We drove through the countryside visiting nearby Tai villages. Its serene mountainous landscape seems to have trap this place in time, but the dinging of my Facebook messenger app quickly interrupts my unfounded romanticize imagination of ancient Tai clans practicing secret martial arts. I awaken back into reality as we stop by an elementary school. The Tai children are as curious about us as we are about them. My shoes serve as my icebreaker, and soon they surround us. And then I see it again. It’s the look of hopeful innocence, the unconditional smile that the future is limitless.

I have been very fortunate. By design and personal convictions and decisions I had many opportunities. Had my parents made different decisions, I could have been one of these children, smiling at a TaiDam uncle visiting from the USA. Instead, I’m reminiscing about them as they laugh at my broken TaiDam mixed in with Laotian while I struggle to understand their TaiDam Vietnamese. And in this moment, the world is tranquil and still.

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