Friday, April 30, 2010

The South Vietnamese Say Goodbye to Vietnam

April 24th, 1975...
We were in Sai Gon at my uncle's house. I saw my mom whisper to my dad asking him to leave Viet Nam because she was afraid he would be killed. My dad refused for he did not want to leave us behind. He would rather die with his family, his country, and his people.

April 25th, 1975...
My dad discussed with my uncle and finally with sadness they decided to take the family down to Vung Tau to find way to leave together.

April 26th, 1975...
My parents took us church that evening and prepared our souls for the unexpected.

April 27th, 1975...
We left Sai Gon and headed down to Vung Tau Port.

April 28th, 1975...
We heard the road between Sai Gon and Vung Tau had closed. Nobody could get out.
We stayed at a church courtyard that night. Many people were there too. We all slept under the sky.

April 29th, 1975...
My dad woke us up early and rushed us to gather our things. We packed only the most most important thing and left for the port where the boats were waiting for us. At this time I think the communists were already there. We were being shot at while we ran. That night we were out at the ocean and transferred to a big navy fighting ship.

April 30th, 1975...
The saddest morning of my life... I woke up with so many people sitting around me...for we had seating room only. The rain got heavier, the sea churned stronger. We got news that Sai Gon failed. The communists had gotten into the Capital House. I saw my dad cried quietly. Looking down to the sea, I saw thousands of small, mediun size boats fleeing from Viet Nam. The communists were shooting out to sea trying to kill us. Some of the boats got hit and exploded.

Our ship departed my country. All of us turned our head and looking back to Viet Nam
as if we were trying to get the last glimpse of what was the most beloved and dear to us all.
I started to cry too for I finally realized this event was something very important. It was final. We have lost something very dear. As the ship sailed further and further, my country became smaller and smaller in my eyes. I looked around and saw the hollow, sadness, all different emotions on everybody's faces.

Good bye Viet Nam.

Today, April 30, 2010. Thirty five years later those days are so vivid in my head. On my way to work this morning, I was listening to a Vietnamese radio station, there were conversations and clips of broadcast from those days. I sat at the parking lot crying for my country and all the people had suffered throughout this horrible ordeal. I said a prayer for my country to not have any more sorrows and one day my people will experience real peace and happiness. I love you Viet Nam!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Honoring Soldiers who Fought for Vietnam

April 30 is approaching fast. This is the day Viet Nam war ended. South Viet Nam lost the war to North Viet Nam. My people lost our freedom, we became a communist country. I guess the war ended. Viet Nam will have peace, no more gun fires, no more families separated from their loved ones because of the war. But it was not so. This day marked a new Viet Nam. The North did not bring peace and happiness to my people like they said. Quite contrary, they brought more sorrows, heartache, and more separations between families in many different ways.

It is true, we have no more war on our motherland. But learning what happened to my people after April 30, 1975 I would rather the war continued. At least we lived during the war but our lives were much better than in peace time with the North Viet Nam government.

Our soldiers wanted to continue fighting for our freedom, their heart and souls did not want to surrender. We all wanted peace, but not the kind of peace we have.

If I could turn back time, I wish to live and grow up in my country during war time. I wish I would have a chance to know and be a part of a soldier's life. I would want to be a soldier's girlfriend or wife and live the life of a Vietnamese woman who has a man in their life who was a courageous soldier willing to die for Viet Nam.

I understand that being a soldier's wife during Viet Nam war time you had to sacrifice and suffer, even during and after war time. But I am sorry, I did not have a chance to be THAT Vietnamese woman. I salute them!

by Thai Le

I met a man from Vietnam in Texas two weeks ago. He had just moved here a couple of years ago. He left after the second imprisonment of his father, a South supporter and patriot, who was harassed repeatedly and imprisoned for years at a time for unfair charges of being unpatriotic. It was because he was an activist for the South and was being punished for trying to help the South Vietnamese win the war against the North. They didn't get out in 1975 like Thai Le and her family did, so the man's dad lost several years of his life in prison for fighting for his freedom and his country. Thai le is right. Their promises were worthless. Show me one Communist country with a healthy government and a happy people. That's what I thought.

Amanda Griffith

Sunday, April 18, 2010

High Heeled Sandals

My childhood years, I lived in a far away province, far from the city. My life was very low maintenance. I did not need much. My clothes were simple. I had cotton pants and shirts for daily activity, and a Vietnamese costume (ao dai) for church or special occasions.

My oldest sister had been in French school for a few years; therefore, she knew how to sew dresses. That was why I had many different ruffled dresses to wear to church sometimes. My shoes were mainly rubber flip flops, plastic moccasins or painted wooden shoes, which I did not like very much because those wooden shoes made a loud noise.

One day, my oldest sister went to Qui Nhon, a big and far away city, where my dad was working since he'd been elected. She came back that evening and brought along with her many things from the city. One of which was my very first pair of brown leather high heels sandals. They were the most amazing thing I had ever seen or had even known existed because I was too young to get to go anywhere outside of my village.

That night I went to bed, not able fall asleep because I was so excited and proud of my new shoes. I could not wait until the morning, so I could show them off to my neighborhood friends. I put my shoes on my bed close to my pillows, so I could touch them. In the dark I could feel every stitch of the leather and felt the golden medal clasp that would hold the straps around my ankles. Especially the smell of leather, It was different, not exactly a very good smell for a little girl. It was kind of bad, but I did not care. I loved my new shoes. I loved everything about them.

I woke up even before the sun was up. My first thought was my new high heels sandals. I jumped out of bed, did my morning routines, brushed my hair and wanted to put on my prettiest ruffle dress to go with my new shoes. I chose my pink striped dress with some embroidered white flowers on the collar and my sleeves, then put on my shoes.

Oh, how wonderful they felt! The softness of the leather under my heels. It was nothing like the hard wooden shoes. I tip toed to my mother's room feeling so happy because my new shoes did not make any noises. My mother was not there. I sneaked into her room to take a peek at myself in her mirror. I looked taller, maybe older, and even prettier. I was satisfied with myself and went to the kitchen for breakfast.

My mom was already in the kitchen. She turned and looked at me. Did she look surprised? I thought so, and I also knew why. She was probably wondering what was up with me to dress like that in the morning. Whatever she was thinking, she did not say it. She just asked me if I wanted sweet rice soup for breakfast. I answered yes without looking at her, for I was kind of embarrassed and knew I looked ridiculous for a normal day. I did not care. I was determined to show off my new shoes.

After breakfast, I went to my front porch and stood on my front steps looking out of the gate, across the road to see if any of my friends were out there, so I could run over to their house. Sadly to say, I stood there all morning, but none of my friends showed up. They were probably doing chores with their families somewhere.

My mother call me in for lunch and told me to change into my uniform and get ready for school. She put her hand on my head, smoothed a few hairs away from my sweating face because of the heat and told me how pretty I looked. She also said, "Perhaps you might want to wear your new shoes this Sunday for church so everybody can see how pretty and tall you are. I bet your friends will be full of envy."

Why didn't I think of Sunday? I jumped off of the chair, hugged my mom, and ran out of the kitchen to go change for school, forgetting that I was wearing my new pair of HIGH heels shoes. I twisted and sprained my ankles.

by Thai Le Nguyen

Monday, April 12, 2010

Surviving the Vietnam Gunfire

War (chien tranh) was something familiar and near during my childhood years. I could see, hear and feel it. I saw dead bodies carried up my village street. I heard war by the sound of cross gunfire every night, and I felt it when I saw my mom's hands and body trembling with fear and anger when someone we knew got hurt or was gone. I did not understand most of it but I knew it was not a good thing. Being so young, I did not have fear like an adults has.

We were just innocent children as any children anywhere else. After school, and dinner, before the sun set, we often gathered on our street to play games until we were called to come home.

We were attacked by the Viet Cong often. The attacks usually came suddenly and if early in the evening, the villagers would receive a warning just within minutes from our neighborhood's captain. We were all taught if we heard this announcement, "We are under attack, go to your nearest hideout." Everybody would run home if close. Otherwise, we knew to run to whichever neighbor was the closest. We were a tight knit family. The adult villagers knew to take care of the children and each other if our parents were not there.

Some family's hideouts were in a closed room, but most of us had an underground hole, away from the house, just in case the house was hit and collapsed. We would stay in the ground for half an hour to an hour or sometimes longer. We would know to go into hiding if we heard shooting becoming louder, heavier and more intense. We would peep out of the hole and see the fire brighten the sky. Then we would hear a bomb hit somewhere. As always, my mom and the villagers in the hideout together would initiate the prayers. Sometimes the crossfire lasted so long, I would become tired and fall asleep.

As an adult now, these memories are always in my heart. Maybe that's why I do not ever like to watch a war movie or see a news report about war. My heart saddens when I think of all those soldiers who fought for South Viet Nam to protect our land, lives, and freedom. I also think of those North soldiers who sacrificed for a cause they probably truly believed in. They thought they were doing the right thing, did not know they were manipulated by their power, blood hungry leaders. This is a prayer for those who fought for Viet Nam and in their heart they believe their sacrifice were for my mother land, regardless of what. Thank you.

by Thai Le Nguyen

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vietnamese Easter

Lent season is very important to our lives as catholics, especially Holy Week. I remember my mom always had fresh flowers and new white candles on the shrine where we had a cross of Jesus and statues of mother Mary and St. Joseph. During the Holy Week, we would get up really early in the morning, before the sun was up, before we did anything for the day. My family gathered in the room and recited our rosary.

As a child, I did not want to get up so early, but for some reason I looked forward to this event. I guess the sight of the candles lighting up the room is what made me want to be there. I felt the closeness of my family, the warmth and love we had for each other when we prayed for our family to stay strong together, for our country and everything else.

Easter Sunday we went to church. I did not have new spring dress and did not know of Easter egg hunting or candies and rabbits, but I felt happy knowing I still had my family, and my loved ones with me on the particular Easter day.

Each night, we would hear the sounds of the Vietnam War, the guns firing across our village not knowing which one of us would be alive in the morning. Yet Easter celebration was a highlight, something to lift us up briefly. Happy Easter!
By Thai Le