Escape from Vietnam
In 1978, Saigon Vietnam, in the dead of night, my baby brother, mother and I were sneaking out of town on a rickshaw. Our rendezvous point was a fishing village along the Mekong River. I was six years old and for me, it was just a great adventure.
We slipped onto a tiny fishing boat and sail into the South China Sea. My mother was seasick the entire time and stayed below deck. I would sneak up onto the deck and listen to the rumors about pirate ships that were trolling the seas.They are looking for victims like us to rob and rape. We spent 5 days on the boat. We ran out of water and food and we were only eating rice with salt and pepper to begin with.
On top of that, boat engine died and we were just drifting in this vast sea of blue with nothing in sight. We were hungry, thirsty and desperate to find land. Finally, we spotted land ahead. We are so ecstatic that everyone jumped off the sinking boat.
Malaysia Refugee Camp
We were living under a plastic tarp with dirt floors, walls thatched with tree branches. Mosquitos and head lice are everywhere.The lice was so bad that we shave my 4-year old brother’s head to get rid of them. Mom is depressed. And rightfully so. She had left behind three kids and everything she knew. So it falls on me to wait in lines to draw water from the nearby wells. It is my job to wait in lines for food rations. We were the lucky ones; we were living in a refugee camp in Malaysia, waiting for any country to accept us. After a year, a generous family from a church helped us come to the US.
We started with nothing. We had no money. We had no friends. We didn’t know English. We rented a tiny room in a house from another Vietnamese family. My little brother, mom and I live in one room, sharing one bed. My Mom worked minimum wage jobs as a dishwasher even though in Vietnam she owned a large restaurant.