I am the daughter of a Vietnamese man. The daughter of a man who left his country to make a better future for himself. When he left, with only one piece of luggage in his hand, he knew he would never be able to return home or see his family again. My father's immigration was a one-way trip.
In 2008, he returned to Vietnam for the first time in forty years. For the next five years, he rode his motorcycles from the south to the north of Vietnam, fixing them up in his small garage in Can Tho. He owned five of them, some dating back to the war. He took care of them like stable horses.
When I decided to make this trip, I thought I would do it with him, me on his 1967 Honda, him on a 1972 Minsk. But cancer took him away this fall and all that remains of him is a small box of ashes.
From Hanoi to Saigon, I will ride this peninsula for seven weeks. Once I arrived in Sa Dec, my paternal family's village, I will deposit the ashes in a pagoda. Strangely enough, my first trip to Vietnam will also be my father's last.
Our family's bond with this country could have ended with my father's last breath. But it will not. This solo trip is a new strand in this family braid whose origin I am looking for.