[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  Field Notes From
ZipUSA: 73106

<< Back to Feature Page

On Assignment
View Field Notes
From Author

Frank Browning

On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Penny De Los Santos

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs courtesy Frank Browning (top), and courtesy Penny De Los Santos


On Assignment On Assignment On Assignment
ZipUSA: 73106

Field Notes From Author
Frank Browning
Best Worst Quirkiest

     Once I got people talking they wouldn't stop. I had done at least a dozen interviews by the end of the second day. The doors were all wide open.
    Talking to Vietnamese people is unlike talking to any other Asian group, partly because many have lived with Americans (or under the American boot) for 40 years. They know how to handle us.
    The level of openness and trust I encountered in Little Saigon was extraordinary. These are exceptionally friendly, cooperative, charming people.

    My initial fear about going to Little Saigon was that the community would be opaque and impenetrable.After meeting such great people, I have nothing negative to say.

    Before I went to Oklahoma City, I came across a newspaper clipping that mentioned a Vietnamese police officer. I thought he might be a good key into the community, so I tried to find his name and personal information, but came up dry. Finally, I decided to call the police department itself.
I don't know if you've ever dialed a big-city police department, but "friendly" is not the first adjective that springs to mind. Typically, some suspicious bureaucrat puts you on hold and won't let you talk to anybody until you've gone through three layers of clearances.
    This was different. A friendly woman answered the phone and transferred me immediately to an officer who said, "Oh, you're talking about Khanh Tang." From there I was given his cell phone number and a promise that he would call me back.
    That evening the phone rang. It was Sergeant Tang. "You tell me what you want and I'm your man," he said. By the time I got to Oklahoma City, his supervisors had cleared him to give me a tour of the city and introduce me to members of the Vietnamese community.

© 2003 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe