My coming to America is nothing spectacular. I wish I had some fantastic story to tell, something heroic that can be splashed across the headlines: Toddling Vietnamese tot outruns the Viet Cong, emerges from the jungle without a scratch, escapes to America by using teeth to hang onto a passing boat.
I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t suffer any hardship. When I did make my grand entrance into the US, it was by plane. My grandparents sponsored us over. We had documentation and a waiting community of Vietnamese to help us transition into the new culture. The story is really short and boring.
I do have a few memories of visiting a refugee camp. We stayed there to pass medical inspections. I know that these memories are not made up because I distinctly remember my first taste of Coca-Cola from a glass bottle. It was the sweetest brown liquid that burned going down the throat. The camp was very primitive, with open faced buildings, dirt everywhere. The day before we left, my mother took us to eat noodle soup, the Thai version of pho. I don’t remember the food, but I remember my mother complaining about how sweet the Thai fish sauce was compared to the Vietnamese kind. The next day we flew to the US.
The only tragedy occurred during a layover in Japan, when my mother bought my younger brother a plastic toy gun that whistled, lit up and sparked. Of course my brother loved that toy. I only remember the incident because my brother loved it so much that he couldn’t put it away for the one minute that we had to board. My mother had put the toy away and he threw a fit. Because he threw a fit, he got what he wanted, and the stewardess took it away. That’s my six year old memory and feelings of the event. I can still recall the incident like yesterday. I felt sorry for him because it was such a cool toy. I didn’t understand why the stewardess was so unmoved by his cries. My little two year old brother kept begging my mother to go back to Japan and please get him another one.
Then we landed in Hawaii, and from there to New Orleans. That’s about it.