A Family Journey


It was the Vietnam War and there were many hardships; people were running for their lives, hiding in bomb shelters, and just trying to survive.  However, the hardships never subsided even after the Vietnam War ended. People were still recovering from the losses of their families and friends and 5 years later, there was nothing in Vietnam other than poverty, hunger and suffering.  Everyone’s freedom, speech, movement, and even food were either taken away or heavily guarded.  Basically, all freedom that was once with the people, was stripped away from them.

When the living conditions in Vietnam were impossible to survive in, my great grandfather decided to finally make the move to America. In the middle of the night, he gathered his nine children and their individual families and made the escape. They quietly snuck out from their homes, onto the beach, and successfully made it to Toronto’s shore.  There on the water, his two older sons were ready to help their families onto the boat.  They finally made it out to sea, but there were still many dangers ahead. 

My family was drifting in the South China Sea for about a month.  Many boats were raided, people got sick, and many of them died.  Luckily, none of these horrific events happened to our family.  During this period, there were many refugee camps where we could have potentially landed. These refugee camps were in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and had terrible living conditions. While refugee camps in Taiwan and Hong Kong had decent and favorable living conditions.  Fortunately, we landed in Hong Kong and were provided shelter, clothing, and food.

We stayed for six months in the Hong Kong refugee camp until we were sponsored by my great uncle, who arrived in America in the late 1970’s.  He was part of the first wave of refugees who escaped by boat after the Vietnam War and made it to California.  If you didn’t have family in America, you would have to be sponsored by church.  This was the case for my great uncle’s family and they went to Kansas being sponsored by a church. They lived in Kansas for 6 months until they finally reunited with us in California.  Our journey from Vietnam to America was finally over!  However, there were still many hardships that we had to overcome.

We came to America with nothing, except each other.  Through the support system of our family, we gradually took the opportunities that were given to us in this new land.  My grandfather was the first one in our family to graduate college with an Associates Degree.  Then, my mom was the first second generation to graduate college with a Master’s Degree.  I am considered the third generation of Vietnamese-Americans, so I have to appreciate what my family went through to provide me with a vast opportunity for such a wonderful life.