November 12, 2013
Oral History and Presentation
My Mom Immigration from Vietnam to United States
I think I’m luckier than my brothers and sisters because I am a legal immigrant to the United States. My brothers and my sisters had to go through hardships to be to get to the U.S. My name is Phuong Van. I was born in Can Tho, which is a small city in Vietnam. I’m the youngest of eight brothers and sisters in my family. I have five brothers and three sisters. My oldest brother is fifty one years old and I’m the youngest. I’m twenty six years old. Even though we have a big family, my mom has raised us up all by herself, because my father wasn’t with us most of his life. She always told us her life story and her experience in Vietnam. I was too young then to understand what she went through for her family at the time, but as I got older, I started to understand the hardship and struggle that she had to go through for her family to survive during those poor times. She lived through the terrible and long Vietnam War and her story is very interesting and exciting to hear. My mom has always wanted a better life for herself and her family. She hates the culture and the injustice for woman in Vietnam. She has always wanted to immigrate to America, because she heard some people told they can get a good life in American after they immigrate there. They can get good benefit, make more money, get a lot of freedom and women get more respect in America. That all reason makes my mom want to come there. My mom wanted a better life not only for herself but also for her kids too. She also wanted gives them a brighter future and greater opportunity. She always tries her best to protect her children. My mother has always sacrificed her life for her children’s. She’s has always stand behind me and support me when I am doing something wrong or chose the wrong choice in life. She is the greatest woman I know. Thanks God for giving me a superb mother. I will always love her and she is the most important person to me in my life. I wish to share her story to everyone. My mom name is Chinh Van. She was born in nineteen-forty two and lives in Vietnam for almost sixty years of her life. She was born in a small village, which was four hours away from the capital of Saigon. She has two brothers and sister. They all lived together in a very small house like a hut. The huts look like a one bedroom apartment with no door. It was made of leaves from a tree and straw from the field. They did not sleep on the mattress as we have today; they sleep on a bed made of bamboo or wooden. Her family was very poor and they did farming for a living. They farm wheat and rice in the field. . They were so poor that she did not get a full education; therefore she left school when she was fifteen years old. Since the family was so poor, she started working early and helps out with the little family business. They had a pig and pork butcher shop, which sold meat for very cheap back in those days. My mom was young when she met my father and got marry at the age of eighteen. She was too young to get marry and that made her life harder. She thought after she got married to my father, everything would change and her life would be better, but she was wrong. He also came from a poor family and everything was worse because he did nothing for a living. All he did all days was get drunk and became lazy around the house. Sometimes he beat my mom when he was drunk. My mom wanted leave him alone but she can’t when she thinking about her children. She was so disappointed with him, but she couldn’t do anything about it, because he was the man of the house. Most Women in Vietnam doesn’t have a full education, they had to find a job to help the man raise a family. She always hopes one day my dad would change somewhere in the future. After a few years of marriage, they had eight children together, which made their lives even poorer, because it meant there was more mouth to feeds. Sometime later on, my father went to work for a supermarket, which made my mom very happy. He could finally help the family lived a better life. Just when thing seem to started to look up for the family, my father met another woman at his job and got romantically involve with her. That young woman was younger than my mom, wore more make up and talks sweeter than my mom. Eventually my dad fell in love with her. In the Vietnamese culture back in the old day, a man can marry more than one wife but women can only have one husband. I think that culture was not fair for the women back then. My mom hated that culture and she wishes a woman can live the life of having only one husband. After the second woman came into his, he did not love my mother that much anymore and he did not care about his children as much either. One day he decided to move in with that other woman and marries her as his second wife. My dad came home sometimes to visit the family, but he did not talk to my mom much. Finally, one day he said about his intention that he wanted to have two wives at the same time, but my mom did not approve of the idea, because she doesn’t want to share him with anyone. My father doesn’t want see my mom upset that why he lied to her. He promises to leave the second wife and come back to the family but he never did it. My mom became so disappointed with him that she never trusted him anymore. One day she decided that she didn’t want to live with him any longer. One day, He came back home and took my three older brothers and my middle sister to move with him to his new house with the other wife. My brothers went to work for them in the field and meat market, but they did not get paid for their hard work. My three brothers were very sad of this lifestyle. During This time of my mother life, she became more hateful of the Vietnamese culture. She saw her family divided because of another woman. She was tired of the live in Vietnam and wishes that she can move to another country and have a different life. The Vietnam War which lasted from 1955 to 1975 is the most intense phase of the Indochina War. This is a battle between two sides, one side is the Republic of Vietnam also known as South Vietnam. The other side is North Vietnam, also known as the Communist party. During the war, a lot of people lost their families, money and a lot of things. My mom still remembers the day Communist came to her house; they took our rice and money, they smashed everything in the house. They also burn some of the village house, rape some of the women, and ruin a lot of property where people used to plant wheat and raise rice. They came in group, with the gun in their hand. My family was poor and we didn’t have enough rice to eat that why my parents always tried to hide it for us. When they couldn’t find it, they would get mad and angry, and then they would search everywhere in the house. Sometime when they came, they would get angry if they could not steal or take anything. The Communist was very cruel and ferocious in the eyes of everyone. I remember my mom would fight with them when she tried to protect my dad and tried to get back the rice and money back. And It doesn’t matter if you a woman or not, they would hit you anyway. My mother was beaten on the face and banged inflate when she try to resist against with them. Their action is fearsome in the eyes of us. That why My brothers and sisters always stand behind my mom. We didn’t dare to say anything because we were so scared. We always keep quieted until they gone. Every time they came, they always make us cry. My mom told me that sometimes they came to other house to looking for rice or money or anything they could find to take. Many times, they would also kill people too. The Communist was cruel in my mother thought. They armies back in those days are very mean and hateful. My mom didn’t want to live with the Communist and she didn’t want see my dad get hurt or her children scared anymore. Even my dad has another woman but my mom still care about him because it is the faithfulness of women Vietnam .She wished that she could move to another country, have a different life, and get away from this horrible war. She wished that we can find freedom to do whatever we wanted. She wanted to make more money to take care her family, especially her kids. Then she heard about United States. Peoples say it is a land full of opportunities that is a lot better than a lot of countries in the world. She always dreams of coming to the United States in search of better career opportunities, a high quality in education, and a better life and freedom. She really wanted to move to that country, but she can’t because she couldn’t leave her children’s. So she decided to let her oldest daughter go to the United States first. The Vietnam War finally ended in 1975, which cause a whole bunch of family to leave their country and immigrated to other part of the world. Some family escape the Vietnam and stole on boat or swim across oceans to find a better life. My sister family is one of the family want escape. My sister name is Thuy Van. She emigrated from Vietnam in 1987 after the country was unified under Communist control in 1975. My sister still remembers the panic on the night of her escape: the bloody water, the pouring rain, and people screaming for their loved ones. They had to escape on a small boat, because the big boat could not come close to shore. She has to pay money, which was in gold. Then they actually got on the boat. My sister didn’t know how to swim and her husband didn’t know how to swim either. She said they promised her that they were going to put her and her husband on a little float and bring them to the boat. That was the deal. There was like three hundred people and she didn’t know who they were. They all live in the country and they came down to get a free ride, but my sister must pay the money to guarantee a place on the boat. She kept telling her husband that he don't have to bring anything, just run ahead of everybody. It was dark and it was raining that night. My sisters and brother in law did not know how to swim and the water was really cold and muddy. They finally made it to the boat, but it was a long and terrifying experience. The small boat that my sister escaped in finally got rescued after eight days and seven nights on the ocean. They were rescue by big fishing boat and brought to the island of the Philippine. After arriving, she had to go to the countryside and live there for like a week or so they can blend in with the people there. My sister went with her husband, but he got lost on the island. She also lost her brothers at sea. She did not see her husband until five years later and that when she got to America. While on the island, she had to live in a refugee camp with thousands of other Vietnamese refugees. She and others stayed on this island for about nine months until a boat arrive and transfer everyone to America. They arrived on a bigger boat to California. From California, they would take a plane to Houston, Texas. It was a five hours flight to Houston. When my sister got off the plane she could smell the fresh air of America. She could smell of her freedom and feel her dream finally come true. She remembered the day she first came to America. She was in the airport, looking around the totally strange place which was full of strangers. All she could hear was the strangers' buzzing. At that moment, she realized that she was in America, and her heart started to beat fast. My sister didn’t know anyone here. She couldn’t talk to them because they used different language. The only one my sister can talk that her uncle. She so happy when she recognized that was him. Her uncle lives far away from airport, about two hours driving. Her uncle helped her place to stay over but he told her must pay him every month and she agreed with it. She thought she live with her uncle would be better than the outsiders. She lived with her uncle in three months but her uncle wife didn’t happy that why she moved out. She moved to small apartment with one room and she have to pay them two hundred fifty dollars a month. When she moved out, she didn’t know she was pregnant with her husband and her life got harder when her pregnant. Life is not easy, sometimes she thought she will forfeit. But when she thought about her family, about her mom still wait for her in Vietnam then she didn’t give up. Even she didn’t know how to speak English and she didn’t know how to find a job. But with her determination, she got a job at the restaurant with two dollar an hour and tips. She went work for restaurant at day and she went to school at night. It about one hours to walk from her house to the restaurant, she worked forty hours a week. It was hard to work full time and went school at the same time. She tries all her best for her family and herself. She so happy when she got her first check and she didn’t forget her family still in Vietnam and she didn’t forget her family need her helped. She was sent for her mom some money from her check. She just got a little money that enough to pay for apartment and buy a bicycle. Every day she used her bicycle for work. Even she got a little miserable but she feels so happy when she got that bicycle. It helps her a lot. She worked at there about five years to get her experience. And then she applies to a company after she had experience. Even the life so hard but my sister always told me that she has "no regrets whatsoever" about coming to America. My sister so happy when she met her husband again after five years they get lost. Nowadays, my sister works at company where they pay her about twenty dollars per hours. Her husband works at the same company with her but difference position and they pay him about fifteen dollars per hours. My sister got more money than him because she had more experience than him. They have two kids, a boy and a girl. Their oldest girl is eighteen years old and she just graduated last year, the other kid still in high school. After many years went work, my sister and her husband had enough money to buy a house and two cars, their life getting better. She is happy with her family now. She says: “if she didn’t come to American, she couldn’t have anything for today”. Even my sister had a good life now, but she never forgot her family still in Vietnam. She decided to guarantee her family to the America. After my sister got her green card and citizenship of America, She did sponsor for her mom to come to America. She hoped she can see her mother, brothers and sisters again. For many years my mom waiting for my sister in Vietnam, my mom was implore for God to help my sister can came America peaceful. And now my sister can sponsor my mom to come to United States. My sister came to laws to ask laws how can her mom come to American and laws helped her filled out all information about her mom and her brothers, sisters to send to American Embassy. My dad doesn’t want come to America because he cannot live without his second wife. That is why my sister just filled out our information’s to lawyer. After we passed interview with the Consulate of American in Vietnam, she bought ticket airline for them. My sister was so happy that she can finally live with her mom, brothers and sisters again under the same roof. After she picks her family up from the airport, they have a wonderful dinner at night and long conversation together. My mom spoke a lot and how much she missed my sister. My sister has known how poor my mother’s life was in Vietnam, that why when our mother came to America, she took real good care of her and buys her whatever she wanted. She wanted to compensate her mother for all the hard time she had in Vietnam. .My mom felt so proud of her, because she realized she raised a wonderful child. Everyone will have a tough time when they first came to America, but with determination, they will get a better life. My brothers, sisters and me all feel the same way. We were luckier than the others because our oldest sister came here first so she can help us and provide a better life for us. We didn’t need to go through such a difficult time like she did when she first got to the United State. My sister dreams finally came true, because she her family lives a better and happier lifestyle. When I saw the success that my sister accomplishes, I decided to follow her footsteps and make a better future for myself. I had trouble initially when I first came to the United Stated, but with the support of my mother and my family, I finally got a job started my new life in this new country.