The Boat People: Part 1


Sometimes people come into my life when I least expect it and force me to reflect on the lifetime of abundance, comfort and love that I have always enjoyed. Last week, I met such a person.

It was time for a haircut and I wasn't in the mood to drive twenty miles away to see my ‘regular' hairdresser so I stopped by a nearby salon. My assigned stylist was a petite Asian woman named ‘Thu’. Her English was perfect yet she maintained a strong Asian accent so I asked her where she came from ...“Vietnam. Do you know of ‘The Boat People’?” she answered. “Oh yeah” I lied. The truth was that I was only familiar with the term “The Boat People” and it having something to do with refugees.

Thu picked up her scissors and began her story…

It was 1980 and she was a thirteen year old North Vietnamese girl when her parents depleted their savings to pay a man who would take Thu and her nine other siblings (ages 5 through 23) through the Vietnamese jungle to an awaiting boat. Before leaving home, their mother made them promise to stay together. The children were stowed away inside oil wells of the boat where they stayed for three days. “No food, no water for three days ” she said, then abruptly interrupted her story by demonstrating the crouched position she and her siblings were forced to endure. Three-hundred people were stuffed into the boat designed for a fishing crew of twenty. Several people died during the voyage but it wasn't the first time that Thu had witnessed death. “They couldn’t breathe” she said.

Then pausing for a moment while looking out the window of the salon, she said "My husband was lucky, he left Vietnam when he was five years old, he doesn't remember things that I remember."

...To be continued

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