Yet despite my claim of kinship, despite the fact that my ancestors are buried here, I felt myself essentially a stranger in the village. One young woman came and sat down with me. She was a good student, she told me. She dreamed of life in the big city. There was nothing in the village for her. She imagined herself doing well in Hanoi. And then perhaps, if she did well, who knows, she might even go abroad. "To America," she said in a dreamy voice.
Listening to her, I was struck by the enormous gap between hard work and ambition. An immigrant with a cosmopolitan vision dancing in his or her head can move away from a rural past quickly and fiercely. From the far end of the road that led out of that village, I wanted to warn her of loneliness, of the journeyer's unrequited longings, of my yearnings for a more insular world.
I mentioned none of that. Instead, I felt a different kind of kinship with the young woman, one not based on blood ties. And I said: "So what do you plan to do when you get there?"
Copyright © 2003 Andrew Lam.