Pho of Love

Meet Mrs. Rochom:

She's the one in the middle between her two teenaged daughters.

She’s the one in the middle between her two teenaged daughters.

Mrs. Rochom (who’s first name I can neither spell nor pronounce) possesses a love that transcends language barriers. Each time I visit her house to talk about her daughter’s progress in school, she motions me to sit on the couch, insists that I take a bottle of water and a donut from the factory she works in (or a box of donuts), and then sits herself down the floor in front of me and spends the next half hour trying to express her gratitude and hope with the few English words that she knows.

Sometimes she tries to tell me stories from her home in Vietnam. She brings out laminated pictures–precious pieces of her childhood. She talks in broken sentences about how she was just a teenager when she got married and how she’s so excited that her girls have the chance at an education before having families of their own.

By the time I leave her house, she’s given me another bottle of water for the road and either donuts from her place of work or cleaning supplies from her husband’s place of work (another factory).

Then one day, she came into our school and insisted that she wanted to make lunch for everyone as a way to thank us. “One7 help my girl… they help my family… I make lunch here. Monday.”

So on Monday, we had a traditional Vietnamese lunch: pho soup with egg rolls on the side.

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Tri and Kiet helped Mrs. Rochom serve egg rolls, rice noodles (for the pho), and salad (also for the pho) to our students. On the right, the student’s respective home countries are Thailand, Mexico, and Iraq, front to back.

It was my first time eating pho soup. I needed some instruction on how to do it properly. The girls put salad on my plate made with lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts, and cucumber; and  rice noodles in my bowl. Mrs. Rochom poured the soup broth, meat, and quail eggs over the noodles. There was also fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha sauce to go on top. “You can eat the salad on the plate or mix it with the soup,” Tri said. This little fact shed a lot of light on how our Vietnamese students eat salad and soup at school–they always insist on mixing their salad in with the soup, or even into their pasta dishes.

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mmm. Quail eggs and various types of meat over rice noodles!

The soup was delicious! But also required a napkin.

Mrs. Rochom spent the lunch hour running around the room with more to fill people’s bowls and saying “Thank you, teacher.” ever time she passed me. She kept insisting that we take more and brought by every option to offer another helping. In very few words, she showed a heart full of love and thanksgiving to a room full of hungry girls and women.

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