The essay critically analyzes the relationship between the journey of Andrew Pham and what has been considered the 'landscape' through which he traveled. In the essay, I further explore how he and others managed to encounter the obstacles and finally how the 'landscape brought conflicts or change. In this context, landscape has been used to refer to different periods in time, social environment (people), and atmosphere as well as varied geographic locations. This analysis helps us know the meaning of Pham's journey and his response to varied things he encountered in his quest to search for cultural identity.
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Born in Vietnam, Andrew and his family escaped and resided in America, this was as a result of conflict between the North and the South which led to imprisonment of his father. The death of his sister, Chi (who committed suicide) who changed her sexuality to be a man- Minh is what made Andrew went back to Vietnam (Pham, 92). While in America, his life and that of his family was full of ups and down, in school he engaged in fights with 'Mexican cholos' not to mention that their father constantly beat those inflicting bruises.
Andrew's journey began in San Francisco northwards using a bike; it was tough because of the climbs he had to make. From Washington, he used a plane to Japan and stayed in Narita for forty five days waiting to go to Vietnam. During his stay, he marveled the Japanese way of life, the environment was seriously polluted- factories discharge dirty water into rivers, smoke polluted the air. He eventually departed for Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam.
On board, he met and talked with a kind Vietnamese old man who inquired if Andrew had a family he is visiting, but according to Andrew, the man thought of him as a 'lost' person- having no identity and uncertain. On arrival, his bicycle is destroyed by custom officials; he was given a warm welcome by his distant relation- grant aunt Nguyen. He enjoyed the good time provided by the kind relatives. His old home had been changed into a community health clinic, he concluded that a lot of things have change and what remain in him are just vivid memories (Pham, 163). In one afternoon, he gave money to a beggar, this action emotionally touched him.
After a two month stay with the relatives at Saigon, he rode to Hanoi through Vung Tau, on the way; the local viewed and treated him with very high level of courtesy with the believe that he was a foreigner-probably an American. The situation immediately changes-excitement held initially subsided when he told them he was a Vietnamese living in America. At Vung Tau, he engaged in a romantic relationship but didn't end up in marriage. While there, Andrew opted to visit a place where his father was imprisoned - Minh Luong prison on arrival he was astonished as the place was replaced with a village. His fears were confirmed by his driver when he told him that everything is not the way he (Andrew) left long time ago and that his roots have turned into dust having.
Before heading to Hanoi, he went to where he was born - Phan Thiet, the childhood landmarks were still present. A lady who lived in her grandmother's house reminds him that ones effort to rediscover identity is always painful and full of disappointment at times. He experienced a stint of stomach flu after which he headed Mui Ne, the place they used to escape to America after the Vietnam conflict, everything in that place was completely changed. At the train station he was delayed due to not having money, eventually together with other swarthy men who didn't trust he got a ride.
While at Hanoi, a city where his father had roots Andrew and other domestic tourists explored the city. They came across an exhibited body of Ho Chi Minh, Andrew show respect for the efforts of Ho in fighting for Vietnam freedom. On his way to a Ninh Binh a town south of Hanoi, he was attacked by playing kids who bombarded stones and rocks to him and referring to him as a Russian. This really disturbed him as he recalled being referred to as Japanese, a Chink and now a Russian, hence having no clear identity in the face of human beings.
In his return journey to Ky Anh village met one man having only one leg who was very kind and hospitable talking of reconciliation and forgiveness, changing his notion on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Other trips outside Hanoi include those to City of Hue and Hoi any from where he established that gaping fish delicacy still exists. Despite the sickness, he travelled to Qui Nhon spending a night at a hotel he described as hellish experience because the place was extremely dirty (Pham, 59). The poor hygiene in the hotel worsens his health condition, but he was treated in a local pharmacy thereby being able to cycle again.
When Andrew went to Nha Trang, he reconnected with Calvin (initially Cuong) who changed name to sound American, the later confession that he felt Vietnam is an inferior country left both of them more baffled.
All through his journey, Andrew met with varied encounters, mockery, extortion, attacks and highly polluted environment on the other hand he is warmly welcomed by his distance relatives, the one legged man making him have a different opinion on reconciliation and forgiveness.
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