Tien Nguyen and Thao Vu

Tien Nguyen and Thao Vu
Interview by Anne Morin
Date: June 22, 2005
1 Disc: 9 tracks

1 Let’s go back to Vietnam. I think what we want to do is that. So how old were you when the war began in Vietnam?

Thao: The war began in Vietnam, actually, I remember it start in 1960 some, about 1960 some, and it start I can say about 1960 some – I don’t remember exactly what year, but it getting worse in about 1967-68 it was the worse during that time.

And when did you go into the service?

Thao: I was in the service in 1971 until 1975.

And what did you do in the service?

Thao: I was a paratrooper at that time.

A paratrooper.

Thao: Yes. I was a paratrooper.

Let me go over to Tien now. Tien, what did you, how old were you when you remember the war happening and when did you get involved?

Tien: I remember the war in Vietnam start in 1960. At that time some of the communists who stayed behind in south after the ?, they start to form.

2 They call I forgot the name. And in 1963 when I was about 14 year old the war start more from the countryside, from one province to another province. And at that time I know a little about war because I still in high school. And when 1990 (mistake here), when I 20 year old I will go to the army to fight for freedom from the south.


Tien: Yes.

You would go into the war. Okay, you knew then that you would go to fight. And what were your reasons for wanting to fight?

Tien: The first thing is because we know about communists. When they come that mean that you don’t have freedom. Most of the young men in Vietnam who were draft or who were volunteer they know what they need to do – to protect the south from the north because the north were communists. And when the communists come in we don’t have freedom, what we have before the war start.

Do you agree with that? Is that where you were as well?

Thao: Yes, I totally agree.

So how old were you when you went into the service?

Thao: I was joining in the service when I was about 17.

About 17.

Thao: Almost 18.

Okay. And they trained you there to be a paratrooper?

Thao: Yeah. I was trained over there in the south.

And Tien, what did you do in the service? What was your job?

Tien: My job in the service, I was in the army. He was in the airborne; I was in the army. I spent almost 5 years. I was trained about 9 months before they sent me out. And I served for five years and moved around the country depending on where they need it.

And did you ever work with American soldiers?

Tien: Yeah, because all the army at that time, they do have American soldiers go with them.

So you were always working with American soldiers?

Tien: Not always, but we have contact with them.

Is that true for you?

Thao: Yes, that is the same. We alway have an advisor, an American adviser, from the commander. They only work with the commander from the battalion commander or the commander of the division. That’s what they are doing.

3 Good. So we get to the point Tien where you are taken away to a re-education camp. Is this before or after the fall of Saigon?

Tien: It’s after the fall of Saigon. Saigon fall in the end of April and after that about, I think, less than a month, they call all of us to come to study the new life, the new thing. And they told us it only 10 days. And when we went we hope that 10 day, and after that we go home to build a new life under the new government, whatever they call but that’s a liar. When you went to the camp. Not ten day, not ten month, some people not ten year either. So that a liar, that’s what I call a liar. And when we went to re-education camp, I spent almost 7 years in that.

Seven years in the re-education camp. And how about you, Thao, right?

Thao: Yes, that’s correct.

I want to make sure I identify that your name is Thao each time because otherwise we’ll get confused. How about you?

Thao: I was a soldier, so I got only 3 days, and that was exactly 3 days in the camp.

And what did you do during those three days?

Thao: During those three days, we had to listen to whatever they say that we did for the, for our government, that it was totally wrong because we did something bad against our people.

So were you made to write down?

Thao: They asked us to write down everything we did when we were in the service.

And then they said . . . ?

Thao: They said that was totally wrong because you did something against your country.

And Tien, how was it different for you? Why did you end up staying so long?

Tien: Because I think the communist government they afraid of us. They want to keep us away so no one can fight back, nobody can get back the freedom we lost. They want to put all the people they think can maybe organize some group to against them. That’s why they took all of us in to go in the jungle. And they call re-education, but exactly that you had to go to labor camp.

So the labor camps were in the jungle.

Tien: Yes.

Phone interruption.

4 So you, but he only got 3 days and you got 7 years. Somehow, Tien, that doesn’t seem fair.

Tien: Laughs. I know that. But because that, when the communists come in, the people who work for government, who go to army, and they treated differently. Between the soldier and the officer. Okay. Thao is soldier so he only have to spend 3 day. But officer before we went to the camp, they told us only 10 days, and that what we believed because we saw the soldier only 3 days and that went home. That why we believed that and when we went to the camp and we hoped 10 days we would go home – 10 days passed and we did not go home. We hope maybe a month or a couple of months, but time went by – one year, two year – and after we know everything a liar, and so we don’t know who can get out because the people who let you out the camp is not the people who control the camp, the people who some above and they decide and you never know. Some people may have 3 year, some may have 5, some people may have 10 year – depend on what conditions around.

To Thao: So you go to the re-education – it’s not re-education – what is it called?

Thao: They call it almost just like a camp, but they do it in city, wherever we live, and so they get. For me it’s just a trap for those people. So at first they did it – actually, at first they did it so they plan to round up all the paratrooper and the marine. First that’s what they planned, all the marine and paratrooper and all the officer, because that’s what they believe is the strong force to fight against the government. But later on they changing it. They change it. They say, okay no, they will do from sergeant up to officer and then later on they change it, they make it just the officer. But in order to put all the officer away, they make it for the soldier go to the camp first. It is an example. It is the people who got three days and we will release. And so they trap these people. They say, oh, you see, they got only 3 days and you got only 10 days. And the 10 days, it can last for 10 years, it can be 15 years, 20 years it depends on they rank it. They said how you serve for the government, what you did, whatever you did, and they said it was dangerous, you would stay longer.

So I’m getting that they thought that Tien would be the kind of person who would cause trouble and maybe get the war started again somehow. Yeah. Okay. Before, I know that you can’t stay very long, and I really want to hear your opinion.


5 You (speaking to Thao) talked earlier about someone you knew who had gone up to Washington recently to express his opinion about the, to the Vietnamese emissary who came here recently. Could you tell us about that? Was it you or was it Tien? Oh, it was you. Okay. Tien, then, would you tell us about that?

Tien: Yeah, I tell the story about the person from Portland, Oregon – his name is Binh Nguyen and he come from the press conference with all of the people up in Seattle, Washington, when the Vietnamese Communist Prime Minister, Pham Van Cai come in. And.

Would you say his name again?

Tien: Cai.

The Vietnamese emissary – what was his name?

Tien: His name is Cai, Pham Van Cai.

Pham . . .

Tien: Van Cai.

Pham Van Cai.

Tien: Yes.

C A I?

Tien: He the first leader of the communists, of Vietnam, come to the United States in 30 years to meet with the business people here and to meet with President Bush about the relationship between Vietnam and the United States. And in the meeting, Cai, he said something about the good life in Vietnam, about how they treat the people, about how the freedom of the Vietnamese people they get it now, but basically we Vietnamese people outside the country like people live in the United States, we know that a liar.

Now you know that’s a lie. How do you know today that it is not changed? Do you know people in Vietnam who would have said that they are lying still?

Tien: Yes. Because they say they have their freedom. But over there I know a lot of people, like some of the recent leader some of the people who express their ideas about freedom about democracy in the internet, the government, the communists government they put them in the prison. They put them away. If you want to say something about freedom, about democracy, they not allow you to do that.

Is that your experience as well? Do you know people in Vietnam?

Thao: That is what I totally agree. And it is so true in Vietnam. Even though that the Prime Minister of Vietnam right now come to America and say that the people in Vietnam are totally free to do whatever they want, but that is not true. That is only what they are saying. But back there people do not really have their freedom to express their feelings or their religious or their political. Because back now in Vietnam, you see that there is only one party. And they don’t believe in whatever you believe. Even here, let’s say we have two or three parties, but back there, there is only one party and only one party run the country. That’s all.

Have you been to Vietnam since?

Thao: Yes, I came back twice. And I see that there is some change. The change is way too slow and way too far for what we seeing it. For the people back in Vietnam, maybe they see there is some change but for us over here, that is 20 years behind. That’s how I see it.

What kind of freedoms would you like to see people there have today that you are pretty sure they don’t have?

Thao: For me, I would like to see that the people in Vietnam would have the freedom to express their feeling and their concern or whatever they believe. But right now they don’t having it. For example, you see like people in the Buddhist temple or in the Catholic, they are, whatever, they talk they are not quite freely to expressing it. Especially talking about politics, if beside the communists, people cannot talk about any other party. Period.

And what about freedom of religion. Do you think they have it there?

Thao: Not exactly. Like what the people believe or what the people would like to be, or people would like to have. That is only what the government say, but not what the people have.

Wait just a minute. This is Tien speaking now.

Tien: For right now I know some of like the monk, Buddhist monk, and some of the Catholic leader, two in jail now. Like (name – Lee), like (another Vietnamese name), or some of the people who express their ideas like (name) he a lawyer, some like the doctor (name) who jailed for years, and they get out and they, if the communists let them home, they go back to prison again. That all kind of stuff in communist country, communist government, they say they allow you to do everything. They only put in jail the people who not obey the law. But do you mean when you express you idea? You express you idea, you not do anything, you not overthrow the government or you fight or anything. You just express your idea about freedom, about democracy, and they don’t like it. They put you in jail. Where the freedom from? For example, like that. You see?

Tien: That why when (name, I think Bien) in the meeting up in Seattle, Washington – he point the finger to Mr. Cai, and he said you a liar. Everything you said here in front of American, he a liar. That why I want to tell you that story.

How did Cai respond to that?

Tien: He said something like you don’t understand because you not go back to Vietnam. You didn’t see anything. And so you don’t understand. That what he say. And after that, he tell some of the organizer people who organized the press meeting, escort them out of the meeting, not allow them to talk any more.

Bien is your friend?

Tien: No. I just know him on the news. I didn’t know him.

He was escorted out of the press conference?

Tien: Yes. And another thing come up in Washington, too, when he went over there, too. And in the meeting, one lady, I don’t remember exactly her name, she say same thing, too. She said about, you say all of the women and the children of Vietnamese now have their own kind of benefits and now. But over they still have some sell women, for prostitution, sell children for prostitutes, too, and that lady she stand up and she ask Cai about that, and again they escort her out of the meeting.

Who escorted her?

Tien: People who organized the meeting. Americans. Americans and some of the Vietnamese who work for Vietnam embassy here, I think.

Before you go,(speaking to Thao) I would like for you to have an opportunity to say why you think its important for people in America, especially young people, to have a better understanding of what it means to have a country taken over by people who want to go the communist way?

Thao: For me, I just say, I would never want to see America taken over by other country. Especially I spent about a few years with the communists. That time was very, very difficult for me and for all the people from the south.

How was it difficult? Tell us how it was difficult.

Thao: It’s very hard to explain it to people. To see it. But for us, for example, that time, even many years ago, but at that time we could not get together more than 3 people, you cannot have more than 3 people sit and talk. You can, at that time, you could not travel to from one city to the other. You could not do what you would like to do. That was the difficulty under the communists. Even now, many years later, they said they had been changing. Yes, they have been changing, but the changing was very little compared with what we have here in America.

To Tien – do you agree with that?

Tien: Yeah, I agree with that, and I want to say something more, a little bit. You know, the reason we don’t like the communist, because we know the communists, first thing, it doesn’t work. That doesn’t make people a better life. For example, you see, before 1975, South Vietnam compared with another country in SE Asia, we either better or the same like Thailand, Singapore, something like that. And now, thirty years after the communists took it over, you look at SE Asia. We’re at the bottom! We have the benefit of the people who get from the communist? I don’t think so. I don’t see it yet. They say that they are changing. I agree, but you see how many steps Vietnam change? A couple of step. Better than before. Right. And when you compare you see Thailand, you see Singapore, you see Korea, S. Korea, you see how many step they step in 30 years. Ten step? Twenty step? Do you agree with that. No. I don’t think anybody can agree with that when compare. Communist government, they change it, they allow people to do more work because if they don’t do that they not survive. You see in Europe, you see the communists around the world, they don’t work, they have to change – they change it not for the benefit of the people, but they change it because they want to survive. They want to control people. They want to stay in power. That’s why they have to change.

We had a time in this country when people, even Americans, were accused of being communists and because of those political ideologies, some of them were imprisoned. And in American we have the belief that you ought to be able to say what you think, but that you shouldn’t be sent to jail because you said it, or because you believe it. If you believe in the communist way generally speaking I think we want to say as long as you don’t force anyone to do anything you’re allowed to say that it’s the right thing. We don’t want to get to the, my opinion, is that we don’t want to get to the point where there’s the communist scare, and everybody kind of goes crazy and you know, puts people in jail and makes them their livelihood because they say they’re communists. What do you say to that?

Tien: I say like that. I will support the communists if the communists allow people do the things like you said. They can express their idea. Nobody put them in jail because
they express their idea. They bring a better life for the Vietnamese people, I am the first one will support the communists. But I know they won’t do that. And they never do that. And you can see in history, of all the countries of communist countries, what they do. And what they bring to their people. That why we want the young generation understand why we don’t like the communist. Why the world pass more than 30 years we still teaching like that way because we understand that. We see that. The young people in here they may think a different way. And I understand that. Because they didn’t went through that. They don’t understand Communist very clearly like we did because we live with that, we have experience with that, and we understand what they are, what they want to do.

This is Thao.

Thao: This is something I would like to add to whatever Tien said for the young Americans. I would like you to go to Cuba, to go to North Korea, to stay over there for let’s say 30 days and live with them. I would like you to ask them, to beg them, to do whatever you can in your power, in their power, to let you travel freely in Cuba and in North Korea, so you will have the true experience living with the communists and what the communists look like. Otherwise, we are talking here communists, freedom – you have no idea what it look like. But if you got the chance, please, I would highly recommend it, go to visit North Korea, Cuba, right now, even China, and go freely, ask them to go wherever. Don’t let the government say you have to stay in this city and you stay in this city. No. Don’t do that. Ask them to do wherever you would like to be. So that you get a real experience with the communists and then you got a picture to look at it to live with it. And then you come back and you go say, I have appreciate what we have here in America and what the freedom look like.
I can tell you that I came from China with exactly that thought in my head: That I was very glad to return home, very glad. And I, you know, it wasn’t because I saw anything specific, but I saw people being harassed by police on the corners, and I mean really harassed. I saw police with sticks in their hands, and you know, you saw people moving away from them. There was just a flavor of fear that you could feel every once in awhile. Not always, but when and there were a lot of police. I think that was the other thing that I noticed, is that there were a lot more police than you would ever see here. So. I understand what you’re saying.

6 Okay. What about when you came here? Well, I want to hear a little about the re-education camp. I’d like to know what a typical day there would have been like for you, Tien.

Tien: Yeah, I think that every camp we had the same. In a typical day wake up early in the morning when they have the bell ring. And all of us stay in one room and they lock it outside.

How many people in the room?

Tien: Usually about 40 or 50 people in the room.

Sleeping on the floor?

Tien: We have bunk bed, sleeping one row above and one row below. And the one group or two groups inside one room. And at about 6:30 or 7:30, depending on what camp, you know, we wake up, we get up, we do a little bit of cleaning up and they give us one couple of potato, sweet potato or something like that, and after that they have another bell.

Wait, so they give you one sweet potato, and something to drink?

Tien: No something to eat before you go out for work, for labor work. (mic movement)

But something to drink?

Tien: You drink by yourself. You can get the water and take it, usually we have one person who take care about, one prisoner like us, take care about the drink and the food for us. We go to the kitchen and get the food and get the water bring it back and to give it to somebody who need that.

So you have your breakfast of one sweet potato.

Tien: And after that you go in the big hall or the big campsite and they will call one group by one group go out to work. People work on the campsite until noon.

What kind of work are we talking?

Tien: All kind of labor work. You see the on the field you have to plant rice, you have to plant potato, you have to.

I don’t know what bodoto is. Oh, potato.

Tien: Potato. And some kind of plant but I don’t really know how to say in English. But the labor work hard work in the field. To make food.

You’re making food for whom?

Tien: We making food and after that we’re getting food, we have to bring back to the camp for the people who control the camp, and they keep it, and they send it to somebody else, for somebody need in the government, and they give it back a little bit for us to eat to survive, to continue to work. Okay. So in at noon when we have the break time for lunch and we have another bowl of rice. And after 2 o’clock we work until 5 o’clock and we go home, clean up a little bit and get another bowl of rice. So usually you have two bowls rice and one potato a day for eight hours labor work, hard work.

For seven years.

Tien: Yes.

You worked seven days a week?

Tien: Sometimes we worked seven days; sometimes we had one day off on Sunday, and sometime they do not allow you to have a day off and they call it volunteer work for communist day or whatever they call, socialist day, or whatever, and you have to work, too.

So you celebrate by working.

Tien: Yes, exactly.

I think I think that’s what you meant when you said they twist things some how.

Tien: Usually, we work from Monday through Friday and Sunday we have a free day. And suddenly they have a bell ring and you have to work. And everybody say, oh, my god, here we go again.

And so you’re talking hard labor?

Tien: Yes, really hard labor. That’s why I have my lower back problem now because we have to carry a lot of weight, like when you have the rice and you take it back to the camp, we had to carry about more than 50 kilograms, I don’t know how many pounds, about 80 pounds. No more than that. Almost a hundred pounds, everybody have to carry it back. That hard work. And more thing I want to say. You don’t have enough food to eat, to keep you strong. And when you get sick you don’t have medication to get you, to help you. So that’s the problem, people have to die over there. If they get sick or they don’t the family come in to feed them with more food or more medicine.

So some Sunday’s your family could come and bring you food?

Tien: Not some Sundays, but they allow you usually about 2 months or 3 months you can come to see us once.

And you could bring them food then.

Tien: Yes. For the first two years, we don’t have anything. Our family doesn’t know where we were. They don’t know. They not allow you send the letter or any information home so your family members know where were you.

So for two years your family did not know where you were.

Tien: Absolutely not. And after two years, they allow us to send the letter back to our family to tell them where we were and we so happy to be here because we want to be a better person, something like that. That’s what you have to write if you want the letter go to your house, to your wife, to your parents, to your whatever your family, you had to do that.

Now, when they took you away, had your daughter been born?

Tien: No, she was not born. She was born when I was in the camp.

So you really didn’t see your daughter until you came to the United States.

Tien: Yeah, that’s true. The first time I heard her I gave her a kiss when I came to the United States in 1985. And I want to tell you one thing is that not only my family or me: It’s a hundred thousand of Vietnamese who have the same life I went through .

A hundred thousand people were in the prisons.

Tien: Yes, I think more than that. I think about a million people.

Were imprisoned by the communists.

Tien: Yes.

After the war.

Tien: Yes. Because not only the people who were in army but people who worked for South government, who worked for the United States government. Everybody go to the camp because they so afraid of us. They want to control us; they want to keep us away. And they control us by not let us eat enough. So we so hungry. We hungry all the time. We don’t think about anything else but hungry. So that how they control us.

Was it all men, or were there some women, too?

Tien: I think some women, too.

You did not see the women.

Tien: No, I did not.

And so you’re with these people – the same people for seven years?

Tien: No, they move us around. They move us around – couple of years – they move us from this camp to another camp.

How often would they move you?

Tien: In seven years, I move four times.

So then your family had to figure out again where you’d gone.

Tien: Yes. Until we sent back some information so they know where we go, and they will go to the new place.

So you’re in the camp, and your daughter has been born, and your mother comes to see you not Que.

Tien: For I think, Quy went to see me about four or five times before she left the country with my daughter.

And you told her to leave.

Tien: Yeah, I told her. I told her whatever you have the chance, just get out the country. Don’t wait for me. Because I never know when I go. She doesn’t want to go at that time. She say to me, no, I wait for you. And I say, no, don’t wait for me; I don’t know when I come back home.

That must have been very hard for you, Tien.

Tien: Yes. I think. Because tell you the truth, inside me, I want to see her all the time, you know? After two months, three months, I want to her to see, go to the camp to see me, because that how to keep me survive. But I want if I do that my daughter and my wife have terrible life in here and get out of the country, please. That’s what I told her. And one year, I remember its in 1981, for almost a year, nobody came to see me. In fact, my mom she came to see me and she told me your wife and your daughter in the United States now. I didn’t go to sleep for three days.

When you found out they were gone.

Tien: Because, like I said before, beside me, I so happy for them and I know that they have a future, they have a better life now. Beside that I think, I never see them again. How can I see them when I’m still in the jungle? And see America? I don’t know when I can go back to my house and how, and if I can have a chance to go back to my house, how can I get to the United States. Nobody know at that time.

Must have seemed impossible.

Tien: Yeah, and in that time, that’s exactly what I think: I never see them again.

So seven years go by and then how did you get out of the camp?

Tien: Yes, finally they let me out.

Tell us about that day.

Tien: The day usually, nobody know. We just have like the rumor around. Okay. Next week, we have 10 people, 20 people will go home because they talk around. But you never know who. And the day come, that’s the day when you go, before you go out the camp go to work they call the name for 10 people 5 people 20 people, 50 people, depend. Stay home. So you know you have a chance to go home.

If you stay and don’t go out into the jungle you know you’re going to leave.

Tien: Yeah. Because before that we have a rumor. Okay we have the time to let some people go home, you know. So when you, you’re so happy they call your name.

But there’s no warning, there’s no reason given for letting you go finally after seven years?

Tien: No. No. Like I said before from the beginning, the people who let you out, not the people who are at the camp. Somebody else. Even if they say, you get good re-education, you work hard, you change your mind, you change your thinking, you will go home early, that’s what they said but that not happen that way.

They just kept you because they wanted to keep you.

Tien: Exactly.

No reason. No ‘I’m sorry I kept you out of seven years of your life.’

Tien: Yeah. That’s why when we get out we have no life over there. That’s why we have to escape from the country to get some freedom for our lives. To get our life back to normal people. That’s what, that’s all we want when we escape from the country, even we know you may die on the sea. I think that’s about four or five hundred thousand people die on the sea because the storm because of the pirates or something like that but people just go.

7 So you got out of the re-education camp what year?

Tien: I get out in ‘83 and I escaped from the country in ‘84 and I get to the United States in ‘85.

And how did you escape?

Tien: I escape by boat. I have to pay the money. My mom still have the money and my mom connect to some people who organize the escape by boat and we pay them the money. At that time, we pay by gold, gold bars. And we escape on the boat by went by the sea for four days and three nights before we get to Indonesia.

So no pirates. You didn’t run into pirates.

Tien: No, we did not. We go direct from Vietnam to Indonesia.

How about you, Thao. How did you escape?

Thao: Same thing. We escaped by boat, but my story is a bit different because my uncle right at that time, we got out the camp he came he say we have to escape fast.

So he had been in a re-education camp. For how long?

Thao: For about more than 3 years and then when he came home he said, yes, we have to go. We have to go right away. And so he get together with his friend and we collect the money and then we bought a boat and then we fixing it and then we escape.

So you had your own boat.

Thao: That is true that my uncle and his friend and we worked together and we had our own boat and we escaped by our own boat.

And you didn’t run into the pirates either?

Thao: Luckily, we did not. I just say, for me, we were very, very lucky because we did many things and until this point I’d say if we did it again it probably we should not doing it because at that time we have got a weapon. The first thing I say, is if they caught us they probably would have shot us right on the spot because I myself got some grenades and we got on our boat. And paratrooper is number one enemy and paratrooper and marine was number one enemy for the government, and here I am a former one with a few grenades at home and when we were on the boat, I carry everything with me and that was if they got us, I would never see the sunlight. Period.

And you ended up in the camps – where?

Thao: We made it to Malaysia. So luckily my uncle and his friend get together with friends and we got some Navy officer and he got good experience with the sea, and so we made it in only three days and two nights and we came to Malaysia.

I want to talk a little bit about what it’s been like to be here and whether or not since you’ve been here, you have experienced any prejudice or ugly kinds of behavior from American people.

Thao: One thing, I would like to talk about the good things because if I was in Vietnam, I never get a chance to go to college. Period. First, in Vietnam there was only a few university, and especially if you serve for our government you have no chance. Period. So when I come here for me personally that is very, very good chance for me to go back to school and I enjoy every minute of it and I got a chance to go to school

So what kind of education have you gotten?

Thao: Over here, I went to college to get some technical, and then so I learned some technical skills so that I can go to work, and later on I got a bachelor’s degree in communication. Right now, I try to get higher education in the Chinese medicine.

In Chinese medicine.

Thao: Yes, that’s correct.

So what will your specialty be?

Thao: In the future, I would like to do what I can do to help the people in the community, in the general community, not just the Vietnamese community, in pain, in insomnia, back pain, neck pain, or internal or that is what I feel comfortable with.

And Tien, how about you? I know you don’t want to say anything particularly negative, but we know that you have experienced prejudice. We know that kids have experienced prejudice, and I think it helps for people to talk about it a little bit so that we understand better, is my only point.

Thao: The bad experience is that sometimes people look at us as Oriental, and probably some people will say you are not smart or you are at the lower level than we are. One thing I would like people always think that people have the same thinking, same feeling like what you are, regardless of what people look like or what their shape or what they look like. So always remember be respect. Even people cannot speak or communicate exactly the way you are feeling or hearing. But remember that people are very smart and the feeling and the way they are thinking are very much the same. And so I would like all the young people here in America be respect to others regardless of what they look like.

8 Tien: Okay, about me? About the experience here?

Let me just say that you got off the boat, and you ended up where?

Tien: I ended up in Indonesia, and I spent almost a year in Indonesia before I came to the United States to unite with my wife and my daughter.

So you had not seen your wife for no, it wasn’t seven years, because you did see her while you were in the re-education camp.

Tien: I didn’t see my wife, almost nine years. No, I should say I stayed away from her for almost nine years. And I haven’t seen her for more than 6 years because when she, before she left the country, in 1980, I didn’t see her, and she get to the United States in 1981, and I seen her again in 95. Six years, five years, something.

So you come to the United States and was your daughter at the airport?

Tien: Yes. And I still remember that time now. She looked at me and she know that I’m her dad but she never see me before. So she just stand over there and look at me, and I hug her and I cry and she just look at me and say Dad. That all.

And so Quy was living with her sister at this time?

Tien: Yes, correct. Quy and my daughter lived with her sister in a house in Milwaukie and when we came here and about two weeks and we moved out to an apartment with my own family.

And what was the process then for you here?

Tien: When her sister come here, very difficult here for me, because broken English, and in Vietnam I was in the army; I don’t have any special skills to get a better life here. So at the time, my wife told me I will go to work and you go to school and get better education, better training, so you can get a better life here. And I said I know that, I will do that, but I go to work, too, because you know all Vietnamese people, the man in the family has to take care of their family. I know my wife have to take care of the whole family, have to take care of my daughter for a long, long time, when she was in Vietnam and when she in here. And now I have to share that; I cannot just go to school because that very difficult for me because I have to go to school at day and work at night and again, the broken English, that a really big problem for Vietnamese refugees when they get to here. It hard for me to understand when I was in class. I have to listen, I have to look and I have to read, almost over, over so that I can understand. But I know, that’s not for the rest of my life, like that. If I try hard for a short period of time, a few years, I will get a better life here. That’s what I did.

So you went to college?

Tien: Yes, went to college, get the degree, and after that I go to work and now I’m a state worker.

And what do you do for the state?

Tien: I do roadway in ODOT to do the design work or repair work.


Tien: Yes, graphics. Work on computer.

So you decide how the road will be fixed.

Tien: Not exactly. Somebody else decide that, not me. Laughs.

But you must have something to do with making it well. Laughs.

Tien: Yeah, I go my part on that one, but I not decide that.

I would probably not understand what you would tell me. Well, I thank you two very, very much for talking with me today.

Tien: No problem. I just try to let people know how hard for the Vietnamese people who escaped from their country, come to here, and the main thing we come to here because our freedom. We don’t have it in Vietnam. That’s why we escape from here. And here I really, really appreciate what the country did to me: Give me back my life, my family and my future, too. I cannot do it if I were in Vietnam.


Thao: So thank you, especially thank you the American, the US government for helping the Vietnamese people, especially us, the people who served for our government. And one more thing, I would like for people who have thinking or have some idea about ? or about the communists, please, if you got a chance to go visit Cuba, and N. Korea, and then ask them to go to visit where you would like to be and not just where the government would like you to be, to visit where you would like to be and then come back here and appreciate what we have here in America. Thank you.

Thank you.
Did you say what you wanted to say? Yep.