Courseworks

In search of home

Andrew Pham at the end of his journey through Vietnam, in search of his roots say: “somewhere along the way, my search for roots has become my search for home- a place I know best even though there are those who would have me believe otherwise” (337). Andrew Pham goes to Vietnam to understand who he is, to discover his personal identity, but this search for identity was really a search a place where he felt comfortable at, and a place that he belonged to, a place that he could call home. At the end of his journey through his forsaken fatherland he discovers the place he feels most comfortable at and calls it home. He is the kind of person who identifies him self in terms of the things he feels comfortable with.Even before Anh left on his journey in search of his identity he did define him self in terms of the things that he felt most comfortable with. After getting an Aerospace Engineering degree from UCLA and a cushy engineering post at a major airline with it, he quits and becomes a freelance writer (25). Even though it made his father very upset, he resigned from his engineering job because he did not feel comfortable there. He leaves on his trip without waiting for the best time according to his mom’s Chinese calendar. He says “Look, Mom, I don’t believe in your Chinese calendar” (24) but does wait two days and not a week. He did that to please his mom because if he didn’t he wouldn’t feel comfortable enough to leave her totally unsatisfied.Anh feels uncomfortable with the behavior of the Vietnamese people even before he set foot in Vietnamese soil. He looks at the way the Vietnamese people behave in the plane and compares them monkeys (64). Then he is uncomfortable with the idea of having a welcoming party of ten people for every person coming off the plane (67). He was somewhat embarrassed not to have brought the “cargo treasure”(67) the other foreign Vietnamese bring. Later when he was wondering the streets of Saigon he sees the wanting-wanting-wanting Vietnamese people as strangers (102). He pities the Vietnamese who believe with all their hearts that Vietnam, indeed, is the most gorgeous place on earth (155). Anh soon realizes that even though he has the same shape of eyes as the other Vietnamese in Saigon does he is not one of them. He was uncomfortable around them and did not feel belonged. He was far from the things and the people he felt comfortable with. He was far from home.Anh gets very uncomfortable and frustrated with the poverty in Vietnam. He feels sorry for the people in the streets selling anything and everything. He says that in Saigon, “everything has a buyer everyone is for sale” (104). Seeing beggar children devastated him (106). He gave them money and wept for them, ” I wept for the disparity between my world and the world of these people” (110), but nothing made him feel comfortable with the living standards of the Vietnamese people. He felt helpless and confused the whole time he was touring Saigon with his relatives. He sees too much, too much for him to handle he says that it no longer mattered to him, his feelings, his culture. Finally he says, “Vietnamese.Honor.Obligations.respect. I hate it all” (107).Anh had more problems as a “Viet-kieu” in Vietnam than he did as a Vietnamese-American in America. The Vietnamese people mistook him to be Korean, Chinese or Japanese. He could not get on a train on the normal price because was a “viet-kieu”and did not look native (201). He could not stay in certain hotels because he was a “viet-kieu”. He was over charged for every thing because he was “viet-kieu”. He couldn’t even get a can of coca-cola with out getting in to trouble in Vietnam (313). But as a Vietnamese-American, in America for the most part he was comfortable. But there he was, a man who always defined him self in terms of the things he felt comfortable with, in a place he did not feel comfortable at, looking for his identity.Through out his journey Anh was sick because he was not comfortable with the Vietnamese food and sanitary. Even when he wanted to believe that because he is Vietnamese after all that he should be able to digest the food, he couldn’t. He says, “I am still hoping that my system will acclimatize. I’m Vietnamese after all, and these microorganisms once thrived in my gut as thoroughly as in any Vietnamese here” (324). He even tried to believe that if he got used to the grit and grime in Vietnam he would be a true Vietnamese. “Maybe when grit and grime infuse every cell of my body, I will truly be Vietnamese again” (126). But he still got sick because he was not comfortable, it was not who he was. He says that all the towns in Vietnam, big and small, looked the same to him. And that some smell worse than others, and that they are all filthy (303). So for Anh, who defines him self in terms of his comfort level, finding an identity in these Vietnamese conditions was a far cry from reality.Anhs identity lies in his feelings of comfort. Anh couldn’t find that comfort physically or emotionally in Vietnam. The only time he felt comfortable in Vietnam was when he was around non-Asians, people with similar sprit. After arriving in Hanoi he says, “The days pass without difficulty. I am at last among friends of similar sprit, all non-Asian, not one of them Vietnamese. And I am happy, comfortable merely to be an interpreter” (226). The only food he truly enjoyed eating were his Hershey bars. He craves for a scoop of orange sherbet, “Funny, a scoop of orange sherbet was all I could wrap my mind around”(261). The only drink he enjoyed drinking was coca-cola. He says that the familiar flavor of coca-cola kept him anchored in strange locales (310).His journey made him realize that he cannot really identify him self as a Vietnamese because he didn’t feel comfortable there. That is why at the end of his journey he decides to be a better American and call America his home. When son asked him what he will do in America, he says, “The answer fell on me, a drop of water from a blue sky: “Be a better American” (341). Because that was the place he knew the most about, the place he felt comfortable at and the place he felt belonged to. In the end, he found his home and his identity in his zone of physical and emotional comfort.

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