Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Vietnam Memories of Children

Pham Khanh Thi
"Looking Out the Back Window"

I was born in 1969 in Saigon. August 29. My father was a military officer. We had maids, and a dog and lived well.
I went to a good school. I was Catholic. My parents were both from the South.
The end of the war came as a surprise to us. My dad came home one day when I was five years old, and my dad said that we were to meet him at the airport that afternoon. He said that he would come there later. He told this to my mother.
I wasn't scared. We drove to the airport.
We left in the morning after spending the night in the airport. When we were leaving for the airport I looked out the back window of our car, and my two aunts were standing in the street. As we were driving away, they both took off their big hats and dropped them on the street and put their hands on their faces and cried. I was the only one in the car who saw that because I was looking out the back window.
My father had another wife and he came out later with her and lived in Australia. I never saw him again.
Now my mother talks about her life often and tells us about growing up in Vietnam.





Pham Thi Kim Lien(Melissa Pham)
"Flashes in the Sky"

My father was a lieutenant colonel in the army in Vietnam. And he was a mechanical engineer. Every time I went to the army camp I saw the Americans, these big white men. And strange looking. Vietnamese tended to be shorter. And the language was strange to me. I used to hide behind my father's desk because I was afraid of them. They gave me M&Ms when they came by. They smoked Salem cigarettes and I learned to say "Salem." That was my first English word, "Salem."
No Americans were ever brought to our house by my father.
There were nine children in the family, four girls and five boys. We lived in a house in a military community near Cholon, right in Saigon.
I was never aware, really, that there was a war going on. In 1975 I was 8 years old. I lived a normal life, went to school and played with friends.
One morning, about 2 months before we left, my mother began speaking with friends, I remember, and she was talking about getting my oldest brothers out of the country. They talked about paying money to have them taken them out of the country as part of their family.
Both of my parents were born in the North, near Hanoi. And they were scared of what would happen when the Communists won. They had first-hand experience with the communists. Other people did not have experience with the communists and so they were not as afraid. At that time, I really didn't care what was going on. I remember my mother was worried and she urged my father to talk to his superiors about a way of getting out of the country. But he doubted that we would lose the war, even when the emergency began.
We did have a phone in our home. So when the American evacuation began they did try to call us but they were unable to get in touch with us.
We left on the night of April 29th. In a way we did see the fall of South Vietnam, from Vung Tau.
We left with the Navy. They had a curfew. Nobody could go out at night. We had everything packed by that time. The children could not go out at all at the time. My mother said that as soon as my father came home and said, "Go," we were supposed to go. So we stayed in the house.
Then he came home and told us to go, but we left everything that we had packed at home. My father sent a jeep, a military vehicle, and it took the whole family to the Navy base. There were two jeeps to take the 9 of us to the Navy base. This was during the afternoon. I did not see the American helicopters flying overhead at the time. At the Navy base they gave us a hard time and would not let us into the base, but my father asked to speak to his advisor and then we got into the base. Only then did we start worrying about food and water.
One family tried to go back after waiting all afternoon. But when they went to the gate, they would not let us out. Once you were in you could not get out.
There were four big boats that we came out on. I wasn't afraid at that time. It was really an adventure for the kids at the time. The boat was crowded, but there was room for everyone. We left in the dark.
We transferred to another bigger boat the next morning, we had to because our ship stopped working.
We went out past Vung Tau at night and saw flashes in the sky around Vung Tau, shooting, shooting out toward the ships at sea.
When we were on the ship, we heard that if you were on a ship the Americans would not pick you up. So we had to climb on a barge. They brought a barge to us. And we had to climb onto the barge from the boat that we were on.
The barge was packed, it seemed like millions of people together on it. There were people who had been on it for weeks. And now we were just one of the crowd. All of the people were scared because they had run out of water. We had been on our boat for a day. There was no boat pulling the barge. It was just drifting in the sea. After we got off our boat we just let it drift. We were in the barge for four days. It was crowded and scary. We had a gallon of water with us. For our whole family. And my father had to protect it. He had a hand gun with him and he sat on it to keep it for our family.
We covered the water and sat on the tank so people would not be tempted when they saw it. One of the people on the ship died when the American ship came to pick us up. When we were leaving the barge one section of the barge collapsed and she fell and died.
An American boat came and it called two more. Everybody rushed up the side of the barge. They climbed up the side, and the side of the barge collapsed when the people were on it. And many of the people fell into the sea.
The ship that took us was an American military ship, with sailors. They rationed food and water for us. When we came on the American boat, my father wanted me to go with my mom. He wanted me to pretend like I was sick so he had me keep my head down so they would keep us on the ship. My mom went up first, and my brothers and sisters pretended like they were sick, too. There was quite a shortage of food. They had overcrowded us. It was hard because there was little space for the family. My aunt was on the ship, and she had left Saigon by helicopter earlier, and we were reunited on the deck of the ship, and that was strange.
Each family the rationed food. And we were hungry. My sister had studied English. She taught us some words. And we went to talk to the sailors. And they thought we were so cute. So they gave us each a tin can of cookies. We thought it was cute that they gave us that.
It was so crowded. And only at certain times could you get hot water on the ship. We were there for a couple of days before they took us to the Philippines.
I had lost a sandal on the barge. And the ship was hot and I was bare footed. We were starving on the ship. They had these things to eat. American good. We stuffed ourselves. Fruit cocktails I remember. We hadn't had them before. The children were especially hungry.

Thao Mong Nguyen
"We Had Bomb Drills"

I was born January 22, 1968. My father's father came from the North and my father was born in the South. My parents had a small family -- five kids. But the extended family is large. There is a very large group and everyone has an input into making decisions for the kids. Aunts and uncles all have opinions.
I remember being in school in Vietnam. We didn't have earthquake drills the way they do here in California. In my school we had bomb drills. They asked us what we did when we heard the warning. We stood against the wall or got under the tables.
My dad was in press relations in Vietnam. He worked with the OSI. He worked out at Tan Son Nhut. He spoke English and taught English. And when he lectures the kids he does that in English, too.
I was seven when we left Vietnam. We left a couple of days before the fall. We had only one hour's notice. We were hesitant to leave and they all thought something bad would happen so we would not have to leave.
I never really had a childhood, like my younger sisters. I was always around adults. And so I don't remember having any friends when I was little. I was always asking questions and was around the adults. I was good in school and wanted to be number one. And I was very protective of my mom. My mother and father were from different classes. My father was from an upper class and my mother was not, and I was made aware of that and I became very protective of my mom from an early age. There was a family hostility toward my mom, and when someone was critical of her I would scream and end the argument.
There was talk of leaving but we hoped that we would not have to leave. It was pretty much like an adventure. My mom said finally, "We are going to America and we will have a better life." Then all of a sudden we were packing and leaving. When we got to the airport it got scary. Everything and everyone was in this big gymnasium where we were all waiting to leave. My cousin was crying hard at the time. My dad had to hold my cousin and to cover his face with her so that when we got on the airplane nobody would recognize him, because we were afraid he would be arrested for trying to leave the country at that time. He would have been held by the Vietnamese police.
Everyone was sitting there and we waited for hours and people were crying. We knew we were about to leave and so it was tense. It was very cold on the airplane when we got on. I remember looking out and seeing the city lights. The back of the plane opened and we got on and they had netting that we were supposed to hang on to. Each of us had a school bag with a pack of noodles for the flight. I remember hanging onto the bag and sitting on the plane. And seeing the city lights below us as the plane tilted when we took off. The plane was packed, also. We sat on the side and not on the floor like all the other people. I watched out a window. it was the first time I had ever been on an airplane.



Nguyen Huong Mai
"Too Horrible to Describe"

I was born April 1, 1965. I was in Vung Tau at the end of the war. Our home was in Nha Trang but we moved to Vung Tau when the trouble came.
We had to go through a lot of different means to go to Vung Tau. There were six of us. My father had to stay in Nha Trang because he worked in the government there. Suddenly, my mom was packing everything up. And we asked what this was all about. I was not really worried at that time because I hadn't seen any war before.
We drove to Vung Tau. My uncle's family, my aunt's family, and my grandmother, we all went at one time in several cars. One of the cars ran out of gas and we had to abandon it.
On the way there what we saw was really too horrible to describe today. There were bodies along the highway. They were lying on the highway and beside the highway and cars had run over some of them. We almost got shot by the soldiers along the way. It was really terrible. People were running along the road with their belongings. The road was very crowded. One time on the road we even ran out of water. It took a long time. It was like an adventure. Then we had to go to the sea and go by boat part of the way.
We stayed at a home where we had stayed earlier on a vacation earlier. It was a home by the beach. There were soldiers all over the city and there were bombs going off and you could hear them. We stayed there for a while, and we tried to go to Saigon, but the war was on the road so we had to go back to Vung Tau.
And we had to stay there. My mom was afraid because my dad wasn't there at the time. But he arrived later.
There was shooting around the city every night until the end of the war. And then there was shooting in the city, right by where we lived. I saw ships sinking in the sea and saw helicopters coming down to shoot and then falling to the ground. Sometimes we had to go into the basement because of the bombing. We didn't feel safe. I was thinking that I would die. I was thinking that I would die and so I was afraid to die and I cried a lot during those days. I didn't understand what was happening. My mom tried to get us out of the country but we couldn't get out. There were a lot of bodies on the beach that washed up from boats sinking.
Then on April 30th the Communists came in with tanks. My brother and I went to the windows to see what the communists looked like. I had never seen a communist before and I didn't think they looked like us. I thought they were like wild animals that lived in the mountains and I wanted to see what they looked like. My dad always talked about Communists, but I never thought they were human and they looked like us. And I saw them and they looked just like us and I thought, "What is this?"
There was a whole bunch of them and they were singing and marching in and they were very happy. But we were scared so we watched them through the windows. Everybody was really scared of them at that time. My dad didn't know what to do.
My mom didn't let me go out at first because she was scared. Finally, we went Saigon. And then we came out. My aunt lived in Saigon. We all went at the same time. On the way to Saigon we had an accident at night. It was strange because we were all happy now and not long before this we had been so sad. We were all singing on the way, at night. We were so happy we thought we were safe. Now we were happy. Then suddenly I heard this boom, there was a big hole in the road, at night, and the driver didn't see the hole. Everybody screamed at the big sound. Suddenly, the car turned upside down in the road. And we were all thrown out. It was really dark and then it was quiet and everybody was praying. I thought I was going to die that time, but I was awake. Everybody was on top of everybody else and they were on top of me. Some communist soldiers were on the other side of the road and they heard our accident and they came to help us. We got out of the car and my oldest brother was missing. We didn't see him. We looked for him and we didn't see him. We looked and then my Dad saw him underneath the car. His legs were sticking out. And he was dead. That was my oldest brother. He was 15 years old at the time. He died the day after the war ended.
Then we were all so messed up and really sad. We had to go on to Saigon and we had to put my brother back in the car and we tipped the car back up again. My grandmother was really hurt, too. My cousins were injured, too. But my brother was dead.
This was a big van, there were three families in the van. So my parents didn't know what to do. We drove to Saigon and then the next day we buried my brother. Everybody was happy to see us in Saigon because they thought we were safe. We got out of the car and we were all crying. They thought we should be happy. Then my dad told them that my brother had died. We just cried and cried and cried and we didn't know what to do.
When we were in Saigon we stayed in my aunt's house. All of our money was gone after the accident. And my brother was gone and my parents really loved him. They miss him until today.
We stayed in Saigon. My dad was questioned and he told the communists that he was only a teacher and we waited to see what would happen.
After a few weeks we went back to Nha Trang. Our house was completely empty. Everything was gone then. Life never got back to normal. We cried all day every day and the neighbors kept telling us to stop crying. But we just couldn't.













Nguyen Van Thich
"Now Everything That We Have Belongs To You"

A few days before we left Saigon I saw a helicopter get shot down. We knew the family where the helicopter came down in their back yard. The pilot was saved, he jumped outside before it crashed. I saw it on fire in the sky and then saw it fall down to the ground in our neighbors yard. I can still remember that because it was near to our house and there was a big explosion.
We had many opportunities to leave before the fall of Saigon. My brother had a friend named John, an American, who had a Vietnamese wife, and they left the country around April 28th. They said that if we wanted to come with them, we could be at a place at the right time and the right day, but my brother couldn't do it because he was in the police and he did not have the permission to leave. So we stayed.
My other brother came home at night on April 28th because the war was almost over and we had lost everything so quickly. My brother had just left his Navy ship at that time and the ship had stayed at Vung Tau. He said that now we had to leave the country. There was a lot of confusion at that moment. The only chance we had was my brother's godfather who was a military commander. At night, when my brother came home to us we all packed. But we couldn't bring much, only a little dry rice for each of us and a few belongings.
Before we left my house, down the street was my uncle. With his family. We told them to come along with us. But his wife was afraid and she said that she didn't believe us. But she was afraid that she would die with her children in the ocean. My dad tried to do anything to force her to change her mind so the whole family could come along with us. And he couldn't leave his family behind. We gave our house to them and said, "Now everything that we have belongs to you." That included all of the machines for my dad's business -- including the machines that he used to make flowers. All that we had was then their's.
Then the whole family went to a place to contact my brother's godfather. Then we went to the Navy headquarters but they wouldn't let us in. They let in my brother because he was in the Navy. He went inside the Navy headquarters and tried to contact his godfather. He had to stay there then. My brother then called his boat to see what he should do. And they told him to meet this major who would take the family to his boat. It was around 50 miles by airplane from where we were to where the boat was. But after this major called then my brother's Godfather called and he came out and got the family through the gate. Then the whole family went in. He brought us inside the headquarters, and then he took us to the back of the headquarters. I think everything was planned from that point on. My brother was still in the Navy so we had to be careful.
My parents and five brothers and my sister and me were there. I was the youngest. We started in a small boat down the River. Two families in the boat going down the river. He took us from Binh Bac Danh. On the other side of the river, I remember, was the Saigon zoo. I wasn't really scared because I didn't know really what was happening. This was all during the day. We stayed at the end of the River for a time and then got on a bigger ship.
In the evening we went out on the South China Sea. When I looked outside the boat I saw smoke and fires on the River. I wasn't frightened at that time. We went all the way to the Philippines and Subic Bay. We stayed there for a few hours. Then we went from there to Guam. We stayed in Guam for three months.
Then we flew to Camp Pendleton for a few months. Nobody died on the way to Subic.
I remember Vietnam is when my family talks about it or when I receive a letter from there. I prefer the life there to the life here because it was easier. You didn't have to work so hard and it was more relaxed and there were relatives around all of the time.
My parents had left Hanoi in 1954. My mother had a younger sister. When she moved to South Vietnam her sister didn't come with her. Her husband would not let her. So they were separated. But we kept contact. When we came to America, we received letters from the North, after not hearing from them for 30 years. And now we are separated by so much.
After April 30, 1975, you could travel back and forth and so many families were reunified by the end of the war.
The one from the North came down to Saigon but we were gone by then so they probably will not see each other again ever. They wrote that they didn't have enough money and they asked us to send us some if we could. Their life had been so different from ours because they had always lived in a communist country.

Tran Thi Lan
"Like A Nightmare"
I was born in 1963. We lived in Qui Nhon for 11 years. Then my dad got out of the army and we moved to Saigon. My uncle knew everything that was going on in Saigon and in the rest of the country. So he got together with my dad and some other men and they discussed the situation as it existed in 1975.
They told my parents what was happening. There were eight kids in our family. My oldest brother was in the eighth grade. We lived with my uncle at his house.
I was taken out of school eventually. We began to get ready to leave. We decided that we would all leave on a ship from Vung Tau. We went all together so that we would all live or die together. We could each bring just one bag with us. Then we went to Vung Tau to get on the boat. We left in April just before the Communists came into Saigon.
We went on a ship for three days. It was a really big ship, but a private one. And there was rice on the ship. We had rice but that was all there was to eat. The ship was packed. We slept on the deck. At night ships would come up to ours and we could see the people on the ship crying and begging for us to pick them up. It was like a nightmare
I still have a brother over there. My dad and my brother went back to our house to get something to cook with on the ship. But they got separated on the way back to the boat and we got separated and my brother got left behind.
When we left Vung Tau people looked back and cried. My mother was crying because my brother was left behind. We didn't pass any American ships on the way to Singapore, but once we got on the ocean we saw the American ships but they didn't talk to us. We saw a very big Vietnamese ship, too. And we went on board their ship and they took some of our people. A man carried me on his back from one ship to another.
A baby was born on our ship. But nobody died. There was not much to do on the ship.
We went to Singapore and then to Guam and then to Arkansas. And then we settled in Duluth, Minnesota. We wanted to go to California. But they sent us to Minnesota. We were sponsored by a Lutheran Church. We stayed there four years. The people were all very nice. They fixed up a house for us and my dad got a job right away. The people brought us food and they really helped us.
We had a tutor, and she taught us everything, the culture and the language and everything. There were about ten Vietnamese families in Duluth and we got together every weekend and got to know each other very well.
I miss Vietnam very much, especially when I see it on television. Over there was didn't have as much freedom as here, but life was easier. People had more kids there because they could afford them and here it was more difficult. And you could walk around more safely there, but here you can't because it isn't always safe.

Lien Mai
"Bad Dreams"

I was born in Qui Nhon in 1966. I don't remember any of the war at all. But I remember leaving the country. There were five children in our family and two were younger than me. Later I had nightmares about the ship that we were on, but not about anything before then.
My Dad was part of the military. He was in the Special Forces. He'd go and rescue people who were shot down and then bring them back to American ships. He did this by boat.
We were at home and my dad was away. My mom made these tags for us, with our names on them. I remember that my dad wasn't there. People from the military came to get us, and they had been sent by my dad.
One of dad's friends took my sister and I and my brother. The family was split up and then were reunited at the base in Qui Nhon. My dad was fighting up in Danang at the time. That was all that we knew. We didn't know if he was alive or dead or anything.
We learned that one of the boats in his military force was bombed and we didn't know if my dad was on it or not. Finally, he did get out of Danang on a military boat. It was safer for him on the ocean than in the villages around Danang.
My dad arrived back in Qui Nhon. But the lady that was with us learned that her husband had been killed on the boat that had been bombed.
We got on a boat and left Qui Nhon. It was a landing craft with the front that went down. My dad found us and then took us south with him.
I remember my dad would come to shore in the daytime and the people would pile ashore on his boat and then he would take them out to the American ship in the afternoon on the sea. I stayed with my dad on his ship as he went from shore to the American ship and back again. His ship carried about 200 people every day. He'd take them out after they got onto his ship on the boat ladder. I saw the people fall off the nets and when they did they would fall between the ships and I saw them get crushed between the boats and then sink. I remember it was just terrible. This went on for several days. My dad rescued thousands of people in those days. I was in the steering part of the boat during this. I had nightmares about this for a long long time afterwards. Even sometimes today.
My dad didn't want to leave Vietnam. And so we didn't leave until April 30th. We stayed on his boat. Eventually my dad took us to Saigon on his boat, and finally as the Communists came in he took us on his boat out to an American ship.
I cried when I got on the American ship. I had a doll with me that I had for a long time. When I got up on the rope ladder on the American ship one of the American sailors took the doll and threw it into the Sea. I don't know why he did that. He didn't say anything. I remember now that when he did that I cried and he just looked at me.
They were kind to us on board the ship after that. My mom had worked for the Americans in Vietnam and she could speak English.
I only have bad dreams today about the people falling into the sea and being crushed between the boats and then sinking. But I don't know much else about what happened in Vietnam.

Tan Dat
"Nobody Died"

I was born in 1964 in Danang and then moved to Saigon in 1972. I was aware of the war but never saw it, actually. My father had been in the North and then came south in 1954. We had eight children, five boys and three girls and I was the third child in the family.
We came to American in 1975. When the fighting came around Saigon then I think we planned to leave. My father had fought against the French and then after the war, in the North, he broke with the Communists who took power.
We had a relative who owned a boat in Danang. He came South and we planned to leave with him.
But when we were getting ready to go, our family got lost. My dad took some of us walking, and some of us went on a motorcycle to the port. But when we got there the port was closed, but when they got there it was open. My dad came back home and got us and finally we all arrived at the boat. But we almost got split up on the way to the boat.
There wasn't much confusion on the streets at the time. Some of the streets were closed. When we got to the port the boat had already left. So we stayed in the port and looked for another boat. There was another boat where you paid to get on, but so many people were there that they just forced their way on. It was only supposed to take a hundred people and more than a thousand crowded onto it. It was so small it could hardly float. There was no shooting at us. But we did see some of the helicopters fighting. There was a boat coming up the river and it stopped us and tried to make us go back because they didn't believe that Saigon had fallen. We had no navigator on our boat. When we convinced them that the city had fallen they got on our ship and guided us out to sea. We saw an American ship and then ran into it. But the American boat then just took off after the accident. They left us there, though, and didn't pick us up. A helicopter also saw us and didnt stop to help us.
A lot of people on the ship wanted to go back. A fishing boat came by and wanted to take people back to Vietnam. My parents almost went back. It took us 7 days to get to the Philippines. Nobody died on the way and there were no storms.

Nguyen Thi Minh Nhat
"And Then There Were Helicopters"

We lived right in Saigon. I have three brothers and six sisters. I am the seventh child. I was just ten years old when we left Saigon.
I don't know exactly what my father did for a living. At one time he worked at the American Embassy. We knew that if the Communists came in they would chop his head off. And my mom didn't like that idea so we decided to leave before they came in.
Starting in early April my dad asked my mom to keep the kids home just in case we left all of a sudden. Then my dad came home on April 28th and said we were going to leave right away. We didn't prepare anything. This was in the afternoon. Before that my mom warned us not to tell the neighbors. The only person who knew we were leaving was my mom's closest friend who lived across the street. She was the only one who knew, because it was dangerous to tell anybody for some reason. I think, if we got there and didn't leave and came back, people were going to be mad.
There was a family in our neighborhood who left and their door was locked and all their furniture was still in there. They just left everything there and was gone for a couple months and people didn't even know. They just disappeared.
My dad came home that day with a big black car, came home and took us to the airport. My mom bought us these little backpacks so it was easy for the kids to carry them. She didn't know what was going to happen so she wanted to be prepared. But then at the last minute we kind of left everything back because he said we had to leave immediately.
My mom was trying to find all the kids -- there were ten of us all over. She didn't know how long the trip was going to be and she told my oldest brother to go and get some food. He went out and got some food. Then my dad came home and said we had to leave right away. And my brother was still gone.
My aunt came over and my mom left the house to her. But then when the communists came in they wouldn't let her have it and they took it over.
When left the house and we finally all got out to the car. My mom was really confused and everything. And in the confusion she forgot my little brother. We left so suddenly, you know, and we didn't know we were leaving that day, so the whole neighborhood came out. The car was waiting there, all the doors were open, the kids were in there, and my mom brought everything out that she wanted to keep. She even brought dishes, all this china that she really loved. Everything was out and she was so busy trying to find my brothers and sisters she forgot that my youngest brother was sleeping inside in his crib.
The car drove away for about a hundred feet. My mom was really confused. She counted but she didn't even really know if all the kids are there. But a neighbor, the woman who lived across the street, came running out holding my little brother and calling. The car was driving off and so the neighbor was carrying my brother out. We wouldn't have forgotten him, but just at that moment nobody noticed.
The car backed up and my mom got out and got my brother. So everybody was there by that time and so she said good-bye to everybody -- the whole neighborhood was out staring at us. We knew we would not have a chance to come back if we didn't make it. We couldn't come back because my dad had worked for the Americans. So this was it for us.
All of our neighbors were crying and waving goodbye, I remember.
We drove out to Tan Son Nhut and we got to the gate. And they checked our identification and everything. My oldest brother wasn't supposed to go, he was too old. He was only 20. But before President Thieu left the country he passed a law saying any males over nineteen are not supposed to leave the country. So my brother wasn't supposed to go. My dad got him some kind of fake paper. He had to pay a lot to the people who do these things. The paper got him in all right.
There were a whole lot of buses just outside the gate. So we had to get on a bus. And as the bus was driving in they started bombing in back of us. The bus was kind of shaking and everybody was screaming. I was really scared. Everybody was scared. That was the first time I experienced bombing.
Anyway, we were supposed to leave on the 28th. The plane was supposed to come and take us out straight to Guam. From there we would fly to the U.S.
We all got off the bus and went into the terminal building. There we waited there for the planes to come down and pick us up. As everybody was waiting somebody came and said the planes couldn't make it. They couldn't land anymore and nobody would be able to leave. My mom didn't know what to do, whether to stay or leave. Some people decided to leave the airport and some decided to stay and see what happened. For the some who left home, they were afraid to come back because what would the neighbors say and what was going to happen to them.
We stayed and waited until about midnight and nothing happened. My mom was running around trying to find milk and stuff for my little brother. He was real young -- just a year or two old, so he drank milk. She tried to find milk from people she knew and who had worked with my dad. We waited until midnight. Nobody knew what was going on. Everybody just stood and waited in the night. Almost everybody was asleep and then in the middle of the night there was this plane that flew right over and dropped a bomb really close. I saw the plane because the rest of my family was kind of tired and lying around on the floor. This was in the dark, and out of nowhere there was this real big explosion.
First when the planes came over, everybody got down on the floor where they were. When the plane left everybody started running. People started running. Everybody started running. We all ran outside and there was a little dip in the ground and I remember my brother pushed every one of us down there. There was water in it and it was really dirty. We all went down in the dip and came out all muddy. We were down there for a while. Later there was silence and nothing happening. It was dark.
Then we went inside and just waited to see what happened. I remember I didn't sleep at all. I don't think anybody slept the rest of that night.
We waited inside the whole night, until the sun came up. Nobody knew what would happen next. Planes came over, dropped a bomb and left. That's what I remember.
Then the sun came up and someone came and started talking saying that planes couldn't get down because of the bombing. And some people said he was a communist for some reason. He came in he said that the Americans had left us, I remember. He said something like, "They deserted you. They left the country and went back to the United States. That was the morning of April 29th. He said that the Americans had left us and gone home.
We didn't know what to do or where to go. And then there were helicopters. The helicopters came down and people were happy, everybody came out to the grass area. We went outside and we were sitting in the grass. There was I think two thousand people around, and there was around a hundred helicopters flying around in the sky. I can see it right now.
I felt kind of excited and kind of a little safe, but not really because the Viet Cong aircraft were flying around, too, we knew. But they didn't bomb us. I think there was some agreement that they were not supposed to bomb, or something. So the helicopters came down. Soldiers were coming out of them and they would surround the area around the people. They had guns and they were all around us. As they came down, a group of people would be sent up to aircraft. I think about fifty at a time.
My family stayed together. On the ground a lot of people left gold and diamonds and all that stuff. We saw it, but nobody was interested in it because they were worried about their lives. I saw it myself. That day I saw a whole bunch of diamonds in this suitcase that was wide open lying on the ground. It was stuffed full of thousands of diamonds. And there was gold all over. People just dropped everything and ran.
We brought things. My mom even brought a little television. It seemed like she tried to bring everything. But my dad took it and threw it away. She was always hanging on to her china, she thought the U.S. wouldn't have any. She was very funny. And in the end we threw everything away, just left it on the ground and headed for the helicopter.
We got on the helicopter. They took us up and took us and we flew away to the Midway.
The helicopter was crowded with people. Everybody was kind of silent. I looked down -- you know at the back of the helicopter there's the space you can see through, no door or anything -- I looked through it and saw things. I saw the terrible things down there. Nightmare things.
We headed straight for the Midway.
I knew we were going to Guam, and when we landed on the Midway I thought it was Guam. It was so big, such a big ship. An aircraft carrier.
They had the rope they handed us in the helicopter and they had some Marines, a couple of them standing near the rope just to make sure you got out all right. We hung on the ropes.
Everything happened so fast. At that time I was holding a doll and I was kind of amazed at the size of the ship. I let go of the rope and I was walking toward the edge of the ship because I was looking back and this Marine guy caught me and picked me up and carried me back to the family.
I was just amazed at the place. I thought it was Guam but I knew it was moving. I looked at the water and I knew it was moving. I thought it was an island, but how come it was moving? And I was just wondering at that.
We left everything behind at the airport except for some Vietnamese money. But now that money wasn't worth anything, we thought, because you couldn't change it to any other kind of money. So all we had was the money but it was worthless. Then we heard that the American sailors were buying it as souvenirs. There was this guy who came by, a Vietnamese and he said he'd trade the money to dollars for my dad. And somehow my dad trusted him and he went off with the money to trade it for American dollars. So he left and we never saw him again. Then we didn't have anything anymore.
My brother got lost on another ship and we found him later. He wasn't on the same helicopter because he was with a group in front of us -- my older brother. We were kind of pushing him because he thought we couldn't make it. So he went with a group in front of us.
The Americans fed us right away. And they assigned us beds that the soldiers didn't need. I don't know where they stayed but we stayed in their place.
We stayed on the Midway for I think two nights and three days. We watched what happened on the deck on a little screen tv beneath the deck. They had it down there for us. And I saw them pushing the helicopters off. I was wondering why, until later when they talked about it being too many, so they pushed them in the ocean. And we watched that on television.
My sister and I went down to the floor below us where the cafeteria is, where they served the food. We could go there anytime we were hungry. I wouldn't eat because I was afraid I would be bombed again. I just couldn't eat. I was just asking the Americans if we were going to be bombed again. I thought maybe they would know and tell us.
The sailors and Marines were really sweet. They made me a sort of mascot for the ship. They'd put me on their shoulder and take me all around the ship. I didn't speak any English and they didn't speak any Vietnamese. But they'd come and talk to us or tried to anyway. They brought us Cracker Jacks. That was the first American thing I had. We wanted some chocolate, but we didn't know how to tell them "chocolate" in English. And they couldn't understand. And they brought us all these things and they'd hang around with me and my little sister. It was really fun. We didn't want to leave the Midway. Ever.
Later my dad told me that it wasn't Guam. He said it was a ship. I couldn't believe it was a ship. I kept thinking it was an island. It was so big and I was little.
Later they transferred us to another ship. That was when the hardship started. We went through a lot on these ships. You didn't have a bed, hardly any food, everybody just had to sit. It wasn't that crowded, but you just sat there with nothing to do. One of the ships had no water, one of the ships had no food but had water. We stayed for a day on each, I think.
A motor boat transferred us from one ship to another and from then on we just went from one ship to another. It was kind of scary when they transferred us. They had two boats and they had this thing that hangs and you walk over. Some people wouldn't. But they had this thing on the ocean in case you fall. My mom didn't have any shoes then because she lost a shoe when she was running for the helicopter. Her toes were burning. She had to tiptoe. We went through this process over and over. Finally they took us to Guam. And from there we went to Camp Pendleton.
Then I started having the dreams. I just dreamed that they came over in planes and bombed us at night. I started having them in California. And I'd wake up crying and I'd be real scared. It was the same feeling I had at Tan Son Nhut, the same feeling, kind of scary.
We went through a lot I guess, my family. But I know other people went through worse. So I think we were lucky.

Nguyen Thuy Nhu
"What Is Past Is Past"

I was in second grade in 1975. I had four brothers and a sister. I was the youngest. My dad worked for the Americans at Tan Son Nhut.
We had maids in Vietnam and we were always afraid that they were communists. My dad was afraid that if the Communists got hold of him he would be killed. He worked for American intelligence, undercover. And so he knew that he was in danger. He worked for the Americans for ten years.
The last week of the war he was very quiet. He came home one night and told us that the Americans said that Vietnam had no chance of surviving and that the Communists would win. They said he could leave and take the family with him.
My mom was really upset by all of this. She knew that dad might just have to leave by himself. And we might have to stay behind. She didn't tell us that until we go to the US. My Dad burned all of his papers that week.
On the night we left, about 7 or 8, my dad's friend came over to our house. This was April 22. He said that the Americans could take the entire family if we wanted to leave. He took us with him to the airport then.
He was my Dad's best friend. We had to find my dad at the airport then and it was difficult. I didn't realize that we would be leaving for good.
Mom had us each bring a small bag. My dad had gone home, meanwhile, to look for us. And the house was empty. So he came back to the airport. We could not leave with my dad not there, so just before we decided to go home again my dad showed up.
My country was unlucky, I think. It just had too many wars with too many people.
You could take as many people as you wanted, but nobody told my dad that. My grandmother didn't want to leave because she didn't want to be separated from her husband any more. Her husband lived in the North. They had been separated in 1954 and she thought that when the war ended she would at last see him. So she refused to leave.
For me it was all exciting because I didn't even know what war was. And I didn't even know what communism was at that time. So it was exciting. I was only eight at the time, just a little kid. I wasn't scared at all. It was exciting to be able to go somewhere on a helicopter.
So we got on a helicopter at Tan Son Nhut. It was a big one with two motors on it and people were just packed inside. And there was no air in the thing for breathing. It was maybe one or two in the afternoon at the time. They took us another place where we were then put on an airplane.
Finally, they took us to an island where we stopped and spent part of the day.
I hadn't ever been in a helicopter before and there was lots of crying and screaming and praying and I didn't know why. I truly don't know what war is. I read books and I see it on television. But I don't know what it is. I was so small. It is hard for me to imagine it today. I guess I would be able to feel more deeply had I seen some of the war. But I didn't. My dad tried to explain some of it. But he couldn't.
I guess I'm lucky. I get confused sometimes. The books I read are so different from anything I knew in Vietnam.
I didn't get to take a final look at Vietnam because they closed the door of the helicopter and it was all dark inside. I have forgotten my childhood friends who stayed behind. I never wrote to them and can't even remember their names now.
My dad is upset now because all of his friends are back in Vietnam. He is the opposite of what I am. He is upset now and gets headaches when he remembers it. He couldn't sleep for almost a year after we were here. He got really sick. Now he's losing his memory. And he's forgetting Vietnam. At the same time he has a bad temper.
But he's forgetting it all. He stays in his room a lot now and thinks about his parents and his friends in Vietnam. The rest of his family is still in Vietnam. He had a big family and I think he misses them a lot. It depresses him when he thinks of them and he thinks of them a lot.
My mom's whole family is over there still, too. She stays at home and makes clothing and takes care of my father now. They're never really happy, even when they seem happy. Even when they don't show it, you can tell they're not happy.
When we had been here about three years my grandmother died in Vietnam and then two years later my mom's dad died. Now my parents tell us that they are just living for us. Just because of us they are still hanging on. They are really good parents. Sometimes my dad says he is so sad. He doesn't talk about suicide or anything. But he says that he lives for us so that he can see us grow up and have a good life in America.
I'm all right, I guess. I adjust. It's easier for you when you're younger. When you come here you can adjust easier when you are younger.
My dad hates the communists. He fought against them most of his life. When he sees articles on Vietnam he reads them and he gets angry. He tries not to make a fuss, although he says some of the stories are just BS. But he keeps most of his feelings to himself when it comes to writings about the war. Some people write just to write a story and make money. They don't care about the truth and the way things really were in Vietnam. He cuts the stories out of the paper and he saves every one of them. He wants to write a book on Vietnam some time, on his life. And he wants to read it to the family. He doesn't want to publish it, but he just wants to have it for the family. He says that when he dies he wants us to remember what he went through and so he wants it down in writing, so we won't forget what really happened, no matter what everybody else writes about it.
I myself feel that what is past is past. I hate to see my dad get upset about those things. That's the past.
I'd like to get my college degree and travel for a couple of years, perhaps live in Europe or Asia for a time. I want to learn about other countries and travel.

Tran Thi My Ngoc
"They Are Ants Encircling Us"


My parents were divorced when I was just a baby. My father was going to law school and then he was in the army. My mother was so dependent on my father and it was hard on him. So when I was born they divorced. So my mother was left with two small children. I have a sister three years older than me.
So my mom was broke, didn't have money. And at that time we were living in something like a blue-collar neighborhood. But the people there were really warm. They took care of me. My father remarried soon after that and he took my sister with him. So I was alone with my mother until I was about six.
My mother was in business. In Vietnam there was a lottery and she worked for it. She was working in the lower rank at first and then moved up and finally she got lottery tickets from the government and other people from different parts of South Vietnam would come and would get them from her. So she made money that way.
By the time I was six years old my father took me to live with him so I could get an education. My mom was so busy working. So I grew up with my dad after that and every weekend would come back and visit my mom.
My dad then was working as a judge in the special judicial system where he tried the merchants and capitalists. Then he was transferred and was working with the military judicial system until the day Saigon fell.
After I went to live with my dad I was so naive because my life was so protected. No one could get near me. The kind of friends that I had would belong to families of the same standing.
I went to a private school -- the Lycee de Marie Curie on Cong Ly Street. You pass it when you drive to Tan Son Nhut from Saigon I went to French school since I was small until the day Saigon fell. I even learned to read and write in French before I learned how to read and write Vietnamese. I couldn't forget the day I was forced to learn Vietnamese. I got criticized so much by the teacher because I was so difficult to teach. The Vietnamese alphabet has extra accents on the letters and I couldn't get it through my head. I got whacked so often that finally I had to learn fast just to protect myself.
I began to see that things were not good early in 1975, during Tet, the lunar New Year. Before Tet we had the custom that you bring gifts to people, your friends and so on and they give you back gifts. So my father and my stepmother took me with them to go visit the Minister of Finance and he was a good friend of my father We were visiting him that night to give him gifts for New Year and they were talking a long time. I was kind of small and I didn't pay much attention, but then when we came home I heard my parents discussing that he said that my father had to leave Vietnam. He said my father should prepare to leave Vietnam soon because the Communists were all around Saigon now. "They are coming in," he said. I remember the term he used, he said, "They are like ants encircling us now."
So that guy resigned and left early. At that time my father had to go south to Can Tho to try people like deserters from the army or military people or Viet Cong they had captured in the Delta region. My father didn't want to leave. My mother was afraid, and so was my stepmother. They were telling him not to go south because something bad might happen because in the south there was unrest.
He said, "Well I have to do my duty." So he went there. His last trip down there was in April and he had to fly back, I think, because it was going. It was happening. So there I was still going to school, and I didn't really worry because Saigon never fell before. In 1968 they came in but we fought back.
I was feeling strange, but it didn't scare me because I didn't know what a communist was. I knew that we fought, but I didn't know what they were like. At the time there were rumors like they would kill people, people who dressed up nice or people who had fingernails painted, if they caught those people, they would pull out the fingernails. So I was kind of scared but I didn't use nail polish anyway.
And besides, I was feeling kind of secure. Rumors were flying and actually in Saigon by the end of March or so, we started seeing people coming in, my friends and relatives from Nha Trang, but I wasn't too scared. Things were going so fast for me and my parents didn't do anything so I didn't really know. But I heard rumors.
And my dad came back from his last trip south and he said it was true, the rumor they would pull the fingernails, because they had come to smaller villages and one of the teachers whose fingernails were painted did get her nails pulled. She got out but she was in the hospital.
The rumors were just terrifying. They would torture you because you worked for the government he said. And at that time my father's friends started to leave. They were leaving but then there was room for him only. They had a plan for leaving Vietnam but my dad couldn't leave because there was only the one place for him and they didn't have room for the family. His friends were leaving and said they could save this place for him, but my father wouldn't leave.
And at that time the government said, if you try to leave and get caught you could be shot or be tried in a court martial and my father was a court martial judge.
I had a cousin who was married to a Filipino and they were ready to leave Vietnam and were waiting at Tan Son Nhut and so we got packed up and got ready to go out with them. We were waiting for three days. This was the second week of April. And we waited at Tan Son Nhut for three days for our plane to come. But for some reason Tan Son Nhut Airport was crazy at that time. Three days! We were waiting because the Filipino embassy was taking people out. And my cousin and her husband were on their list. And they were going to take us with them as an extended family.
I was very calm. It's my nature. Whenever I am in danger or anything is threatening me, I am very calm, but I break down afterward.
We waited and nothing happened. So we got tired of waiting. My family and my parents were worried about it and took us back. And while they were taking us back, that very night the airplane came in and my cousin and her husband left. They couldn't get in touch with us, and they had to leave, so we were left behind.
Then our neighbor had a daughter who was married to an American engineer and she left Vietnam in 1972. They were living in Iran at that time, Teheran. So her husband flew back because she was so worried about her family. We were living next door. She asked her husband to fly back to get here family out. And her family is about as big as my family. So my father got in touch with the neighbor and said, "Can you take these two kids?"
It's so funny. They just let me and my half brother go, and I had an older sister and younger half brothers. I don't know why my brother and I were the ones to go.
So the guy came back. The Americans didn't want to let him take us out. They did say maybe he could but he had to go and get the paperwork ready. He told my parents, "If I take your children, later on somebody has to pay me, because how am I going to take care of them?" My father said, "Fine. Okay."
This American guy's name was David and he was thirty-something. I remember he was nice, very nice.
At that time, it was just like a game to me. I wasn't real afraid. I knew things were happening. I was raised so securely, I wouldn't think about things going wrong. I didn't even think about whether I would leave forever or temporarily. In a way I was like dazed.
We had a lot of money in the bank and we were trying to exchange Vietnamese money into dollars. My family just could get out only two thousand dollars and then it was stopped because the bank could not exchange dollars any more, the dollars were all gone. So we didn't get all our money out, so my mom had to buy dollars in the black market. We had to pay people then too.
David did the paperwork and everything and we were supposed to leave on the 27th of April, I remember that. And he said it was very difficult for him. They wouldn't let him walk around because the order was no Americans walking around the street anymore at that time. He said, "You should be ready at all times to go to Tan Son Nhut to leave."
He got all the paperwork done and he said, "I will come back to get you and we will be leaving very soon." His family too. What happened was he went back out to Tan Son Nhut and then they wouldn't let him out. And he called back and he cried. He said, "If I got out they would shoot me."
He went back in after he got all the paperwork with the names and he was supposed to come back and get the family and he walked in and couldn't go back out. It was closed the 24th or something like that. So he called back and said "I am stuck and can't leave. What you have to do is wait and maybe I'll have a car come and pick you up. Get ready."
Finally we waited until the 28th. He couldn't get out and no car was coming and he had to get out of the country and back to Iran.
Now, I think my dad was panicking. He was worried. I was feeling so sad the closer it got to the end. We didn't know that it would fall on the 30th of April, but I was feeling so sad, and everybody was running like crazy by the 28th. And we got more people coming--and it was so crazy, the whole thing. People were running around the streets. I don't know where they went, but you'd go out and people with bags and suitcases and what have you were running around all over the place.
And you could hear the bombs now closer to Saigon. It was so close to Saigon. Never before had I heard anything like that so close.
Then on the 29th I looked up and saw two airplanes fighting. It was in the afternoon. We didn't know if they were enemies or what. I don't know anything about planes, but actually they were shooting at each other.
After Big Minh was sworn in my father said, "That's it. We are lost. We have to leave. Everything is lost." At that time we were getting ready to leave. My dad was torn, because my grandmother wouldn't leave. And she was too old. Also we had jewelry and stuff like that but we didn't have actual dollars. We had only a little bit. The money was in a bag. And I think he was worried how he was going to raise us and where were we going anyway. So he was vacillating and didn't leave.
So we were all packed on the 29th and the phone rang from the morning until like one o'clock at night. You put it back and it rang. People were calling my family, telling him to get out. Asking my dad's opinion. People were saying he hadn't left yet so maybe it's not serious, so were waiting and seeking his opinion. So everyone was asking questions and the phone was ringing off the hook.
I started to feel sad, like I had a premonition that something bad was coming. And I saw the neighbor who had a husband was in Canada. He had left a few months ago. She was so worried, she was running around like crazy with her two children. Finally she packed up and left. I guess she knew of a ship that was leaving.
I saw helicopters flying overhead but I didn't know what was what -- who they belonged to or what they were doing.
There was one helicopter I saw trying to land close by where there was a big building of a religious group and the pilot was trying to land but he couldn't because of antennas and everything. He was just going back and forth. Finally he had to leave. But he was trying to land and people were trying to get to that. If he landed they wanted to get in.
My dad wouldn't let us go out, because soldiers were shooting outside. If you drove a car by they would shoot you. And my dad didn't want us to go anywhere. So we were confined to the area we lived in watching people running.
By late on the 29th we knew for sure that the city was lost. And I remember then my father said that two of our biggest enemies were Thieu and the communists. He said, "Don't ever forget what they did to us! Thieu and the communists."
The electricity, the power was out on the 29th and when it was getting dark we used candles. My dad was taking out all the papers and documents for burning and flushing away. He took out all the guns we had and dumped them in the garbage.
Finally at night, I think around eleven or so, we got a call from the guy who commanded a Navy ship. He had been calling and finally he said to my father, "Please make up your mind if you want to go, I'll send the jeeps to come to get your family and then your ex-wife's family too. And you bring whatever you want to bring with you." So my dad just kept thinking, thinking, and finally around almost midnight, he called once more time and say, "I have to leave now. I can't wait any longer." So my father said "Go ahead and leave." He had made the decision to stay.
The next morning the communists came into Saigon in tanks. They drove into the Presidential Palace. They were in Saigon.
My mother told my dad where we could go -- a house -- and be safe from the communists. So in the morning my dad packed us up in the car and drove us to that place, because he was afraid we would get killed if we stayed at home. People were hysterical. And they would act crazy. So in the morning, we were driving and saw all this stuff. I saw tanks going into the grounds of the Presidential Palace. There was an iron fence and they crashed through it. I couldn't see everything because my dad was driving so fast.
Then I saw soldiers carrying flags with the yellow star. I said, "Oh boy, this is it." By that time fear was building up. We were afraid we were going to get killed. I was afraid more for my dad than for us. Everybody was afraid for my dad.
The streets were so deserted. A few days before it was so bustling, people were running around, and in the morning there were more tanks than people.
There were thirty-six houses in the unit we lived in. And there was this one family, they were so happy. And right away they wore a red arm band showing that they were communists. They came out. The 29th they weren't really out, but the 30th they were out. So that's why my father took us away fast.
My mom told my father to take us to this building close to where she lived, because they were her friends and would help us. My dad drove us and the street was so deserted. It was like after a war, things were strewn all over, and you could see soldiers uniforms, and things were burning. There was trash all over the place. So he was driving us there and he was going to stay there too.
There were cars abandoned everywhere. There were only two or three cars moving around. No roadblocks. No roving groups of soldiers. They were busy going into the palace.
The soldiers passed us but they didn't care about us. We looked at them and they looked at us and we drove away real fast. I always thought that our soldiers were sort of slick, nicely dressed, uniforms that fit. And here were these communist guys all in baggy uniforms and they looked about as lost as we were. You know what they looked like? They looked like tourists who were lost.
Well it ended up that the people who lived in the building we were going to were really communists --they were the fifth column. And we loved them so much. Two women and one man. Business associates of my mother. Ever since I was born. And we never knew they were communists.
We asked them if we could stay with them and so they said it's okay. My mom knew it. My father was worried about it, and my mom was worried about him too. So they said to my mother that my father could go there and stay, it would be a very safe place. Nobody would get into the house. Other abandoned houses they would get in, the Fifth Column or looters or whatever. They said their place would be very safe. Nobody would dare to get in.
The woman's name was Phuong. What she did was, when she did business it was a way to support those people buying guns or food or whatever. She was in the lottery thing too. My mom was a distributor and so they got into business together.
So they said it would be a very safe place, nobody would come in and harm us. My dad said, "Good." And took us over there. And he delivered us inside. And he saw people that he never saw before and they were different. They wore the civilian clothes, but they just looked different. And right away he made a u-turn and got out quick. He said, "You kids stay here, you will be safe, but I have to go right away." And we didn't know why he was beating such a hasty retreat. I said, "What's wrong with dad? How come he won't stay? This is a safe place." And he said, "Just be quiet. Stay here. Act normally but don't talk too much and you'll be safe." He didn't say to us where he went.
I just had a bag, a little bag that contained necessary things, like medication, toothbrush, toothpaste, and some money I think. So he left seven of us there -- my half brothers and half sisters and my sister. And we were all of us there with no father and no mother and just these weird people. In the whole place people were acting strange.
They looked so calm and so happy. And here we were scared to death and they kept smiling at us. So people asked us questions but my dad said not to talk too much. And they were asking things like, "Well, the country is now liberated, how do you feel? Do you like it? What did you hear the government say about the Viet Cong?" And being so naive I said, "Oh do you know that if they caught people with nail polish on they would pull their nails out and torture people? And people who are rich who worked for the previous government will be caught and tortured. We heard that." And they were just laughing at us.
So they didn't say anything and just asked us questions about what we heard and felt, and I was telling them what I heard. So they were just smiling and they said, "Well, you are in here and you are safe. Nothing has happened to you, what do you think?" And at that point I got suspicious that maybe I talked too much. So I said, "Oh, well fine, I think those were lies the government was telling us." I knew something was going on when they were smiling and asking us the questions. And after those questions they didn't advocate the VC, they just said, "Now you see the truth. We don't hurt people." So after they said that I just kept my mouth shut. We left in three or four days.
We ate there and slept there. It was very strange. After the questioning part I think I knew what was going on already. I knew they weren't us.
I wasn't really afraid. I was just feeling worried. A very strange feeling. There was nothing else I could do. We were just biding time. I didn't know what was going to happen to us, how long we should stay in this place and when would our parents come to get us home. We were in the building--it was like three or four stories. We were just up and down. We didn't get outside. We looked out the windows.
And after the 30th it was quiet and deserted. People didn't venture out. No businesses were open, nothing.
My mom finally came and took us home. We went to my mom's house which was only like three or four blocks away. Later on my dad went to Cholon -- we have relatives in Cholon, so he went there. We weren't told that he was there. So we were asking where he was and they wouldn't tell us because they were afraid if the communists got hold of us we would blab. So he stayed there into May when it was a bit settled and the government said for people to report, that people who worked for the previous government to report to the re-education camps, and because of his rank it would be three weeks to three months. People of lesser ranking went from one to three weeks.
So we didn't know about him and we went back to my mom. I think I was taken with my mom to Cholon to see my dad and I remember him saying about taking us to her friends and he said to her, "Are you crazy? You were telling me to go right into the den of the tiger." And she said, "I didn't know."
My dad said, "Why did you tell me to go there? Didn't you know that was, you know, like the snake pit? I just came in the door and knew right away that's who they were so that's why I left the children there and retreated right away." I don't know how he knew.
So my dad stayed in Cholon until he was called. They broadcast that people should report to go to re-education center. I think he debated whether or not he should show up but he said finally he might as well because he couldn't go into hiding forever. And it was only three months. So he went.
By that time, back in early May, we went back to our original house. By that time that Viet Cong family was already organizing, becoming the leader of the unit of thirty-six houses, so we had to follow the new rules.
Actually they didn't have any clear thing. They were checking on us, more or less. We couldn't buy anything. We didn't even go to the market. I don't know what we ate. We must have eaten the reserve, the dry foods.
So my dad reported to the place where people were supposed to report. It was right by the zoo. There were long lines of people and there and they all had sack of clothing. They didn't know what they would need, so they just brought some clothing and a few other items. So they were standing waiting. There were long lines and the communists set up tables to take people. So we were waiting, me and my stepmother, my older sister, were there with him and waited.
So my dad came up. I think he was asked to turn in his watch and some other things like that. So he checked in and we didn't know where they took the people who reported. But he had to stay. We didn't know where they sent him.

Trinh Tran Huyen
"Like A Human Ladder"

I was born in 1966. I was nine when Saigon fell. There were eight children in my family. I was the third child. My father was in the military, in the Army. He was away from home most of the time. I was hardly ever aware that there was a war, although I do remember moments of fear when I was small, when we all would go down in the basement to get away from the bombings. But that was all I knew of the war before 1975.
We went to school six days a week. We had a housekeeper who did the laundry and the cooking, so we lived dwell. I had never before been away from Vietnam.
In 1975 my parents knew that the situation was so bad that we would have to leave. My parents did not tell me what was going to happen. My mother read newspapers and watched the television and she was aware of what was happening and she started looking for a way to get out of the country. So on the 29th of April she was scared because she saw people walking up the street to the dock and she still had no way for us to get out of the country. So my mother had us to leave the house, witout taking anything with us, and walk to the port also. We took nothing at all with us but just started walking with the other people because we were so frightened. We didn't have anything with us, just the clothes that we we were wearing. We had no suitcases and didn't pack anything. My mom was scared.
Nothing was planned and we didn't know what we were doing but just following the crowd. I was afraid but I was with my family so I wasn't badly afraid.
At the port everything was chaotic. People were so excited and cars were pulling up and people getting out. And we could hear explosions across the river. We stayed together at the port. My parents finally found a boat. My mom was leading us. Finally my mother found a boat and I was handed up to the people on the boat. It was not open to the public and the only way you could get onto it was to climb up the side. My brother lifted me up to someone on the ship. My uncle stood on my dad's shoulders and then lifted me up to the ship and they lifted the other children up then too, like a human ladder.
I thought then that it was fun because I was going somewhere and I didn't know where. Everybody got onto the ship. It was really crowded. Some people fell from the ship into the water. I didn't see them after that.
The ship left the port that evening. There was gunfire along the river toward the ship. And there was more when we got near the sea. The captain of the ship was scared. He actually at one time went too near the beach and got stuck on the beach. There were too many people on the ship. They wanted some people to get off but nobody would get off. Then another ship came by and we asked him to help us but he wouldn't. Our ship was a really big ship.
Our ship had a big cannon on the deck. The captain said that the next ship that came along and refused to help us, we would shoot. He threatened to shoot the next ship and so they connected a rope to us and pulled us off the beach. We had to unload about 2000 people before we could be pulled and then they put them back on the ship. This was a big war ship that we were on.
We were on the ocean for a while after that. An American Navy ship picked some of us up in the Sea. Then that ship took us to Guam. We stayed in Guam about two weeks. The American ship tasted us well and they had good food that they gave us.
I was confused by this time because I really didn't know what was going on. I cried at night a lot because I was so confused. I remember that on our ship many people wanted to jump over the side and die and other people held them back.
We went to Camp Pendleton from Guam. Then we came to Mountain View in California.
America wasn't what I expected. I think people in Vietnam exaggeraged about America. They never told us any of the bad. So we expected something that we didn't find. They told us that everything here was better, but everything here is not better. Life can be hard here.
Everything here was a lot bigger and there were more cars and highways than in Vietnam. I am happy here now, I guess. But I still wonder what life is like in Vietnam. What people told me about Vietnam makes me wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed there. People still tell stories about it and I wonder.
I have adjusted to life in America. It offers me a lot and I am willing to take what it offers. I am an American citizen now and I vote. I will raise my children speaking both Vietnamese and English and I will teach them Vietnamese traditions. I do remain curious about Vietnam, though. I think some day I'll go back there and see my friends and we'll talk about our lives.


Nguyen Trung Hieu
"I Didn't Have A Chance to Say Goodbye"

I was born in 1967 in Saigon. There were eight children in our family. My father was an officer in the army. We lived in a large house, on the first story of the house was a restaurant and a bike shop. I remember that I had a happy childhood and I was not aware that the war was on. I attended school at La Santa Be, a Catholic school, a very strict one.
I remember one day my parents started looking for papers and destroyed them and started packing away other things. I wasn't sure what ws happening. Then we were packed and we left for the airport and my parents told me we were going to America. I just had one suitcase for myself. I left everything else behind, including my friends. I didn't have a chance to say goodbye, we just went.
We spent the night at the airport. I slept on the suitcases that night. The next morning I got on a military plane. A bus took us to the plane, my uncle was a major general in the Army and he got all of our exit papers. There were a lot of other relatives in the Army. My father was in the Army and he got caught at the airport and they wouldn't let him leave, so he had to stay behind in the airport. My dad and my uncles had to stay there, just before they got on the plane.
Just the women and the children got to get on the airplane. My mom got frightened by this, and for a moment she didn't want to go. She said she was going to go home. She took the younger brothers and sisters home and the older brothers, four of us, went with an aunt on the plane. We flew to the Philippines. There I had my first baloney sandwich and I thought it was pretty good. I had never had anythnig like that before. They had a lot of food there for us. They had Vietnamese pastries there for us, too. They then took us to Guam for a few months and then to Camp Pendleton.
We got sponsors when we were there. So my uncles and my brothers and I moved to Buffalo New York. We started school there. My uncle, who was a priest, got us into school there. We didn't speak English then. I learned it during the summer and my first year in school I got straight As. I adjusted well and there was no prejudice against us. The black kids made fun of us. It was crazy, I don't know what they did that.
My father stayed behind with my mother after that and didn't get out. My father finally came out. He got caught and spent seven years in a reeducation camp and then came here.
I moved to California in 1976. it was too cold for us in New York. I remember my grandfather and the priest uncle us crossed the country in a truck and saw America and saw everything. The country was really big, and I was surprised by that. I had another uncle in California. I graduated from high school here in Milpitas.
I am in the university now. I am happy now and I wouldn't want to go back to Vietnam. My future is here now. My sister came here later than me with my younger brother. They came here in 1982. They have more attachment to Vietnam because they were there longer. They liked it because they were there longer. They thought the food there was better than it is here.
We are still trying to bring my mother out of Vietnam. I can't remember what she even looks like anymore. She writes to me sometimes. It is hard for me to write Vietnamese and she doesn't speak English and can't read English. I forgot Vietnamese and so I can't write back to her.

Tran Kim Loan.
"Why Are They Bombing Us? Who Is Bombing Us?"

I come from a large family. My mom has nine children. She had eleven, but two died in Vietnam when they were small and they couldn't get medicine. My two older sisters died there, one at the age of nine and one at the age of eleven. I was the sixth child in the family.
My dad was a businessman in Vietnam and my mother was in business, too. We lived in a big house. My dad supported all of us by selling food and selling fabric, by importing goods and exporting goods and selling them.
I had a very happy childhood in Vietnam because of the way my dad was able to support us. It was great. We didn't know there was a war when we were growing up. My dad did because in 1954 he had moved from the North to the South. But we didn't know anything about that.
When I was in second grade a bomb fell on our school. My teacher yelled, "Get under the tables, now." Many kids were killed because of that bomb. Innocent little kids. A plane dropped the bomb at the time. I was in second grade. I started school when I was four years old, so that was 1975 when that happened. I remember many of the kids were killed. We were in the classroom at the time and the kids were outside playing when the bomb hit on them.
I was really scared at that time. I almost fainted. I screamed, "Get me out of here." And then I screamed "Why are they bombing us? Who is bombing us?"
My teacher didn't want us to afraid and she told us to stay patient and not to be frightened. My dad came and then picked me up from school after that. That was the only incident that I experienced that made me think about the war.
After that people started leaving. Someone came to our house and said, "Leave or you will be dead." They came to our house and told us that. We had not prepared. So we packed and left everything else behind that morning. We each carried a little clothes and was that. I didn't say goodbye to anybody. We just left instantly, just like that.
We went to the port, all of the kids and my parents. Everybody was running and pushing and there were eleven of us on the way to the port. We were all little at that time. I remember seeing a lady try to get into the boat and they dropped her and she sank and she drowned. We had to take boats out to the ship and then we had to climb up a rope ladder and this lady fell past me and fell into the river and drowned. Then a lot of people fell off. I saw babies fall into the water and drown. Then I was afraid. I tried not to think about what would happen. I just wanted to hang onto the rope and climb up the ladder.
We lined up at the port and we signed papers and they didn't let some people on who were not qualified to leave, I think. The ship had a lot of people on it, tons and tons of people. And we didn't have any food. We got transferred then to another boat. There were people on the land shooting at us. We saw the bullets hitting the water around us. And there was thunder and rain and we were on the deck of the ship. It was terrible. Thunder and rain and bombs. We could see fires along the shore of the river, too.
Finally we passed Vung Tau and then transferred to a larger ship. Then we sailed for about three days to the Philippines. The other ship had some food and they gave everybody one bowl of rice every day. If you ate it all right away you got no more. I slept under the floor of the ship, not on the deck but below the deck. I didn't cry, I just tried to sleep and forget everything. I was just really unhappy. Everybody was hungry and all you could do was sleep and try to forget it all.
They had special toilets on the ship. They had boards and they had holes to go to the bathroom through. And this lady fell through the toilet on the side of the ship. And she fell through it and I went in and looked down and saw her in the water and they just left her there and she drowned at sea after falling through the toilet.
Everybody saw her but they didn't have time to go back and get her. She got sucked under the boat as we passed her. She screamed when she fell. There was a screen and you went through it and then there were just holes in the wood. I saw her when I looked down through the hole in the toilet. And I asked, "What was that?" And I ran out and they told me that she had fallen through and had drowned. And I didn't go to the bathroom for a long time after that.

Anh Pham
"Sometimes At Night"

I was born in 1966 in Saigon. There were 12 children in the family. My dad was a teacher in a junior high school and my mother was a teacher in a school near our house. I think I had a happy childhood. I was the sixth child, right in the center of the family.
Sometimes at night we would hear the bombings and we would have to rush downstairs and protect ourselves. And on television they showed the fighting in the North and they showed children running holding children, so from television I learned about the war. Sometimes bombs would fall in the city and people would be killed and they sang songs about that.
I never met an American when I was in Vietnam. I left on April 29, 1975. My dad one day told us to pack our clothes and to go to our uncle's house. So we did that. We were supposed to go to a place near her house and then get on a bus. But we didn't do that, we just all left from her house. The family had to be divided up to get to the port and get on the ship. Some went in cars and some went on motorcycles to get to the port. I left many friends behind. When I first got her I wrote to them but then we stopped writing, eventually.
We went to the middle of the river and had to climb a rope ladder to get on the ship. I was really scared. it was raining and I was so afraid I kept vomiting. But all of us got on the boat and then went to the Philippines, and then Guam.


Hanh Bich Pham
"I Didn't Know What Was Happening"

I was born in 1967 in Kontum in the Central Highlands. After 1975 I came down to Saigon.
We have six children in our family. We lived in a big house in Kontum, my mom and dad and all of us. My mother didn't work, just my father. I have an older brother.
I never knew anything about the war when I was growing up. My mom told me that after I was born she had to take me out of Kontum once because of the war, but I have no memory of that.
In 1975 I was seven years old. My dad came home one day and told her to pack and then he called a friend to the house to pick up my mom and the kids. My dad stayed behind and the communist captured him and then took him away.
So the rest of the family left Kontum in a car, they took us to the airport and we got on a plane and flew Qui Nhon and from there we flew to Saigon.
My mom was crying all the time, so I knew she was upset. But I didn't know what was happening. My dad told us to be good with my mom and to take care of her. He couldn't go with us because he had to stay behind and take care of some papers, he said. But he was unable then to get out of the airport.
I was in Saigon when the Communists came into Saigon. I remember seeing them come in. My mom had to throw everything away that was on paper, and everything that we had that was related to the old government had to be destroyed. And I remember my mom cut her fingernails real short because she was afraid the Communists would pull out her long fingernails. We were told that they did that.

Vu Thi Kim Vinh
"We Cried When We Realized That It Was All Over"

My mother delivered me in Tay Ninh in 1961 then brought me back to Saigon. We were Catholic. My parents had ten children and I was the middle. I have six older sisters, two brothers and one younger sister. But now I have only one older brother. One brother died four years ago, from an intestinal infection when he was in a refugee camp in Malaysia. He had an operation there after his escape. Then he came here and got an infection and died from it. After the fifth operation he died, he was 27 years old at that time.
I remember the war going on when I was small. Because I used to go with my mother to visit my dad when he was in the Army at that time he was in Binh Dung province. And when I was a kid I got sick for a few months and I lived with my dad so the army doctor could take care of me. The things that make me think of the war time and danger are things from 1968, the year that the Communists attacked during the Tet celebration. My parents and our family had just had lunch and my father received a phone call from the general and he had to hurry back to the army to his post. So we were really worried because it was the New Year time and everybody celebrated and had a good time. But that time we had only mother with us and we knew nothing of what might happen to my dad. We lived in fear and we just prayed during the Tet celebration. My mother really worshipped my father. And we prayed that everything would be over soon. My father was a Lieutenant Colonel.
I am very proud of my dad. He had retired before 1975. After he fought in 1968 he received many certificates and awards from Nixon and Westmoreland, because he was the one who took back Binh Dung province and opened the road for other troops so the communists Binh Duong were defeated. He was a very brave man. After that he retired. It was too political, he thought. And he preferred to retire rather than play politics. He had traveled a lot. He could speak English and French and he was familiar with America because he had been here for some special training.
My father never believed that the Communists could win. When we heard rumors about the Communist victories in 1974 and 1975 he wasn't concerned and so we didn't worry either. Even when they came so close to Saigon, we didn't worry because my father believed that the Communists would never win. We just didn't believe it.
My sister got married to a guy whose father was rich. His father knew a lot of officers who worked in the Thieu government and he knew what was happening. And this guy told my dad that he had better pack his clothes and collect all his money and leave the country because it was hopeless because the allies would not were not going to help us. This was at the beginning of April. Even after the 21st we still did not believe it because we didn't think there was a way we could lose, we had strong army and a strong military and we could not lose. Even though we did not like the Thieu government, we did not like the Communists either. And we were confused, too, at that time. We heard rumors that the Communists were coming and that they would establish a new government, but we had nothing else to believe in, no middle way to choose to fight for. We fought, though, because we were forced, to. But we were very tired of the war, too. We were afraid that if the Communists took over, our family and our lives would be in danger. We did not want to see Vietnam become red. The problem was, after mid-April, all the important people in the government started to become refugees, and it made everything chaotic at that time. Everybody got scared. After the first wave of refugees left the country, the high ranks, and then their relatives and their families, and many people panicked.
My uncle worked in the ICCS, and he arranged for people to become refugees and arranged the time when they could go to the airport and get on the planes to leave. And people started to panic and when we lost Ban Me Thuot and then Nha Trang. People panicked more and more. My family started to try to find a way to leave. And it was only because we saw other people going. They left us there. The Vietnamese family is very close to each other. If one family moves, and the others don't go your life will be empty and sad without relatives around. So when relatives started to leave, our other relatives started to leave, too. But we got stuck because we had too many options and we could not choose one. My sister worked in an American bank at that time. She said her bank would be evacuated and they would take her with them and they would accept one more person with her. So we chose another sister to go with her. And another sister, the one who married the son of the rich man, she wanted to go and to take her baby. She went earlier and when she got to Tan Son Nhut she found that anybody could go who could get through the gate to the airport, without limit, so she tried to telephone us to come to the airport, but the line at the phone was a long one and she could not get to the phone to call us. Had she gotten through we could have left with her. She had her own baby of about 8 months, and she had another baby from my other sister. And she had to feed them. She flew out that night to Guam. After that my family had a tragedy after tragedy. My brother in law did not know that his parents left without him. When he went home nobody was home. He panicked and came to us because he had come back to Saigon without permission. He was in the air force. We had to hide him and find a way for him to leave first.
And at that time my uncle, who worked in the ICCS, tried to help him and put him on the list. But because most of the people knew that he was the son of a millionaire, they thought that if he left he would bring a lot of gold and American money with him, and somebody told on him. That person told the police at Tan Son Nhut that he was a pilot and there was a law that no soldier could leave Vietnam without permission and if they caught him they could shoot him without trial or anything. He got caught. He got caught on April 27. Because of him we got stuck. My mother was a very nice and brave woman with a golden heart. Sometimes she cared for people more than her own children. She thought that he needed help and she said that she could not go and we could not go as long as he was in trouble and unless she saw him walk up to a helicopter to leave the country.
So on the 28th, my sister, who was his wife, she left the country because she was pregnant, she went first. My mother asked me if I wanted to go with my sister to take care of her because she was six months pregnant. I said I would do that, but my younger sister was closer to her and she cried when she saw her sister leaving. And so I was so stupid and I said that I would let her go in my place. That one decision cost me five years of living with the communists. So I said, "You want to go, then go in my place."
The problem was my uncle. he did not want at first to help the relatives, but rather some people who were richer than us. They gave him dollars and they gave him gold. So he postponed the time when we would leave. And he put strangers in our place when they gave him gold. I don't blame him because he needed money. Who knew what would happen the next day? And he had to take care of his family and he needed money. He planned to be one of the last to leave.
When he came home he said, "Oh, God! I could have put you on the flight today, too. There were three cancellations. But I didn't have the time to do it." My mother was angry and asked why he did that to us. He just said he didn't have time.
He got left behind, too. On the 29th, the last day. On the 29th he came home and he cried and he said, "Its hopeless." My mother was shocked and asked why and he said that all of the ICCS members left without him. There was a big crowd at Tan Son Nhut and he could not get through the gate and get into the helicopter. All the other ICCS members could not wait and they left without him.
My sister called a friend who worked in the American Embassy but her phone was disconnected. So we all finally went to the Embassy and there was a very big crowd. That was on the 29th. People were crying and fighting to get into the gate. Other people knew that some families had left and they went into the houses and looted them, refrigerators and furniture and so on. These people were in the streets. There was little traffic in the street, but mostly there were those carrying the goods of people who had left.
We went to the Embassy and when we got there we knew for sure that there was no way to get in. I was not afraid at the time as much as I was numb. I just felt angry and upset, but not scared or afraid. I kept thinking, "This was not fair!" But who said that life is fair? I could not understand why this was happening to my people.
The question was no longer "why" because it had to be like this. On the 30th the house collapsed from many factors.
It was raining, I remember, because my parents said that we could not stand out on the rain and so we went home and tried to find another way out of the country. And also we wanted to go home because we thought that the looters might go into our house if we were gone for too long. And we didn't want to go home to nothing. But after that, later on, my father didn't want to leave the country because he still had his mother back in North Vietnam and I knew that he wanted to see her. And he said that now if it happened at least he would have a chance to see his mother and his sister who were living in the North. This was an irony because he could not see her, he was in a concentration camp when she died after the war was over.
On the 29th we turned on the television to watch the last show by the last free government and we heard Vu Van Mau and he was condemning the Americans and he ordered them out of the country. We saw some of the radical students also who worked for the Communists secretly and he had got out from the jail and he came on the screen and he said something like now is the time for the youth and the students to prepare for the new happy things in a reunified Vietnam. At that time I still hoped that I am so naive that the people didn't betray what they said would happen. I still thought that the others loved my country to and that perhaps everything would be all right.
In the early morning of April 30th I didn't see troops in the street. About 9:00 am we turned on the radio and General Minh said that he didn't want the soldiers to fight any more. He announced that the war was over.
About noon I heard the troops and the jeeps as they drove past my house with flags. I went up to the terrace to see them. The first thing we did after seeing them was to change clothes. We changed into all black clothes. We heard a rumor that they didn't like people who dressed nice, that meant that you had money and they would kill you.
General Minh announced that he would not be president anymore and we knew that was it. We cried when we realized that it was all over. My dad cried too. I was the one who had to burn all of the papers and the certificates that my father got from the Americans and from the government -- from Thieu and Nixon and Westmoreland and from all of those who thanked my father for what he did. All of the photos that my dad kept as souvenirs I had to burn, all of them. And I burned them and cried. I went up to the terrace and saw the last plane leaving the country, a C 130, and I watched it trying to take off. And I saw it explode in the sky. A DC3. I saw it try to take off and it rose in the sky and when it was in the sky I saw a missile hit it and it exploded and we saw the debris and the bodies fall out of the sky and back to the ground. That was on the morning of the 30th.
We saw a helicopter that flew to a physician's house. He was a physician in the army and chairman of the hospital for the soldiers who were wounded. The helicopter flew to his house and tried to take him, but he could not get onto it because the rope was not long enough. The helicopter came to his house and stayed over the house but he could not get into it and so it left him behind. Many people tried to find away to go, and here was a man who had a way and could not get into the helicopter.
After April 30 you could still leave Vietnam easily. The winners still celebrated their victory and they did not exercise much control over the sea. So people could still go. My parents tried to pay a boat to take our family. But on the way some Communist soldiers were hitch hiking and my parents talked to them, and they said that everything would be all right and that there would be no bloodbath. And my parents asked them about being sent to concentration camps if you were in the army and they said, "No! No! No! Everything will be all right." And they told us about how beautiful the North Vietnamese girls were and how much nicer they dressed than the South Vietnamese girls. They said that there would be no revenge. They said, "Don't make us out to be monsters because we aren't." My parents were talked to very nice to the Communists.
But now I have to say that the first day of May was a very sad day. The day was very heavy and sobering. The electricity was out on that day and the Communists could not fix it. We heard on the radio the voice of a Northerner, very high pitched and loud, and he condemned America and the people who cooperated with them. He humiliated us by saying that we had been the servants and the dogs to the American government because we had worked with them and against the Communists. And we were very hurt to hear that.
It was very dangerous to go outside at that time because the people still broke into houses when they thought people moved away. it was very chaotic at that time. And many of the people had guns and took things from other people in the street and so it was frightening.
I had a bicycle at that time. I went for a ride. I saw some of the South Vietnamese soldiers. They had taken off their uniforms. And they were crying. Some of the people had seen them, and those people, during this transition from the old to the new, were chasing the soldiers and throwing things at them and hitting them to try to make themselves look good to the new government. It was very embarrassing to me, as a child, to see something like that. I felt sick when I saw that. And these same people cheered the communist soldiers and hugged them like their long lost brothers. I was surprised when I saw that and I felt so bad, also.
At that time if your family had some one who worked for the government in the North, even just a regular soldier, you tried to remember if you knew anybody in the new government so you could feel safe at last, and say, "Oh, we have somebody who fought against South Vietnamese!" That psychology confused me because before that time you dare not say that you knew someone in the North or had a relative fighting in the other army. Nobody told anybody that but immediately everybody knew that and knew what to do. Everybody as suddenly wearing the North Vietnamese flag, the Viet Cong flag. The flag was a security or a credit card that could save your life at last. Everybody had a flag of the Vietcong. Nobody announced it but everybody knew it. It made me scared because the people were so scared that they seemed to lose their sanity, their reason, they could not think any more. I had a blue shirt that I loved but we had to tear it up to make a flag and I cried when we did that, and I remember how silly it was. My brother was athletic and he had a pair of shorts that were yellow and we used them to cut the star from and we then made the flag and hung it in front of the house. And once that flag was up the family felt safe. Everybody seemed to do that and the atmosphere was a lot different. People seemed at that time suddenly to look at the world a different way.
The liberators used a strange language, even though it was Vietnamese. And some of the people started to imitate that accent. It was so strange.
After a week they divided us into sections and we had a political guy on our block and he told us about Marxism and Leninism and we had to discuss it in a meeting. And what was humiliating about this was that they made us criticize ourselves. Even my father at these meetings had to criticize his own behavior. I remember at this first meeting. He had to say that he killed innocent people. But I knew he didn't kill innocent people because if he didn't kill them they would kill him. But he said that he was a guilty man and he asked for forgiveness for killing what he called an innocent people. And I watched him cry in front of them. And it was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. I had to do the same thing but I didn't have to write it down. And I said that I didn't want my parents to be the way that they were. This was after listening to the guy who talked about Marxism/Leninism and the sacrifices of the North to liberate the South. So I said that I hated people like my parents who did what they did. I said that to survive.





Pham Kanh Thy.

I was born in 1969 in Saigon. August 29. My father was a military officer. We had maids, and a dog and lived well.
I went to a good school. I was Catholic. My parents were both from the South.
The end of the war came as a surprise to us. My dad came home, I was five years old, and my dad said that we were to meet him at the airport that afternoon. He said that he would come there later. He told this to my mother.
I wasn't scared. We drove to the airport.
We left in the morning after spend in the night in the airport. When we were leaving for the airport I looked out the back window of our car, and my two aunts were standing in the street. They took off their big hats and dropped them on the ground and put their hands on their faces and cried. I was the only one in the car who saw that because I was looking out the back window.
My father had another wife and he came out later with her and lived in Australia. I really didn't see him again after he got us out.
My aunt lived in Washington at the time and sponsored us. She had been a student here and married an American.
The adjustment here was not difficult. I was in the first grade at that time. I was not made aware that I was different until I got into junior high school. Then another girl came to my school, she had just arrived here, a boat person. And the other kids made fun of her, but that wasn't directed toward me.
My mother talked about her life, often. Told us about growing up in Vietnam.


Nguyen Kim Dung.

Born August 4, 1969. I was just five when Saigon fell. I was staying in the house on the day that the city fell to the communists. I heard the bombs at that time. We went under the floor when the bombs hit, and we stayed there for a long time. My father was in the army. He carried a radio around when he was in the army.
My older brother left early. He was serving in the navy. He wanted my mother to leave but she didn't want to leave. There were five kids in the family.
After April 30, we went to a new economic zone. The government sent us there. Later on, they sent us there. It was in the area near Cambodia and Kampuchea, near Rach Gia.
My dad was a farmer there. I was in school. We were poor, very poor. We had no relatives or friends there. We lived in a small house. During 1979, there was a storm and floods there, and the water came up to the roof of our house and we had to stay on the roof.
One day my mom came in and we were all in bed. And she said that tomorrow we would get up early and go to visit our grandparents. So we got up and went with her that morning, but we visited the grandparents earlier, in 1978, in North Vietnam. They lived Quang Binh in the North.
They were really poor in the North, everybody was. We went by train.
I was in 6th grade when we left Vietnam.
We went to Rach Gia then to leave. We got in a small boat, and they took us out to a bigger boat and that boat took us to Thailand.
It took three days and four nights to get to Thailand. Thai pirates stopped us five times. The first time they took the gold. And they raped one of the girls on the boat. There were 60 people on the boat. The first time they stopped us and they pulled us, then they took our gold and put us back on our boat. They took us off our boat and searched us then put us back on. I was so afraid at that time. So afraid.
This happened five times. They beat up on one man. And we saw that.
We stayed in Song Khla in Thailand.
We were there four months, and then flew to Bangkok and then San Jose.
I was in 6th grade in San Jose. All I knew how to say was yest and no. The teacher asked me my name and I said yes. They sent me to a special language school.
But I learned English and graduated from high school and now am in college. I hope to go into business for myself. My father is still in Vietnam. I write to him every week. My mother is still in school now.
I think about Vietnam a lot and dream about it a lot. Sometimes I dream that I go back there and am with my father and my friends again.
I hope some day to marry and have four children.

Ngo Lien Kim.


I was playing with my friends outside and we heard gun shots. My sister ran out and got us and told us to stay in the house because there was a war going on. But I didn't know what was going on. But we stayed in the house for several days. My mother put together bags for each of us. There are ten girls and a boy in the family. My father worked in the hotel, the Majestic Hotel, where he is the chef, still today.
He worked there for more than 20 years.
In 1975 everything changed. About 1979 we were so poor. But later is was better because my father found jobs for my sisters and brothers in the hotels. In the hotels the Russians stayed there and Cubans and other people. My father worked all the time. he left the house at 5:30 in the morning and worked until 10: at night.
One day at the school I came home and heard my sister talking. My one sister came here in 1975. I came home and my oldest sisters husband was out of jail for five months later and he wanted badly to leave the country. I came home and said they were coming here to visit my sister. I wanted to see my sister, too. I had not seen her for five years. I asked my parents. At first they said I was too young. But my sister said if I came here I would have a btter future and education. So they said I could go. Two sisters with thier families came with me. We went to Long Suyin. Then we took a small boat to a big boat at night. At first I was it was fun and then later when I got on the boat I was so scared. I said I wanted to go home to my parents but they said it was too late. There were 77 people on the boat. One kid died on the boat. She was killed by the engine. She was three years old and she crawled around on the boat. her daddy was the captain of the boat. At night they forgot to cover the engine. They used to cover it and let the kids sleep next to it. She fell into it and melted on the engine that night. They brought her out and wrapped her in a blanket and threw her into the sea. I saw her on the deck of the ship. I still see that sometimes because it scared me. The captain said at first that he could not find his child, he had five kids. They looked for her and nobody knew, it was at night. It was so dark. Suddenly everybody was looking for the little girl. And he yelled and said that if we did not find his little girl for him that everybody on the boat was going to die. They woke us all up and it was scary because he was so mad and was yelling for his daughter. The man then used a flashlight to look around the boat to search for his child. And he said if we didn't find his kid, then all of us would die. But we found the kid dead.
My boat had many women and children on it. The first two days were all right. Then the third night there was a storm and the water got into the boat and we were out of food. A big boat, came and we yelled for help. At first they didn't come. But then we begged them. I was crying. We were yelling and they brought us up to them and took us on their boat. They took our gold. Then another boat came over and took us to a small island. We thought they would leave us there. But the next day the police came and took us to a camp in Thailand.
The camp, when I first came, I was so scared. It was so dark and everything. And we saw no people. Later in the camp I went to school in the camp and learned English in the camp. I was in the camp for three months. Then we were transferred to the Philippines for four months and then we moved to Arkansas.
I came to San Jose last year. I was in seventh grade when I went to Arkansas. I skipped a grade. I learned English very well. I played with the American kids and learned fast. In 9th grade my grades improved. I am now a computer science major and I want to be a computer engineer some day.
I dream often of Vietnam. I hope one day my parents and family will come here or I can go back there and visit them.
I am very glad now that I cam here. My other sisters want to come here to get an education. I have two sisters and one brother. They tried to escape many times but they never made it. Just me.
My father still works in the Majestic hotel. He is the executive chef in the hotel.

Pham Thi Kim Lien(Melissa Pham).


My father was a lieutenant colonel in the army in Vietnam. And he was a mechanical engineer. Every time I went to the army camp I saw the Americans, these big white men. And strange looking. Vietnamese tended to be shorter. And the language was strange to me. I used to hide behind my father's desk because I was afraid of them. They gave me M&Ms when they came by. They smoked Salem cigarettes and I learned to say "Salem." That was my first English word. No Americans were ever brought to ourhouse by my father.
There were nine children in the family, four girls and five boys. We lived in a house in a military community near Cholon, right in Saigon.
No, I was never aware, really that there was a war going on. In 1975 I was 8 years old. I lived a normal life, went to school and played with friends.
One morning, about 2 months before we left, my mother began speaking with friends, I remember, and she was talking about getting my oldest brothers out of the country. They talked about paying money to have them take them out of the country as part of their family.
Both of my parents were born in the North, near Hanoi. And they were scared of what would happen when the Communists won. They had first hand experience with the communists. Other people did not have experience with the communists. I was at that time, I really didn't care what was going on. I remember my mother was worried and she urged my father to talk to his superiors about a way of getting out of the country. But he doubted that we would lose the war, even when the emergency began.
We did have a phone in our home. So when the American evacuation began they did try to call us but they were unable to get in touch with us.
We left on the night of April 29th. In a way we did see the fall of South Vietnam, from Vung Tau.
We left with the Navy. They had a curfew. Nobody could go out at night. We had everything packed by that time. The children could not go out at all at the time. My mother said that as soon as my father came home and said, "Go," we were supposed to go. So we stayed in the house.
Then he came home and told us to go, but we left everything that we had packed at home. My father sent a jeep, a military vehicle, and it took the whole family to the Navy base. There were two jeeps to take the 9 of us to the navy base. This was during the afternoon. I did not see the American helicopters flying overhead at the time. At the Navy base they gave us a hard time and would not let us into the base, but my father asked to speak to his advisor and then we got into the base. Only then did we start worrying about food and water.
One family tried to go back after waiting all afternoon. But when they went to the gate, they would not let them out. Once you were in you could not get out of the boat.
There were four big boats that we came out on. I wasn't afraid at that time. it was really an adventure for the kids at the time. The boat was crowded, but there was room for everyone. We left in the dark.
We transferred to another bigger boat the next morning, we had to because our ship stopped working.
We went out past Vung Tau at night and saw flashes in the sky around Vung Tau, shooting, shooting out toward the ships at sea.
When we were on the ship, we heard that if you were on a ship the Americans would not pick you up. So we had to climb on a barge. They brought a barge to us. And we had to climb onto the barge from the boat that we were on.
The barge was packed, it seemed like millions of people together on it. There were people who had been on it for weeks. And now we were just one of the crowd. All of the people were scared because they had run out of water. We had been on our boat for a day. There was no boat pulling the barge. It was drifting in the sea. After we got our boat we just let it drift. We were in the barge for four days. It was crowded and scary. We had a gallon of water with us. For our family. And my father had to protect it. He had a hand gun with him and he sat on it to keep it four our family.
We covered the water and sat on the tank so people would not be tempted when they saw it. One of the people on the ship died when the American ship came to pick us up. When we wer leaving one section of the barge collapsed.
An American boat came and it called two more. Everybody rushed up the side of the barge. They climbed up the side, and the side of the barge collapsed when the people were on it. And many of the people fell into the sea.
It was an American military ship, with sailors. They rationed food and water for us. When we came on the American boat, my father wanted me to go with my mom. He wanted me to pretend like I was sick so he had me keep my head down so they would keep us on the ship. My mom went up first, and my brothers and sisters pretended like they were sick, too. There was quite a shortage of food. They had overcrowded us. It was hard because there was little space for the family. My aunt was on the ship, and she had left Saigon by helicopter earlier, and we were reunited on the deck of the ship, and that was strange. We were on the same ship and that was so strange.
Each family the rationed food to. And we were hungry. My sister had studied English. She taught us some words. And we went to talk to the sailors. And they thought we were so cute. So they gave us each a tin can of cookies. We thought it was cute that they gave us that. It was crowded. And only at certain times could you get hot water on the ship. We were there for a couple of days before they took us to the Philippines.
I had lost a sandal on the barge. And the ship was hot and I was barefooted. We were in the Philippines overnight. Then we went to Guam.
We were starving on the ship. They had these things to eat. American good. We stuffed ourselves. Fruit cocktails I remember. We hadn't had them before. The children were especially hungry. This was in the Philippines. We stayed overnight and then went to Guam. And we were there only a couple of days. We had some other little things along the way.
They had an office on Guam with people searching for people. Then we came to Fort Chaffee Arkansas. Then we were sponsored by a church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My dad didn't speak English. And so he communicated with the Americans only through a translator. Only my sister spoke any English.
A church sponsored us. We lived in an attic with mattresses on the floor in an annex. Then they got us a house, after a time, with three bedrooms and one bath so we were really crowded. And we didn't speak English. School was different and scary for me.
Four of us went to the same school. They hired an American teacher who spoke Vietnamese and he spent an hour with us every day after lunch. We were with the other students except for the one hour. We learned English quickly that way. We were good at math since that didn't take much English.
There was no prejudice among the children. But the weather was freezing at that time.
We lived there three years. I went to three different schools at that time and we were always the only Vietnamese there. On special occasions the Vietnamese in the region would get together. We found each other at those times.
In Chicago there was a Vietnamese priest, and he helped us, too. My father got a job in a welding shop, it was hard work for him because he hadn't done anything like that before.
My aunt went to Los Angeles. The aunt who was with us on the ship lived first in Nebraska and then moved to San Jose. She wrote that things were better there because there were so many Vietnamese and they could help each other out. It was hard for us because we all had jobs to support the family. The oldest kids wanted to go to school as well as to work.
So we all came to California, but my oldest sister married. her husband applied for a job with NASA and they moved to Texas. My oldest brother married also and stayed in Wisconsin. My second oldest brother stayed in Wisconsin with them. Today he works for FMC in San Jose.
I was in sixth grade when I arrived in San Jose. I went to a junior high school the next year. That was hard to adjust because living in the north people were different. Here I found more prejudice and I noticed it. It was like the children, in the class, they had gone to school together for many years, and so it was hard to make friends since everyone was in groups at the time.
Most of the kids also were physically bigger than me. They made fun of me sometimes because I was Vietnamese, imitating my voice and language. And when you're young that hurts, probably more than it should.
My sister and brother were in a different school but they noticed it, too. And sometimes on the street strangers would say mean things or imitate your voice, like when you listen to a foreign language and try to imitate the sounds.
Then I went to a high school. The teachers treated me well and I did well in school. I was the valedictorian of my class in high school and graduated first. I had also been at the top of the class in junior high school. Now I am in college and am studying computer engineering.
I want some day to marry and have maybe two children. I don't want a big family like my parents. here it is too expensive to have many children.
I will probably marry a Vietnamese. I would prefer that. because it has to do with the culture and getting along with someone.
I am between two worlds right now. And I am not sure which one I belong to any longer. it has to do with communication and with thinking. I am a stranger often when I am with all Vietnamese. But when I am with Americans I am a stranger, too.
I cannot speak the Vietnamese language all that well anymore. But I am not really an American either because of my experience. My friends feel that way, too. I even dream in both languages.
Now and then I dream of Vietnam and remember my friends there. I miss the feeling that we had there on special occasions, and celebrations, the lights, and going out to other people's homes for the celebrations. I miss that.
I was young then. It was like moving to another city when I cam to America. I moved from one school to another, always moving. Only when I got into high school did I stay in one school. Some day I'll go back to Vietnam as a tourist, I think. That would be nice. I have become somewhat comfortable in America, now.

Thao Mong Nguyen


I was born January 22, 1968. I am 20 now. My father's father came from the North. My father was born in the South. My parents have five kids. But the extended family is large. There is a very large group and everyone has an input into making decisions for the kids. Aunts and uncles all have opinions.
We used to live in Connecticut before we came out here. And some of the family is still out there. I am the second to the oldest child.
My dad was in press relations in Vietnam. He worked with the OSI. He worked out at Tan Son Nhut. He spoke English and taught English. And when he lectures the kids he does that in English, too.
I was seven when we left Vietnam. We left a couple of days before the fall. We had only one hour's notice. We were hesitant to leave and they all thought something would happen so we would not have to leave.
I never really had a childhood, like my younger sisters. I was always around adults. And so I don't remember having any friends when I was little. I was always asking questions and was around the adults. I was good in school and wanted tobne number one. And I was very protective of my mom and my mother and father were from different classes. My father was from an upper class and my mother was not, and I was made aware of that and I became very protective of my mom from an early age. There was a family hostility toward my mom, and when someone was critical of her I would scream and end the argument.
There was talk of leaving but hope that we would not have to leave. it was pretty much like an adventure. My mom said finally we were going to America and we would have a better life.
Then all of a sudden we were packing and leaving. When we got to the airport it got scary. Everything and everyone was in this big gymnasium where we were all waiting to leave. My cousin was crying hard at the time. My dad had to hold my cousin and to cover his face with her so that when we got on the airplane nobody would recognize him, because we were afraid he would be arrested for trying to leave the country at that time. He would have been held by the VN police. The only person she got along with was my older sister. Everyone was sitting there and we waited for hours and people were crying. We knew we were about to leave and so it was tense. It was very cold on the airplane when we got on. I remember looking out and seeing the city lights. The back of the plane opened and we got on and they had netting that we were supposed to hang on to. Each of us had a school bag with a pack of noodles for the flight. I remember hanging onto the bag and sitting on the plane. And seeing the city lights below us as the plane tilted when we took off. The plane was packed, also. We sat on the side and not on the flood like all the other people.
I watched out a window. it was the first time I had ever been on an airplane.
My dad had friends in the Philippines. He was in the military. We stayed with them for two weeks. We were there when we heard when Saigon fell.
In Vietnam we didn't have earthquake drills the way they do here. In my school we had bomb drills. They asked us what we did when we heard the warning. We stood against the wall or got under the tables.
Once in the middle of the night my parents dragged us from one part of the house to the other. I remember seeing the light of flares and gas all around us.
We went to Guam for a couple of weeks then. Then Fort Chaffee. My father left there first. A church in Conn. sponsored us. He went there first and got a job. They got us a place to stay.
From Vietnam to Conn. was only four or five months. It was the fall. We stayed in one place first. The teachers all called me by my sisters name and put me in the wrong grade. They called her by my name. We were there for a month and then moved to Middletown. A priest bought a house and we stayed in his house. We stayed there for one year. It was on a hill. In school everyone fought to be our friends. They argued so they could sit with us at the table. They were always giving me presents. Jewelry and things. And a little girl named Tiffany always drew horse pictures and gave them to me. I was way ahead of all the kids in math and the teacher kept slowing me down. And I could speak French then, but not English, and the kids were amazed by that. I had no English at all. I communicated generally in sign language at the time.
My aunt moved to Washington with her husband. And I remember that one morning she called and told us that her daughter had shot herself with a gun they had in the house.
They had all been downstairs talking, and the children were playing upstairs. The found a gun and they were playing with it and it went off and shot her through the head. At the hospital she was still crying, "Mom, Mom." But she died there. And my aunt called us and I remember telling my class about it in school. I used a lot of sign language and French and Vietnamese to tell my classmates what had happened.
We were in Conn. for one year. I had two birthdays and that confused the children, because we followed the lunar calendar. I gave the kids both dates in school for my birthdays. I found it hard to explain to them.
I knew my cousin. It was strange because when the phone rang at 3 in the morning, and my Mom answered it. I got up when the phone rang and went into her room. After she talked on the phone my mom and I went outside. It was snowing then, at night. And it was the first time I had ever seen snow. It was a bright night outside and everything was white that night. It affected me, the death, obviously.
I remember that I cried that night. And so did my mom. Several months later, in the summer, we moved to Washington. She died before Christmas. We drove from Conn. to the state of Washington. We drove across the US in this $50 car that my dad bought. He's a good mechanic and he kept it in good running condition. We drove across the country in this Oldsmobile, all of us in the back with three in the front. And we saw all of the parks and monuments in the country. We saw Mount Rushmore with Abraham Lincoln on it. I always loved Lincoln.
We went to the cemetery in Washington. I remember feeling a lot of anger. What was the gun doing there. Why should she die in the US after all we went through in Vietnam. But I didn't dwell on it because I thought I would crack if I did.
I am a very emotional person and I have ups and downs.
So I didn't dare dwell on my cousin's death. I remember wondering what they did with a gun in the house in America.
It took us a month to cross the country and to learn about it as we crossed it. We stayed with friends or in motels. That was a big adventure for us. We saw everything at the time.
We were all little and there was not much to argue about. We met all sorts of Americans at rest areas along the highway and talked with them. It was another big adventure and we all loved it.
We moved then to Seattle. Mom mom's sister married an American, a white American, and my dad thought that might be a bad influence. My dad worked with the Americans, spoke their language, got along with them just fine, and he didn't want any of us to marry one. I thought that was strange.
At the cemetery they had these trees, and it had a little nut growing on it and I picked one up and kept it. That was 1976 and I kept it. I don't know why I keep it. But I do.
In Seattle there were more Asians. I was still in the ESL programs at that time. And I started to do well in classes, too. I had still had this drive to be number one, that stayed with me since I was in Vietnam.
We were in Washington from 3rd to 7th grade. My dad then had friends down here and he got a job down here so we came down.
I feel bad for saying it, but there are too many Vietnamese here. I feel like I shouldn't say it. But I wonder who they are. Are they traitors or who are they? There are so many of them?
I'd like to go back to Vietnam to visit. I have this identity thing. I sometimes forget that I'm Vietnamese. And then I'll look in the mirror and think, "Oh, oh, you're Vietnamese, Thao. Don't forget it." It's really hard. At the Olympics or on the 4th of July, I feel completely American. I am curious. If Vietnam was in the Olympics, I would cheer for America. This is my country now. And I think that's why I don't like to be around too many Vietnamese.
I always got along well with the white people. I don't dream about Vietnam. I look at pictures of Vietnam and can't remember things. There are no memories for me, now, of Vietnam. I remember some things, a few, but with no real details.
The older children remember more.
I resent the fact now that people call me something. I don't fit in with the whites that well, nor with the Vietnamese either. In Washington all of my friends were white Americans. Once I picked up English I fit in really well. And when people heard us but didn't hear us, they thought we were white. They found it hard to accept that we are really Americans now.
In high school, somewhere along the line I started to let up. And I just got by.
I didn't go to school dances. I didn't care for that. I didn't go to the junior prom or the senior ball. My date was an American for the winter ball.
My older sister now lives in San Francisco. She's an artist. She's very creative. She can crank out papers and anything related to school she could do easily. Right now she is writing a book. I try to stay away from conversations with her. She lives with her boyfriend. My dad has disowned her now and never mentions her name.
I don't know what I want to do. I don't know what my major is, now. From what everyone says, I gave up thinking about where I want to go.
I go into depressions sometime. It's family rooted. I don't handle stress too well. My sister put my parents through some rough times. And I resent that. I go out. I more male friends than female friends. All nationalities.
I want kids, but only after I've done my own thing. After I figure out what I want to do.
I pay for my own schooling now. I work as a secretary. At home I'm like other kids, I don't have to pay for rent or food. But I am responsible for my younger brothers and sisters.
I've always dreamed of having a big kitchen to cook in. But I've always worried that my dad would not like my cooking. I love my dad, with all my heart. But I detest all the things he stands for, almost as must as I love him. I understand his side and his past. But at the same time I believe he should try to understand my side and my sisters side. Our side and our life. We don't live in Vietnam any more and he doesn't seem to realize that. We just don't talk at home. I'm always the only person who talks at home. I talk, bu the doesn't. He gets upset and he sends me to my room. Whenever we have a problem, when my brothers or sisters want something, I end up asking for them and taking the blame.
Lately, I sort of want to move out. My dad the other day said "If any of you marry a white boy I'll disown you." And my Mom said, did you hear that. I understand why he says it, but it really hurts me when he says that. If we all just marry Americans, we'll lose something. Of course. But he doesn't understand. I don't like him saying it. Or maybe he should be more sensitive or subtle, I guess.
For my Mom, as long as we're happy, it's fine with her. She says often the things that he says.
We're Buddhist, but generally only on holidays or special occasions. We're not very religious. But I give money to the Buddhist temples.
I would love to go back to Vietnam, but I have this fear of being held there and then not letting us out. I would like to see my grandmother again, sometime. Go back for that, maybe. But only as a tourist, not to live there.

Van Thuy Mac.


I was born in 1967. In Saigon. My father is an American. My sister is 15 and she has a different father. My mother never married my father. She helped my grandparents run a restaurant in Saigon.
They ran a small restaurant down in the Delta. My father left Vietnam in 1973 and then he came back and asked my mom to come with him to America. She didn't want to. In 1975 he wrote to her again and asked her to come to America. She refused again and he wrote back and said then he would marry someone else. And now he has another family.
I lived in Saigon until 1975 and then moved to the Delta. This is the name of the village where we lived in the Delta. Between Me Tho and Ben Tre.
I went to school there. Some of the people looked at me because I was different, part American.
I lived there until 1979. Then I left Vietnam.
My aunt and her husband and two sons they wanted to leave the country. We went to them to say goodbye. And on that day my grandparents said that they should send me with them because in American they felt I would have a better future. So my mother decided to send me.
We took a big boat out of Me Tho. A big boat. We were on the boat eight days and nine nights. We stopped in Malaysia. They didn't want us to come in and so they shot at us. Some of the people on the boat got wounded. So the captain said that all we needed was water. They gave us water and we sailed to Indonesia.
I was sick during most of the voyage. I was too young to be aware of most of what was happening. I was happy in Vietnam. But I don't think I had much of a future. In school we had to do labor on the weekends. For some of the school activities we also had to work rather than study. I didn't learn much in school. Some of the grade depended on how hard you worked.
I lived in three different places in Indonesia. The first place was completely abandoned. And we had to take a boat for water. And there were no people. Some of the people were wealthy and brought gold when we left Vietnam. But they spent their money for food in areas around us when we were in Indonesia. We paid for the good and the water. We had to pay money for a boat to take us to another island to boy food.
Then there was this place, another camp, with Americans to help us. And they moved us there. We lived in the second camp for one year. Many people died, about every day someone would die because of the water, which was not clean. And the mosquitoes also got people sick.
I had two cousins in America. We wrote them letters and they sponsored us to come to America. We had nobody else to sponsor us.
I arrived in America then in 1981. I arrived in San Francisco. I spoke no English at that time. I was happy, but I was afraid because everyone was white. I didn't know the language and I didn't know what I would do in America.
I lived with relatives in a house. I started in seventh grade and I spoke no English. So I was in the ESL program. I learned English during that year and then started to do well in school. After one year I could keep a conversation going.
I went to a junior high school and then to Independence High School in San Jose. I had a 3.3 average in school. I am in business accounting at San Jose State University, now. I want some day to be an accountant. I want to go into business in America.
My mother came her two years ago. I work in a store now to pay my way through college.
I am Vietnamese, that's what I am because that is where I grew up. Culturally, that's where I am. Usually, when you meet someone new they ask me if I am half and half. They recognize that.
I will have two children some day, after I marry. It is too expensive to have more children than that in America.
Right now there is a program to visit Vietnam. It is expensive. But I don't want to go back yet, I am afraid that they would not let me leave again. I heard of people who went back and then they stopped them and wouldn't let them leave again unless someone paid money to get them out again. So it is dangerous to get out if you go back there. But I hope that some day I can go back there. Right now I am afraid, though, to go back.
I am no longer very curious about my father. I know that he has another family. And we might bring some problems to him if we see him, so it is better that we not see him. It might be too much for his family if we contact him.

Ngo Ngoc.

I was born in 1968 and came to America in December 1979. We lived in the highlands, near Ban Me Thuot.
My father was a soldier. He got out of prison in 1977, two years after the war ended. He was an officer, so he was sent to reeducation. We were middle class before 1975. In that time our house was big, but it got bombed during the war. After 1975 we came back and lived in our grand parents house. My mom was a nurse. Dong Phu was the name of the town where we lived.
I was in the third grade and then the sixth grade in those years. After two years he was back with our family. My mom worked real hard during those years to keep us alive.
I didn't know anything about leaving before it happened. My dad at first just said that we were going to China. There were ten of us, eight children and my parents. My mom and dad said that, because they said they could not go on living in the country the way it was. They said we would go to Hong Kong.
We were Chinese and that is why they would let us go legally if they wanted us to.
There were ten in our family. We planned to go to China. We left legally because my grandparents got the boat and because we were Chinese and they wanted us to go. My mother spoke Mandarin fluently.
We didn't have to put out money because the grandparents let us come free. We didn't have that much money, either.
The boat left Qui Nhon and landed in -- it broke down near Hainan and we landed -- then we went on to Hong Kong.
We were in Hong Kong for six months. We were in a camp, but then they started to let us out. After a couple of months they let us go to a third camp and from there we got jobs and were able to work in Hong Kong.
From there we went to San Francisco. I had an uncle here who came in 1975.
San Francisco was so big and so rich. My uncle lived in Oakland and he rented a home for us in Milpitas. We were driven to the house.
We waited until after Christmas vacation and started school. I used to cry at school. We were the first Vietnamese there -- me and my three brothers. We didn't speak any English. But we had this nice teacher. I was in 5th grade and he was the teacher. It took about a year to learn English after that. Then we moved into San Jose, and I went to high school there. At home we still speak Vietnamese.
My sister goes to UC Santa Cruz. My brother just graduated in Chemical Engineering from Sacramento State. And I am in college now. My sister is in business and computer engineering. I am majoring in nursing. I wouldn't mind going back to Vietnam. If the country were free I would go back.
I am not that happy here. You have everything we need here, but at the same time that doesn't make you happy.
When I marry I will have two children. I can't imagine having a big family in America because it is just too expensive.

Tran Huong.

I came at the end of December in 1977. I was born in 1969. I remember, because I lived in Saigon, and we wore uniforms to school. As a kid you didn't know anything about what was going on. We didn't know there was a war.
In 1975 we never went outin the street. Our parents built a shelter under our house. My father had a job with the government. He was sent to a reeducation camp when the war ended.
I remember thatwetried to leave four times. I remember the last time, we went in a small boat, seven meters long. We were supposed to transfer to a larger boat. I remember lights and messages and there was a missed connection. We didn't want to make noise and seven meters was our boat. It was a fishing boat and we were crowded. We went through a storm that lasted two days. We all prayed at that time. There was one engine and we were afraid that it would go out on us. We couldn't believe that all of us made it to the boat. We divided the family into three groups and we took care of each other.
We landed in Malaysia. One part of the boat broke off and we thought we would die. And the next morning we were near land and we didn't know where we were. But it was in Malaysia. The man who drove our boat was never in a boat before. He wanted at one time during the voyage to commit suicide because we were lost. This was the fourth time that we tried to leave and we didn't know really what was going on.
Nothing was very well planned at that time. In Malayasia life was boring. There was nothing to do. We ate and went to the beach and went swimming. And that was it. It was pretty boring for a long time.
My brother had gone to college in America, to the University of Michigan. And he sponsored us. We moved to Grand Rapids.
In 1975 the helicopter landed near our house and we were all ready to go. We had our bags. But our dad was somewhere with the government, so we couldn't leave or we would have left then.
My brother had remained in America. I was in third grade and I spoke no English. We had to go some distance to school.
I was the only Vietnamese in school. And I learned English very fast since everyone spoke only that language. I did well in school. I think the teachers were real easy at first.
We came to grand Rapids in the winter and we had never seen snow before. In time we couldn't handle that. We landed and they put us on television. We were all sick and the plane had gone through a storm, and we had been bounced around and they put us on television right away.
I was standing around not knowing what was going on.
I went to Mt. Pleasant high school in San Jose. I am majoring in biology. I want some day to be a pharmacist here.
Our first Christmas. We were sponsored by a Christian church. They came over and set up a Christmas tree and gave us presents. This was all knew and we couldn't believe how great America was, the kids.


Duong Thi My Le.

I was born February 28, 1969. I came to the US in 1975. We left Saigon by boat.
We had 9 children in our family. I was the next to the youngest. My parents were separated at the time. Some of the kids lived with my dad.
My father was a major in the Airborne unit. I got seasick when we came out. It was crowded and I got seasick and threw up all the time. We got on a small boat and were at sea about three days on the boat. And we were picked up by a bigger boat that transferred us to an American ship. Then to Guam and then to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
There were six of us with my father. From Indiantown Gap we settled in Butler, Pennsylvania. I was in first grade at the time. I didn't speak any English. We arrived in the summer. We were the first Vietnamese family to arrive there and we had been sponsored by a Catholic church. There was another family that arrived later, another Vietnamese family.
The kids were not racial. They treated me the same as anyone else. My sisters who were older were treated differently, they were treated badly often by the other kids. They made fun of them but that didn't happen to me. I blended in. The kids were really affectionate, I thought all American kids were that way. They treated me like I was a special pet. They always tried to kiss me. There was a black kid int he class and he was the first bl,ack person I had ever seen.
In the summer I leanred English and started school then in the fall. We stayed there five years. And then we came here, to San Jose.
My father went to school in Pennsylvania. The church got him a job. My father raised us all, then. My older sisters were my mother in the family.
There was a big difference in San Jose in the school. They made fun of me because I was different in San Jose. I graduated from Yerba Buena High School. I did real well in high school. Most Vietnamese students excel in school here. I was on the tennis team and I was the student body president of my high school.
I went to the junior prom and the senior prom, I don't date very much but I have a lot of friends. I had to mix with everyone to be the student body president. I was near the top of my class when I graduated.
I am majoring in political science now. I want to be a lawyer some day and then go into American politics.
I am a hyphenated American now. Most of the kids my age now feel that way. We are Vietnamese-Americans.
I have an insight into America that many kids don't have. I can understand things by being outside. The disadvantage is that I don't know which way to go. My sister told me we can pick the best of both cultures.
I don't even have an ao dai.
My sisters who stayed in Vietnam are now married. We send them money, as much as we can. We send them a lot of money because they keep sending us letters asking for it. You always feel guilty about leaving, I think you always carry that with you.
I never grew up with my mother, but I know there is no substitute for a mother. I missed that. I remember some things about Vietnam, some incidents. But that is all. It's vague. This is really my home now, the one with all the good memories.

Thuy Li Ngoc.


I was born May 5, 1967. I came to the United States in 1981.
I remember nothing about 1975.
We have six children in our family. My father was a businessman in Vietnam. I was in school in 5th grade. We were doing well under the communists in a small town near Qui Nhon. A very small town. Bac Soi. We sold cassettes and music. We still could do that under the communists. Before we left they said that members of our family had been to the US so we could not sell them anymore. After we came here they would not let the family sell them any more.
I remember now my mother telling me to get ready to leave and that she would join us soon. I cried and didn't want to go, but she told me that she would join us soon. I was unhappy about leaving because I would be leaving my friends behind and my mother. And I was afraid also of leaving.
It was good, though, that we decided to leave, I think now. We left on a boat at night. The first time we escaped the weather was so bad on the ocean, it was so scary we came back. And the second time we went we came back too. The second time I told my friends that I was going way to the US. And they told other friends and so we had to cancel that trip because too many people knew about it and my parents were angry that I had told people. We were supposed to say that I was going to visit my aunt.
The next time there were 48 people on the boat with us. We ran out of water on the first day. And so after the first day we drank ocean water. Everyone got sick. I got sick and vomited.
Then the Thai pirates stopped our boat. We ended up in Song Khla and I met father Devlin there. He helped me and loaned us money.
The pirates stopped our ship. The first time they were all right and they just wanted gold. But then on the second and the third day they stopped us also. They took us all off the boat except for one woman. They went on the boat and raped her.
I was very skinny then and just a child. We were out of food and water and were sick and so called the pirates come over to us.
We tried to signal them an SOS on some white fabric that we had. We didn't know they were pirates. And this lady on the boat they raped after they came to us.
The Thai man said that they would help us if we would give them gold. So they gave us some food and water and we gave them gold for it.
I saw a Thai man then after they took us ashore, on an island. And they put us in a circle. They picked out the women and took some of them into the bushes to rape them. That was terrible.
Nobody else was on the island. There was no water on the island either. it was all dry. There was some kind of fruit plant there that we could eat.
They took me away and I was crying. I said I didn't want to go with them. I cried. And they ripped my clothes off. I was so little and I didn't know what they were doing to me. I was skinny and I had no hair on my body, even, I was so young. One grabbed me and took me into the bushes and then they hurt me. I wasn't just thinking of rape but that they would kill me. But they didn't like me because my body was so skinny. The men who were with us just had to stay in a circle and look at the ground when they did this. They knew what was happening to the women. I was just so scared at that time.
They didn't kill any of us and they didn't beat up on the men. When they were finished they left us on the island. I just had my underpants on after that. They took our clothes and they left.
We then had to find something to eat and it was hard on the island. Then a few days later a Thai navy ship came by with sailors on it. They picked us up and they treated us well. We were starving and they took us to Song Khla.
I was in Song Khla then for many months. My uncle then sponsored us to come to the US. To California.
Everyone here was so rich. I spoke some English because I had learned it in Song Khla. In school I didn't do well at first. I didn't know how to dress and I didn't have nice clothes. The other students picked on me. There was one girl on the bus who always beat up on me because I dressed so badly, I guess. I told the bus driver but she said she couldn't help me. You know, they pushed me and pulled my hair because I was so little, I guess. I was only about 80 pounds at the time.
Then after 8th grade and I went to high school and everything was better. I did well in school then.
My mother is still in Vietnam and I write to her.
I am not that happy here, really, after what happened. It was too much for me. I tried to kill myself last year. I took too many pills and tried to kill myself.
My father does not treat me well. He never looks at me in the eye again after the Thai pirates. So we are not very close. Very few men understand a woman being raped. Very few. I ask men, what do you think it means to be raped. And they don't know. But they don't understand.
If I had a chance to do everything all over again I would never leave Vietnam. Such bad things happened after I left.
I remember those pirates and I dream about them sometimes. I remember them. I cannot be affectionate. I cannot hold hands with someone or be romantic now.
I don't know if I'll try to kill myself again. We can tell?

Hoa Khanh Thi Pham.

I grew up in Nha Trang and was born August 16, 1966. My father was a captain in the Army. There were nine kids in the family. I was the seventh of the nine children.
We lived well in Saigon. We lived in a really large house. It was my grandfather's house and it was shared by four families. I just remember that we had a lot of kids in the house. All the families lived in this big house. We were the poorest of the families.
We were Buddhist and we attended a school across the street from the house. My grandfather ran the school.
My family planned the trip to America. We packed our bags and each of us had a small bag. I was excited because we thought it would be a big adventure. I spoke no English and never really thought much about learning a new language. We intended to go by plane.
But then everything happened quickly. My dad went to work that day. But we knew something was going on because of all the activity in the streets. My father went to his base and apparently got trapped there. The communists had arrived and we were left alone to decide what to do. He said to my mom before he left that if anything happened to him then all of us were supposed to go without him. We were supposed to get on a boat and not wait for him. And we did.
But for some reason we forgot to bring all of the luggage. And we didn't bring our money. We went down to the port in such a hurry and tried to get through the gate. only people with money could go through the gate, but the gate was so big that when they opened it everyone else would push their way through.
That was how my family got in. Ten of us. The youngest was four at the time. I cried once I got on the boat. It was in the afternoon. My two young brothers got separated from us and we were looking for them. One brother jumped off the boat to look for them and then we had to leave without him, too. Then we found out that they had gotten on the boat before us with my aunt and uncle.
We were lying on the deck because the book was so crowded. When we left we saw fires in the city.
It took us seven days. We drifted. We had two bowls of rice ever day. But there was no water. We weren't sure where we were going. We were picked up by a rescue ship that was out there and they took us to Guam.
It was like an adventure in a way. Nobody died on the ship. But some people wanted to go back after two days. And so the captain gave them a small boat and then left us to return to Vietnam and we didn't see them again.
The Americans gave us a lot of food, and one man died after that, he ate too much and too fast they said, and since his stomach was empty, he died from that. I remember seeing him in a bag when they carried him past me and threw him in the ocean. I had never had to deal with death or anything before that time.
All ten of us landed in Guam. We were there for two months. They told us we would have difficulty getting a sponsor since there was just a mother and nine kids without a father. Nobody would want that responsibility.
We had an aunt who already lived in America. She talked to a church in California in Marin County and they sponsored us, in Novato to come there to live.
One of the church members had a house for rent and she gave it to us at a very small price. We were on welfare and my mom started working right after we arrived. She went to some night classes to learn English. She got a job in a bakery and we got jobs in the bakery, too. The people who owned the bakery then helped her a lot after that.
Two of my brothers started college right after we learned English. We had learned English in the camp, too. Just the basics.
When I was in fourth grade -- I was put back one grade to learn English. I had no problem with other classes besides English. I spoke half English and half Vietnamese and they seemed to understand what I was saying. I learned English by being around all English people. We were the only Vietnamese in town. We had problems with our neighbors and people in the area where we would walk home and they would come out and make fun of us. They didn't know we were Vietnamese. They called us "Japs" and "Chinks" because they didn't have a word for the Vietnamese. They didn't bother to find out. They were the bullies. But there were really friendly people too, all around.
We never went hungry and the church provided clothing for us. I was surrounded by American friends all the time.
Eventually the people who owned the house wanted us to pay higher rent or to move out, as we became independent. We looked for a house in Jose and we moved down here.
I was spoiled in Novato because we had a lot of publicity when we came over. Then in San Jose there were so many South Vietnamese that we were no longer special.
I went to high school in San Jose. I had come to the US when I was eight, so my vocabulary in Vietnamese was limited. So I had a limited vocabulary and couldn't speak well to the new Vietnamese kids, the boat people. I can communicated in Vietnamese, but I can't really communicate my feelings, not effectively. I have to express the way I really feel in English. My mother no longer works. My father just arrived here from a reeducation camp. He was there for nine years. he got caught twice and returned to it. He was scared after that.
He was so much older when he arrived here, than when I remembered. It had been so long and I hardly knew him anymore. He was always the youngest looking of his brothers and sisters. And I looked at the old photographs of us together. But when I saw him again he was a very old man, about twice as old as I thought he was.
He was shocked by me, too. I was nineteen and had a boyfriend that wasn't chosen by him or my mom. he was shocked by the way we dressed and wore makeup. He was and still is very traditional, so he didn't understand anymore what our lives were really like.
I think I will go back as a tourist after I graduate from college. My parents are really against it. There are rumors of kidapping and problems of people who go back.
I have become Americanized. But I haven't given up all of my Vietnamese identity. My mom has taught me a lot. I still practice Buddhism. I've dated Americans. Some people have even called me an American racist because I hung around with all white groups. And when I came down here I didn't hang around with all the Vietnamese. I got along a lot better with the mixed groups. They called me a "wannabe" because they thought I wanted to be an American. It bothered me at first, but not any more. I went to the senior prom with an American boy. But my Mom didn't know about it. She said before that she wouldn't mind, but I didn't let her know.
I didn't think at first that I would ever marry a Vietnamese guy.
I was in the top 2 percent of my high school class. I don't think I'll have more than 4 children. It seems like my brothers and sisters don't have as many children as they would in Vietnam. It's too expensive here.
People generalize too much about the Vietnamese. In the paper recently someone wrote about the Vietnamese smoking too much, being too loud, and hanging around in large groups. I don't think he had seen everything or all of us. He was just wrong. I guess though that's just how people are.
Maybe some day, maybe in ten years, I'll go back there again. I don't dream about it much any more. I miss the education there. Even in the fourth grade I was studying things that Americans study in sixth or seventh grade. Education was just better there. And I do miss that.

Vo Lan Thi Huong.

I was born in 1967 in Nha Trang. I came here in 1976.
We were supposed to leave in 1975 but my grandmother refused to leave. So we didn't go. My father had been a captain in the Army. And we thought he was only a captain and nothing bad would happen to him so we could stay and not be in danger.
When the communists came into Saigon they were shooting into the air and that was frightening, but that was the only time I was afraid during the war.
Mostly we stayed at home after the fall of Saigon. I was the oldest child in our family.
We went back to Nha Trang when the war ended and I went back to school. But school was not the same at all after the war.
After the Communists took over, everybody went to the same school systems and everything talked about how bad the Americans were. In math they would use examples of shooting down American airplanes added to killing American soldiers.
My father did have to go to a reeducation camp near Saigon. They said he would be going just for three weeks. But then he went for six months. And he had to work in the forest and chop down trees. He wasn't used to working hard like that.
They did terrible things to my dad when he was in the camp. He was released in six months because he didn't do anything bad. But he had changed very much. He was much darker and thinner and his health was gone. And he wasn't like my dad anymore. He was quiet all the time and didn't talk. He thought that the Communists were always watching him. I was so close to him before he went to the camp. And today he is different. Today he is still different. Even today. Not like my father. They brain washed him and did bad things to him. And now he is afraid all of the time. he thinks people are watching him now.
He had been a pharmacist before the war. And he became a pharmacist again. He was afraid to try to leave the country because they would send him back to the camp.
The neighbors watched my dad for the Communists. Everybody was watching my dad now to see if he did anything wrong. Now and then they would come to the door and come into the house to search and see if anything was wrong. When my dad was in the camp the communists came to our house one night and took away some of my dad's friends who were living there. They took them away that night and we never heard from them or saw them again. Never again.
We planned several times to leave. It was scary. But never until the last minute did we know for sure that we were going. My dad and I and my mom and two sisters went downtown and then went to the beach so that people would not know we were together. Then we went to the beach and met there so the neighbors wouldn't see us.
I went with my dad and my mom brought my sisters. Now and then we would go down to the beach at night until it got dark and we would just sit there quietly until it got dark. And when we did that the communists would always watch us.
So this one night we went down there and we were really scared. We brought nothing with us that night. Then a boat came, a fishing boat, they came back from fishing and they put us in the boat. We had to swim out to the fishing boats. My dad showed us how to swim that night. My dad carried my two year old sister on his back.
The first night there were 36 people on the boat. Some of the people we didn't even know. There were three families on the boat. One of the families was the fisherman's family. The first night there was a big storm and everybody got very very sick. I was even unconscious I was so sick that night. The second night there was a big storm too. Big waves came over the top of the boat. On the third day a Japanese ship found us. And they took us aboard. Before that we saw six other ships, including a Russian ship. But they would not stop and help us. The Japanese were very kind. They gave each of us a little can of fruit. We didn't know if we were even going to live and then they came along and helped us. The engine had stopped working and we were out of water.
They took us to Japan and we stayed there for six months. We stayed near Tokyo in a very large building. We were the first refugee Vietnamese to come to Japan. We got to go around Tokyo. It was a really beautiful city and the Japanese were so nice to us when we were staying there.
My uncle lived in the US at that time. He was a pilot and he came here in 1975. So we contacted him to sponsor us to come to America. We had nobody else in any other country to help us. We came here after six months.
We lived in Louisiana for about four or five months. Then we came to California because my dad thought we would be happier here.
Everything was strange here. I didn't speak the language and so the school was difficult. The kids were all nice to me, but everybody was white and I felt pretty bad. The people in Louisiana were prejudiced toward the balcks, but they let us in. They let us into their church and there were no black people in the church. We were Buddhists at the time. But now I don't have a religion any more. I don't believe in God or anything like that any more.
My Dad's mom was a Buddhist and his dad was a Catholic. But now I have no religion. My dad wanted to become a pharmacist here but he didn't have the time to study for the exam so now he is a technician for a high tech firm.
We are doing all right now here. My mother works. I am a junior here.
I was at the top of my class in high school. I am now in pre med and hope that some day I will be able to attend medical school and become a doctor. I think my dad would like that very much.
Sometimes I have nightmares about Vietnam and about trying to escape again. And I feel frightened and then am glad that I am here when I wake up.
My parents are very strict now and I don't date. I just go to school. I didn't go to the junior or senior prom. I didn't like it. I didn't want to do that. I don't like parties. I don't like to dance.
I think I'm a happy person today. I think so.

Tat Sieu Chi.

I came to the US on December 10, 1979. Before 1975 there was some fighting in the suburbs of Saigon, in Cholon, where we lived. My father was a physician in the Vietnamese Army. I had eight brothers and sisters.
Life became terrible after 1975. My family was in business. They said we were the rich and so they took everything from us -- property, houses and everything and tried to send us to a new economic area. So we left the country and left everything behind.
They wanted to take everything from the rich. They treated Chinese business more harshly because of the traditional relationship between the two countries.
In 1975 they came to our house, they came in, and they said we are going to write down everything that you own and we are going to borrow it from you. They paid us not a cent. They left everything there at first. But they registered everything. They tried to find out where our money was -- if you didn't know how to hid it they would take that too. Later they came to pick up everything and kicked us out of the house and told us to go to the New Economic Zone.
Before they came back we left the house and locked it.
Before we came here, most of us just left and went to the houses of friends. Just my mom and some of my brothers and sisters stayed. That was the most difficult time for us because we had to go to the homes of our relatives. When you are rich people come to you. But when you are poor people do not treat you well anymore. I really hate my relatives today because when we needed their help, they wanted to kick us out or wanted us to give them money. They were afraid they would get caught, and second because you had lost everything, you were not the rich man you were before. They just ignored us after that.
I lived with my relatives for about one year. In hiding. After the communists took everything from us, then they didn't care anything for us anymore. They already had what they wanted. We had no money. The Com countries have registration for everything. So if you want to buy food, you need a registration card. So we had to buy everything on the black market. We had to sell our gold to buy food. I had to go on the street and sell things -- anything you could get, really.
I saw kids going to school in those years, but I couldn't go because I didn't have registration with the government. I felt bac when I saw other kids going to school. Even if I registered I could not go to school. They wanted me to go to a New Economic Zone
I hide in my grandparents house. But I had no right to live there, according to the government.
My grandfather was part of an organized group of people who put up money to buy a boat. By the time when left in May 1979 I was ready to go. We left from almost the tip of South Vietnam. The boat was designed for about 400 people. But the total got up to 640 people because many just sneaked on. I don't know how they got everybody stuck onto it, though. First we went to the tip of Thailand, to Song Khla. They transported us there. At first they wouldn't let us land. Then they let us land and said they would fix the boat and pull us back out to sea. They put everyone back on the boat, and they beat up people to get them back on the boat. My grandfather resisted them and they beat him with their gun butts. I watched all of this. They pulled us a short distance, but the ship got stuck because the water was low. And then some of the people poked holes in the bottom of the boat. So they took us off the boat again and the last people off set fire to the boat. The Thais were pretty mad about that, but they didn't kill anybody.
We stayed in Song Khla for six months. My father had been in the military so they let us go early. We had not one single relative in another country. So we had no sponsors. We moved to Kansas first and had a sponsor there. It was very cold and hot and boring and we were not happy there. We lived there until 1982 and then moved to San Jose.
My father has no occupation now because he cannot speak English. He learned only a little. But all of the children work now and support the family. I went to Peter Burnett Middle School and then to Lincoln High School. Now I am a freshman doing above average. I am majoring in engineering
I am pretty happy here. Even though there is some racial discrimination here, it is a lot better than Vietnam. The discrimination is not so open here. People make fun of the way you talk or of your culture, in school and on the street. But that is a lot better than Vietnam. My parents are happy here too.
I liked Vietnam before 1975. Especially the place where I grew up, Cholon, which had a whole Chinese population. If the communists weren't there any more I would want to go back. But all of the efforts of my parents and grandparents there were lost. And so if I went back I would have to start over.
My family came from Canton, they came to Vietnam in the 1930s.


Nguyen Huong Mai. April 1, 1965. I was ten years old in 1975. I was in Vung Tau at that time. We lived in Nha Trang but we moved to Vung Tau when the trouble came.
We had to go through a lot of different means to go to Vung Tau. There were six of us. My father had to stay in Nha Trang because he worked in the government there. Suddenly, my Mom was packing everything up. And we asked what this was all about. I was afraid at the time. Not really worried because I hadn't seen any war, and I was the middle child.
We drove to Vung Tau. My Uncle's family, aunt's family, grandmother, we all went at one time in several cars. One of the cars ran out of gas and we had to abandon it.
On the way there what we saw was really too horrible to describe. There were bodies along the highway. We almost got shot by the soldiers along the way. It was really terrible. People were running along the road with their belongings. The road was crowded. One time on the road we even ran out of water. It took a long time. It was like an adventure. Then we had to go to the sea and go by boat part of the way.
We stayed at a home where we had stayed on vacation earlier. it was a home by the beach. There were soldiers all over the city and there were bombs going off and you could hear them. We stayed there for a while, and we tried to go to Saigon, but the way was on the road so we had to go back to Vung Tau.
We had to stay there. It was a vacation place. We didn't have trouble getting in to the place. My mom was afraid because my dad wasn't there at the time. But he arrived later.
There was shooting around the city every night until the end of the war. And then there was shooting in the city, right by where we lived. I saw ships sinking in the sea and saw helicopters coming down to shoot and then falling to the ground. Sometime we had to go into the basement because of the bombing. We didn't feel safe. I was thinking that I would die. I was thinking that I would die and so I was afraid to die and I cried a lot during those days. I didn't understand what was happening. My mom tried to get us out of the country but we couldn't get out. There were a lot of bodies on the beach that washed up from boats sinking.
Then on April 30th the Communists came in with tanks. My brother and I went to the windows to see what the communists looked like. I had never seen a communist before and I didn't think they looked like us. I thought they were like wild animals that lived in the mountains and I wanted to see what they looked like. My dad always talked about the communists, but I never thought they were human and they looked like us. And I saw them and they looked just like us and I thought, "What is this?"
There was a whole bunch of them and they were singing and marching in and they were very happy. But we were scared so we watched them through the windows. Everybody was really scared of them at that time. My dad didn't know what to do.
My Mom didn't let me go out at first because they were scared. Finally, we had to Saigon. And then we came out. My aunt lived in Saigon and we didn't live in Vung Tau. We all went at the same time. On the way to Saigon we had an accident at night. It was strange because we were all happy now and not long before this we had been so sad. We were all singing on the way, at night. We were so happy we thought we were safe. Now we were happy. Then suddenly I heard this boom, there was a big hole in the road, at night, and the driver didn't see the hold. Everybody screamed at the big sound. Suddenly, the car turned upside down in the road. And we were all thrown out. It was really dark and then it was quiet and everybody was praying. I thought I was going to die that time, but I was awake. Everybody was on everybody else and they were on top of me. Some communists were on the other side of the road and they heard our accident and they came to help us. We got out of the car and my oldest brother was missing. We didn't see him. We looked for him and we didn't see him. We looked and then my Dad saw him underneath the car. His legs were sticking out. And he was dead. That was my oldest brother. he was 15 years old at the time.
Then we were all so messed up and really sad. We had to go on to Saigon and we had to put my brother back in the car and we tipped the car back up again. My grandmother was really hurt, too. My cousins were injured, too. But my brother was dead.
This was a big van, there were three families in the Van. So my parents didn't know what to do. We drove to Saigon and then the next day we buried my brother. Everybody was happy to see us in Saigon because they thought we were safe. We got out of the car and we were all crying. They thought we should be happy. Then my dad told them that my brother had died. We just cried and cried and cried and we didn't know what to do.
When we were in Saigon we stayed in my aunt's house. All of our money was gone after the accident. And my brother was gone and my parents really loved him. They miss him until today.
We stayed in Saigon. My dad was questioned and he told the communists that he was only a teacher and we waited to see what would happen.
After a few weeks we went back to Nha Trang. Our house was completely empty. Everything was gone then. Life never got back to normal. We cried all day every day and the neighbors kept telling us to stop crying. But we just couldn't.
It was hard for us. My father had to go away to a camp. My mom had to support us now. I was only 10 at the time and we had to work -- I washed the clothes in order to get money to buy food. And I had to learn to cook food to sell. My mother worked too and we managed, but just barely.
The Communists came to our house every day and they pointed their guns at us and said, "Where is your dad?" They did this every day. His name was Nguyen Phuc Hau. They kept asking for him. They were new people in the government. Every day they were trying to find him but he was hiding in Saigon. And people kept bringing the Communists to the house and saying, "He lived here!" But they didn't find him.
We lived for three years with the Communists and never really had freedom. My dad never came home again and he stayed in Saigon.
I never went out of the house except to go to school. But we didn't learn anything in school. They took our class and had us collect garbage and then they made us plant rice. That was what they called school. So I got punished in school. They talked about how stupid the Americans were. And they talked about how the Americans had dominated us. And they talked about how the Americans fed their dogs better than the Vietnamese ate.
I laughed at them and I didn't sing their songs and I didn't join the pioneers and my teacher got very mad at me. I would have to stand up during the class. And I just stood their and cried. We had a new teacher and he was a communist. I just stood their and cried when he lectured.
I didn't really care because I knew that I would never live their all of my life with the Communists.
During the next three hears I learned nothing in school. All I did was work for the communists to try to earn money for them. Finally, we managed to get out, after failing ten times. it was horrible. I hate to talk about it.
A lot of times my Mom tried to get us out but we always failed. We would get on a boat and go out to meet another boat. And we had a signal this one time and nobody knew what the signal was for the big boat. We always got stranded. It just never worked well. Other times they took our money and then just never showed up. We would go out of the city along the beach.
The tenth time, in 1978, we finally got out. The ninth time we lost everything. They took everything we had in order to let us on the boat, they said that we were going to America and we would have everything there, so they wanted everything else that we had with us. We went home without anything. We had nothing. We walked home that night to my grandma's house. They thought that we had left and they were really surprised to see us again.
I mean everything, clothes and everything were gone this time. Then the last time we weren't that successful either. We went to my parent's friends house around 8 o clock. My mother was late and there were a group of people that went up the mountains and they were waiting for us. We thought at first that they were communists, and we almost turned around this time when we saw them again. But we turned around and then changed our minds again. They were the right people this time.
We went in a small fishing boat this time and there was a big storm. More than 100 people were crowded into our boat. This was near Nha Trang. We wee supposed to go to the Philippines but because of the storm we turned around and went to Malaysia. We ran out of food on the way and there was a big storm. My dad was a good Catholic. And my dad thought that we were prepared to die and he then prayed over us. We thought we were all going to die. i couldn't eat all the time we were on the boat this time. The supplies that we were supposed to bring this time got left behind. all that we had on the boat was what we brought to wear. There wasn't food or water for the people. After seven days a ship stopped and gave us food and water. We landed in Singapore and they turned us around and we went back to Malaysia. This trip was eight days again. Finally we went ashore in Malaysia. I was almost dead. My dad was really happy now. Six months after that we came to America.
I dream about Vietnam every day. My dad always has nightmares about the Communists capturing him. But I have nice dreams about Vietnam all the time.




Vu Ngoc Lan. We had many opportunities to leave before the fall of Saigon. My brother had a friend named John, an American, who had a Vietnamese wife, and they left the country around April 28th. They said that if we wanted to come with them, we could be at a place at the right time and the right day, but my brother couldn't do it because he was in the police and he did not have the permission to leave. So we stayed.
My brother came home at night on April 28th because the war was almost over and we had lost everything so quickly. My brother had just left his Navy ship at that time and the ship had stayed at Vung Tau. He said that now we had to leave the country. There was a lot of confusion at that moment. One brother was a policeman in Saigon and the other was in the Navy. The only chance we had was my brother's Godfather who was a military commander. At night, when my brother came home to us we all packed. But we couldn't bring much, only a little dry rice for each of us and a few belongings. Then the whole family went to a place to contact my brother's godfather. Then we went to the Navy headquarters but they wouldn't let us in. They let in brother because he was in the Navy. He went inside the Navy headquarters and tried to contact his Godfather. He had to stay there then. My brother then called his boat to see what he should do. And they told him to meet this Major who would take the family to his boat. It was around 50 miles by airplane from where we were to where the boat was. But after this Major called then my brother's Godfather called and he came out and got the family through the gate. Then the whole family went in. Just my family was outside the gate at that time. He brought us inside the headquarters, and then he took us to the back of the headquarters. I think everything was planned from that point on. My brother was still in the Navy so we had to be careful.
My parents and five brothers and my sister and me were there. I was the youngest. We started in a small boat down the River. Two families in the boat going down the river. He took us from Binh Bac Danh, on the other side of the river, I remember, was the Saigon zoo. I wasn't really scared because I didn't know really what was happening. This was all during the day. We stayed at the end of the River for a time and then got on a bigger ship. Before we left my house, down the street was my Uncle. With his family. We told them to come along with us. But his wife was afraid and she said that she didn't believe us. But she was afraid that she would die with her children in the ocean. My dad tried to do anything to force her to change her mind so the whole family could come along with us. And he couldn't leave his family behind. We gave our house to them and said, "Now everything that we have belongs to you." That included all of the machines for my dad's business -- including the machines that he used to make flowers. All that we had was then their's.
In the evening we went out on the South China Sea. When I looked outside the boat I saw smoke and fires on the River. I wasn't frightened at that time. We went all the way to the Philippines and Subic Bay. We stayed there for a few hours. Then we went from there to Guam. We stayed in Guam for three months.
Then we flew to Camp Pendleton for a few months. Nobody died on the way to Subic. A few days before I left my house on the way to Subic. A few blocks from our house I saw a helicopter get shot down. We knew the family where the helicopter came down in their back yard. The pilot was saved, he jumped outside before it crashed. I saw it on fire in the sky and then saw it fall down to the ground in our neighbors yard. I can still remember that because it was near to our house and there was a big explosion. When I remember Vietnam is when my family talks about it or when I receive a letter from Vietnam. I prefer the life there to the life here because it was easier. You didn't have to work so hard it was more relaxed and there were relatives around all of the time.
My parents had left Hanoi in 1954. My mother had a younger sister. When she moved to South Vietnam her sister didn't come with her. Her husband would not let her. So they were separated. But we kept contact. When we came to America, we received letters from the North, after not hearing from them for 30 years. And now we are separated by so much.
After April 30, 1975, you could travel back and forth and so many families were reunified by the end of the war.
The one from the North came down to Saigon. My aunt came down to Saigon but we were gone by then so they probably will not see each other again ever. They wrote that they didn't have enough money and they asked us to send us some if we could. There life had been so different from ours because they had always lived in a communist country.

Vu Ngoc Loan. I was born in 1963. We lived in Qui Nhon for 11 years. Then my dad got out o f the army and we moved to Saigon. My uncle knew everything that was going on in Saigon and in the rest of the country. So he got together with my dad and some other men and they discussed the situation as it existed in 1975.
They told my parents what was happening. There were eight kids in our family. My oldest brother was in the eighth grade. We lived with my uncle at his house.
I was taken out of school eventually. We began to get ready to eave. We decided that we would all leave on a ship from Vung Tau. We went all together so that we would all live or die together. We could each bring just one bag with us. Then we went to Vung Tau to get on the boat. We left in April just before the Communists came into Saigon.
We went on a ship for three days on the ship. It was a really big ship, buta private one. And there was rice on the ship. We had rice but that was all there was to eat, except for sugar. The ship was packed. We slept on the deck. At night ships would come up to ours and we could see the people on the ship crying and begging for us to pick them up. I still have a brother over there. he got left behind.
My dad and my brother went back to our house to get something to cook with on the ship. But they got separated on the way back to the boat and we got separated and my brother got left behind.
When we left Vung Tau people looked back and cried. My mother was crying because my brother was left behind too. We didn't pass any American ships on the way to the Philippines, but once we got on the ocean we saw the American ships but they didn't talk to us. We saw a very big Vietnamese ship, too. And we went on board their ship and they took some of our people on their's. A man carried me on his back from one ship to another.
A baby was born on our ship. But nobody died. There was not much to do on the ship.
We went to Singapore and then to Guam and then to Arkansas. And then we settled in Duluth, Minnesota. We wanted to go to California. But they sent us to Minnesota. We were sponsored by a Lutheran Church. We stayed there four years. The people were all very nice. They fixed up a house for us and my dad got a job right away. The people brought us food and they really helped us.
We had a tutor, and she taught us everything, the culture and the language and everything. There were about ten Vietnamese families in Duluth and we got together every weekend and got to know each other very well.
I miss Vietnam very much, especially when I see it on television. Over there was didn't have as much freedom as here, but life was easier. People had more kids there because they could afford them and here it was more difficult. And you could walk around more safely there, but there you can't because it isn't always safe.

Le Ngoc Nhan. Student.
I was born in January 1957 in Saigon. My dad worked in Hue. He came to Saigon in 1968. He was a tailor and he wanted a better future so he came to Saigon. He thought that in the big city he might have a better chance.
I didn't know that we even had a war until 1973. Then my grandfather had to come to Saigon and live with us. I was in school at the time with my sister.
In 1975 the big war came to Saigon. In April everybody was afraid. I heard a bomb and I saw a Phan Dinh Phuong street is where we lived. I saw people running in the street. We didn't go outside because we were afraid. We thought that the Communists would kill us or even the Vietnamese soldiers.
We stayed in the house for a week. We watched television and the government said that they could not beat the communists and so the soldiers were supposed to put their weapons down.
My life changed a lot after that. They came to our house to see if we had Gold and then they had us donate the store to the government. My father then had to belong to a group of tailors and worked with them and not for himself. And they took most of the money then that he earned.
We had a sign that identified my father's business. The shop was downstairs and we lived above the shop with the family. We never thought of leaving the country.
My dad could not afford to raise all the children after that. We could afford only a very little food that time. He saw that the future was not going to be good for us. So he planned to escape with the family soon after the Communists took over.
School changed also. I still went to school. The teachers changed and so did the teaching. There were new textbooks. now. Before we talked about math and government. Now all we talked about was how the Communists won the war. Nothing was really interesting in the study anymore. We remembered we had a girl in the class who was from North Vietnam and we made fun of her. We hated her because her father was the principal of the school and she was different from us. She talked funny and she dressed different from us. She was like a foreigner, like I am here in this country.
She was unhappy, I think. There were several other Northerners in the school but she was the only one in my class.
Even though my dad could not afford much food, from his work, we used our savings for the eight children. Many people went door to door begging for food. I had not seen that before 1975. Many of the people were sent to the New Economic Zones. Those were often the rich people. Those people were told to donate their houses to the government and then they were sent to the farms in the countryside where life was very difficult. Those people came back to the city and had no homes to live in so they had to live in the street. We gave them food because we felt sorry for them. Some of them had children with them and they would sleep outside the house at night. There were also lots of people stealing at that time, but there was nothing we could do about that.
I wanted to tell my friend that we were leaving. But my mother told me to keep it a secret or we could not leave. I wasn't afraid then, and I just thought we would go to another country and everything would be better. We had to go to a small city in the delta before we could escape. South of Saigon, that was. We drove down there, we had to buy a ticket for the triple price that they normally charged, so many people were going down there.
There were around 50 people with us. We had to rent a house there, with five rooms and there were ten in each room. And we planned to leave at night. We went to a big boat that night. The Cs didn't bother us because we had a permit, we said we had to be there to visit a family of a cousin who had died. Everybody there had to have a permit. Then we had to say that we would be back in Saigon in 2 days.
After we left the house, only a few hours later, the Cs came and took over our house so we know that they knew that we were leaving. My grandfather was living in the house then and they made him leave and told him that we were not coming back. he came here just last year.
The owners of the house we stayed in would not let us back in the house after our boat did not show up. We had to go back to Saigon and stayed at the home of a friend for a week. Then we went back to the Delta for another plan. This time we were able to get on a boat and go into the Sea. It was raining this timeand the Cs were unable to see our boat when we left. There were about 150 people on our boat this time. I was not afraid this time.
We went to Malaysia. There were pirates in the Sea. They stopped us twice and took all of our gold and property. They stopped us and I was afraid.
The first one just demanded gold. The second boat had a Chinese captain. He said if we gave him gold he would take us to Malaysia. He was nice that way. The people did not have much gold or diamonds at that time but they gave him what they had. Then he showed us the way to Malaysia.
It was raining and stormy that night and I think that if had not helped us we would have died in the sea that night.
The other pirates wanted to rape the women but the captain would not let them. One of our people understood them and told us what they were talking about.
The camp in Malaysia was not so good. Although we were treated well. There were thousands of people there. The water was not good, there.
Then we were sponsored to come to America. It took us six months to find a sponsor. We had an uncle in the US and he worked in Hayward, California. We had to go to another camp in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur for a time, then we flew straight to California.
I think that when I saw America I was reborn. Everything was so different here. Nothing was horrible any more. There was a lot of food and cars. The houses were different and the people too. My uncle was the only Vietnamese in his neighborhood.
I started seventh grade right after I arrived. I spoke no English at all. We had a Vietnamese translator in the school and she helped us out. My father did not get a job until three years later. Then he was able to be a tailor again. My sister went to college and graduated and I had a 3.5 average in high school. Now I am in college, too.
I write back to my friends in Vietnam and we stay in touch with each other.
I feel safe and free here. That's what I like best. The education here is also the best. You can say what you want to and learn what you want to. In Vietnam education was risky and you could not choose the subjects you wanted to learn about.
Someday I hope to have a small business here. I plan to have only 2 children here, not eight. You cannot afford eight children here. Life is too expensive.
I will always be Vietnamese. My children will be Vietnamese-American, but not me. I am too much Vietnamese.
My parents are very happy here. They are glad now that they came. My parents tell me that I can marry anyone I love. It doesn't matter if he is American or Vietnamese. As long as I am in love.


Thanh Ai Luu. I was born October 19, 1967. I came out in 1981. There were eight in our family, six brothers and sisters and my parents. I was the second child. My father worked in a shop that sold clothes, in Nha Trang. I remember Nha Trang, the beach was beautiful there.
We lived in a big house in Nha Trang. The war didn't touch us until after 1972. Then the Cs came in and life changed. it became horrible. I stayed in school, but the teachers weren't able to teach us like they did before. I went to a Chinese school. but they couldn't teach us there any more. It was a good school. Now the schools taught in Vietnamese and taught all about Communism. We had only one hour of Chinese every week after that.
The Cs took over my father's shop. They did an inventory. They came to the house and searched it. We had books in Chinese and they took them away also.
Life was pretty hard. We were only allowed seven yards of material after that for the year. My father sold clothing. Before 1972 he sold clothes. After that he had investments.
We went to Qui Nhon. They had boats there. We took our luggage there and lived in a high school that was abandoned for about seven or eight months. That was 1978 for us. We waited there for the chance to leave. Then we left on a boat that was about 60 feet long with about 360 people on it. We paid in gold for the journey.
There were lots of problems. Sharks followed behind and beside the boat for three days. And it was stormy and there wasn't enought water. And there wasn't enough food either. My friends father had a heart attack and died on the boat. They put his body in the water and the sharks were there and took him.
On the fourth day the boat started leaking badly. So the captain had to ask some of the people to help dip the water out of the boat. We got lost and landed in China. We were so worried about that. The captain didn't know what to do either. Finally, we had a small fishing boat showed us the way way from the coast and we made our way to Hong Kong.
They kept us in a camp in Hong Kong. They kept us in the camp for a few months, then after that they let us go out during the day and work assembling pieces in a factor. I was 13 and I got a job in a factory. They paid me about $700 a month. My brothers and sisters worked in a factory also at that time. My father could not find a job in Hong Kong at the time because he was old. Three of us worked and my Mom and we had jobs assembling electronic pieces for radios and watches. It was very easy and we did it 8 hours a day. We took a bus to work and then brought the money home.
We planned at that time to come to the US because my aunt lived here. She was living at that time in San Jose. She eventually sponsored us and we came to San Francisco Airport and we were picked up there.
Hong Kong at night was fun. We went around the city at night and saw the people. We came back home every night about 9 o clock. But it was fun at night just wandering around Hong Kong and seeing the city and the people.
My parents attended English school once we arrived here. So did we, but we learned faster. We started eighth grade. There was only one month left in school and I started because I was excited about going to school.
I felt sorry for myself, because the other students wanted to talk to me, but I didn't know what they were talking about. Sometimes in school I would just stay by myself and cry. I had other Chinese and Vietnamese students in the class, but I was so shy and so I didn't ask them anything. I just cried and stayed to myself.
Finally, the next year they put us in a bilingual class and I felt better. I felt dumb before that time. English was difficult but once I learned it I started to do well in school. I attended Independence High School after staying home that summer.
I was afraid of the other kids. I watched television, but I didn't understand anything that was on television at that time.
Soon I had friends and started to do well in school. I started dating in my senior year. I missed the senior prom because I had a job at that time and getting a dress was too expensive. I got a job in an office.
My boyfriend my senior year was Chinese. I met my boyfriend, who was Chinese. We can speak Chinese and Vietnamese when we go out. American guys are difficult to date because I don't understand what they are saying.
My parents don't mind who I date as long as I am happy.
The first time I cam to the US, the neighbor woman came over and knocked on the door and said something to us. But we didn't know what she was saying, so we were so afraid. We had no idea what she said. We had been here only a few days.
We were afraid of her. She had said that she wanted to welcome us and she said to ask her if there was anything we needed. But we were very afraid of her because we had no idea what she had said. Later we talked to her and laughed about that.
I major in accounting now and hope some day to go into business for myself.
We get letters from Vietnam, from friends and relatives. They send letters and tell us about life there. Life is hard there and I would not be back there again except as a tourist, as long as the Cs are in power.
Life is pretty good here in America. If you want to get something here you can get it.

Trinh Tran Huyen. I was born in 1966. I was nine when Saigon fell. There were eight children in my family. I was the third child. My father was in the military, in the Army. He was away from home most of the time. I was hardly ever aware that there was a war, although I do remember moments of fear when I was small, when we all would go down in the basement to get away from the bombings. But that was all I knew of the war before 1975.
We went to school six days a week. We had a hosuekeeper in our house who did the laundry and the cooking, so we live dwell. I had never before been away from Vietnam.
In 1975 my parents knew that the situation was so bad that we would have to leave. My parents did not tell me what was going to happen. My mother read newspapers and watched the television and she was aware too what was happening and she started looking for a way to get out of the country. So on the 29th of April she was scared because she saw people walking up the street to the dock and she still had no way for us to get out of the country. So my mother had us leave the house, witout taking anything with us, and walk to the port also. We took nothing at all with us but just started walking with the other people because we were so frightened. We didn't have anything with us, just the clothes that we we were wearing. We had no suitcases and didn't pack anything. My mom was scared.
Nothing was planned and we didn't know what we were doing but just following the crowd. I was afraid but I was with my family so I wasn't badly afraid.
At the port everything was chaotic. People were so excited and cars were pulling up and people getting out. And we could hear explosions across the river. We stayed together at the port. My parents finally found a ship. My mom was leading us. Finally my mother found a boat and I was handed up to the people on the boat. It was not open to the public and the only way you could get onto it was to climb up the side. My brother lifted me up to someone on the ship. My uncle stood on my dad's shoulders and then lifted me up to the ship and they lifted the other children up then too, like a human ladder.
I thought then that it was fun because I was going somewhere and I didn't know where. Everybody got onto the ship. It was really crowded. Some people fell from the ship into the water. I didn't see them after that.
The ship left the port that evening. There was gunfire along the river toward the ship. And there was more when we got near the sea. The captain of the sip was scared. he actually at one time went to the beach and got stuck on the beach. There were too many people on the ship. They wanted some people to get off but nobody would get off. Then another ship came by and we asked him to help us but he wouldn't. Our ship was a really big ship.
Our ship had a big cannon on the deck. The captain said that the next ship that came along and refused to help us, we would shoot. He threatened to shoot the next ship and so they connected a rope to us and pulled us off the beach. We had to unload about 2000 people before we could be pulled and then they put them back on the ship. This was a big war ship that we were on.
We were on the ocean for a while after that. An American Navy ship picked some of us up in the Sea. Then that ship took us to Guam. We stayed in Guam about two weeks. The American shp tasted us well and they had good food that they gave us.
I was confused by this time because I really didn't know what was going on. I cried at night a lot because I was so confused. I remember that on our ship many people wanted to jump over the side and die and other people held them back.
We went to Camp Pendleton from Guam. Then we came to Mountain View in California.
America wasnt' what I expected. I think people in Vietnam exaggeraged about America. They never told us any of the bad. So we expected something that we didn't find. They told us that everything here was better, but everything here is not better. Life can be hard here.
Everything here was a lot bigger and there were more cars and highways than in Vietnam. I am happy here now, I guess. But I still wonder what life is like in Vietnam. What people told me about Vietnam makes me wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed there. People still tell stories about it and I wonder.
I have adjusted to life in America. It offers me a lot and I am willing to take what it offers. I am an American citizen now and I vote. I will raise my children speaking both Vietnamese and English and I will teach them Vietnamese traditions. I do remain curious about Vietnam, though. I think some day I'll go back there and see my friends and we'll talk about our lives.

Nguyen Trung Hieu. I was born in 1967 in Saigon. There were eight children in our family. My father was an officer in the army. We lived in a large house, on the first story of the house was a restaurant and a bike shop. I remember that I had a happy childhood and I was not aware that the war was on. I attended school at La Santa Be, a Catholic school, a very strict one.
I remember one day my parents started looking for papers and destroyed them and started packing away other things. I wasn't sure what ws happening. Then we were packed and we left for the airport and my parents told me we were going to America. I just had one suitcase for myself. I left everything else behind, including my friends. I didn't have a chance to say goodbye, we just went.
We spent the night at the airport. I slept on the suitcases that night. The next morning I got on a military plane. A bus took us to the plane, my Uncle was a major general in the Army and he got all of our papers. There were a lot of other relatives in the Army. My father was inthe Army and he got caught at the airport and they wouldn't let him leave, so he had to stay behind in the airport. My dad and my uncles had to stay there, just before they got on the plane. Later they cme out on a boat.
Just the women and che children got to get on the airplane. My mom got frightened by this, and for a moment she didn't want to go. She said she was going to go home. She took the younger brothers and sisters at home and the older brothers, four of us, went with an aunt on the plane. We flew to the Philippines. There I had my first baloney sandwich and I thought it was pretty good. I had never had anythnig like that before. They had a lot of food there for us. They had Vietnamese pastries there for us, too. They then took us to Guam for a few months and then to Camp Pendleton.
We got sponsors when we were there. So my ucnels and my brothers and I moved to Buffalo New York. we started school there. My uncle, who was a priest, got us into school there. We didn't speak English then. I learned it during the summer and my first year in school I got straight As. I adjusted well and there was no prejudice against us. The black kids made fun of us. It was crazy, I don't know what they did that.
My father stayed behind with my mother after that and didn't get out. My father finally came out. He got caught and spent seven years in a reeducation camp and then came here.
I moved to California in 1976. it was too cold for us in New York. I remember and my grandfagher and the priest uncle we crossed the country in a truck and saw America and saw everything. The country was really big, and I was surprised by that. I had another uncle in California. I graduated from high school here in Milpitas.
I am the university now but I am undeclared in my major. I am happy now and I wouldn't want to go back to Vietnam. My future is here now. My sister came here later than me with my younger brother. They came here in 1982. They have more attachment to Vietnam because they were there longer. They liked it because they were there longer. They thought the food there was better than it is here.
We are still trying to bring my mother out of Vietnam. I can't remember what she even looks like anymore. She writes to me sometimes. It is hard for me to write Vietnamese and she doesn't speak English and can't read English. I forgot Vietnamese and so I can't write back to her.



Anh Pham. I was born in 1966 in Saigon. There were 12 children in the family. My dad was a teacher in a junior high school and my mother was a teacher in a school near our house. I think I had a happy childhood. I was the sixth child, right in the center of the family.
Sometimes at night we would hear the bombings and we would have to rush downstairs and protect ourselves. And on television they showed the fighting in the North and they showed children running holding children, so from television I learned about the war. Sometimes bombs would fall in the city and people would be killed and they sang songs about that.
I never met an American when I was in Vietnam. I left on April 29, 1975. My dad one day told us to pack our clothes and to go to our uncle's house. So we did that. We were supposed to go to a place near her house and then get on a bus. But we didn't do that, we just all left from her house. The family had to be divided up to get to the port and get on the ship. Some went in cars and some went on motorcycles to get to the port. I left many friends behind. When I first got her I wrote to them but then we stopped writing, eventually.
We went to the middle of the river and had to climb a rope ladder to get on the ship. I was really scared. it was raining and I was so afraid I kept vomiting. But all of us got on the boat and then went to the Philippines, and then Guam. We were there for about three days and then we came to Indiantown Gap. Then we ended up in a town called Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania. Within that city there were no other Vietnamese. But about 20 minutes away there were some other Vietnamese in another town.
The adjustment there wasn't really that easy. There were problems here and there. There were good and bad people there.
I went to a private Catholic school. Most of the kids treated us well and were friendly. I think the kids had been told about us. But some of the kids, in class, when the teacher gave a test I just could not do it. She would excuse me and then the kids would object to that and tease me later.
We moved to New Kensington. There was a neighbor who had been in the Army. And every time we came out of the house he would yell at us, "Go back to Vietnam, or "Go back to your country" or "Go home." I think he was crazy. And one day my friend heard him and she yelled, "Why don't you go back to where you came from, Mr." Well, Vietnamee don't talk like that to older people. I was so surprised to hear her talk to an adult like that. But I had to laugh because that was what we had been thinking. I don't know why that man hated us so much. I just think he had real mental problems. His daughter and wife were really nice to us, but he alone was mean.
I was pretty young then. I remember when I was in Vietnam and we heard about America and life there, washing machines and refrigerators and driers, and I thought, "Wow, it must be great to live in America." I thought that I hoped some day I could live in America.
then I got here and things were really pretty great. We lived in a convent when we first came here. Our family was 12 people, and we lived in this convent and it had all these bedrooms and every one of the kids had a bedroom and the refrigerator and freezer had all this food, and we thought, "America is so wonderful." But we found out that America was not always like that.


Trinh Tran Huyen.


I was born in 1966. I was nine when Saigon fell. There were eight children in my family. I was the third child. My father was in the military, in the Army. He was away from home most of the time. I was hardly ever aware that there was a war, although I do remember moments of fear when I was small, when we all would go down in the basement to get away from the bombings. But that was all I knew of the war before 1975.
We went to school six days a week. We had a housekeeper in our house who did the laundry and the cooking, so we live dwell. I had never before been away from Vietnam.
In 1975 my parents knew that the situation was so bad that we would have to leave. My parents did not tell me what was going to happen. My mother read newspapers and watched the television and she was aware too what was happening and she started looking for a way to get out of the country. So on the 29th of April she was scared because she saw people walking up the street to the dock and she still had no way for us to get out of the country. So my mother had us leave the house, witout taking anything with us, and walk to the port also. We took nothing at all with us but just started walking with the other people because we were so frightened. We didn't have anything with us, just the clothes that we we were wearing. We had no suitcases and didn't pack anything. My mom was scared.
Nothing was planned and we didn't know what we were doing but just following the crowd. I was afraid but I was with my family so I wasn't badly afraid.
At the port everything was chaotic. People were so excited and cars were pulling up and people getting out. And we could hear explosions across the river. We stayed together at the port. My parents finally found a ship. My mom was leading us. Finally my mother found a boat and I was handed up to the people on the boat. It was not open to the public and the only way you could get onto it was to climb up the side. My brother lifted me up to someone on the ship. My uncle stood on my dad's shoulders and then lifted me up to the ship and they lifted the other children up then too, like a human ladder.
I thought then that it was fun because I was going somewhere and I didn't know where. Everybody got onto the ship. It was really crowded. Some people fell from the ship into the water. I didn't see them after that.
The ship left the port that evening. There was gunfire along the river toward the ship. And there was more when we got near the sea. The captain of the sip was scared. he actually at one time went to the beach and got stuck on the beach. There were too many people on the ship. They wanted some people to get off but nobody would get off. Then another ship came by and we asked him to help us but he wouldn't. Our ship was a really big ship.
Our ship had a big cannon on the deck. The captain said that the next ship that came along and refused to help us, we would shoot. He threatened to shoot the next ship and so they connected a rope to us and pulled us off the beach. We had to unload about 2000 people before we could be pulled and then they put them back on the ship. This was a big war ship that we were on.
We were on the ocean for a while after that. An American Navy ship picked some of us up in the Sea. Then that ship took us to Guam. We stayed in Guam about two weeks. The American ship tasted us well and they had good food that they gave us.
I was confused by this time because I really didn't know what was going on. I cried at night a lot because I was so confused. I remember that on our ship many people wanted to jump over the side and die and other people held them back.
We went to Camp Pendleton from Guam. Then we came to Mountain View in California.
America wasn't what I expected. I think people in Vietnam exaggerated about America. They never told us any of the bad. So we expected something that we didn't find. They told us that everything here was better, but everything here is not better. Life can be hard here.
Everything here was a lot bigger and there were more cars and highways than in Vietnam. I am happy here now, I guess. But I still wonder what life is like in Vietnam. What people told me about Vietnam makes me wonder what my life would have been like had I stayed there. People still tell stories about it and I wonder.
I have adjusted to life in America. It offers me a lot and I am willing to take what it offers. I am an American citizen now and I vote. I will raise my children speaking both Vietnamese and English and I will teach them Vietnamese traditions. I do remain curious about Vietnam, though. I think some day I'll go back there and see my friends and we'll talk about our lives.

Nguyen Trung Hieu. I was born in 1967 in Saigon. There were eight children in our family. My father was an officer in the army. We lived in a large house, on the first story of the house was a restaurant and a bike shop. I remember that I had a happy childhood and I was not aware that the war was on. I attended school at La Santa Be, a Catholic school, a very strict one.
I remember one day my parents started looking for papers and destroyed them and started packing away other things. I wasn't sure what was happening. Then we were packed and we left for the airport and my parents told me we were going to America. I just had one suitcase for myself. I left everything else behind, including my friends. I didn't have a chance to say goodbye, we just went.
We spent the night at the airport. I slept on the suitcases that night. The next morning I got on a military plane. A bus took us to the plane, my Uncle was a major general in the Army and he got all of our papers. There were a lot of other relatives in the Army. My father was in the Army and he got caught at the airport and they wouldn't let him leave, so he had to stay behind in the airport. My dad and my uncles had to stay there, just before they got on the plane. Later they cme out on a boat.
Just the women and che children got to get on the airplane. My mom got frightened by this, and for a moment she didn't want to go. She said she was going to go home. She took the younger brothers and sisters at home and the older brothers, four of us, went with an aunt on the plane. We flew to the Philippines. There I had my first baloney sandwich and I thought it was pretty good. I had never had anythnig like that before. They had a lot of food there for us. They had Vietnamese pastries there for us, too. They then took us to Guam for a few months and then to Camp Pendleton.
We got sponsors when we were there. So my uncles and my brothers and I moved to Buffalo New York. we started school there. My uncle, who was a priest, got us into school there. We didn't speak English then. I learned it during the summer and my first year in school I got straight As. I adjusted well and there was no prejudice against us. The black kids made fun of us. It was crazy, I don't know what they did that.
My father stayed behind with my mother after that and didn't get out. My father finally came out. He got caught and spent seven years in a reeducation camp and then came here.
I moved to California in 1976. it was too cold for us in New York. I remember and with my uncle and he priest we crossed the country in a truck and saw America and saw everything. The country was really big, and I was surprised by that. I had another uncle in California. I graduated from high school here in Milpitas.
I am the university now but I am undeclared in my major. I am happy now and I wouldn't want to go back to Vietnam. My future is here now. My sister came here later than me with my younger brother. They came here in 1982. They have more attachment to Vietnam because they were there longer. They liked it because they were there longer. They thought the food there was better than it is here.
We are still trying to bring my mother out of Vietnam. I can't remember what she even looks like anymore. She writes to me sometimes. It is hard for me to write Vietnamese and she doesn't speak English and can't read English. I forgot Vietnamese and so I can't write back to her.

Tran Kim Loan. I come from a large family. My mom has nine children. She had eleven, but two died in Vietnam hen they were small and they couldn't get medicine. My two older sisters died there, one at the age of nine and one at the age of eleven. I was the sixth child in the family.
My dad was a businessman in Vietnam and my mother was in business, too. We lived in a big house there. My dad supported all of us by selling food and selling fabric, by importing goods and exporting goods and selling them.
I had a very happy childhood in Vietnam because of the way my dad was able to support us. it was great. We didn't know there was a war when we were growing up. My dad did because in 1954 he had moved from the North to the South. But we didn't know anything about that.
When I was in second grade a bomb fell on our school. My teacher yelled, "Get under the tables, now." Many kids were killed because of that bomb. Innocent little kids. A plane dropped the bomb at the time. I was in second grade. I started school when I was four years old, so that was 1975 when that happened. I remember many of the kids were killed. We were in the classroom at the time and the kids were outside playing when the bomb hit on them.
I was really scared at that time. I almost fainted. I screamed, "Get me out of here." And then I screamed "Why are they bombing us? Who is bombing us?"
My teacher didn't want us to afraid and she told us to stay patient and not to be frightened. My dad came and then picked me up from school after that. That was the only incident that I experienced that made me think about the war.
After that people started leaving. Someone came to our house and said, "Leave or you will be dead." They came to our house and told us that. We had not prepared. So we packed and left everything else behind that morning. We each carried a little clothes and was that. I didn't say goodbye to anybody. We just left instantly, just like that.
We went to the port, all of the kids and my parents and we went down to the port. All I was thinking was that we were running. My dad was in a car. We went on a boat and went out to sea. Everybody was running and pushing and there were eleven of us on the way to the port. We were all little at that time. I remember seeing a lady try to get into the boat and they dropped and she sank and she drowned. We had to take boats out to the ship on smaller boats and then we had to climb up a rope ladder and this lady fell past me and fell into the river and drowned. Then a lot of people fell off. I saw babies fall into the water and drown. Then I was afraid. I tried not to think about what would happen. I just wanted to hang onto the rope and climb up the ladder.
We lined up at the port and we signed papers and they didn't let some people on who were not qualified to leave, I think. The ship had a lot of people on it, tons and tons of people. And we didn't have any food. We got transferred then to another boat. There were people on the land shooting at us. We saw the bullets hitting the water around us. And there was thunder and rain and we were on the deck of the ship. It was terrible. Thunder and rain and bombs. We could see fires along the shore of the river, too.
Finally we passed Vung Tau and then transferred to a larger ship. We all got on another ship. Then we sailed for about three days to the Philippines. The other ship had some food and they gave everybody one bowl of rice every day. If you ate it all right away you got no more. I slept under the floor of the ship, not on the deck but below the deck. I didn't cry, I just tried to sleep and forget everything. I was just really unhappy. Everybody was hungry and all you could do was sleep and try to forget it all.
There was a lady on the ship. They had toilets on the ship. They had boards and they had holes to go to the batrhroom through it And this lady fell through the toilet on the side of the ship. And she fell through it and I went in and looked down and saw her in the water and they just left her there and she drowned at sea after falling through the toilet.
Everybody saw her but they didn't have time to go back and get her. She got sucked under the boat as we passed her. She screamed when she fell. There was a screen and you went through it and then there were just holes in the wood. I saw her when I looked down through the hole in the toiled. And I asked, what was that. And I ran out and they told me that she had fallen through and had drowned. And I didn't go to the bathroom for a long time after that.
I had never been outside Vietnam before. In the Philippines we got a lot of food from the Americans there. Those were the first Americans I ever met, there. I was there just for a few days and then they took us to Guam. I was in Guam for a few weeks then I went to Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. I had a sponsor then, a priest, but he died shortly after he sponsored us and we got another one. We settled in Avonmore, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. There were no other Vietnamese in the town. We spoke only a little English then, "Hi " and "How are you" and so on. The kids made fun of me, the way I dressed when I was there. We were poor and they gave us clothes and those were the ones that we had to wore. The salvation army and other sponsors got us some clothes. It as out of style clothes and so the other kids made fun of us. I remember that I was unhappy because of that, very unhappy. I just thought I didn't belong in America. This is just not what I wanted. I wanted everybody just to treat us like everybody else.
My dad got a job but then he fell on the ice and broke his back. One day, in the morning, I was walking to school to catch a bus and my brother said, "Don't go out there because they are going to get you. And I said No there just like us. So I walked out in the street with the other kids. And they said, Look at her, and they threw snowballs at me. One boy named Dominick and his friend named John, I will never forget them. They threw snowballs at me until I cried and cried. And I think they really wanted to hurt me. On the bus then they teased me too because I was different and there were no Asians or blacks or Hispanics. The kids did this. All of the adults were very nice, but the kids just treated us badly all the time.
A couple of months later a girl named Brenda came to the rescue and sort of adopted us and protected us from the other kids. And she got them to stop hurting us. I was in line for lunch and they would push me out and say, "You don't belong in this line." Things like that that hurt you when you are a kid.
We stayed in Avonmore for three years. Then I moved out here, the whole family. My dad didn't like it because of the weather and he got sick a lot. We had friends in California, some of my dad's friends moved to California and they wrote back and told us to move out here, to San Jose. Today we still live in the same old house.
I went to elementary school here, in 5th grade. Then I went to Andrew Hill High School in San Jose. At school I hung out with the Mexican kids. I guess I became Mexicanized when I was there. They knew that they were from a different country, too. But the white kids just know that they are here, and they try to control everything. So I stayed with the Mexicans, they were nice. And I learned how to speak Spanish.
I did really well in school and got straight As my senior year. I dated all nationalities when I was in school. My parents objected when I dated outside the Vietnamese. And they always wanted me to concentrate more on school. But I didn't pay much attention to them and I got in trouble a few times with them.
My brother went to college and convinced me that I should go to college. Now I am Americanized and I never want to go back to Vietnam. I think the friends I left behind are over here now, too. I like the freedom here. I love the freedom here.
I think there is less prejudice against me now. In college there are lots of nationalities and there is no prejudice. In high school they called the Vietnamese "Nips," for some reason. I don't know what that was. They just didn't have a specific term for the Vietnamese they didn't like. I got in a lot of fights in high school, and I got hit some times. I got detention several times for fighting in school. I was in a gang when I was in high school. We went around together, hung out together. I was really different from my parents, and they just couldn't handle me anymore. They would ask why I was the way I was, and they screamed at me and said they didn't know what to do.
When I graduate from college I'll get married. I have a Vietnamese boyfriend now. He can control me.
Now it's difficult to communicate with non-Vietnamese. Something happened. I guess I was just Vietnamese all along. When it comes to marriage and building my life in the long term, then it has to be Vietnamese. My soul is still Vietnamese, I think, and I can't change that and I can't make that adapt to many of the things that Americans do.
I will teach my children Vietnamese, both read and write. And at home I speak Vietnamese still and I will after I get married. My parents would go back to Vietnam if it was free, and they would leave us here. But we would never go back. Never.
Some day I'd like to be rich. And I think I'll have two children. I saw how hard it was for my parents to raise all their kids. I don't know how they did it and I saw them and I knew I couldn't do that. Two kids, I'll have. Or maybe one. I don't dream about Vietnam. I don't even want to visit there now.
My boyfriend now works in a business. Maybe some day we'll be in business together. I dream in English, now, not in Vietnamese.

Anh Pham. I was born in 1966 in Saigon. There were 12 children in the family. My dad was a teacher in a junior high school and my mother was a teacher in a school near our house. I think I had a happy childhood. I was the sixth child, right in the center of the family.
Sometimes at night we would hear the bombings and we would have to rush downstairs and protect ourselves. And on television they showed the fighting in the North and they showed children running holding children, so from television I learned about the war. Sometimes bombs would fall in the city and people would be killed and they sang songs about that.
I never met an American when I was in Vietnam. I left on April 29, 1975. My dad one day told us to pack our clothes and to go to our uncle's house. So we did that. We were supposed to go to a place near her house and then get on a bus. But we didn't do that, we just all left from her house. The family had to be divided up to get to the port and get on the ship. Some went in cars and some went on motorcycles to get to the port. I left many friends behind. When I first got her I wrote to them but then we stopped writing, eventually.
We went to the middle of the river and had to climb a rope ladder to get on the ship. I was really scared. it was raining and I was so afraid I kept vomiting. But all of us got on the boat and then went to the Philippines, and then Guam. We were there for about three days and then we came to Indiantown Gap. Then we ended up in a town called Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania. Within that city there were no other Vietnamese. But about 20 minutes away there were some other Vietnamese in another town.
The adjustment there wasn't really that easy. There were problems here and there. There were good and bad people there.
I went to a private Catholic school. Most of the kids treated us well and were friendly. I think the kids had been told about us. But some of the kids, in class, when the teacher gave a test I just could not do it. She would excuse me and then the kids would object to that and tease me later.
We moved to New Kensington. There was a neighbor who had been in the Army. And every time we came out of the house he would yell at us, "Go back to Vietnam, or "Go back to your country" or "Go home." I think he was crazy. And one day my friend heard him and she yelled, "Why don't you go back to where you came from, Mr." Well, Vietnamese don't talk like that to older people. I was so surprised to hear her talk to an adult like that. But I had to laugh because that was what we had been thinking. I don't know why that man hated us so much. I just think he had real mental problems. His daughter and wife were really nice to us, but he alone was mean.
I was pretty young then. I remember when I was in Vietnam and we heard about America and life there, washing machines and refrigerators and driers, and I thought, "Wow, it must be great to live in America." I thought that I hoped some day I could live in America.
Then I got here and things were really pretty great. We lived in a convent when we first came here. Our family was 12 people, and we lived in this convent and it had all these bedrooms and each of the kids had a bedroom and the refrigerator and freezer had all this food, and we thought, "America is so wonderful." But we found out that America was not always like that.
When we moved to California he stopped working. My father doesn't work now. My family is on welfare now. I work now, I just started at the Mercury News. In the customer information department. We came to California in 1980. I like California more than Penn in a way, but I also miss the people back there. They were very nice to us, most of them, they were very accepting.
I went to Andrew Hill High School also.

Hanh Bich Pham. I was born in 1967 in Kontum in the Central Highlands. After 1975 I came down to Saigon.
We have six children in our family. We lived in a big house in Kontum, my mom and dad and all of us. My mother didn't work, just my mother. I have an older brother.
I never knew anything about the war when I was growing up. My mom told me that after I was born she had to take me out of Kontum once because of the war, but I have no memory of that.
In 1975 I was seven years old when we left. My dad came home one day and told her to pack and then he called a friend to the house to pick up my mom and the kids. My dad stayed behind and the communist captured him and then took him away.
So the rest of the family left Kontum in a car, they took us to the airport and we got on a plane and flew Qui Nhon and from there we flew to Saigon.
My mom was crying all the time, so I knew she was upset. But I didn't know what was happening. My dad told us to be good with my mom and to take care of her. he couldn't go with us because he had to stay behind and take care of some papers, he said. But he was unable then to get out of the airport.
I was in Saigon when the Communists came into Saigon. I remember seeing them come in. My mom had to throw everything away that was on paper, and everything that we had that was related to the old government had to be destroyed. And I remember my Mom cut her fingernails real short because she was afraid the Communists would pull out long fingernails.
My life changed a lot in Saigon. We lived in a small house without my dad and my mom was always worried after that. I
We were not poor in Saigon because we did have some money. Then my dad came back after one year.
In 1976 I started school again. My dad came back and he wanted to leave the country right away. My dad told us we had to go and visit my grandfather, then early one morning he woke us up, my brother and me and my younger sister. Then he drove us someplace that we hadn't been before. My mom wasn't with us and I didn't know why, I started to cry. Then I felt that something was wrong. My youngest brother stayed with my mother and he cried too when we left him behind.
We dressed like country people on that day. We went to a small boat at night after waiting all day. That took us to a big boat and that boat took us to Japan. A Norwegian boat picked us up on the ocean and they took us to Japan. it was scarey on the ocean because I was sick all the time and didn't feel good. I lived in Japan for eight months in a house. After eight months we came to the United States.
I had no idea what to expect in America. We flew right to San Francisco and I was surprised on how big everything was. It was also beautiful, the airport and the people. I didn't speak any English at the time, but the people here were very nice to us all the time. Nobody here has ever been mean to me.
Three years later my mom and dad and brother came out. We were on the boat with my uncle. My dad is here now but he does not have work. We live on welfare.
I graduated from high school in the top ten students in my high school. Now I am studying nursing in the university.
I am happy here most of the time. I like the Americans, too. But sometimes I feel that something is missing in my life, but I don't know what. I don't know what.
I think about Vietnam a lot. And I miss it. I left all of my friends behind and also many relatives. I have new ones here, now. And I know that humans are humans now, not Americans and Vietnamese. Humans are humans and they are all the same.

Vu Thi Kim Vinh.

I was born in 1961. I was born, because my father was in the Army and we moved a lot. My mother delivered em at a small province Tay Ninh, in a small district of the province. When I returned to remember things and looked around and observed life, I was in Saigon already.
My parents are Catholic. We moved a lot because of the soldier's life. My mother delivered me in Tay Ninh then brought me back to Saigon. My parents had ten children and I was the middle. I have six older sisters, two brothers and one younger sister. But now I have only one older brother. One brother died four years ago, from an intestinal infection when he was in a refugee camp in Malaysia. He had an operation there on the escape. he came here and got an infection and died from it, after the fifth operation he died, he was 27 years old at that time.
I remember the war going on when I was small. Because I used to go with my mother to visit my dad, at that time he was in Binh Dung province, and when I was a kid I got sick for a few months and I lived with my dad so the army doctor could take care of me. The things that make me think of the war time and were in danger, was in 1968, the year that the Communists attacked during the Tet celebration. My parents and we had just had lunch and we were eating and my father received a phone call from the general and he had to hurry back to the army to his post. So we were really worried because it was the New Year Time and everybody celebrated and had a good time. But that time we had only mother with us and we had to know nothing of what might happen to my dad. We lived in fear and we just prayed during the Tet celebration. My mother really worshiped my father. And we prayed that everything would be over soon. My father was a Colonel.
I am very proud of my dad.
My dad had retired before 1975. He was a Lt. Col. After he fought in 1968 he received many certificates and awards from Nixon and Westmoreland, because he was the one who took back Binh Dung province and opened the road for other troops so the communists Binh Duong. he was a very brave man. After that he retired. Then he retired. It was too political, he thought. And he preferred to retire rather than play politics. he had taveled a lot. He could speak English and French and he was familiar with America because he had been here for some special training.
My father never believed that the Communists could win. When we herd rumors about the Communists victories, he wasn't concerned and so we didn't worry either. Even when they came so close to Saigon, we didn't worry because my father believed that the Communists would never win. But we just didn't believe it. My sister got married to a guy whose father was rich. His father knew a lot of officers who worked in the Thieu government and he knew what was happening. And this guy told him that he had better pack his clothes and collect all his money and leave the country because it was hopeless because the allies would not help us. This was at the beginning of April. We heard rumors before that. Even after the 21st we still did not believe it because we didn't think there was a way we could lose, we had strong army and a strong military and we could not lose. Even though we did not like the Thieu government, we did not like the Communists either. And we were confused, too, at that time. We heard rumors that the Comms were coming and that they would establish a new govt, but we had nothing else to believe in, no middle way to choose to fight for. We fought, though, because we were forced, to. But we were very tired of the war, too. The spirit, because we were afraid that if the Cs took over, our family and our lives would be in danger. We did not want to see Vietnam become red. The problem was, after April, all the important people in the government they started to become refugees, and it made everything chaotic at that time. Everybody got scared. After the first wave of refugees left the country , the high ranks, and then their relatives and their families, and many people panicked. I could not believe that place. My uncle worked in the ICCs, and he arranged for people to become refugees and arranged the time when they could go to the airport and get on the planes to leave. And people started to panic and when we lost Ban Me Thuot and then Nha Trang. People panicked more and more. I was 15 at that time. My family started to try to find a way to leave. And it was only because we saw other people going. They left us there. The Vietnamese family is very close to each other. If one family moves, and the others don't go your life will be empty and sad without relatives around. So when relatives started to leave, our other relatives started to leave, too. But we got stuck because we had too many options and we could not choose one. My sister worked in an American bank at that time. She said her bank would be evacuated and they would take her with them and they would accept one more person with her. Sop we chose another sister to go with her. And my sister, the one who married the son of the rich man, and she wanted to go and to take her baby. She went earlier, but when she got to Tan Son Nhut she found that anybody could go who could bet through the gate to the airport, without limit, so she tried to telephone us to come to the airport, but the phone line was a long one and she could not get to the phone to call us, and had she gotten through we could have left with her. She had her own baby ofa bout 8 months, and she had another baby from my other sister. And she had to feed them. She flew out that night to Guam. After that my family had a tragedy after tragedy. My brother in law did not know that his parents left without him. When he went home nobody was home. He panicked and came to us and he had come back to Saigon without permission. he was in the air force. We had to hide him and find a way for him to leave first. And at that time my uncle, who worked in the ICCS, tried to help him and put him on the list. But because most of the people knew that he was the son of a millionaire, and they thought that if he left he would bring a lot of gold and American money with him, and somebody told on him, that person told the police at Tan Son Nhut that he was a pilot and there was a law that no soldier could leave Vietnam without permission and if they caught him they could shoot him without trial or anything. He got caught. he got caught on April 27. Because of him we got stuck. My mother was a very nice and brave woman with a golden heart. Sometimes she cared for people more than her own children. She thought that he needed help and she said that she could not go and we could not go as long as he was in trouble and unless she saw him walk up to a helicopter to leave the country.
So on the 28th, my sister, who was his wife, she left the country because she was pregnant, she went first. My mother asked me if I wanted to go with my sister to take care of her because she was six months pregnant. I said I would do that, but my younger sister was closer to her and she cried when she saw her sister leaving, and so I was so stupid and I said that I would let her go in my place. That one decision cost me five years of living with the communists. So I said, You want to go, then go in my police.
The problem was my uncle. he did not want to at first to help the relatives, but some people who were richer than us they gave him dollars and they gave him gold. So he postponed the time when we would leave. And he put strangers in our place when they gave him gold. I don't blame him because he needed money. Who knew what would happen the next day and he had to take care of his family and he needed money. He planned to be one of the last to leave. We cannot lean on anybody else.
When he came home he said, "Oh, God. If he could put me on that flight, too, there were three cancellations, but he did not have the time to do it." My mother was angry and asked why did he do that to us.
he got left behind, too. On the 29th, the last day.
` On the 29th he came home and he cried and he said, "Its hopeless." My mother as shocked and asked why and he said that all of the ICCS members left without him. There was a big crowd at Tan Son Hut and he could not get through the gate and get into the helicopter. All the other ICCS members could not wait and they left without him.
My sister called a friend who worked in the American Embassy but her phone was disconnected. So we went to the Embassy and there was a very big crowd. That was on the 29th. People were crying and fighting to get into the gate. The people knew that their families had left, they went into the houses and looted them, refrigerators and furniture and so on. These people were in the streets. There was little traffic in the street, but mostly there were those carrying the goods of people who had left. I remember it was raining and we went to the Embassy and when we got there we knew for sure that there was no way to get in. I was not afraid at the time as much as I was numb. I just felt angry and upset, but not scared or afraid. I kept thinking that this was not fair, but who said that life is fair? I could not understand why this was happening to my people.
The question was no longer why because it had to be like this. On the 30th the house collapsed from many factors. It was raining I remember because my parents said that we could not stand out on the rain and so we went home and tried to find another way out of the country. And also we wanted to go home because we thought that the looters might go into our house if we were gone for too long. And we didn't want to go home to nothing. But after that, later on, my father didn't want to go I understood because he still had his mother back in North Vietnam and I knew that he wanted to see her. And he said that now if it happened at least he would have a chance to see his mother and his sister who were living in the North. This was an irony because he could not see her, he was in a concentration camp when she died after the war was over.
In the early morning I didn't see troops in the street. ABout 9:00 am we turned on the radio and General Minh said that he didn't want the soldiers to fight any more. he announced that the war was over. On the 29th we turned on the tv to watch the last show by the last free government and we heard Vu Van Mau and he was condemning the Americans and he ordered them out of the country. We saw some of the radical students also who worked for the Com secretly and he had got out from the jail and he came on the screen and he said something like now is the time for the youth and the students to prepare for the new happy things in a reunified VN. At that time I still hoped that I am so naive that the people didn't betray what they said would happen. I still thought that the others loved ;my country too and that perhaps everything would be all right.
About noon on April 30 I heard the troops and the jeeps they drove past my house with flags. I went up to the terrace to see them. The first reaction we had was to change clothes, we changed into all black clothes. We heard a rumor that they didn't like people who dressed nice, that meant that you had money and they would kill you.
General Minh announced that he would not be president anymore and we knew that was it. We cried when we realized that it was all over. My dad cried too. I was the one who had to burn all of the papers and the certificates that my father got from the Americans and from the government -- from Thieu and Nixon and Westmoreland and from all of those who thanked my father for what he did. All of the photos that my dad kept as souvenirs I had to burn, all of them. And I burned them and cried. I went up to the terrace and saw the last plane leaving the country, a C 130, and I watched it trying to take off. And I saw it explode in the sky. A DC3. I saw it try to take off and it rose in the sky and wne it was in the sky I saw a missile hit it and exploded and we saw the debris and the bodies fall out of the sky and back to the ground. That was on the morning of the 30th.
We saw a helicopter that flew to a physicians house, he was a physician in the army and chairman of the hospital for the soldiers who were wounded when they fought. The helicopter flew to his house and tried to take him, but he could not get onto it because the rope was not long enough. I just heard from his servant, but the helicopter came to his house and stayed over the house but he could not get into it and so it left him behind. So many people tried to find away to go, and here was a man who had a way and could not get into the helicopter.
After April 30 you could still leave Vietnam easily. The winners still celebrated their victory and they did not exercise much control over the sea. So people could still go. My parents tried to pay a boat to take our family. But on the way some Comm soldiers were hitch hiking and my parents talked to them, and they said that everything would be all right and that there would be no bloodbath. And my parents asked them about concentration camps if you were in the army and they said no no no everything would be all right. And they told us about how beautiful the North Vietnamese girl were and how much nicer they dressed than the South Vietnamese girl. They said that there would be no revenge. They said don't make us out to be monsters because we aren't. My parents were talked very nice to the Coms and the Coms talked very nice to them. But now I have to say that the first day of May was a very sad day. The day was very heavy and sobering. The electricity was out on that day and the Coms could not fix it. We hard on the radio the voice of a Northerner, very high pitched and loud, and they condemned American and the people who cooperated with them. They humiliated us with the way that they said that we had been the servants and the dogs to the American government because we had worked with them and against the Coms. And we were very hurt to hear that. It was very dangerous to go outside at that time because the people still broke into houses when they thought people moved away. it was very chaotic at that time. And many of the people had guns and took things from other people in the street and so it was frightening.
I had a bicycle at that time. I went for a ride. I saw some of the soldiers. They had taken off their uniforms. And they were crying. Some of the people had seen them, and those people, during this transition from the old to the new, and those people were chasing the soldiers and throwing things at them and hitting them to try to make themselves look good to the new government. It was very embarrassing to me, as a child to see something like that. I felt sick when I saw that. And these same people cheered the communist soldiers and hugged them like their long lost brothers. I was surprised when I saw that and I felt so badly, also.
At that time if your family had some one who worked for the government in the North, even just a regular soldier, you tried to remember if you knew anybody in the new govt so you could feel safe at last, and say, oh we have somebody who fought against SVN, that psychology confused me be because for that time you dare not say that you knew someone in the North or had a relative fighting in the other army. But nobody told anybody that but immediately everybody knew that and knew what to do. Everybody as suddenly wearing the North Vietnamese flag, the Viet cong flag, the flag was a security or a credit card that could safe your life at last. Everybody had a flag of the VC. Nobody announced it but everybody knew it. it made me scared because the people were so scared that they seemed to lose their sanity, their reason, they could not think any more. I had a blue shirt that I loved but we had to tear it up to make a flag and I cried when we did that, and I remember how silly it is. My brother was athletic and he had a pair of shorts that were yellow and we used them to cut the star from and we then made the flag and hung it in front of the house. And once that flag was up the family felt safe. Everybody seemed to do that the atmosphere was different. People seemed at that time suddenly to look at the world a different way. Because the liberators used a strange language, even thought it was Vietnamese. And some of the people started to imitate that accent. It was so strange.
After a week they divided us into sections and we had a political guy on our block and he told us about Marxism and Leninism and we had to discuss it in a meeting. And what was humiliating about this was that they made us criticize ourselves. Even my father at these meetings had to criticize his own behavior. I remember at this meeting for the first meeting. He had to say that he killed innocent people. But I knew he didn't kill innocent people because if he didn't kill them they would kill him. But he said that he was a guilty man and he asked for forgiveness for killing what he called an innocent people. And I watched him cry in front of them. And it was the first time I had ever seen my father cry. I had to do the same thing but I didn't have to write it down. And I said that I didn't want my parents to be the way that they were. This was after listening to the guy who talked about Marxism/Leninism and the sacrifices of the North to liberate the South. So I said that I hated people like my parents who did what they did. I said that to survive. People didn't care about what they said any more. Everybody was simply worried about making a good impression and about surviving. You had to say those things in order for the new order to treat you nicely. I was saying that I hated people like my parents because of what they said and what they expected from us. I wanted to survive, and people didn't care what they said, they just wanted to survive. Every night, and at 6 in the morning, they woke us up with two loud speakers. We had then to go out in the street for what I eventually called "Jane Fonda Time." We went out in the street and did exercises. No matter how old you are or what condition you were in you had to do the exercises. They took role and they made sure that you did the exercises. This was in the street and they had some funny music and a voice that shouted "One, two, three" just like in the book "1984." And it was ridiculous. I looked at many of the old women who had to do this and I thought, "What kind of new society, what kind of regime has no respect for anybody like this?"
After that, we had to volunteer to go out to the countryside to build the houses and repair the roofs in the new economic zones. They said we were volunteers but we were not volunteers at all. If you did not want to go, they would cut off your food, your rations, because my parents, my mother she could buy things on the black market, but they did not let us alone. They said that if one of your children did not volunteer to go to the countryside, if you didn't do that, then your whole family would have to go to the new economic zone. So my Mom they really tricked us. At that time only my Mom was at home because my father was in jail. At first they said for that the lowest rank in the military would have to go for two days for studying, then the higher ranks saw that and thought that they had kept their promise. So my father and the higher ranks then signed up for a six week or a three month term. On the day that they did that, we expected my brother in law and my father to come home, and they didn't. I recall that day and I remember see in g the faces of the sisters and brothers and the wives and the children of the men who were supposed to be coming home, who had parents or fathers or husband or brothers in the concentration camps. Even thought if I were very liberal, very neutral, I could not forgive the Cs for what they did, since I saw the eyes of the people who were waiting, who had believed the Cs. Everything was bright and everyone put on bright clothes because they believed that on this day their fathers would come home, and thery cooked and decorated their homes, and they all talked about good memories. And they then were disappointed and upset because when the women came to the capital and asked the head guy when the men would come home. Of course the Cs leader didn't show up. Even with the Nguyen Van Thieu government, you could deal with them through the press or through someone in the government, but with the Cs you have no right to do that. And the women went to the capital to see the officials, and the soldiers outside would not let them in. My friends and my mother asked him, Why did you say that today was the day our husbands could come home, after six weeks. And he said, "Six weeks is six weeks for transportation, not the six weeks that they will spend in the camp. Those guys who are there thought they were too big, and they owe a lot of blood to the people of Vietnam, so they cannot come home this easily." But the thing is they said that it would be six weeks to three months. But he said that the six weeks referred to the time to transport them. They did not let anybody know where they kept the people.
During those days we came to live in terror because we never knew what was going to happen. On the day before the Father was supposed to come home, a month or so after he left, I could, that night, a big group of soldiers came to our house and they rang the bell in the middle of the night and they wanted to search our house, it was 2 in the morning. Saigon was really hot then, in June, and my brother just had on a pair of shorts, and the soldier who was the same age as my brother, he said, "The way that you are dressed shows no respect." he yelled at my brother at 2 in the morning. They rang the bell and ran and rang. And we were so scared because my father was gone and when we asked who it was, they yelled with a high high voice, "It is the liberators. It is the National Liberation Front." They said it very sternly, and we opened the door and here was this kid, and he addressed my m,other as "sister," and he said, "Did your husband go to the camp." And she said yes, but they searched. The real reason they were searching was for money, for gold. That was the real reason.
At that time we still had a calendar on the wall with a very nice healthy very physical Japanese girl on it, and she had a shirt on over a bikini and she was looking out to the sea and was very happy. And he said, "You have to take this down, it is obscene and it is not a nice thing! It is a hangover from the former regime. it is bad. You have to take it down." We almost cried because it was something, a picture that we could look at and dream, and see the Sea and the blue sky and a happy woman, and we knew that we would never ever be like that girl in that picture anymore. And now he wanted us to tear it up in front of him right away.
My brother said, he was not wearing a shirt because it was so hot, and he said, "Don't talk back to me, don't talk back to me, OK" And my mother apologized and my brother then apologized. And he looked at my sister, perhaps he had to act like that to try to impress her. My sisters, when they slept, wore light clothes. And he looked at them and said, "this house is a stinking place, the way you dress and the calendar like that." You have to be more open and to study a lot from the new life. Our life is decent and your life is filthy.
One thing I will never forget. My brother is the one who died. He was a graduate at that time of high school, and he took the tests to get into the medical school and engineering school. And he applied for both. he was a very smart young man, very smart. he knew that he could not get into the school because of his background, because of my father. We were Catholic and we were not poor and my father was a Col. He got a very high score, the very highest score in the medical school admission test. We knew that because on my father's side there were a lot of people who worked in the system. My uncle controlled the medical school, temporarily, and he was the one who saw all of the examinations. The teachers who scored the exams and the doctors were the former ones at that time. And the teachers and the doctors gave him the very highest score at that time. Then they looked at his background and they simply threw his score out. We knew that he did well, and it hurt deeply when he did not get admitted to medical school. He had the highest score in Saigon yet could not get into the medical school. He then had to get a job because if you did not have a job they would send you to a new economic zone. My mother did not want him to waste his life in the new economic zone, and so she searched for a way to get him out of the country. And at that time, they forced him into the youth volunteers to build roads and to go into the jungle and to work there. He had to sign a paper saying that he volunteered. Finally, we had to do a trick. We lived in a society in which the government tricked and cheated the people. And so to live we now had to learn to trick and to cheat also.
We had to learn the game, the name of the game and the rules of the game. My Mom bribed a nurse to say that he had an accident and that he broke his arm and he had to have a cast for months. A nurse signed paper saying he broke his arm and my mother gave her a two wheeled Honda for it. A man came to my house and yelled loudly so all in the area would hear yelling that my brother got in an accident and said that the vehicle drove away. Then we brought him home with his arm in a cast. His arm was in a white caste and the neighbors came to see him, along with the block monitor, the councilman, and he came and saw my brother. He used to work for my Mom and his family had been poor. He was a bricklayer and now he was the councilman. My mom had been kind to him always, now he was a very important man. He asked what had happened. We were all crying, and my Mom said that tomorrow he was supposed to go to the New Economic Zone and he wanted to contribute to the country, and now he could no longer do that and we were all so disappointed. And the councilman said it was all right and that he could go later after his arm healed. Every three months they sent people, so my brother was now safe for three months.
Our livign room was now a place where people worked. My mother could knit very well and could design and create in her knitting. Nobody could do it as nice as her, so they made her a director for that for a small business in our home. They knitted in our home each day. They got the wool from the East Germans and they paid around 50 cents for a sweater that the women knitted in the house. The women whose husbands were in the concentration camps came to our house to work on these projects. When everybody went home and we closed the windows, then in the evenings my brother would take off his cast.
After six months we found a way for him to go. He always said that if he was lucky he would be free, if he was not, he would die because he was not, but he would die anyway in Vietnam.
We found a way for him to go. He got a stomach ache during the boat trip to Malaysia. They took him to a hospital, and they found an intestinal infection, and it was getting serious. They said that if one more day on the sea he would have died. So they saved him in Malaysia.
We thought he would come to America and go to medical school and become a doctor. But when he finally got to America he had to work and he then studied English and studied for admission to an American medical school. Yet he got ill here again.
My mother bought a false name for me in Vietnam. I was able then to go to school again at a lesser grade. If you graduated with a background like mine you could not get a job or get into a college. So I stayed in high school after we got the proper documentation. I spent two years in 11th grade.
In 1984 my father finally came back from the concentration camp. I left the country in 1979 to Singapore. But the people there didn't want us in. So they used a big ship to pull us out. We hit us with their ship and the boat almost sank.
At that time I laughed. Only me and my friend laughed on the boat. I saw all the other people on the boat crying. But we said, there is nothing to cry about now. I don't know why I had the attitude at that time. Maybe because I was single and was by myself and had no goal and no money and no nothing. I had to sit at the bottom of the boat for six days. I was not a human being down there. People urinated on my head. And I had to sit underneath the people for six days. I could not stretch my legs. My legs became numb. At that time the people were not people anymore. At that time people could kill you easily. I thought if people made me mad and I was stronger I would have killed somebody. Because life meant nothing. Finally, I was so tired. Every time someone urinated on my head I said, "Oh, hot tea, hot tea. It's tea time."
I got sick and had not enough water. I was dehydrated on the boat and yet I was still so polite. They had a plastic bag for people to urinate in. They transferred it to the top deck and emptied it into the sea. But if someone didn't pass it along right it would spill and it would run through the deck and down on us at the bottom of the boat.
I was lucky because we did not see Thai pirates. Our captain chose to go to Singapore so we didn't see the Thais. In Singapore they gave us water and some rations. Some C-rations, which we called "Carnations." We called them that after the Americans came there, carnations. They were the only American flowers that we had.
So we had that and we left Singapore and went to Malaysia. When I was with my father he also ate the american carnations.
I was in Malaysia almost a year. I was unlucky when I was there. But I still think today I am lucky. We got hit by the Singapore ship and the captain was good and he took us back to Malaysia. The people at the village used M16s to shoot at us to get us to go away and not land. They fired in the water and over the top of us.
But the captain decided to sink the boat and he destroyed the engine. So we had to land in Malaysia. So, everybody escaped and went ashore. We grabbed something that would float on the water and they let us land, then. They kept us afloat in the sea for two hours, and finally they got bored with that game and let us walk up on the beach.
My brother sponsored me to San Francisco. I think it was hard to say because everything seemed to new to me, especially after living in Malaysia for a year without contact with modern life. I had too many shocks and was almost numb when I came to America. I almost died so many times. I had to live on a soccer field sleeping on the ground, three thousand people slept on a soccer field. All the things we saw in those days. When I came to America I noticed I hope at that time that I could get back my dignity. That is what I hoped for, to get back my dignity with the passage of time.
Most people say, I know, that they love freedom. But freedom is not enough for me. I want back my dignity, my spirit. I cannot tell you how I feel then because I had lost my spirit and I could not fiend myself. I didn't know who I was. I just felt numb. The thing is that now I don't know what will happen. I have been through a lot. I cannot lie and say that I am very happy and that I found freedom. But because I felt free when I was in Malaysia or Singapore. That was free, but freedom of the human spirit involves also human dignity. Freedom is not enough. To me, I had been living in the war and left the country, I was a victim of the war. We had no real freedom. Compared with other people, yes. But real freedom for a human being we never had. I don't know about this country. I still have to observe and learn. And in the years before I came here I lost my spirit.
This country, some people like and others don't. But to me I don't base my ideas on , lets just forget about the war and forget that we used to be allies. The people here, compared with those I knew in other places, are nice and generous. I have to say that there are bad and good people everywhere, but in this country you can still, in California, perhaps, or San Jose, you still can keep something for yourself if you know how to keep it. How to control it. I don't know how to put it, but I think still I am thankful for the American people and for this country. Because at least here I have the chance to find my spirit and to dream and to be free.
I always remember the words from martin Luther King. I have a dream. My dream may not be the same as his or yours. My dream may be just very simple. But in this country I can do it if I try. I have the opportunity to do that, to fulfill my dreams. Even though I might just daydream. But I have a chance here to have a dream and to pursue it.
I want to be a writer, idealistically speaking. I would also like to become an educator, who can educate and use my knowledge in science in life or whatever to help people because to me I see the people as an end and not as a means. I always see people as an end. Everything I do for myself is also for other people. Also if I love and care for me, first, and then if I love myself, then I can love others. And I don't mean just the Vietnamese people, I mean all people. The Vietnamese people did the most suffering, of course. And I will serve them because they suffered. But I think that communists or racists or government that oppress or destroy human beings and the human spirit I am against. They see human beings just for production, just as means to an end. And the communists unfortunately treat people like that.
We born in the world to make the world a better place to live, not to destroy it. I don't believe in an ism, I just believe in the human spirit.
By helping each other we can make the world a better place.
I believe that all things have God in them. I believe that humans are created by heaven and the earth.

Tram Tran.

I was born in December 1961 in Sa Dec. That was the year of the Buffalo, so I'm supposed to be very hard working. The buffalo means a lot to Vietnamese because it symbolizes work and peace. Always working working working, passively. I have three brothers and three sisters. I am the second oldest child.
My father was an artist. He embroidered flags. My mother was a school teacher until her fourth child came along. Then she stayed home and helped my father with his business. They worked side by side. And that is how I remember my parents now, working always side by side. The parents were always home, not like the parents here, who are always gone. I grew up in the environment where the parents were always at home supervising the kids. We were Catholic then, too.
We moved to Saigon when I was still small.
I've never known my country to be at peace. There were always soldiers around, American or Vietnamese. In my neighborhood in Saigon there were two big buildings with gates around them, and they had swimming pools and recreation facilities. They were called "villas" and that was where the Americans would come and stay. The gates were always closed and the Americans would come to the gates and let them in and then the gates would close again. I remember watching that when I was small. The Americans were always behind the walls and gates for me. They had big dogs to guard the dogs. Whenever the gates would open the children would want to get close by and look in but then the dogs always barked and we ran away. It was like a game with us. It was very mysterious to us. The children were friendly with the GI's. We would wave at them and say, "Hello, Salem!" Just like the cigarettes. Then we would yell, "Hello, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5." I could count that far in English. And then the Americans would usually smile and wave back at us and we would laugh.
I tell you this now because when I finally left Vietnam I had this huge hatred for the Americans. And so my feelings underwent a dramatic transformation in a short time and I am not really sure, exactly, why that happened.
After I left Vietnam, I didn't know anything about politics at all, and all of the friendliness disappeared, and it didn't have a logical explanation to it for me. I didn't know much about politics. And I simply got that hatred.
My father did some business with the Americans making flags for them. These Americans came to my father one day and they wanted to order a lot of flags for their unit, almost one soldier and one flag for each. And they wanted a picture of "Snoopy" on the flags. So they showed my father the picture, and my father said that he thought this was really an ugly dog and that it was drawn by someone who didn't know how to draw a dog. So he said that he would redraw the dog for the Americans and they, at first, said that was all right. And so for the next three or four days my father just drew pictures of dogs, realistic ones and mean looking ones, all kinds of dogs to put on the flags for the Americans. He was sure that they would like his work because it was all very realistic.
The Americans really didn't like what my father did. They said, "No, we want snoopy." My dad didn't understand why they should want such an unrealistic and funny looking dog on their flag, but he agreed, although he was disappointed, and made them their snoopy flag. Later, he said that the Americans didn't like the Vietnamese and did not respect the Vietnamese soldiers who fought under their own flag. The Americans, he believed, were willing to go out and risk their lives and die for their Snoopy flag, but not for the Vietnamese flag.
Then they asked him to do a big American flag. My father heard that Hawaii and Alaska had been added to the United States and he wanted to make his flag modern and include the new states. So my Dad carefully improved on the flag that the Americans gave him to copy. He thought there were 52 states and so had made an American flag, a big one, with 52 stars. It took him a long time, many sleepless nights as he tried to arrange the fifty two stars so they would be balanced. And then he made his flag with 52 stars. The Americans came to pick it up ad they looked at it and they thought that something was wrong with it but they didn't know what. Then they counted the stars. There were 52 but they took it anyway. So somewhere in Vietnam the Americans were flying and supporting a flag with 52 stars on it.
I had never seen bodies or casualties in Saigon. My parents had come from the North and they wee very anti-communist. The people from the North knew what the Communists were like, because they had lived with them before. But although I heard about the communists, I never actually saw one before the end of the war.
I heard stories about the Vietcong penetrating the city and doing whispering work, but I never had contact with them.
In 1973, I heard that the every body anticipated that the Vietcong would strike again after the Americans left. And they would not keep the Paris Agreement. Nobody seemed to believe that the Vietcong would keep the agreement. Perhaps the Americans did, but nobody else did.
After the Americans left the two big villas that they had occupied had activity around them. But it was no longer American soldiers. Now these were American civilians.
I believed that the Viet Cong would strike again. I was not afraid. In my mind I always believed that good would win over evil. And if you believe that you are not afraid. I had faith that the Communists would always lose, and I think now that is the way children look at the world. I was taught that outside was a force, the United States, that was good and would help us, especially since we were attacked and we did not attack anybody. We were being invaded. I always believed that we would win. Even though they win battles I thought that we would win.
In 1975 most of my family, aunts and uncles had left the house by the start of April. Their house was empty. My grandmother began to burn all of her letters and documents that said that we had been associated in any business way with the government. Anything that would tell the Vietcong of our past she burned. When she started that, and she did it very quietly, I asked why she was burning the material. But she did not have to speak because I remember that I understood her actions. We destroyed all photographs, birth certificates, everything. She burned it in the kitchen. The emptiness of the house, people very close who had left, and then the burning of the letters, all of that changed the atmosphere and the feeling in the home. That is when I realized that we were losing and it was serious.
I became afraid ad I remember crying about it because I wanted so much not to have to face the threat of the communists coming into Saigon. Then I was afraid because they same thing would happen to us that had happened in the North. People would start to watch each other. And then children would prosecute parents, spy on their parents, and life as we knew it with the concept of freedom, would disintegrate when the Communists won.
Gai Dinh is where we lived, near Tan Son hut, about a mile from Tan Son Nhut.
School was suspended for us. I was not in school then, and it was because it had been suspended, classes. And there was a curfew, always a curfew during my life.
My relatives had left the country, and had gone on to Guam My aunts had worked for the Americans.
My relatives had already left the country and had gone to Guam on their way to America. My aunts had worked for the Americans. I was aware that they were going. They did not say goodbye. Just one day they were gone.
I was taught not to say goodbye to anybody in case we could not go then no one could prosecute use for trying to leave the country. It was very secretive at that time.
I was in church the day we decided to leave. My parents had been looking for me all over and they could not find me. I had gone to church in the morning and I stayed for three masses on Sunday. And they couldn't find me. So my father told my Mom to take the children and go on ahead and he would try to leave with me later. Because his logic was that two people would have a better chance than all nine people together.
I was in church then. I was religious then, I almost became a nun. I was afraid and at Mass I think that I was very connected with my church, had activities there, met friends there. The first two masses I came there to help collect the money and then during mass watched the motorcycles so that nobody would steal them during the mass. And in the third mass I went in. I was sitting there and then suddenly one of aunts came in and when he came in -- one of my friends -- and when he came in I suddenly I had the feeling that I would not see all of this again. Just some sort of intuition that I had. I knew that he came for me. But somehow when he came close and talked into my ear, I suddenly jumped. I did not hear anything unusual, but it startled me. he said "Your family is looking for you." And I just knew that we would leave the country then. It was Sunday the 27th of April at that time.
My friend had me get on his moped, but I didn't want to. I just ran home. I ran all the way home. I came home and jumped on my father's Vespa and we tried to catch up with the rest of the family.
For a month we had always had bags packed just in case we had to go. We went to where we were supposed to go to catch a bus to the airport. One of my aunts when she left she asked, she spoke both English and Spanish. She could have left before us but she volunteered to stay because she knew the family had no connections for getting out. My family would have no way to leave the country if she did not stay and help.
She was told by another aunt to go to her office and clean out the desk and was told that she could keep whatever was valuable in the desk. So she went to clean out the desk. So Hung went to the office to clean out the desk. And at that time there was another American who had come into the country. It was his first day there. He thought Hung was one of the employees and so he ordered her around. And by the middle of the day he asked for some papers and she said she didn't know where they were. He yelled at her and said she should know where they were because she worked there. She said she didn't work there, but was just there to clean out the desk. He was very apologetic and told her that if she would stay and work with him he would try to get her family out, in return.
That was the connection for us to get out of the country. My father's sister came and took the Vespa after we got to the bus stop.
I was both sad and very happy at that moment. Sad because I felt that even if I was thirteen years old, that was old enough to realize how important it was to be leaving your home and your country. But I was also glad because I felt that it was a survival instinct.
We caught up with the rest of the family and were stuck there until the 29th. We waited inside a building for the bus. It did not come until six o clock that night. We almost went home before it came. But then my father said that we should not go home because of what he went through in the morning just to get us together. He said we would wait until the bus came, even if we had to sleep there that night. But we would stick together no matter what. We decided then to wait all night if it was necessary. Half of the people got discouraged and went home before the bus arrived.
At the airport there was an air attack on the night of the 28th. People were running to the bunker, the sand bunkers. But my father said, "We are not going to lose each other now. And if there is a bomb in the bunker it will not make any difference." So we stayed just in an open field together. We did not see the plane, but we saw the explosions and the fire. I had not seen anything quite like this before.
Several times I had been in a situation like that. For children it was very exciting. I was not afraid as I was excited at that time. Only after I came to the US and was in peace, then did I begin to see that war was abnormal. But back then war was very normal to me, so I was excited by the raid.
One year after we came to the US we were in San Francisco celebrating Chinese New Year the next year, and she just suddenly started running and crying. She was five years old then. She was crying "Air raid!" Air raid.!" So I knew that for me it had been exciting but not for my sister. (Phao Kich means air raid.)
I stayed in Tan Son Nhut three nights. We finally left by helicopter. I was not just excited about the air raid. Everything was mixed in those days. Half glad and half scared. Always half this and half that. Not terrified and not overwhelmed. It was always a positive feeling like excitement, but then on the other side always a sadness. My feelings were split then.
We saw the Marines arrive at the airport by helicopter. I must say that the Marines are so good looking. I just looked at them when I saw them coming in. And all I could think at that time was, "Look at them. These are angels!" They looked beautiful to me then because they were coming to save us.
No one in the family spoke English except for my aunt, so we could not talk to them except for my aunt. We were a big group then, all of us together.I observed all the families at the airport. My observation of the family was more interesting than my own thoughts about myself at that time.
One of the scenes I saw was this pregnant woman, well pregnant. And every time we were relocated during the night, we were relocated many times during the night because many of the men were of military age, and if the Viet Cong came they would take the men and if the South Vietnamese came they would take the men, and so to protect the men we were relocated many times during the night by this one American who was my aunt's boss. he took care of us at the airport wholeheartedly. He was so nice to us, but I do not remember his name because it was so foreign to me.
The children were all quiet because we sense the seriousness of the situation. The American provided canned American food for us. When the Americans left there was food all over the airport. There was, I remember, one very large piece of cheese left behind. These things were very expensive in Saigon, but now they were suddenly free to us. So we all ate the cheese. And canned food was available too. Campbell's chicken noodle soup was there, too. And we were so hungry at the time, it seemed like a real blessing. They had a commissary line where they were serving the Campbell's soup for us. Again, I don't know who these people were.
This pregnant lady and her husband. Every time they would move he would pack the money under her stomach and tape it there. So each time they moved he would take the money out from under her stomach and then would retape it. It was so embarrassing to watch and at the same time it was so interesting. I remember it because it was the very first time I had ever seen a pregnant woman's stomach and this man kept taping his money under the stomach. She must have given birth to her child later on the ship because she was so pregnant.
I had my own little bag with me. When we left, because the helicopter could take only a certain weight, I had to leave my bag on the ground. But I was wearing three pairs of pants and three blouses. The main thing was to stay together. My youngest sister was four and the next was only six. When they said Run, all of us ran together, even my four year old sister would run very fast and stay in line, she understood how important that was.
When it was our turn, mine was the last helicopter to leave. We were supposed to leave with the first group. And we were so pessimistic about getting out that when they called our name we didn't go on the first flight. And then we waited all day and they never called our name again. We began to fear that our name was not on the list. Then an American came over and asked who we were. My aunt told him and he then told us that we had been called first. So we were the first and we became the last and we left that evening.
I had been in a helicopter before when I had sung for the soldiers. So this was not my first time. I was aware that this was a very important moment. My family had 13 people in it, with 9 of us in the immediate family, and then my aunt and her friend and my grandparents. We got into the helicopter. We had waited so long by that time. At that time we were not really sure that there would be another one for us. We were waiting for that. And I remember, the first time, everybody was on the field and they announced that all the Americans would leave first and then the Vietnamese. So we thought at that time we would be left. But they promised, they said, "Don't panic, we will come back and pick you up." We were waiting for about an hour and a half after that and then suddenly all kinds of helicopters were on top of us and people were clapping and waving and standing up and they were so happy.
The reaction, when my parents saw the food that the Americans left all over the airport, they were sure that the Americans had abandoned them. Then they came back and everybody was so excited. My parents had a different reaction from mine. I would listen to them and I knew the seriousness of the situation and I could not help but think that with all of this food around me, this was the first time in my life I had seen so much food and I was so excited. So half of me was with my parents worrying and the other half was very glad because at last we had food to eat.
When the Americans left there was permission for the people who worked for them to bring the food out and so it was brought out, just like manna from heaven.
When the Americans came back it was still daylight and we saw them coming before we heard them and I had just the happiest feeling. From the moment I left the church until the moment we were on the helicopter, I had this feeling we were going to go, I had that faith all along. So even though my parents were worried and the people around us were worried, I was not worried. Somehow I knew the future, some how. It was going to be all right for myself and my family, I felt.
We were held back at first when the helicopter came down. I remember the blades were very strong and the wind pushed us back. I was pushing forward but the wind was blowing us back. My little sister was holding my hand fighting against the wind that kept blowing us back. We ran as fast as we could, leaning forward to the helicopter. I remember that experience one time when I was in childhood when a storm came in from the ocean, and it felt just like that once again. There were two or three Americans at the helicopter door to help us in. We ran in between the Americans, and I remember that one of them picked me up and lifted me into the helicopter. I had the chance to be at the window of the helicopter along with my family friend. And I remember that he said, "Pray," a thankful prayer is what he wanted, "Say thanks," he said. And I looked at him and suddenly I felt ashamed, very ashamed. Because for me, suddenly then,that was the first moment that I hated the Americans.
I felt very hurt. I looked out the window and the helicopter was lifting up. And I saw Saigon, and it was so red. Because of the sun and because of the fires out there. My last view of Saigon was that it was bright red ;from the Sun and from the fires.
At that moment I was not excited any more. At that moment I started to hate the Americans. I was becoming at that moment traumatized. The moment that the helicopter left the ground then I knew that something very bad was happening. At that moment I tried to cry , and I did have tears in my eyes, but not as much as I wanted. I wanted to dramatize all of my feelings inside, and I wanted to cry more, but I had only a few tears left. I stayed at the window and looked out as we left. I saw the people as we left Tan Son Nhut and then they became very small and disappeared.
We went over the beaches and out to the South China Sea. I watched it all from the window. The scenes of Saigon I remember most clearly.
I don't know what the others were doing, crying or not, because I eventually blocked out most other memories of that day. I was standing looking out the window, it was very crowded inside the helicopter.
I was not afraid. Just that irrational feeling that everything would be all right. I was concentrating on thinking about, I remember one of my last thoughts was, I did not have a handful of the ground from Vietnam. I read in some romantic story that a person held a handful of the earth from his country with him. I intended to take a handful of earth from the airport, but with all of the happening, I did not get a chance to get it.
I dramatized everything, and perhaps I should not have done that -- the thought about the earth of Vietnam in my hand as I left.
We landed on the Midway. And then we were there for about two hours, they handed us ropes to help us walk across the deck of the ship.
On the ship I still had some mixed feelings. I had some resentment but at the same time the Americans looked very beautiful to me and they were now my protectors and I felt must trust in these people on the Midway, they were so tall and so beautiful in their physical appearance, big and strong and healthy and to us they were just extremely beautiful.
We were then transferred onto a small ship. I remember a lot of going up and down on the ocean. On that ship we did not have food for about three days. One of the theories that people had on the shp was that some people like my aunt told us that they did not have enough supplies and the little food they had they had to keep for the American soldiers on the ship. And when the helicopters came to transfer the Americans, they still did not have enough food. So the second theory was they wanted us to be hungry so we would not fight with each other or with them.
I was very hungry. And my mother told my brother to go to sleep and he complained that he had not eaten all day. I was very hungry, too. We had water but nothing to eat. So finally one day I stole some food. I feel badly about that even today.
It was near the cooking area of the ship. The story is significant for my trip. I am of course embarrassed about it today. There was a bucket of fish, canned fish, that I discovered one day. I found it always setting in the same place, so I picked up some of the fish in the can, closed the can and ate some of it. Some cold canned fish. It was whole fish inside, canned and cooked. It tasted very good to me. I knew it was very fishy and cold, but at that time it tasted so good to me. and I got sick from eating it but I could not tell people that I had stolen food and eaten it.
Our ship was just a small one and it transferred us to the Philippines on another ship. I thought on the ship about Tan Son Nhut and all the food there and wished I had brought some with us. At Subic it was like paradise because all we did was stay in big tents and we had mattresses and bedding to sleep on the ground. But on the ship we slept on the floor of the ship and it was packed. There was more room for us on the ground at Subic. They gave us shots before we could go to Guam. They had us take showers also so that there would be no disease and no lice to be brought to Guam and then to the United States. We all received vaccinations.
My family wanted to go to California because we had heard that there were more Asians there and better weather. So at Guam they said that they were going to fly us to Fort Chaffee, which had a vacancy, instead of Pendleton, and we refused because we wanted to go to California and not Arkansas. So they let us stay longer on Guam. We did not know a lot, so whatever we did know, we hung on to it, and we knew that we wanted to go to California.
They told us that in Arkansas we could wait for a California sponsor but we wanted instead to wait and go to California.
So finally we got our way and we got to go to Pendleton in California. We waited in Fort Chaffee and finally we got a sponsor to come to California. We did not know much and so we were not scared. It was like the deaf who cannot hear guns and so they are not scared. We wee not quite sure of what to be afraid of.
We were sponsored by a church in San Jose, California.
I gradually lost my faith after arriving in America. I began to have doubt after arriving in America and my depression became greater and greater until it almost overwhelmed me. There were many factors. There was a culture shock and the memory of Vietnam and the fact that we would not go back. Also I had a lot of hatred toward the Americans because I did not understand enough about American policy. I was at the same time very happy to be here, but then I was at the same time very guilty about being here. When I was in Vietnam whenever I talked about peacetime I would see grass everywhere. That is the image I have always had of peace -- green grass. When we would sit by the Ocean and my father would say that on the other side of the ocean was America. And I heard that there was peace over there. So I dreamed of America as a place with grass everywhere. And in Fort Chaffee there was green grass everywhere. So I thought that this was peacetime. And somehow, inside me, everything was b very turbulent. But the image that I saw and the feeling inside me did not correlate.
The peace in my mind and the peace outside me caused me problems. It took ten years before I finally solved it. I went through a long period when I was constantly suicidal. I would see or find myself in the closet or in the bathroom with a knife, thinking about killing myself. I thought of killing myself with the knife and I thought then about the train also, because I did not want to embarrass myself, and falling in front of a train would be the best way by making it look like an accident. My family are all Catholics. But the knife would be my second resort in this effort. Finally, when I managed to overcome my desire to kill myself and straightened out my thinking,I had gone from straight As almost to flunking out of school. I did not allow myself to be happy in those years. Whenever I found myself happy I found myself guilty and then would get very depressed for several days. So I started to avoid happiness. The problems accumulated and became worse and worse in those years.
Finally, I decided to live only because to kill myself would be an embarrassment to my family, especially to my youngest sister. And I was afraid that if I killed myself my youngest sister one day would do the same thing, and I did not want that. So when it because clear that I was going to commit suicide, I finally sought our professional help. First I saw a priest and then a therapist. And I also read extensively on Eastern religions. And in philosophy. One ting led to another, and finally I became convinced that there was no God and the determination to be happy regardless of guilt was something that I had to achieve. Verbally I did not want to commit suicide, but every know and then I think of it and it seems almost romantic. But I believe now it is more romantic to stay alive than to die, especially since now I believe that there is no life after death.
I looked in my heart for God and did not find him. that was the emotional stage. I came back to God even more fervently than before for a time, but still somewhere some how I think that was merely emotional. Finally, I became more rational and believed that God did not exist.
I went through a stage of hating God also for what he had allowed to happen to my country and my family. But now I am indifferent to God. I have no hatred and you cannot live with so much hatred. So in the end I stopped hating myself and God and the Americans.
I love the Vietnamese people very much. I love them in action, too, as well as ideally. I work with the community.
Individually I love many people in America, but generally, I don't feel at home here in America. I still feel that this is not my country, this is not mine. I don't know where my country is right now, but that question is not as important to me now as it once was.
INSERT EARLIER. My family was musical because they liked music and not because they were talented. We like things and we do them and not because we have natural talents. So, one of the famous persons in Saigon was interested in my family because my aunts just love music so much. When that person began to use everyone in my family for his productions, we Le Van Khoa. he lives in San Diego now and is married to one of my aunts. he took the kids, and my aunts, my mom would teach us how to sing some songs and to do some traditional Vietnamese dances, and some dances that we made up ourselves. My uncle would take us to the hospitals, first in the city, and then, later, to the countryside where the troops were stationed. We moved further and further from Saigon to entertain the troops. They were hospital sites where tents had been put up in the countryside for the wounded soldiers.
Sometimes by helicopter and sometimes by jeep we traveled. There were wounded soldiers and some doctors there, in uniform, and we were introduced to them. Mostly I saw wounded soldiers. Most were not hurt badly, but they were recovering. Those who were in the process of recovering would come to the tent to see us. And some times we went to their tents to cheer them up. We sang and performed happy songs. We were always very welcome. They always welcomed us. I felt like that it was much a romantic period, I felt like a little cherub when I was performing, in student uniform or a white dress I performed, I always wore my white dress because I felt like a little angel then when I performed.
It was shocking, the smell was particularly terrioble at times in those areas, and it was hot, often. But I was so happy being an angel to the soldiers that I didn't mind that much. Two things I remember from that time. One was sadness and seeing the pain, and the other was that I was acting happy in order to create happiness and to receive happiness. In Vietnam the childhood was thought of as a very happy period. I wanted to fulfill that expectation and so I pretended to be very happy. I fulfilled my role and the soldiers wanted to see that, to believe that Vietnamese children, because of their sacrifice and their pain, were still very happy. So I fulfilled their expectations by ridding myself of all pain and sadness, although I could feel it inside, I could not show that to the soldiers.
The soldiers were all adults in my eyes because I was so very young at that time
I did not know anything but war when I was small. At one level I told myself, this is life. Because I knew no other way of life. Theoretically I guessed that there was something else. Sadness was normal to me. I accepted it as though there were no other way. Back then I thought that everything was supposed tobe like that. The sadness was not, it did not intensify because there was nothing to compare it with. When I came here, then it became intensified. I have talked with others who had thought of suicide. I thought many Vietnamese would have the same feeling as me, but they have too much pride to talk about it.
One time I stepped on a nail during our travels. And that became infected and then we went on a big trip. I was upset because it hurt so much, but I wanted to make the trip. So I lived with that small pain. I was hardly able to walk, in time. So I limped badly. By the time the trip came and we had to leave, my feet was very infected. So I went with the group, and it was hot, and my feet hurt, and the pain became more obvious. I felt that was the first time I had some of the pain that the soldiers had. I had the pain but I had to pretend like I was all right. That was how many of the soldiers lived their lives, I thought. And so I shared, in a small way as a child, some of the pain of the young soldiers. It was a very difficult time for me. That really created more confusion in me, because I was expected to be a happy child and it became even more difficult. I knew pain and the unhappiness around me.
Patriotism was stressed in Vietnam. Any career plans I had were for my country. I would become a teacher for my country. But when I came here I lost my ambition because if I became successful It would not be for my country but for myself. Life was not quite as noble as it was before. I have become Americanized and now I pursue a career because it makes me happy and there is little else that one can aim for here.

I have a fantasy about going back to Vietnam and doing good things for my country. Bringing them knowledge about all of the things that I have learned about the world. I want to better my country again, it is a fantasy. Not as strong as the faith I had when I had a different vision of the future. I began to feel American about four years ago. I began to feel that talking to you is talking to another human being. I began to feel you. Then I spoke in patterns. Looking at Americans I could not feel them. Now I am more a person than a Vietnamese, more a human being in my feeling.
The image of Saigon being red was literal, but you can take it metaphorically, too.
I feel sorry for the Vietnamese who are here today. it took me a lot to change, and I know that many Vietnamese today don't want to change. They want to punish themselves. They still feel guilty about Vietnam, about leaving their country. The country is still there, it is just a different government. We have not lost Vietnam, it is not wiped out on the map. They should ask themselves why they wipe it out on the map when it is not wiped out. There is a shame in leaving. And we have so much catching up to do, spiritually and intellectually and culturally. And we let the feelings from Vietnam drag us down, and we are going often in the wrong direction. We have so many problems here and they exist because of our emotional desire to look backward. Emotion I believe is not healthy. Up to a point it is, but if you let it control your life, then things never get cleared up. I hope no one misunderstands me when I saw this. I love the Vietnamese people. The force of not changing can be bad, being in disharmony with the environment. Many do not have the courage to be happy. For a long time I punished myself when I felt happy. But now I have the courage to be happy. It took a lot of courage to determine, I am going to be happy, no matter what. No matter who controls my country, I am going to be happy.

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