Identity Shift

Another essay written while I attended the Iowa Summer Writing Festival last month.

A year ago, my American family and I crossed the international date-line and stepped into Vietnam with new identities.
 My Vietnamese-born son was raised in the US and speaks only English. In crossing that line and returning to the land of his birth, his identity shifted from “short, funny, confrontational Asian dude” to “tall, rich, good-looking mute American.”

My tongue-tied, under-employed house-husband became a strong, silent American philanthropist.

And I, a relatively tall, middle-class, politically progressive physical therapist, became a gigantic, wealthy, authority figure with an enviable nose.

It’s an odd experience to have lovely, leggy Vietnamese barmaids walk up to me and stroke my nose in admiration. Odder still to have become a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Da Nang, based solely on my ability to speak English fluently. I’ve become a valued resource for international humanitarian groups and traveling surfers—just because of where I live.

What determines value? Location, location, location!