This is a photo of our extended family - first, second, and third generations.
Cost of Living
As Told By: Steven Hoang
The boat was clearly not big enough to hold that many passengers. It was a small fishing boat meant to carry 6 passengers that now housed 20 people sitting shoulder to shoulder. Those in the center of the were cramped, nearly smothered, by the surrounding bodies while those on the edge struggled to stay onboard.
Amidst the heap of passengers was a woman in her mid-twenties. She was from a large family based in Saigon, most of which had already fled the fallen capital of south Vietnam. One of the last of her family to leave Vietnam, she was the only person that she knew on the boat. She was frightened and anxious, but hopeful at what awaited her at the end of her journey. Like the rest of the passengers onboard, she has decided to flee a war-torn Vietnam to take refuge in the United States of America.
As the boat made its way towards the Pacific Ocean, it was met by another vessel. Much to the horror of the passengers on the young woman’s boat, the ship was marked with the bearings of the PAVN, the People’s Army of Vietnam - the same army that marched into Saigon to capture the capital. The soldiers on the ship came onto the young woman’s boat and captured her and the rest of the passengers, taking them aboard the ship and transporting them to the nearest work camp.
After being processed into the camp, the woman was immediately put to work. Her days became filled with hard, manual labor with tiny breaks in between. The PAVN supplied her and the other captives with just the bare amount of food to live. Friends and family would sneak food into the camp to ensure that the woman had enough to eat. This routine carried on for two long years, after which the PAVN released the captives and the woman. Upon receiving her freedom, the woman boarded a flight to the Washington, DC within the week, and never looked back.
After landing in Washington, she was reunited with her sweetheart in Vietnam, Bao Hoang. The two eventually married and had two sons, Steven and John Hoang.
I had never taken an interest in my mother’s past until recently. When we sat down and talked about her exodus from Vietnam, I almost didn’t believe her. I had no idea how much she had gone through to allow my brother and me the opportunity that we have today - one that so many take for granted everyday.
This is why I believe that it’s important to continue the conversation on the Vietnamese diaspora; so we can understand the sacrifices that were made for us to be afforded the choices that we are allowed to make. This understanding will help us build a bridge to the previous generation and keep the voices of those who came before us alive.