When I think of returning to Hong Kong–on the plane about to land–I tear up.
But is a 14 year absence really something to cry over? After all, it’s hardly been more than a decade. Recently a friend returned to Hong Kong–where she’d lived much longer than I had–after 44 years. And I remember when my mom first went back to Japan after moving away 26 years earlier.
My most memorable grand return was as an observer on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Saigon in 1991. One of only a few foreigners, I took notice as we approached Tan Son Nhat Airport and the Vietnamese on the plane (it was at most 1/4 full) stood up and leaned over to peer out of the window to see their motherland for the first time since they fled in 1975.
It had been 16 long years since the fall of Saigon. From our conversations, they were all southerners now living in the US (mostly in California and Maryland). When they left South Vietnam, many feared they’d never go back.
Thinking about their return all those years ago still makes me tear up.
While mine is purely sentimental, theirs demonstrated a thaw in government tensions. The US and Vietnam didn’t have relations back in 1991, and the Vietnamese were searched for gold and foreign currency at customs (whereas I was just waved through), but I think we all felt a sense of hope.