Vinh Nguyen, refugee experience: Transcript
Educator & Vietnamese culture specialist
I consider myself as the luckiest person. One out of two Vietnamese who escaped the country by boat die in the ocean, so therefore you can see hundred and hundred thousand of Vietnamese die in the Gulf of Thailand or in the China Sea because of freedom. So I consider myself a very lucky person.
My name is Vinh Nguyen. I was born in the City of Saigon.
When we got to the camp in Thailand, we got transferred many times to different camps. So our life in the camp was very unstable. And every morning we had to wait in line for food, and I remember we get one bowl of rice in the morning and one bowl of rice in the evening. Each day we have a five gallon of water. You do everything with that five gallon of water, and that life become very difficult. But at the time, I think people really enjoy it because the Vietnamese in the camp at the time, they finally know what freedom is about. Even though their life was difficult, they know they have a better future ahead of them.
But I also remember every refugee camp that I have been through, there was always a cemetery there that Vietnamese left their life there. Some of them got too sick to survive. Some of them got raped so badly they couldn't survive. There was always a cemetery for the Vietnamese boat people.
The last camp I was sent to is a small island in Indonesia. I lived there for a while and then got transferred back to Singapore and settle in United States. You know, when I got the letter to say that Vinh Nguyen got the paper to resettle here in the state, I was very happy.
I spent time in the camp to learn English. If you have lived in the refugee camp, you know how life is, when people are not thinking of learning, even though they understand that they have to have the language to survive when they resettle.
A lot of people in the camp debate about a state of Iowa. They believe that it was mistaken or misspelled because they don't think there was a state of Iowa on the map of the United States. They thought that was either Idaho or Ohio.
I was excited, but I was very much nervous and worry, so I was very excited to come to United States because I know my life will be different. But also I understand that I have integrated into a new society very much now. So I actually straddle both, understand both, and I actually enjoy both because I fully understand both sides of the coin.
What I want my children to begin to remember, where they are from, even
though they was born in United States, but their roots that their ancestors
are from and begin to appreciate what they have now so they can share with