Epilogue: Exploring the United States on your Own

I sat next to a retired American Vietnamese lady who had lived in the United States for many years and was returning back to Vietnam to live in Dalat for the rest of her life. She said that when she was young she worked as an elementary school teacher in Saigon, and then came to the United States in 1980 to live. After arriving in the United States she worked for a small factory until she retired (I didn’t dare ask what the factory manufactured). Her family lived in Atlanta. All of her children still lived there, but she had decided to return to Vietnam.

“Back there I can eat Vietnamese food and speak Vietnamese,” she said with confidence. “I can return to the United States for a few months sometimes when I miss my children.”

“Aren’t you afraid that the Vietnamese food isn’t sanitary?” I asked. “Aren’t there a lot of Chinese areas all over in the United States that have Vietnamese food, so you wouldn’t miss anything?”

“We cannot find any food as good as in Vietnam,” she admitted. “I have decided to live my final days in my native land because as a proverb says, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

“What about your health?” I wondered. “Older adults need good health care, but the health care system in Vietnam is limited.”

“Since I want to return home I don’t have any reason to object due to those ideas. Others don’t want to, so they may create so many disadvantages.” She nodded and said additionally. “How about you, did you come to the States for some pleasure, which cities did you visit?”

I listed all of the cities I had been to in my two trips, so she nodded and said it seems that you have been everywhere in the United States already. The United States is really massive, but if you go there on vacation, then only the cities on the two coasts, East and West, are worth visiting. According to her, there was nothing special about the states located in the central section of the country.

“Cities in the States are all the same,” she laughed, “the same homes, the same large cars, and the same highways.”

“Really miss?” I asked unconvinced. “I want to visit many more places.”

                        “You have been to Las Vegas, and that’s already more than many Americans,” she laughed unconvincingly. “As for the people living on the west coast, there are a lot of them that have never been to New York City. Americans are eager to make money, but they have little time to go here and there. Of course, if you can travel a lot that’s good, but if you only travel around for the experience the cities you’ve already visited are the most important ones in the United States.”

            “Yes yes ….”

            I also didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by asking so many questions. I believed she was being honest, but I still relished the thought of visiting the United States three, four or five times. There are many places in the United States that I very much want to visit. For example, Florida is located in the southeastern United States, and it is also known as the sunshine state with beautiful beaches and rich natural resources. I’ve heard that this is the state that attracts vacationers to get an excellent rest at the innumerable luxurious yet affordable resorts.

            I would also like to visit a state that attracts very few tourists such as Alaska because of its uniqueness. This area is separated from the continental United States, but the nature there is very majestic. Alaska is also the state in the United States that has the largest area with immense forests and vast lakes. It would be a very interesting experience to go fishing or hunting in Alaska (although I don’t think I would ever kill any animals, and my skills for living in the wilderness are also zero).

            I would also go to the state of Texas, which is adjacent to Mexico. Texas is the second largest state area wise after Alaska, with hardened muscular cowboys. This is the land where I imagine the people are living a free and rather pleasant life.

            And I would really like to go to the Hawaiian Islands, for that place is famous for its silver waves and its smooth green tropical forests full of fragrant flowers, exotic grass and colorful birds. The Hawaiian Islands certainly captivate the hearts of travelers with wild romantic feelings.

            “Do you think I could immigrate and settle in the United States permanently?” I asked, turning toward that American Vietnamese. “What kind of work would I do? What state would I live in?”

            “There are so many immigrants already, and so many concurrences, that it’s too late for you to come, so why would you want to come? How much time is still left?” She asked, smiling at me for expressing doubt about my desire to permanently settle in the United States. “Life is difficult now, and not like it use to be thirty or forty years ago.”

            “I am just kidding,” I smiled. “At my age, I cannot return to the University, and I cannot work in a nail salon like plenty of American Vietnamese do, either.”

  “Yes, the United States is nice, but very difficult,” she thoughtfully suggested, then suddenly added. “You can live in Vietnam and work for an American company. Americans are very fair, and will treat you well if you work hard. That way you can live in your native country and still work in the United States, earning U.S. dollars.” I laughed, observing that her suggestion was interesting. I had only a little opportunity to be exposed to Americans during my two trips to the United States, but it was enough for me to realize that Americans were friendly, open minded, frank, and didn’t know anything about foreign affairs. After two trips to the United States I realized, due to my inquiries, why Americans often have a reputation for being rude when they travel to Europe on vacation. They are used to the impeccable services in the United States, so when they travel to Europe and notice life there isn’t well organized they become indignant. When they’re dissatisfied, they complain straightforward, directly displaying an uncomfortable attitude, without knowing how to speak discretely, so they’re considered rude by the Europeans. I found Americans easily likeable during my two visits to the United States, and they only complained a little about the weather or politics. They smiled often, and their faces were less stressful and quite outspoken.

Briefly, I think I like the United States.

I think you will too, if you explore the United States on your own!

Duong Thuy