Tuesday, December 19, 2006

If You Need to Be Reminded of How Good You've Got It, Then This Might Help

I was going to blog about Charlotte's Web, which I saw last night, until a friend sent me an LA Times article about a mother from Vietnam who came to the U.S. to search for her son. With nothing but an old address of his, she set out to find him before her visa expired or her cancer returned.
She arrived in Los Angeles with $600 in borrowed cash, a failing heart and arthritis in both knees. She spoke no English. She had not seen her firstborn son, Tuan, in the 20 years since he fled Vietnam for the United States as a teenager.

Judging from the letters he sent home, he had prospered here. He was repairing watches, living in Santa Ana. Inexplicably, four years ago, his letters had stopped coming. Now, Hai Nguyen had crossed the ocean herself, hoping to find her son before she died.


Chasing every lead, she took cabs to the Asian Garden Mall and Chinatown and across the San Gabriel Valley. She searched homeless shelters and alleys, parks and strip malls. All through the land of promise, to her astonishment, the concrete was littered with human shapes crouched under reeking blankets.

She went from shape to shape, slowly lifting the blankets off ragged, hollow-eyed faces that smelled of beer, off men with tangled hair and dirty hands. They cursed in words she couldn't understand and yanked their blankets back, many of them, sinking back into their covers. Some just looked at her in bewilderment. She looked into dozens of hopeless faces. There were other mothers' sons, but not hers.


Finally, in November, there came an improbable call from a restaurateur in San Jose, a woman named Huong Le who had seen Nguyen's story on Vietnamese-language television. She said Tuan had been living behind her restaurant for the last couple of months at the Lion Plaza shopping center on King Boulevard. He slept on the sidewalk on a patch of cardboard.
I suppose there's a happy ending to this, but I couldn't stop feeling sad. Entire article available here.


junebee said...

My god, that is completely heartbreaking.

Today there was an article in our newspaper about 26 Cubans who reached not Miami but Longboat key, which is halfway up the west coast of Florida.
There was a related article about a Cuban guy who came here a couple of years ago. He works in his brothers' restaurant and is very glad to send money home to Cuba. After numerous attempts to cross to America, he finally made it. But I guess not everyone ends up as this Cuban guy.

Anonymous said...

That is so sad. I have been thinking about this all day. I can only imagine what came next.

JEM said...

Hi Chanchow,

I know I haven't visited for a looooong time. you know the reason. Just taking a study break and checking out your blog. All your photos and adventures in Paris look awesome but I have to go through them more closely when I'm done studying.

But this story caught my eye and I went to read the entire story.... it's so sad to me that this is probably not that unique and it happens to more immigrants than we can think.

talk to you when I'm out of hell in a couple of weeks.