Anchor kids

Although “Last Men Out” tells a story about the last Marines on the last day of Vietnam, readers still learn a great deal about the Vietnamese “group culture”. Many workers of the former US  embassy were on the list to be “chopper” out (Operation Frequent Wind). It just so happened that the gardener of the embassy came in the back gate (his work place) with a long rope that tied all his relatives so they wouldn’t be cut off. The marine could only authorize those on the list. The gardener’s reply: you chose for me.

Story like that repeats itself on Pan Am last flights (three-fold increase) as well.

Later, we saw the waves of Boat People in 1980-1990.

And finally, just an “anchor kid” here and there to send home money.

I did not think of my now divorced wife as an “anchor kid” until it dawn on me, that’s what happened.

Inadvertently, I was pushed into playing the benevolent, guilt-ridden 7th fleet which I had once been on.

We have come in full circle.

Now, she is free to go “black friday” shopping (for an I-pad).

I meant to title this blog as “I hate Steve Jobs“, but in the Vietnamese tradition, we try not to speak ill of the dead.

So, here I am, on the clock at a neighborhood Internet gaming center, next to rowdy kids, while my wife, having spent ten years in the US, called to ask how she could get wi-fi in our home in Palm Beach, FL.

Again, I have to play the role of an remote IT administrator.

In the tradition of “tech and multi-cultural marketing”, this blog is both personal and reflective of a larger trend: people will do what is necessary to rise to the next level on the Maslow scale. Next year, there will be another version of the “Ipad” probably in a Palo Alto garage, in time for Black Friday.

Being savvy and quick to adapt, Vietnamese families barely finish wiping their tears at the airport before sending their next “anchor kid”. It’s both a burden and a badge (of honor).  Escalade, Lexus, and Camry will be bought on installment, not to interfere with set allowance for families back home.

Mexican, Filippino and Chinese workers in the US follow the same immigration pattern (wage arbitrage). The US costs of service and goods are subsidized by millions of personal stories like my cousin’s.

She saved up to send her oldest boy to America.

I first met him back in 1990, as a bus boy in Orange County.

Next thing I heard, he already turned manicurist, then he and his wife, owned a nail shop in Chicago.

Later, his wife died, left him with a pair of twin daughters, and a life insurance compensation. He then upgraded to a plush salon in Dallas, TX (and remarried, perhaps to another “anchor kid”).

With his income, he sent home to bring his youngest brother to the US to complete his PhD in mathematics.

Next thing I know, his youngest brother is now full professor at a Vietnam’s private University (all in English, I believe).

Anchor kids. Lifting one boat at a time. Some want I-pad, others PhD.


Same people who pulled the heavy canons up the hill of Dien Bien Phu.

Same people who would not leave any relative behind at the back door of the US embassy.

Same people who fended off not two but three wars with next to nothing to eat.

The US has bogged down in two wars at the tune of Trillion Dollars. Maybe there are some take-aways here.s Just imagine how humiliated for privileged boy to start as a bus boy and nail boy. Then, the anchor kid serves as a monkey bridge for next kids to cross. To their credits they don’t burn the bridge. As of latest figure, Vietnam now ranks 8th highest number of students attending US colleges and universities. The line for foreign students’ visas now stretches long and winding at the same spot where  “Last Men Out” was depicted. At least, this time, they are not tied together by the gardener’s rope. But still with the same script “You choose for us”. Anchor kids.


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