At least a month or so ago, I was sitting around in a local government office, waiting for a meeting to begin, when my phone started vibrating. I ran out into the lobby to answer it, and it was a call from a quán nhậu (there’s no good English word) in Long Xuyên. The owner of the establishment is a friend of mine, and he was on the phone and I was pacing around the lobby of this particular government building and shouting Vietnamese while people walked around me. One of the things he told me was: The City of Long Xuyên misses you.

More recently, just the other day, I happened to be chatting with a student of mine from Long Xuyên. I mentioned how quickly I was forgetting Vietnamese, and so she started chatting in Vietnamese and I rustily started typing my replies. She asked me to tell her about America. I said something like: The weather is cold and the people are boring. She then asked why the people were boring. Because they have no hope, I said.

It was the best way I could put my thoughts into a language that I’ve barely used in five months.

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