MiSSSisss WaSShington is Hà’s family’s neighbor in Alabama, and since she’s a retired teacher, she volunteers to tutor Hà and her brothers after school. She’s kind, open, and encouraging to Hà as she helps Hà learn a new word a day and praises her with fresh fruit. Soon, the two form a close and trusting relationship. MiSSSisss WaSShington is the first adult Hà tells about the bullying she experiences at school and that she eats lunch in the school bathroom to avoid her classmates. Following this, MiSSSisss WaSShington speaks to the school administration, and Hà is then allowed to eat in the classroom with two friendly students, Pem and SSsì-Ti-Van. MiSSSisss WaSShington encourages Hà to not be afraid to speak English and make mistakes—doing so, she insists, is the only way Hà will learn. She also says Hà’s classmates should be ashamed of making fun of her for not speaking English well yet, and she points out that none of them would be able to say anything in Vietnamese. Hà is shocked to learn that MiSSSisss WaSShington’s son, Tom, died in Vietnam when he was fighting there, but that MiSSSisss WaSShington doesn’t hate Vietnam because of this. Indeed, MiSSSisss WaSShington lets Hà take home a photo album filled with pictures Tom took in Vietnam, most of them of happy things like schoolgirls and papaya trees. When MiSSSisss WaSShington learns that papaya is Hà’s favorite fruit, she gets Hà dried, sugared papaya for Christmas thinking it’ll be a great treat. Hà initially rejects the gift (though not in front of MiSSSisss WaSShington), but she decides the papaya is alright after Mother rehydrates it in warm water.