Arrival and First Get-Together with the Old Vietnamese Friends of My Father
The jetlag is hardly noticeable when we arrive at 06:10 pm at the Los Angeles airport. Excitement and euphoria describe much more our state of mind; afterwards they turn into thrilled speechlessness and overpowering. Finally, we stand after 17 hours of flight with both feet on the ground of that very destination where our personal American Dream suddenly seems to be within reach.
Impatiently, we are waiting in front of the entrances of the airport when a big off-road vehicle halts at the roadside, and an older, friendly looking man waves at us. This must be Dienh, a close friend of my father who gets off the car and takes my father into his arms. More than 40 years have passed since they saw each other the last time after the Vietnam War. He brought along two other former friends of my father. I believe words would not live up to the emotions that were felt during this moment. Hence, I cut back on them and let this picture speak instead for this sentimental moment. It is not a high quality picture, but sometimes certain memories that are triggered by a simple snapshot have much more value.
Our first destination in the Orange County is a Vietnamese restaurant in Westminster where the first reunion takes place. This area is also known as “Little Saigon” because largely Vietnamese families who fled after the war have established themselves in this district. Therefore, it is not astonishing that one can find predominantly Vietnamese stores here. Considering the fact that California belongs to one of the most expensive states in the USA, I am quite surprised about the favourable menu: already for four dollars, one can get a big bowl of Phó which would have cost in my hometown Frankfurt a.M. twice as much in comparison. Not only that the food is very cheap, it tastes as well very fresh. It has been a long time since I have dined in such a good Vietnamese local.
The evening proceeds very emotional and serenely. Meanwhile, more older classmates of my father arrived who are conversing animatedly. Rarely, I have seen my father so unburdened and happy. I am delighted for him. Nonetheless, the exertion of the last 25 hours slowly makes itself felt. I bid the notorious jetlag welcome and look full of anticipation to the coming days in California.
Welcome to Laguna Beach
Our residence lies in the middle of Fountain Valley, a calm district close to Huntington Beach. The house
belongs to the best friend of my father. Its size is quite impressive. At least, this is my perception, still it seems to be the standard for houses nearby Huntington Beach. Each home has usually two garages because the residents of California are for the most part dependent on their own transportations. It is not a secret that here, the infrastructure of public transports are quite underdeveloped.
Already early in the morning we set out to Laguna Beach. I still feel a little bit drained from the previous day, but as soon we arrive at the beach, any tiredness vanishes. It has been a dozen, maybe two dozen times that I have admired this venue through big screens. Who does not know them, famous reality soaps such as Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County; popular magnets for hopeful teenagers with sprouted dreams and half as large realization quotes. Yet, in the here and now, in full physical presence, this place appears to be even more imposing. Especially the lovingly and differently designed buildings on the infamous Laguna Hills, I find very charming.
Around this time, it is still pleasantly calm at the beach. No more than by the scenery inspired painters and joggers cross our way, and I simply enjoy the satisfying feeling of the magical sound of the waves in my ears. This location is really beautiful, more beautiful than I have imagined. A tiny childhood fantasy comes over me which makes me decide to buy a small holiday apartment in Laguna Beach when I grow up and have enough money.