“My cousin live in San Jose!”
“My brother working in the OC!”
“I just got letter from my sister there.”
“California! Ah, the OTHER capital of Vietnam…”
It may be their aunt’s cousin’s brother, but everyone in Vietnam seems to know someone in California.
You see, after the war, America offered to help South Vietnamese who suffered 3 or more years in a Communist “reeducation” camp. If they escaped the country, the U.S. would help them immigrate and start a new life.
Guess where many of them landed…that’s right - the OC.
One rainy day in Central Hue, a tired, aging man tries to sell us a ride on his motorbike. He’s the kind of guy you can take one look at and know he’s had it rough. And when he learns we’re from California, a sense of longing, a sadness, fills his face.
“My brother go there. Not me. I only in prison 2 years after war. Not long enough. I could not go.”
It’s weird to meet this many people who are so close to California, yet so far away.
America is still a big part of the Vietnamese consciousness. But not at all in the way we would have guessed.