Miss Yen and I continued our long lunch recounting family histories.
“See, I do know some of my history and some of it traces back to British, French and Norman nobility. So we’re not peasants either.”
“I know you aren’t a peasant. You don’t speak like one, your grammar is correct. You ask more questions, different questions.”
“How do you know if my grammar is correct? English isn’t even your second language.”
“Ach! Of course I know English grammar. You don’t even know two languages. I formally studied English, French, Vietnamese, Lao, Chinese and several tribal dialects. But I see how you must be a disappointment to your educated family. Does it bother you?”
“Some, but right now there are things that bother me more.
A coupe of days ago you said you were educated in Paris. Not in Viet Nam? Why not?”
“When the coup against Diem happened in 1963, Saigon became very chaotic. The buddhist monks had brought their followers to riot and were shot down by the police. It was a dangerous time. I had finished my studies at Marie Curie Lycee and father thought I should not be in Saigon. So I went with madame to Paris to start university. There were a great many Vietnamese in Paris. I heard as many as 30,000. But Paris had its own troubles — riots in the streets and on the university grounds too. Much of it was over the war in here. I stayed there four years, until I graduated. I longed for Viet Nam. In Paris I was a refugee, not part of society and I couldn’t become part either. So I begged father to let me come home. That was two years ago. I cannot say things are like before the coup but they aren’t really better than when I left. It all makes me so sad. There has been war always, as long as I can remember. I’m tired of it. One very good thing about Paris was there was no war.
“Well, enough,” I said. “I’ve overstayed my lunch time and Phil will come back any time now.”