Using the gold hidden in their clothes, Meng, Eang, and Eang’s sister, whom they meet at the camp, are able to buy a hut from another refugee who is leaving for America, as well as cooking supplies; they need a sponsor to get to America and finding one can take a long time. The sponsor can be an individual or group, and is in charge of helping refugees adjust to life in the U.S. Meng says they are lucky there are only a few hundred people in the camp; some refugee camps have hundreds of thousands. Meng, along with many others, converts to Christianity and is baptized because he says church groups often sponsor people.
Even after all the horror they have endured up to this point, the Ungs know they may have to wait a long time to find a sponsor and finally start a new life abroad. Meng’s mention of other camps with thousands of people waiting reveals how distressingly widespread refugee crises are. His baptism—and, as such, the rejection of the religion he was raised with—is another sacrifice he makes to survive and help his family.
Loung is shocked to see a Vietnamese girl swimming in nothing but a red bathing suit. She thinks she must be one of “those” Vietnamese girls people talk about, asserting that a Cambodian or Chinese girl who never be so brazen. Later, a different girl is nearly raped in her hut, but many in the camp say it was her own fault because Vietnamese girls dress provocatively and flirt with men. Loung grows angry reflecting on how people always “blame the girls.”
Loung’s thoughts initially reflect the sexist attitudes she has been raised with—which demand women be submissive, modest, and demure. She begins to question these teachings, however, upon seeing others dismiss an attempted rape as the girl’s fault; Loung is beginning to connect societal expectations of ladylike behavior with women’s unfair treatment.
Months pass, and Loung and her family are among the poorest of the camp. On June 5, Meng announces they are finally going to America the next week. No longer needing to save so much money. Eang takes Loung to a Thai cloth market to buy fabric to make her a new dress. She suggests an orange, red, and blue checkered cloth, and seeing the red Loung agrees. The camp shows a movie about California that evening to help refugees prepare, though Meng says they will be going to a place called Vermont, and that no one seems to know much about it. Loung packs the night before they leave, looking thoughtfully at her new dress. Though she is excited about it, it is not the same as the one Ma made, and she is really gone.
Loung fulfills her earlier promise to herself to obtain a new red dress to replace the one the Khmer Rouge destroyed. Upon receiving the new dress, however, she realizes that everything the old dress represented—her happy life in Phnom Penh, her family members—are irreplaceable, and that she must fully accept their loss. Still, this new dress is what Loung will wear for her journey to America—where she has the chance to start over and build a new life.
That night Loung thinks of Pa as she drifts off to sleep, worrying that his spirit will not be able to cross the ocean to be with her in America. In her dreams, Pa tells her not to worry and that he will find her wherever she goes. The next morning Loung, Meng, and Eang go to the Bangkok airport. Thinking of Pa, Loung boards the airplane for America.
The plane represents the first step towards Loung, Meng, and Eang’s new life. Having started to let go of the past, Loung is able to rekindle her hope for a better future. Pa will always be with her, because he made her the person she is. The love and support of her family give Loung the final push she needs to leave everything she has ever known behind.