The Bottle

In 1979 Dorothy and John Peckham, a Los Angeles couple, went to Hawaii on vacation. They traveled by ship.

Some people on the ship were throwing bottles into the ocean. Each bottle had a piece of paper in it. On each piece of paper were a name, an address, and a message: «If you find this bottle, write to us.»

Mrs. Peckham wanted to throw a bottle into the ocean, too. She wrote her name and address on a piece of paper. She put the piece of paper and one dollar into a bottle. She put a cap on the bottle and threw the bottle into the water.

Three years later and 9,000 miles1 away, Hoa Van Nguyen was on a boat, too. But Mr. Nguyen was not on vacation. He was a refugee from Vietnam. Mr. Nguyen, his brother, and 30 other people were going to Thailand in a small boat. The boat was in the Gulf of Thailand.

There wasn't any drinking water in the boat, and Hoa was thirsty. He saw a bottle in the sea. The bottle was floating near the boat. «What's in the bottle? Maybe it's drinking water,» he thought. Hoa took the bottle out of the sea and opened it. There wasn't any water in the bottle. But there was a dollar bill and a piece of paper. A name and an address were on the paper. The name was Peckham. The address was in Los Angeles, California.

Hoa and his brother arrived at the refugee camp in Thailand. Hoa used the dollar to buy an aerogram. Then he wrote a letter to Mrs. Peckham. «We received a floating mailbox by a bottle on the way from Vietnam to Thailand,» Hoa wrote. «Now we send a letter to the boss and we wish you will answer us.»

Hoa's English was not perfect, but Mrs. Peckham understood it. She answered Hoa's letter. Hoa wrote another letter and she answered it, too. For two years Hoa and Mrs. Peckham wrote back and forth. When Hoa got married at the camp, the Peckhams congratulated him. When Hoa and his wife had a baby boy, the Peckhams sent them money. Finally Hoa asked the Peckhams, «Will you help me and my family? We want to come to the United States.»

In 1985 the Nguyen family — Hoa, his wife, their son, and Hoa's brother — arrived in Los Angeles. Dorothy and John Peckham were waiting for them at the airport. When the Nguyens and the Peckhams met, they all began to cry. Their tears were tears of happiness.

A few months after the Nguyens came to the United States, Mrs. Nguyen had another baby — a baby girl. The Nguyens named their daughter Dorothy.

1 15,000 kilometers

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