October 28, 2009
In the book Catfish and Mandala, by Andrew X. Pham, Andrew talks about his own journey and what he had learn from that journey. Andrew started his bicycle journey to search for his cultural identity. However, his actual journey started when he was little kid in Phan Thiet, Vietnam. He spent most of his life in the United States but never could forget about where he really came from and memories he had from his real home town. So Andrew chooses to go back to Vietnam to search for his lost memoirs, and his cultural identity.
Andrew left “something” in his home town, Phan Thiet, which he remembered in his life. It was a friend. He had a friend, who liked to play with him, talk with him, spent time with him.
“’Oh.’” I filled one teacup with cooking oil, the other with fishsauce. ‘You want some peppermint candy?’ I handed her a fistful. She shook her head, hesitating. ‘It’s free!’ I said, grinning so wide my face nearly split. ‘Really?’ ‘Yes, it’s all mine.” I exaggerated, pointing at the row of candy jars. ‘Thanks.’ ‘My name is An. What’s yours?’ ‘Hoa’” (54).[Q]
Andrew had his friend in Vietnam when he was little and I, myself, had friends, too, in Korea. I went to elementary school in Korea and there were few close friends at school. Like Andrew had to leave her, I had to leave them too. I did not want to leave my friends but I had no choice. However, for me, there were ways to contact with my friends: by phone, internet, letters, emails. Unlike Andrew, I could contact with my friends but never saw their faces again. Andrew went back to Vietnam and looked for his memory, a friend.
“’Does Hoa-the girl my age-still live next door?’
‘No, she married a laborer ten or eleven years back and the whole family moved to Nha Trang. We neighbors-relatives lost touch with them.’” (182).[Q]
Andrew found someone that could have helped him to find his memoir, but all he found was nothing.
Andrew had no choice whether he should leave or stay in Vietnam. When his family chose to leave, when Andrew’s boat journey starts, it was a secret to his whole family. He did not even tell his only friend, Hoa, about the escaping. However, Hoa asked him if his family was going to leave the country. Since it was a secret escaping, Andrew could not say “yes” to her. But Hoa told Andrew that all the neighbors know about Andrew’s family will leave and since Hoa and Andrew are close to each other Hoa asked Andrew to tell her the truth. When Andrew heard that Hoa is trustworthy person to him, he told her that his family is going to leave (60). [P] When I had to leave Korea, it wasn’t a secret to all my neighbors and friends. I had no reason to hide that I’m leaving. Instead, I felt sad for my friends tell them that I’ll leave. Not just moving to new town, moving to foreign country, United States. Andrew and I had different reasons, different minds about the leaving. “I prayed with all my heart that we wouldn’t get caught, that my big mouth hadn’t brought the police on the entire family” (88). [Q] Andrew prayed hard so his family could escape safely and since he has told Hoa about the escaping, he was worry that Hoa could have told another person that they are leaving. I prayed hard to at the airport like Andrew prayed while his family was waiting for the boat. I prayed that I can be with my parents and friends. When the time came that I had to be on the plane without my mom, I started to cry and, all those things that were going on at that time, I wished it was not real.
Andrew went to back to Saigon, Vietnam to find out more of his memories. However, when he went back to Saigon, all things have changed and he could not fit in to that. When Andrew met fourth sister in Saigon, he felt surprised that he met someone who remembers his family. Since Andrew desired to find his old memories in Saigon he asked fourth sister about things that he could remember.
“‘They smashed all the alley homes a long time ago. New homes are built right against the back of all the street-front houses. No more alley.’
‘But what about the people who used to live there? The Vo Family.’
‘Gone. All gone. Who do you remember?’
‘The daughter. I don’t remember her name.’
‘Come. Meet the new people and some of the old ones who are still here.’
I want to leave. This place is empty” (101).[Q]
Andrew felt that Saigon was not where he used to live. I still remember the elementary school that I went to when I was in Korea, all the streets, short cuts, little stores, apartments where my friends lived, and where I used to hang out with my friends. When I read how Andrew felt about Saigon when he realized everything is gone, all his memories, I thought that I would be disappointed if I see all the streets and places are changed in Korea and wouldn’t feel that it was where I used to grow up when I was little. The worse thing happened to Andrew when fourth sister told him that people in Saigon are unfortunate. They have so hard time to stay alive. However, for those people in Saigon, who has a family member lives in foreign country, are fortunate. And she asked Andrew if he could help them financially. Andrew needed her to know how hard it is also to be live in America and not having any feelings of disappoints in his tone (102).[P] It is always hard to explain that life in America is not easy. Most of times, my friends or neighbors are jealous at me because they think my family is rich so I can live in the United States. At first, I tried to explain it is not easy than they think but for Koreans, living in the foreign country, seems only a rich people can live in foreign country.