How Fortunate I am

December 11, 2008
“You do not know how fortunate you are; your mother and I had to go through much in Vietnam before we moved to America.” My parents told me this many times while my eyes rolled. They moved to America during the brink of the Vietnam War and spread of communism. I never cared much about their lectures and cultural stories until I visited Vietnam for myself.
We left in the hot and humid summer and arrived at the airport station after a long twelve hour flight to find four unfamiliar smiling faces. They were my aunt, uncle, and two cousins that I had never met. They greeted us with warmth, and we decided to visit some other family members in Saigon, Vietnam’s capital. On the way there, I saw elderly woman sluggishly plowing the countryside and unattended children selling anything they could to make a living. It was not pity that filled my mind; instead, it was respect.
Vietnam was a completely different environment than the United States. It was different, from the rich cuisine to the uncomfortable showers. The typical “shower room” in Vietnam consisted of a room with a bucket and faucet. I had to shower by filling the bucket with water and pouring it on myself and completing this process again and again. Unfortunately, the period of time filling the bucket was piercingly cold, eventually giving me pneumonia.
Our next visit was Binh Thuy, which was another town where more of my family lived. This was where the majority of our time was spent. This was where the house of my mother’s eldest sister was located. She was fortunate to have a bed in her room. My aunt and uncle offered us the room every night of our stay, while they slept on the ground near the kitchen.
My condition worsened and I needed medicine, so I went to the doctor. There was no big facility to enter and there was no secretary. Instead, it was a man’s house with his wife telling us to wait in line. The man greeted me nicely and told me to sit down. I noticed he did not have any tools. He told me to breathe deeply while he closed his eyes and listened to my lungs. In a matter of seconds he opened ten different compartments and gave me three different pills for each day. I felt lethargic and weak for most of the trip but this allowed me to see this whole new world with more patience.
I could not breathe. My eyes were tired and my arms flimsy. My cousins came to my rescue, feeding me. This is when I truly accepted them. Their countenances had a look of despair, showing me the worry I caused them. I smiled, making jokes to bring an uplifting attitude to my cousin’s faces. They laughed and hugged me, wishing me to get better.
I appreciated everything so much more and grew closer to my cousins that I had had just met. They were creative, making there own imaginative ways to create a game because they could not afford any other possibilities. We played cards and they knew of all the games that I had played in America, except they had different names in Vietnamese.
My illness eventually passed by the time we had to leave on our way to America. The unfamiliar faces were now embedded in my heart as they began to cry when we entered the flight. Initially, I arrived close-minded, not worrying about the world around me. Now, I left with more compassion for others and a deeper understanding for my culture. My parents still say, “You do not know how fortunate you are; your mother and I had to go through much in Vietnam before we moved to America.” But Now, I do understand.

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