During a late night layover in Minneapolis a decade ago, I found myself in a McDonald's. Manning the cash register was a chubby black woman, and the ordering customer was a black flight attendant who was young, thin and pretty, how all American air stewardesses used to look, before the ageism lawsuits. In Asia, they're still uniformly pleasing to the eyes. Help wanted ads in Vietnam often specify whether they want men or women, and in what age range. In this totalitarian state, people can hire whomever they want.
Under the harsh McDonald's lights, the black women chattered. "You must have been many places!"
"Many times," she smiled.
"Wow! How about Miami?"
"I've been there too."
At the adjacent cash register was another black woman. Looking in admiration at the air stewardess, she chimed in, "Have you been to Hawaii?"
"Yes, I've been to Hawaii. And what about you?" she asked both of them. "Where have you visited?"
"Well, I've been to Milwaukee a couple of times, and Chicago once."
"I've also been to Chicago," the chubby one said. "Your life is so exciting! I want to go to Las Vegas!"
"You will," the air stewardess unconvincingly answered, took her Big Mac and walked away. Toiling for minimum wage, the other two looked on.
I was reminded of this airport scene when I talked to an Ea Kly woman this week. In her early 30's, Hien is an employee at our plastic recycling plant.
Hearing me talk, she asked me, "Are you from Thai Binh?" All Vietnamese immediately try to locate your origin from your accent. How close are you to me? they want to know.
"No, but my father is from Nam Dinh," one province over.
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