This is where it all began, Dong Nguyen, my family's "Hainan Chicken Rice" restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I grew up and worked when I was as young as eight years old.
website will tell the story of a Vietnamese refugee, a Boat People -- sacrifice,
triumph and an unforgettable and unbelievable journey of escaping from Vietnam in late 1970s, arriving in Malaysia's Pulau Bidong island as a refugee in November 1978, and settling in the United States in 1980. During the era of Vietnamese Boat People exodus from late 1970s to early 1990s, over a million Vietnamese escaped and settled overseas as refugees, hundreds of thousands escapees searching for freedom were perished at sea, and those who survived had endured starvation and tortures by pirates.
After I arrived in the
U.S. in 1980, I learned English for a few months and entered into college. While working odd and low-paying jobs to support myself through college I spent eight years bringing five families, a total of 22 people, directly from Vietnam to the United
States, giving each and every one of them a new life in this country. Of those 22 people, 11 were children. To compare the life in the U.S and Vietnam during that era, it would be like to compare "heaven" and "hell". The lives of the families and children and their fates were forever changed. The last family that arrived in 1988 had seven members -- two were newborns in the years waiting for me to bring the family to this country. One of the newborns was a girl, and the parents gave her a name with the meaning of "Going America."
Those 11 children are now in their
30s and early 40s -- all of them have college degrees, a few with Master's degrees, some have businesses. Yet as soon as they were on their feet, some parents had instructed their children to attack me, and just about two years ago in 2011 some of
the grown "children" intimidated to cause me bodily harm and threatened that they could me in jail with reasons "beyond my wildest imagination". They said they knew some lawyers. While all that was happening, some participated with their ridicules and attacks, some insisted that I believed in their religion, and some looked on as if nothing ever mattered to them. I sacrificed my youth years and college study to bring these people to the U.S. and profoundly changed
their lives, not knowing that I created myself some tremendous life burden ever
since, of which I did not mind much until I was intimated, threatened and blamed.
I brought them to this country to have a good future, yet when the future was here they repaid me with ungratefulness and hatred. I am in my mid 50s now; they said I had a small mind and I envied their achievements, they said I lived in the past and no one would believe my story, and they said they would send letters to the District Attorney to prosecute and put me in jail. As a result, the emotional stress and anxiety out of the incident occurred in 2011 caused my dear wife multiple stress related illnesses.
Have my dreams of
bringing these people to the U.S. become nightmares? In my youth years, all I wanted was to change these people's lives and give them a new
future in the U.S. I never asked anything in return but certainly did not
expect to be attacked during my older age and
threatened to be put in jail. The suffering of my wife, my love of 20+ years and mother of my children, scared and worried me the most. All of those could happen only becauseI
was selfless, generous and kindhearted when I was young. All of those could happen only because I wanted these families and children to live a life of freedom and with a new future of opportunities in this country. I used to think that I had done great deeds for others. I still think so, but in light of what happened to me and my wife, I am no longer certain that these people deserve my good deeds. If I knew then what I
know now, I would never ever bring these people to this country; I would rather that they escaped from Vietnam on their own so that they know what it was like to be a boat people at sea. I can not
turn back time. I have only life lessons to give.
Human beings' tendency often leans toward self-interest, self-preservation and seeking personal advancement -- ethically or not. If I ever followed that tendency, the fact that I brought these people to this country in my 20s was perhaps a mistake, for I risked my life to have found freedom and arrived in this country and afterward spent lots of time bringing them to and settling them in this country, for I focused more on advancing their lives than my own life and college education. I gave it all unconditionally and asked nothing in return. They are not my children, and as such it was not my responsibility to make a sacrifice that only a parent would. The worst of all, once their freedom and interests were obtained, some of them use their children to attack me. When they needed me to bring them to this country for freedom, they said I was an angel that saved their lives, but once they were here and on their feet, they said I was a villain that deserved to be punished. They brainwashed me with their religions many times and caused me unimaginable agony and suffering if I rejected their advances. They blamed me for their wrongs, but for everything that went right, they said "we had gone too far to remember what you did" and "you envied us". Whenever I thought of that,I still felt great disappointment in them. What's so stunning is, they don't even realize how ungrateful they are, they don't have a clue. Shouldn't they be more grateful if they do well, rather than attacking and threatening the person who gave them the opportunities? I hope they still have some decency to look into the mirror everyday and do some profound refection.
I survived the
escape from Vietnam, and I survived the Pulau Bidong refugee
camp. In the summer of 2011, I endured vicious group-attacks. I was utterly disappointed, and my wife endured severe illness. If I did not have an inner strength and a strong will, I
might not have survived that ordeal, but instead I recovered. And I thought if these people felt so motivated and so proud to be ungrateful, why should I felt any less motivated and less proud to write about my life journey and for being myself? If God does exist, then I pray that one day these people could explain their atrocities and ungratefulness to Him. If God does exist, then what happened in 2011 would be His way of telling me that my work had done, that I could finally let go of these people, let go of the burden of bringing them to this country and move on.
I am at peace with my past. I am grateful because for what I sacrificed, they used it to betray. And every time these people see each other, they remind themselves that they have been ungrateful. If they could live with themselves like that, why couldn't I let them? I could walk away, and after 30+ years I am finally free of the burden. I have finally found freedom. I am grateful, as always.
It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. -- Anne Frank
I was a Vietnamese refugee, a Boat People. This website will tell you my life journey.