The Vietnamese Japanese Restaurant

The other night we went to a Japanese Hibachi grill restaurant for dinner, ok a really late lunch or what we call a “blue hair special”. That’s when we eat dinner really early, like all the old people do. Anyway, I love hibachi food and really wanted it. Because of the time of day, a lot of the restaurants were closed for that time between lunch and dinner. We found a place in a strip mall, so I wasn’t really sure if we wanted to eat there.

sidebar: We lived in Japan for a few years, and I learned the language while we were there. I’m like a language savant; I just pick it up. However, Ash is NOT. He loves to try to speak other languages, though, even if he butchers it in the process. He once walked into a convenience store in Japan and said (in Japanese, of course), “I’m a post office.” instead of “Where is the post office.” Needless to say, this is one of the stories I always had him tell my ESL students.

Ok, back to the real story. Ash was going to go into the restaurant to check it out and see if it was clean, and if they had a hibachi, not just sushi. Before going in he made me teach him to say “Do you have a hibachi?” in Japanese. He wouldn’t get out of the car until he knew how to say it. This little lesson lasted about 5 minutes. I didn’t want to tell him because I am embarrassed for him at how bad he his. You do have to give it to him for trying, though. I know what to say but am so afraid of messing up that I usually don’t speak any of the other languages I know to people. So, he went in and then came back out to give us the all clear sign that it was ok to eat there. He told me he didn’t get to use his line because he could tell the lady wasn’t Japanese anyway.

So, we went in and sat at our hibachi grill and waited for the chef guy to come start chopping things and throwing knives, catching eggs in his hat, etc. I notice there was a picture on the wall in the front of the owner. It had his name and his last name was Ngo. I pointed it out to Ash. Then the chef came to our table and right away asked about Binh and where he was from. I told him Boston at first, as a little joke because I knew what he was really asking. Then I told him Vietnam and it ended up our chef was the guy pictured in the front, the owner. He was really cool and asked us a lot of questions. He came over at age three and told us he knew more about Miami than Vietnam. He has never been back there. He could speak Vietnamese, though and had a combination of a Vietnamese and southern accent. I asked him about the local Vietnamese population, Tet festivals, etc. He welcomed all my questions and said he’d let us know if he thought there was anything we’d be interested in next time we came back.

Before we left, I thanked him for being so kind to us. I told him a lot of people (by people I mean Asian people) were cold to us for some reason that I had yet to understand. He just smiled a little and just shook his head. Again, I couldn’t decipher what that meant, either. The hostess there was also Vietnamese and told us how to correctly say Vung Tau, where Binh is from. (I think she could have told me all day and I wouldn’t have gotten it right. I’m NOT good with tonal languages, though people in Vietnam could understand most of what I said.) She was nowhere as friendly as Mr. Ngo, however.

So this little story brings me to my question. Why does it seem like our family makes a lot of Asian people, I don’t know, angry? uncomfortable? I don’t know what it makes them. I just know they don’t seem real happy with us. I’d like to hear if others with Asian children get this reaction, or if we’ve just had bad experiences. Let me just say, while we were in Vietnam, there were plenty of people with the “he’s so lucky” line and those who  were happy for us as well. But there were some who had disapproving looks. It’s the people here in the U.S. that surprise me, though. I had a weird reaction from a Chinese family at our church. Now that was strange.

Ok, I’m done trying to explain…


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 18:20:09

    No need to explain any further. I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about, as we have experienced the same thing. We sometimes travel to a town that has a fairly large Chinese/Asian population. We get MANY icy stares, and outright mean glares from a lot pf Asian people we pass. A LOT. It’s almost as if they’re thinking, “What are YOU doing with HER?” While in China, the people were so kind to us, just as you described, telling us how wonderful we were, how lucky she was, etc., etc., but they sure don’t feel that way here. Maybe some resent the fact that she’s not being raised in her own culture, or maybe it’s just confusion over why she is with us… I don’t know, but I do know exactly what you mean about the disapproving looks. It’s unfortunate because, she feels they are giving HER the dirty looks.


  2. Nessie
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 23:26:23

    Also know the look! Once when my son (from Vietnam) was hiking with us a asian man and woman came up behind us. They were moving much more quickly as we were moving at the pace of my 3 year old son. The woman got down on her knees in the middle of the forest looked my son straight in the eye and asked him if he was a girl, and not just once. Her hiking partner made her get up and leave him alone just before I was about to tell her to get lost. I didn’t want to be rude, but man! I have run across several chinese people who were very concerned that we had somehow adopted a chinese boy. They seem to relax, or cease to care when they find out (often from my son in a annoyed tone) that he is from Vietnam.


  3. Karoliina
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 01:11:11

    We’ve noticed that African American men and women have a completely different reaction to us. Women always seem positively surprised to see me with Tinsae, and point out (quite understandably) how cute she is. I never feel like they have a problem with the combination of me and her. However, African American males seem negatively surprised – never had a comment made (yet), but I always feel extremely white and just out of place with my perfect child (who’s the right color). It’s similar to the angry/uncomfortable issue, I think.
    By the way, Tinsae is now beginning to realize color/race. She has started to notice African American children a lot more than before (in comparison to white kids). Interesting.


  4. Elaine
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 02:43:17

    Very interesting. Until we moved we lived in an area with a pretty decent Asian population. I never got any negative vibes/stares/anything from anyone that I can remember. When I’d go to the Korean market with Tank Boy they would give him free stuff. I’ve had Chinese people ask me if he was Chinese or Korean. But nobody ever seemed upset or angry or anything. I wonder if is some kind of sub-cultural thing.


  5. asmalltowndad
    Aug 22, 2008 @ 12:55:40

    I believe it has to do with the attitude that Americans are a bunch of spoiled rich people that think they can get or buy what ever they want, including babies. Even though we have the best intentions for all that we do in the world, including adopting babies that would have lived in horrible poverty environments. I think deep down they know that you have given Binh a chance to become something so much more than he would have ever imagined as a orphan in Vietnam. This is something our freedom and faith has given us the opportunity to help others and try to spread throughout the world.

    The Asians have a lot of pride, and to know they weren’t able to give kids like Binh the life you have given him, has probably shamed them in a way we don’t understand.


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