’s Eve fireworks shows – remains. It grows, even. Because the mindset he has passed on to me is that what keeps the curiosity alive is not what I’m curious about, but how I can keep seeing ‘magic’ – the fireworks that sparks my curiosity – in everything around me.