The last time we talked about my dad’s story, we were just getting to the part where his family decided to leave the country. The communists were making it impossible to thrive in Vietnam, so they agreed to escape the country. Whereas my mom’s boat ride (her family’s second attempt) to escape ended in relative success, my dad’s first attempt was almost immediately a nightmare. They ran into a storm their first night in the water, and it took everything they had to stay afloat.
"It’s just all survival. It’s just go in there and bail water as we were throwing up at the same time. We throw up because it was so -- the waves were about three or four floors, three or four stories up there and our tiny boat was below there, and it was beating on us. And the water was coming so fast, so all you do there is bail water. That’s all you do. Take turns bailing water. And by the third or fourth day we were so tired we just let it go."
Apparently this is a common theme, no matter how young or old you are. If you’re escaping the country you know it’s either do or die. They got so tired after three days of bailing water, that when my dad says they were ready to let it go, he means they were all resigned to dying then and there.
"We were okay to let go then. I think the mind is very very powerful. I think once the mind has determined what to do, it’s set and because we are prepared. We were all prepared already. There’s no return. We won’t return. So it’s a one shot deal, for us. We all agreed to that. From the young to the old. I am glad we had a second chance, otherwise I wouldn’t have you, we wouldn’t be talking today, you know?"
Can you imagine being 13 and ready to die?
But just as they were about to let their boat sink, they spotted a Bulgarian ship. And they asked the ship to bring them to Singapore, where my dad had extended family. And the ship agreed. But it wasn't the trip they expected.
"They didn’t take us to Singapore, they took us back to Vietnam. And as we sit on the boat, on the big ship, and all of the sudden we see Communist soldiers coming up and that’s when we ran into the room we all stayed in. We bunkered in there for another day before we give up and came out. And that’s when they took us all back into the country and jailed all of us."