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In Chapter Eleven, we come to understand how much Baba has given up in order to ensure Amir a better future. Once a party-giver and benefactor, Baba is now a gas-station worker in a country where he does not even speak the language fluently. He has gone from living in a large, luxurious house to living in a small apartment. Once the person everyone else could depend on, Baba now depends on Amir to help him navigate American life. The incident with the Nguyens makes it clear how out of place Baba is in California. As Amir explains, in Afghanistan the only 'credit card' they had was a branch into which a vendor carved a notch for each item bought. When Baba loses his temper after Mr. Nguyen asks him for ID, he is not being irrational; he comes from a place where such a request would have signified extreme distrust. While living in America is hard for Baba, it is a dream come true for Amir. Fremont, California is free of all the places and things that remind him of Hassan, his "harelipped ghost." As he says, "America was different. America was a river, roaring along, unmindful of the past. I could wade into this river, let my sins drown to the bottom, let the waters carry me someplace far. Someplace with no ghosts, no memories, and no sins. Amir can set his mind on new goals and let the optimistic American spirit carry him as far away from Kabul emotionally as he is physically.
To Baba's disappointment, Amir is the same person in Fremont as he was in Kabul. He still wants to be a writer. However, their relationship grows closer out of necessity; having lost almost everything familiar, they cling to one another. When Amir graduates from high school and Baba wishes Hassan was there, Amir feels a now-seldom pang of guilt. He does not realize that Baba is feeling worse guilt, because Hassan is his son and deserves the same opportunities as Amir. As Amir will surmise later, Baba may feel closer to Amir in America because Amir is more like Hassan there, struggling, no longer protected by privilege. As much as Amir wants to be swept up in the "river" of America, he is still rooted to Afghan tradition there because of the large community of refugees. From the moment he lays eyes on Soraya, he commits to preserving his roots because she comes from a traditional family.