Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Rollover text informationAmerican Experience Logo
Daughter From Danang
The Film and More
Special Features
Your Opinions
Two Hometowns
Living in Two Cultures
Adoption Resources
Behind the Scenes
The Last Orphan

Timeline
Gallery
People and Events
Teacher's Guide

spacer above content
Your Opinions

%"It's unbelievable," Heidi Bub said of her return to Vietnam. "I would never have dreamed in a million years that I would be doing this."

Some people close to Heidi saw her journey as a chance to make up for the mistakes of Operation Babylift, decades before. Journalist Tran Tuong Nhu explained she was "hoping, that even if this didn't work for a lot of people, it would work at least for one person. That they would be able to be reunited with their mothers. To be reunited with Vietnam. Just for the sake of some sort of justice. Some poetic ending."

Others voiced fears about her trip. "When I heard that Heidi was going to Vietnam, I was just really surprised," said her former Girl Scout leader, Royce Hughes. "I wished her well and everything else, and hoped that she would find what she was looking for. But yet at the same time I just really didn't know what to expect of what she would find."

What do you think of Heidi's story? What's your opinion of the Babylift and other events at the end of the war in Vietnam? Have you had an experience similar to Heidi's? Send in your comments, and we'll post selections on this page.

Share your opinions

You can see the conditions in Vietnam and of course you ask yourself how can they live like that? My mom and dad were also watching with me, and my mom started to cry. It brought back lots of memories for her as a little girl. She was one of those girls who had to watch over her mom. She was in the hot weather picking rice off the field. My mom told me that the girls who were riding their bikes and wearing the white suits were fortunate to go to school because their parents had money. My mom was stuck at home cooking and cleaning and taking care of her little brother and sisters. I am happy that I saw this show because it made me realize how lucky I am to be in America.

As a Vietnamese American girl, I understand that Hiep was not expecting her family in Vietnam to ask her for money. Honestly, I did not like the fact that her family was asking her for money. At the end when she was supposed to go back to the U.S and her mom gave her address to write to her, in my head I said,"I bet her mom and family is going to ask her for money!" and I was right.

H.L.
Miramar, FL

As an adoptee, I do not think that Heidi's experience is uncommon, even given the cultural situation. I was 21 when I found out I was adopted. I did not grow up in a functional, loving family. Even so, after doing preliminary research, I did not follow up in contacting my biological family until I was 35. What I found was that in general, I was as strange to them as they were to me. I truly emphathize with Heidi. And I think that the greatest lesson is that one should value not where you come from or who you came from, but who and what you are now.

Mary Ann Bandel
Wilkes-Barre, PA

I have an adopted daughter from South Korea. She was 12 weeks when she arrived in our home, and has been a joy for my husband and myself. She has always known that there were two mothers who loved her. One loved her enough to give her up and one who loved her enough to raise her. She is 19 and a freshman in college. She's extremely bright and graduated number one in her high school class. Now she is an engineering student. She has only mentioned recently about her birth mother because her friends at college have ask her if she is curious about her birth mother. I have always been afraid that she would have an experience that Heidi had.

I loved the documentary. It gives people more of an understanding of how these children adopted from overseas feel. They want to be accepted by all. At times my daughter did not feel like a part of the community, but as she is maturing she is identifying with who she is and not becoming what society wants her to be. She is very much a Southern American lady. We are very proud of her and love her more than life itself.

R.L.
Montgomery, AL

I found this story fascinating and also very sad. I have a similar experience of being removed from my family except that in my case I am Navajo and my family only lived two states away. I am in close contact with my Navajo family, but sometimes I wish we were closer. When I first returned to my family, the culture shock was immense. We still have misunderstandings, we still have difficulties, but I love my family and I am committed to one day eventually supporting my mom and contributing to my nephews' educations. It is the least I can do with the gifts and the life I've been given -- to return what I can to my family and my people.

J.L.
New York, NY

I am originally from Albania and my parents live there and I support them by sending them monthly money. I guess for Heidi, it was hard to understand the concept going to Vietnam from America but for people born there this is normal... The way I looked at Heidi's Vietnamese family was as poor people with a great heart and desperate for help. Here in the States, we give money to charities or church every Sunday. Sending it to your family would be the same. You are helping people in need and this eventually will bring good to your life.

N.
Utica, MI

I am a 30 year old Vietnamese who left Viet Nam when I was 4 years old. I was fortunate enough to have come to the United States with my parents, brothers, and sisters. I returned to Viet Nam 2 years ago for the very first time and felt an immediate connection, simply because I was raised as an Asian. It was also an honor and priviledge for me to financially support the elder generation, unconditionally. To have people look up to you, some of which are more than twice your age, is a responsibility that we, as younger generations, must learn to embrace, as it is a lost art.

T.L.
NY, NY

I came to the States at a very young age, so I don't remember anything about my life in Vietnam. Going back to Vietnam for the first time was exciting and scary. The environment is quite different from that of over here. The people are very upfront when it comes to money. That is the main reason why I'm reluctant to go back again. They say its out of compassion and is only right for a child who is living better (in the U.S. or any other well-developed foreign country) to support her siblings and parents who are not. They think that just because we live in the States that our lives are better than theirs. True, in a sense, we don't have to worry about hunger or sickness but we do have to worry about our jobs, our family, and our lives. We may have many things that makes our lives simpler, like running water or a gas stove but that doesn't mean we live an easy life, but they don't understand that. In a way, it was like Heidi's relatives were saying she owes them for her free life in the U.S.

M.
Silver Spring, MD

I was stationed on a hospital ship in 1969 which was homeported in DaNang. In 1976, I married a Vietnamese from Saigon and have been with her ever since. I can relate to Heidi's situation because my wife still has relatives in Saigon. They write about once a year asking for money, which I let my wife handle. Sometimes she sends them money and then at other times she won't. My wife's niece returns to Vietnam about once a year and helps the family out.

W. Clarke Haywood
Pensacola, FL

Heidi's and her mother's story was moving -- until the end. Heidi is all hot and sweaty in the market. Heidi is tired of her mother showing her off. She was there for only a week. What did she expect. She was old enough to have some feel for how these people would feel. My mother's that way when she has not seen me in 6 months, much less 22 years. And then when she falls apart when the family asked if she could help their mother financially only showed what a totally one-sided view she had of the whole experience. She had no concept even two years later that $20.00 every few months would go a long way with the family. Even send a few old clothes over that they could resell would have meant a lot to them. They obviously had pooled all their resources to put on elaborate meals for her. They probably spent more on those meals then she spends at McDonalds in a week. It was like months of salary to them. If she will send me the envelope with her mother's return address, I will gladly send her a few dollars. I just won't eat out one night.

P.O.
Greenville, SC

I am a 37 year old adoptee from birth who was unsuccessfully reunited with my biological mother and sister when I was 26. I do not think you can ever be prepared for the emotional roller-coaster of an adoption reunion. I can not even imagine the complex emotional storm Heidi went through on her journey. As an adoptee, you have many intense feelings, not to mention abandonment and trust issues and the intense yearning for the PERFECT "fairy-tale" ending.

P.W.
New Orleans, LA

First of all, I would like to thank you for a wonderful film. My husband and I enjoyed watching every minute of it.

About Heidi, as a Vietnamese American who lives here for almost 30 years, I can understand why Heidi reacted the way she did, especially when the family asked for money. I came here when I was 18 years old, I lived in Viet-Nam long enough to also understand her family's behaviour. Watching Heidi getting anxious, happy and then angry; I was with Heidi 100%, I would react the same way. In America, we were taught to respect the feeling of others, including children.

In Viet-Nam, children can be seen but not heard. When Heidi was back there, in the back of her mother's mind, the mother still thinks Heidi is her child. She thinks her opinions and feeling would be more important than Heidi's. It showed though the mother's emotion and behaviour. I thought it was silly for the mother to teach Heidi to say "con thuong me" (for Heidi to say I love you to her) without Heidi's asking. Like Heidi said, the mother was very aggressive. She in no way represents a typical Vietnamese mother. Most Vietnamese mothers would be much more reserved and not pushing Heidi to do and say things like her mother did. Still, as a mother myself, I can see that her love for Heidi was enormous whether Heidi helps her out or not.

I do feel sorry for Heidi, for what she had been through. Heidi went through enough, I think she deserves a happy life without feeling guilty about anything. Helping her family or not, it's really up to her. However, if I were Heidi, I would send some money or presents to the mother in Vietnam, just like she would with her adopted family here in the U.S. Not just the money itself, but just knowing her daughter in the U.S. is thinking of her would mean a lot to the mother back in Viet-Nam. I think the mother deserves that. That's the only reason I would send them something for Christmas. That's my opinion and I'm not Heidi.

I wish Heidi the best of luck and all the happiness in the world with her husband and two beautiful daughters.

Annie
Huntington Beach, CA

Watching Daughter From Danang on the evening of April 7 brought back a flood of memories of the struggle of the Vietnamese people. I was a 20 year old soldier working as a clerk for a company of Marines just north of Danang in Dong Ha. There were many opportunities to see the local people around our base, going about their daily lives as best they could while their country was being torn apart during those war years...

What bothered me the most about the narration of the story through Heidi's eyes is an apparent lack of preparation on her part in attempting to understand what it would be like to see a Vietnamese culture up close and personal. I have had the opportunity myself to spend some time living with a family of another culture and nation, and while it is imperative to be as polite and courteous as Heidi was to her hosts, you have to remind yourself constantly that you are in an entirely new environment and you need to be aware of local customs of that country and what is expected BEFORE leaving the United States.

There was a point in time when I could see that Heidi was becoming vulnerable to the intensity of all the emotions encircling her. Either she, or someone who accompanied her, should have had fuller discussions about what would be expected of a person who is trying to trace their roots. Not everything turns out as one wishes in these cases, and Heidi fell victim to just such an occasion. Most people believe that finding a long lost relative offers some sense of completeness to their lives and that they are able to go on with new hopes and insights. In reality, what can and often does happen is that they have opened a new can of worms, with new problems and sensitivities that were better left untouched. Heidi discovers near the end of her visit that this new-found family has expectations of her lending monetary support to her birth mother. She is offended and hurt, and creates quite a tearful episode in front of everyone. It really would have been a lot better (and happier) if she had addressed this situation by being quite tactful and saying that she does not have the money to take care of someone after some 25 years, and that it is just as expensive to care for her own family in her own homeland. Instead, she made an emotional appeal, and unfortunately it made her look bad in front of her relatives. She paid a much heavier price by being drawn into a situation that she was not prepared to face. No wonder she doesn't have the courage to sit down after two years and write her mother back in Vietnam! The fault lies within herself.

Thom Wood
Hartsville, SC

While I was watching the movie on Monday, I became angry at Heidi because I felt that she was being selfish and snobbish. She became extremely rude to her mother, who apparently had too many expectations. Her incompassionate attitude towards her poor, unfortunate sister was heartbreaking to watch. It was too easy for her to turn her back on her biological family. Those scenes were scary to watch because we are all here on this earth to help one another. Later, I read Andrew Lam's "Living in Two Cultures" and it became apparent to me that Heidi probably wasn't prepared for the vast cultural differences. Maybe she should have investigated her culture a little deeper.

Priscilla Merritt
Americus, GA

We watched this program the other night and were all so moved at the range of emotions in this piece. We were suprised that the interpreter did not try and prepare her more for what seemed like a cultural norm -- to ask a stateside relative for money. It was so painful to watch Heidi's reaction and for her to cope with reconciling her joy of reunion with that of being made to feel familial monetary obligation for her birth mother. "Is that all they want me for?"

Looking for a birth parent or opening oneself up to unknown sibling relationships can open up a real can of worms. It did make us ask ourselves how would we deal with the balance between curiosity and then trying to (or not) forge a long-term relationship with new found relatives.

Jane Hadley
Barrington, RI

Daughter from Danang was one of the most moving and honest documentaries I've seen in years...

I have found America, both fortunately and unfortunately, defines a person by their ethnicity -- it becomes integral to "know who we are." Every day, America forces us to define ourselves by this background -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian - and then by country -- Mexican, Chinese, Egyptian... America has many material and educational opportunities which should never be minimized but emotionally it can have many pitfalls. Other cultures often have a sense of community and family, no matter how poor, that these children will never know. And America, which feels the need to pigeon-hole ethnicity and race, will constantly leave these children in a strange place of in-between -- ghosts in limbo in both cultures -- both American and "not American."

...For me, my understanding of my background has at least partially filled an emptiness in my soul I have always felt in America -- I was an American, born and grown here, but, in the eyes of others, I would never quite be accepted as an "American" but always considered a hyphenated American at best and at worst not an American. I only hope that one day Heidi or her children will be able to confront that emptiness without fear, and reconcile with her family in Vietnam.

...It is a sad reality that what I can make in a couple of hours at a job in this country could feed a family for weeks with maybe a little left over for rent in certain countries. I can understand how Heidi balked at this and misunderstood it -- occasionally, there is the common misconception that everyone in America is rich and an open bank account and not everyone is ready to be Mother Theresa. It's easy for an American to interpret monetary need as simple greediness as we come from a very individualistic culture -- "up by the bootstraps," "self-made man." While Heidi's Vietnamese family were certainly grabbing at an opportunity and unexpected windfall in the face of their poverty, they were also integrating her into the family unit and imposing their cultural sense of a child's responsibility to a parent. It would be ignorant to ignore one of these concepts for the other -- cultural differences do exist but economic reality is harsh and any family, even in this country, can attest to simple greediness in the face of another family member's good fortune -- heaven forbid anyone from winning the lotto and discovering their long-lost cousin twice-removed. But at the same time, her family clearly seemed to conceive that her emotional relationship with them and economic relationship were distinct.

...Heidi cannot even make the leap of faith into trying to build this relationship -- which like with any family, would be both pain and joy, give and take. Money could get in the way -- or it could not -- but she won't even take a chance. It was sad to see her fear take over her -- fear of family responsibility and a real family relationship. I won't condemn her like others have for being selfish and not even contributing a small bit of money to her family -- what I would call her selfish and immature for is not taking a second chance on her family -- not the idealized dream that she took the first chance on but her real family -- with all their differences and human quirks -- that she met in Vietnam.

E.S.
Chicago, IL

This was a wonderful program. I believe it was more powerful because it didn't have the "Hollywood" ending with everyone living happily ever after. It showed life as it really was -- people live in different cultures and face their own personal issues. It was ironic that Heidi felt the same financial obligations to her husband and daughters that her Vietnamese family wanted her to feel for them. She had strong loyalty to her family in America. We saw her taking care of her grandmother and she is a devoted mother to her two daughters. In the Vietnamese culture, children are obligated to care for their parents but in America, loyalty and devotion are earned not forced. I admire Heidi for standing up for herself and not caving to requests for money that would have been based on guilt and emotion. I would love to see more about Heidi. She took the initiative to learn about Vietnam, I hope Kim and her half-siblings will learn about American culture as well.

L.T.
Tallahassee, FL

I was engrossed and fascinated with the care you took in relating Heidi's family story and visit to Viet Nam. As a retired military person with nine years of overseas tours in Japan, Korea, and Germany, I can understand and empathize with her culture shock and home-sickness. Thanks to Heidi for allowing us the opportunity to be part of her personal and soul-searching journey, both the good and sad portions. I'm sorry she wasn't prepared better for the cultural obstacles that awaited her in Viet Nam so that the experience would have been more fullfilling and pleasant rather than the regretted opening of Pandora's box.

V.E.
Columbus, OH

While I can empathize with what Heidi was going through emotionally during her reunion with her Vietnamese family, my heart really went out to her birth mother, Kim. Reference is made to Heidi's being "abandoned" by two mothers. I don't see her as having been abandoned by Kim at all. Kim was a loving mother who feared for her youngest child's safety and for what might happen to her at the hands of the Viet Cong. She made the ultimate sacrifice by putting her child's needs before her own emotions. I can't even begin to imagine the emotional pain she endured for 22 years as the result of that sacrifice. To have been reunited with her daughter for one brief week, and then no contact again for two years, must have felt as if she was giving up her little girl all over again. Kim loved and cared for Heidi for the first six/seven years of her life and gave her up to what she thought would be a safer, better life. $400 is the average annual income for a rural family such as Kim's, so Heidi sending even just $20 a month would have helped tremendously. A small price for a mother who made such a huge sacrifice for her. However, even if she couldn't afford $20 a month, just staying in touch with Kim would have eased Kim's grief. My heart breaks for both of them, but especially for Kim.

B.M.
Dearborn, MI

I was very moved by this film. It is 3AM and I can't stop thinking about it. My own experience was not one of adoption but I found I could identify with several of the people you documented. The film speaks to the human issues -- of parent-child bonds and the pain so often involved because we each have expectations, hopes, bad choices and deep disappointments, as well as loving experiences and the happiness in being part of the living chain of history and culture. I felt so badly for Heidi and her two mothers. Your film was generous enough to show them all gently and with compassion. A memorable story. My best wishes to you both and to Heidi Bub.

Kay Dolezal
Waltham, MA

I found this film to be very candid and brave. I feel Heidi's experience heightens the conflict that exists between American ideals and the ideals of the rest of the world. These ideals are often at odds with each other. As the child of Mexican immigrants, I was espected to provide financially. I realized, early on, that the parents of my American friends did not have this expectation. I have always felt conflicted about this issue. When I graduated from college and began to earn a good living, I did begin to give my parents a monthly stipend. I felt it was my duty. At first, I resisted sending money because somehow I felt that was the only thing my parents wanted... I discovered I was wrong and that culturally, outside of the U.S., all children help their parents financially. Once I gave in to the expecations of my Mexican culture, I felt strangely liberated. It got to the point where I felt joy as I wrote out the monthly checks. I recently lost both my parents and I would give anything to write those monthly checks again. If I could tell Heidi anything, it would be that her mother expecting money from her is considered normal everywhere except the U.S. I think Heidi would feel strangely liberated if she began to send her mother some money. I am sure even 20 dollars a month would make a big difference. Any way, I applaud the honesty and openess that Heidi showed througout the movie and I wish her much luck.

C. R.
San Antonio, TX

As a communication instructor and researcher (from a family communication & cultural perspective), I was very saddened that the story seemed to end without any major intervention from scholars who research intercultural communication and those of us who are interested in improving intra- and interethnic relations...

Even though a documentary (which I believe is interested in capturing people as they are), I had questions about why as a follow-up, the consultants did not include communication and intercultural experts to help Heidi and the Vietnamese family to further cope with their misunderstandings.  I felt a lot a pain around this gaping hole that can be addressed if we are caring enough... So, I'm hopeful that Part II of Heidi's story is undertaken.

Rhunette C. Diggs
Denison University

Share your opinions



Site Navigation

Special Features: Your Opinions | Two Hometowns | Living in Two Cultures
Adoption Resources | Behind the Scenes | The Last Orphan

Daughter From Danang Home | The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline
Gallery | People & Events | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search & Site Map | Shop | Subscribe | Web Credits

© New content 1999-2003 PBS Online / WGBH



Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: