Her name is “O.”

Most days she feels a tremendous gap of time and space between herself and her children.  She is the Old Generation.  The kids were the first to see comforts and have opportunities she only imagined for them when she took the necessary risks and traveled half the world to start a new life.  Most days she tries to fit in.  Most days she can pretend she’s American and live for the little pleasures that her citizenship entail.  But most days too, she remembers her mother and the country she left behind. Continue reading Perspective


Mom’s Ginger Chicken

This is a true story about gluttony.

In life, we often learn things the hard way.  Like the time I made myself really sick on cherries.  When we were kids, expensive fruits were a luxury (who am I kidding?  they still are for me as an adult).   According to the USDA, the average price for a pound of fresh cherries is $3.51!  If someone out there knows why they cost so much, please tell me. Continue reading Mom’s Ginger Chicken

Shrimp Girl

Brother and Shrimp in Thailand

If you ever come across a Lao person and see that they have a name containing 20 or so characters, all seemingly put together at random and with no regard for phonetics, have no fear – chances are, the person probably has a “play” name that is much shorter and easier to manage.  It will most likely be an embarrassing physical attribute or, at the very least, endearingly descriptive.  They’re like prison names but less scary (usually).  I have relatives called “Short Girl,” “Black Eye,” “Elephant,” and “Testicles.”  Don’t ask me how that last one came about.  Surprisingly, it is a rather common Lao nickname. Continue reading Shrimp Girl


When I was a little girl, I used to say things like, “I’ve eaten that before, in Laos.”  It seemed to be one of those “kids say the darndest things” moments that always made my relatives laugh. They told me I had never been there, but I was not entirely convinced.

The processes of the mind can be unsettling at times – one hears things repeated so often that they develop into surrogate memories, infiltrating the genuine bits of one’s subconsciousness.  Essentially, I can’t remember what was told to me and what I actually experienced. Continue reading Familiar

Ode to Noodles

Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that I am obsessed with noodles. I don’t discriminate.  I like Asian noodles, Italian noodles, made-up-recipe-noodles, fancy noodles, cheap noodles, wet and dry noodles.  I am especially partial to pre-packaged, spicy noodles that contain 300% of your daily dietary intake of sodium.  (I refrain from drinking all the broth, and this seems like a reasonable compromise to me.) I am your stereotypical, chopstick-wielding, broth-slurping, Asian noodle head. Continue reading Ode to Noodles


Nakhon Phanom refugee camp, 1982

In 1975, the Kingdom of Laos dissolved after 20 years of pressure from communist rebels. The resulting unstable political atmosphere drove thousands of families, including my own, to disperse across the world. It would be decades before they saw their country – and the loved ones they left behind – again. Continue reading Exodus