Monday, May 02, 2005

Journey of the Refugees

Imagine this: a war is raging on your own soil in the country you call home. This war has been ravaging your homeland for as long as you can remember. You grew up into this devastating situation. You can't understand how cruel this world is. As you grow up, tensions mount and the situation always becomes more dire. No matter what you try to do, bombs land in front of your house, as well as the side and the back. You have tried to escape before, and you were foiled by your attempts by soldiers who look like you, talk like you, but for some apparent reason, they are unwilling to allow you to run away. It is almost like a friend is stabbing you, but not quite.

Then one day you make it down south through the seas and you make yourself a somewhat decent living. However, there is an uneasiness that still lingers in your heart. Chaos as the old cliche goes, becomes hell breaking loose. The little peace you had before this time is all but gone, disappeared like the smoke rising from a blast. Around you are injured people, crying babies and demolished buildings. You run, but you don't exactly know where. Then your mind clears up a bit, just enough for you to realize that you have gone through a similar situation. You run for the seas and get on a makeshift boat. You are escaping as was the case last time, but now you don't exactly know your end goal. All you know is that you must escape for you to survive.

In this chaotic time, you leave behind everything from your family to even another set of clothes. You ride for days on end, leaving one horrendous scene to another. Now you are starving, sick and tired. Some people in the same boat as you are have even died. You reconsider whether you shouldn't even left your homeland because you are certain that you will probably meet the same fate as some of your shipmates. Suddenly, from a far off distance, you see a gigantic ship. It looks like an American ship, the very same country that was helping you fighting the war, the very same country that left your country to fight its own war, the country that caused the frightening situation that made you escape to the sea the second time.

Its a naval ship. They blare something over the horn but you can't understand. Then it becomes clear, they will save you if you can climb onto the naval ship. At least that is what you think they said, but no matter, people are climbing up onto the battleship and you do the same. You have escaped this horrific day. However in your heart, you are missing something. You are glad to be alive, but how is the family you have left behind. Are they still alive? Will you even get to see them again? This and other thoughts cloud your mind, making what was your relief of being alive and to sadness. What is to happen now? Where am I going? What am I to do?

Then suddenly, someone from your town taps your shoulder and you find that you are not alone in your misery. Now the two of you can reminisce on the saddening situation you two have been through and discussing the unsure situation you two have ahead. After countless hours of discussion, you have become tired. You need to sleep, but now you can since you at least are in a less treacherous situation then you were in before. Therefore you sleep in the misery of the situation.


This situation that I have just described to you is a compilation of truths, a compilation of my parents harrowing tale of leaving Vietnam on April 30, 1975, a day for them that will live in infamy to take the words from the famous US president, FDR. My parents were from the North, North Vietnam that is. When communism spread like wildfire through the north, my parents had to rush down south to South Vietnam to safety. However, this was not the end of their troubles, they had to leave again in 1975 when the US ended their efforts to help fight the war against the north. Their quitting the war left South Vietnam in chaos and caused many people to rush to the sea to be safe.

They were the Vietnamese refugees or boat people. Some like my parents were able to to be saved by American naval ships. Others made it to other surrounding countries such as The Phillipines and Malaysia. However sadly, others died during their journey with boats not made for long sea travel. My parents were the lucky ones. In looking back at this situation, this must have been one of the most traumatizing events in someone's life to live through.

I guess this situation is bittersweet because by their actions, I am here today and the US living in a comfortable house in cushy surroundings. War, when it is even fought is normally on foreign soil. To hear this from this saddens my heart. I was lucky never to have seen war being born in the US, but I am sad that my parents have gone through such immensely incomprehensible events.

I have been fortunate to visit Vietnam a while back to see my family. It is a quite thrilling and warm experience. I don't know if I could live there because of my Americanized thoughts, ideas and experiences, but a part of me knows that I belong there. It is one of those "if only" types of questions that gets your mind thinking. This post today, though a couple days late from the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, is dedicated to the Vietnamese people who had to leave their beloved country and carve out a living in foreign soil without knowledge of speech and customs. I think this is what drives the heart and soul of the former refugees to do so well in their new surroundings because they know very well any hardship they face here does not and will never compare to their unimaginable events they have to face before. This also drives me to do something one day to return to Vietnam, when it is more democratic, more for the people, to help my fellow blood. If by that time, communism has not fallen, I will hopefully help spark a bolt into revolutionizing Vietnam. At this moment, I don't quite know what to do, but only to study well so that I will have the ability to do something valuable. I guess I have rambled on too much. This is my post today and I hope God blesses you.

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