Drifters: Serendipity; Finding Solace in a Foreign Land

Drifters: Serendipity features a series of photos and writings from Saigon Duo Duy Vo and Thao Bui. Duy recounts how the book explores “both of our perspectives about abandoned, fragmented thoughts and old memories growing up in Saigon, Vietnam and how they have helped us in our struggles in America.”

The book is a heartfelt recollection that presents the constant evolution of self involved with moving to a foreign land. It explores the feelings of alienation associated with leaving your family and integrating into a new culture, dissociating from everything that was once familiar. Through their friendship and experiences Duy and Thao find solace in each other, discovering a lifetime soulmate who they are able to reflect with, and continue their journey of growth together.

“In this time of turmoil when the color of your skin determines how you are perceived, neon lights appear unassuming and indiscriminate. Under neon lights you are no longer just the shade that you’re born with. You are whatever color the lights cast on you. Red, blue, green, orange. Bright, vivid and worth every single shutter click. And just like neon lights, distant memories, though often overlooked, once fully embraced, give insights into who you have become and illuminate the possibilities of who you could have been.” – Preface, Drifters: Serendipity

“Tired of being sheltered and watched at every step, I looked for every opportunity to break free from the parental gridlock. In my naivety, I was convinced that leaving for school in America would allow me to accomplish such a goal and instantly propel me into adulthood. I desperately wanted to show my parents I had grown and no longer needed their protection.” – Duy Vo, Drifters: Serendipity

“Moving to New York City in another loosely-planned phase of my adult life revives those feelings. This city feels very much like home. I love the nights with endless lights in front of my eyes. I love the bustling streets full of loud noises and honking cars. Every street corner brings back memories of Saigon. Memories of the days that will never be my reality again. While the thought of that breaks my heart I am learning to ease the pain and mend my heart. Learning to embrace my current reality.

Because part of growing up is knowing when to let things go.” – Thao Bui, Drifters: Serendipity


“The power went out. It was pitch black outside with the occasional flashes from white crackling streaks across the sky. Rain was pouring. Buckets. Inside, my mother was frying up some of our favorite pork chops while my father was away teaching at one of his night classes…

Just then, from out of nowhere, came a realization. Of my parents’ mortality. It was so sudden…

I started sobbing uncontrollably and ran crying to my mother. I hugged her as tight as I possibly could. For I feared, the moment I let go, she would disappear.” – Duy Vo, Drifters: Serendipity

“Then she burst into tears. Biting my tongue, a gentle voice in my head told me not to cry, but my eyes kept watering. Being 16, I did not know how to explain that love was just love despite gender or social norms as my mom screamed and demanded an answer. I was not afraid. I did not defend myself.

I was hurt because my mother was ashamed of me.” – Thao Bui, Drifters: Serendipity


Photography: Duy Vo @duyschmoo and Thao Bui @thaofromtheinternet Joint account @saigonduo


Rachel Gibbons @rcssndra

Livy Poulin @livypoulin

Apple Elizabeth Drysdale @killedthemfortheurl

Brianna Pavon @briannapavon

Bobae Mary Lee @bobaemarylee

Check out the full book on the Saigon Duo website, available for purchase, with proceeds from the book sales being donated to Planned Parenthood.


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