Her Story: A Woman From Vietnam

Over the past few years, I have learned so much about the stories we carry. Through my own experiences and through studying and observing others, I am learning a fundamental truth that all people crave. We just want to know that our stories matter. That we matter.

I’m sitting in German class in Germany, speaking with and watching a classmate. I don’t know her whole story, but I do know this…
immigrant in germany
Her posture is perfect. She does not smile; she takes everything very seriously and sits straight in her seat. I can’t help but wonder if she knows something that the rest of us do not. She’s in her 50s. All the other Vietnamese girls in my class are giddy, loud, full of smiles, and loving life in their 20s.

The first time we talk, she has come to collect money from me. One euro.

The money is for my share of the coffee and snacks she buys on behalf of our class. Her words are like staccato, and her lips can’t quite form the letters “r” or “t”. So because I am the new girl, I only guess that she’s talking about food. I hand her a euro.

And sure enough, when it’s time for a break, she pulls out a package of cheap cookies and two round jars of instant coffee and powdered creamer. She sets them at the table by the door, and my class swarms to her like she is our mother hen.

All the other Vietnamese girls put entire cookies in their mouths at once. They don’t stop talking to chew.

Not this woman. She nibbles her cookie slowly and does not chat. She keeps facing the chalkboard and never gets a crumb on her deep blue turtle neck.

I wonder what she’s thinking.