Cong, 30 years old, single, and one of three children, was born in Nghe An province, nearly 600 kilometers from Hanoi.
Cong’s father was a soldier. It has been verified by the government that at least one of the areas where his father was intensely involved was an area where Agent Orange, the notorious biological weapon employed by the U.S. to destroy vast areas of farmland, was heavily used. Though Cong’s father enjoys relatively good health, it seems likely that his exposure to the chemical resulted in genetic material was passed on to his children, causing Cong and one of his sisters to be born blind. Công describes himself as having about five percent visibility in a good moment and being virtually blind at other times.
Even so, both Cong and his blind sister have refused to let their blindness be an obstacle in achieving their goals. Cong’s sister became licensed to perform massage therapy in the traditional Vietnamese “tam quat” style and long ago established her own studio in Quang Bình province. She has married to a blind husband and has 2 children. Cong, who insists that his sister is the more intelligent one, has, in turn, done all he can to ensure that he won’t be considered a lesser member of the family.
While Cong only lasted only one day in kindergarten, he insisted on going to public school with his friends. Though he and his family were counseled that “because you are blind” there was no way he could attend school, they refused to take “no” for an answer and he was ultimately allowed to “visit” as an auditing student. Cong, with tremendous support from his family, took his lessons seriously and continued his studies as an auditing student through grade three. Up until this time his teachers refused to grade his papers. Upon entering the fourth grade, however, Cong asked to be examined on his abilities and convinced the authorities that he should be granted status as a regular student. It wasn’t long before Cong managed to compete for the honor of top student in his class, while he was also very mischievous to be called “Big Brother” by his classmates.
Cong graduated from public high school for the sighted and went on to apply to attend a traditional medical school in Hanoi. He failed to be accepted in the medical school but got admission to study bioengineering in an university in Nghe An province. Even as he was beginning his studies in this field, though, he tried two more times and finally he was accepted into the medical school. By this time, however, he had decided it was too late to complete a full medical degree and in 2011 he moved to Hanoi and completed a two-year medical training that allowed him to become a licensed physician.
He explains that though he is still single he has many girlfriends—just friends—and many male friends, as well. We’re not sure we entirely believe him but we’ll leave that subject alone for now. Meanwhile, his best friend is a childhood friend—sighted—who stuck by his side throughout his public school years, helping him with his studies and even managing to teach him how to ride a bicycle—nearly blind! (He actually rode several kilometers to school and back for a while though he no longer rides as he is living in the city.
He loves reading books, listening to the news, doing physical exercise and doing anything he can to satisfy his curiosity about the world around him. He explains that he would love to learn as many languages as possible... so that he can increase his possibilities of finding a girlfriend. On a more serious note, however, he dreams of finding a means of achieving financial independence. To this end he has started his own massage business. Feeling that it didn’t suit his character, he sold his equity in that business in 2019 and is currently studying the financial markets, still hoping to find the means to financial independence.
One thing you’ll soon learn about Cong is that he steadfastly refuses to be given special treatment and doesn’t give special treatment to others with disabilities. In his own words, “this has sometimes left others with the impression that I am cold hearted”, though this seems unlikely given his popularity with his friends and colleagues. Cong was recently given a white can as part of an initiative Free White Cane for the Vietnamese Blind. However, he says that he gave it to a friend who he believes needs it more than he does.
When asked if he believes that being born with a visual disability has in any way been a source of internal strength Cong said, “Yes, of course, but I would love to be fully sighted and still have the strong character that I believe I have now, maintaining the same acceptance of whatever my circumstances in life might be and learning to make the best of those circumstances”.