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Chapter 24: Contingent and Primordial Identities (ETD)


We shall be making an early start tomorrow morning, so there is no assignment today. Be sure you bring your journals along with you for the fieldtrip.

Returning to the dormitory they once again found themselves sharing the tram with the two Chinese-looking boys. This time Tom could not restrain his curiosity and he addressed them boldly in English. 'Hi, my name's Tom, I'm from Chicago. D'you mind if I ask what you guys are up to in Cracow?'

They looked at each cautiously. Silence. Eventually Tom repeated his question in Polish. The elder looking of the two brothers replied in perfect Polish: 'My father has a business here, I came two years ago to help him.'

'Is it a restaurant?' asked Tom.

'No. At first it was a market pitch. Now we are renting two shops.'


'Are you brothers?' asked Ania, as friendly as she could.

'We are from the same big family in Vietnam,' replied the other brother. He was markedly less fluent in Polish but more talkative. 'First his father come, he see possibilities to expand his businesses. So he ask my father in Germany for some help, and my father, he send me. Everyone who work in our shops is family. We also have family in Vancouver. A relative from Berlin visit us this week. She become his wife' he nodded towards his 'brother' 'and then he start his own new shop.'

'They sure do have a big family,' said Tom later. 'These people succeed by sticking together. I guess it was just the same when my great-grandparents went to Chicago. '

'You mean they stick together to survive,' said Ania. 'The reason we always see the two of them together is because it would be too risky for one of them to take a late night tram alone.'

Tom pointed out that to understand the lives of these two young men it would not suffice to learn their language and spend time with them in Cracow. It would also be necessary to visit Berlin, Vancouver, and perhaps half a dozen other places scattered around the globe.

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