In Catfish and Mandala, written by Andrew Pham, the memoir opens, devastated by the suicide, quits his job as an aerospace engineer, sells everything he owns, buys a bicycle and embarks on a yearlong journey through Mexico. During his travels, he meets Tyle, a down-and-out Vietnam vet, who asks, ''Where are you from? Originally?'' (Pham 6). As that question keeps resurfacing, Pham literally changes direction, biking from San Jose, his hometown, north to Seattle, then doing a loop from Narita to Kyoto in Japan, and finally going all the way ''home'' to Vietnam, from which his family fled in 1975. .
''Where are you from? It's a familiar question for every international person whose face doesn't match the national stereotype. I dont know how many times I had the same conversation with numerous people after I came to America from Japan. When I lived in Japan, I never thought about this question and of course nobody asked it. When I lived in a foreign country, I realized then for the first time how important my identity is. As I read Phams memoir, I noticed that we both pursued our identity in a foreign country. I think that living in a foreign country make us realize our identity strongly and this is definitely a turning point to know myself. I would like to discuss about our identity related with a turning point to know myself.
Probably the most memorable turning point in my life happened in 1996. At this time, I was eighteen years old. That burning day when I got ready to leave Tokyo started out on my first journey to foreign country alone. I felt like Columbus starting out for the other end of the earth. I felt like the Pilgrim Fathers who had left their homeland and all their kin behind them and trekked out in search of the New World.
I had stayed up night after night, washing, ironing and darning my things. At last, I put them all together in a big suitcase. In my purse was the money I had been saving from my food, from my clothes, a penny to a penny, a dollar to a dollar, for a year.