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Catfish And Mandala Essay

1102 words - 5 pages

Self-identification, soul-searching; There are varying degrees and definitions of these introspective moments or phases everyone experiences throughout life. I think most people can relate to driving by a childhood home or neighborhood. It stirs about memories and lends itself to a reflection of who we are, because largely in part it is our experiences and attitudes toward them that help define who we are. In the book Catfish and Mandala, Author Andrew Pham embarks one one of the most dramatic and magnificent journeys I have ever heard. His fatherland in Vietnam and homeland in California are nearly one hundred and eighty degrees apart in geographic location, but his search for his cultural ...view middle of the document...

His narration of this particular visit tells so much about who he really is and where he is at this point in his life. Having been through so much and feeling a lack of completeness he has discovered his drive and will to continue on his journey. Andrew knows his money is dwindling and he must push on; flying out of Seattle and into Tokyo Japan where he has a forty five day layover. Japan proves to test Andrew even more as here he cannot speak Japanese hardly at all, let alone read maps or signs. His forty five days are a battle against inclement weather as well as indifferent reactions from Japanese society. Alas Andrew is on his way to Vietnam, his fatherland.
The book is a bit tricky to follow as the chapters jump back and fourth through the timeline of Andrews life. One of his first observations since his return to Vietnam was the smell of fish sauce, which evoked memories of his childhood. His grandmothers and grandfathers amazing fish sauce that he was always spoiled with as a child (Pham, 52-54). The secret recipes would only be passed on before an elder went to their grave. His stories mention his grandparents practice of buddhism, a particular fish being a key ingredient in good fish sauce, and with the definition of mandala; I start to get a bigger picture to the title Catfish and Mandala. It is eclectically self evident, yet too complex and intricate to put into words. It is an abstract portrait of Andrew’s life experiences. Early childhood memories are mostly warm and pleasant aside from his fathers imprisonment and the day he got his sister Chi in trouble which he felt kept her distant from the family ever since (Pham, 56). It is the experiences of a grown man revisiting his childhood twenty years later that I would like to further discuss.
Another Middle aged couple are his first acquaintances as they exchange greetings in Vietnamese and they assert that Andrew is “one hundred percent fishsauce” (Pham, 63). Their dialogue exchange is interesting in the sense that the Vietnamese couple are baffled by Andrew’s return with no intentions...

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