None of this means much to my mother. The most resistant to change in my family, she watches the incense smoke undulate before her eyes and sighs. She came from a small village in the Thai Binh province, the kind that was suspicious of outsiders. Then history swept her away and she became uprooted herself. So far from home and hearth she prays but she also wonders: Do ghosts cross the ocean? Do they hear her solemn prayers amidst this world of lilting computers, soaring planes and satellite dishes and modems? The world has moved on too fast, gone too high tech, too frantic, too bright, so it seems, to accommodate ghosts.
Perhaps it could not be helped. For the Vietnamese living abroad has begun to dream his Golden Dream. It seeped in his psyche one night and he woke in the morning to find, to his own amazement, that he can readily pronounce words like mortgage, escrow, aerobic, tax shelter, overtime, MBA, BMW, stock options.
Gone is the cyclical nature of his provincial thinking, and lost is his land-bound mentality. He finds that he can see the future. That he is upwardly mobile. He imagines owning his own home, his own business, the kids in college, the kids as becoming important Americans. Indeed, his American optimism has chased away his Vietnamese nightmare. Compared to the bloody battle fields, the malaria-infested New Economic Zone, a vindictive communist regime that monitored everyone's movement, the squalid refugee camps scattered across Southeast Asia, the murders and rapes and starving and drowning on the high seas, California is still, indeed, paradise.
And so a community that previously saw itself as exiles, as survivors of some historical tragedy, as a people who were prepared to return to their homeland to tend their abandoned ancestral graves and to face their oppressors, slowly changes its mind. Soon enough houses are bought, jobs are had, children are born, old folks are buried, and businesses and malls are opened. That is to say our roots sink, slowly but deeply, into the American loam. Soon enough Little Saigons, up and down the Californian coast as well as elsewhere began to blossom and sprout. And the stories of the horrible war and terrifying escape over the highseas slowly gave way to gossips of new found successes in the Golden Land.