A while back, when I was visiting my mother's ancestral village in Thai Binh province, North Vietnam, it occurred to me that, after a barrage of questions from distant relatives, not once did anyone ask that common question in America: "So, what do you do?" Instead the questions were familial and personal: "How is your mother? Do you own a car and a cell phone? Are you married?"
When I volunteered my profession "I am a journalist," I said I was met with polite nods and smiles. A guaranteed conversation-starter back in the United States went nowhere among my mother's distant kin, who were mostly farmers. "You know, for magazine and newspapers," I added, muttering. "I get to travel to many places and everything."
One old woman with blackened enamel teeth (an old practice considered to be beautiful) patted my cheek and said, "You know, don't travel so much. You should marry and settle down." Then at her insistence I went and lit incense at the graves of my great grandparents and mumbled a silent prayer while half of the village watched in approval.