“As a refugee in America, I love experiencing the melting pot of culture…”
At the time I wanted to take on this project hoping to better understand my own journey, my parents journey and millions who fled their birth country. Too young to remember the details, I truly just wanted to piece together my own plight, a story of which I am unable to get my mom to share to this day.
What started out as a self serving trip resulted in much more than I could have imagined. I was able to see first hand the tenacity of individuals thriving by establishing a successful business. I witnessed a community coming together to help one another to survive in a foreign land. I heard stories of desperation and despair through multiple attacks as my clients were considered foreigners. Finally, I learned the truth of personal experiences with the migration of the Vietnamese people. Stories of witnessing ship wreckage, overcrowding on fishing boats, starvation, death, illness, sacrifice of one's life for the survival of another, pirate attacks (rape, plunder, theft, murder), boats stranded on islands, loss of family members, loss of entire belongings, separation of parents and kids, never reuniting with family and even cannibalism of the ones who perished so the rest can survive made my heart ache.
Through these recollections from my clients, I finally understood the pain, strength, determination, suffering and sacrifice my parents endured for our family. I had a greater sense of gratitude, love and understanding for them, their unwillingness to share the details of their story and their strength in overcoming whatever obstacles that presented themselves to get us here to America.
June 20 marks World Refugee day. As a refugee in America, I love experiencing the melting pot of culture, ethnicity, food, languages, celebrations, and holidays we have access to here. The individuals I have met making up America are part of the reason for my wanderlust, coupled with my thirst to experience life to its fullest. Hearing stories of their country, their history, their journey and visualizing the world they come from excites me. I wish I could live long enough to experience and explore every country and every city on this planet.
We live in such a colorful world filled with beauty. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were more accepting of our differences and united with a singular purpose? If we were patient enough to hear the story of a stranger, would we be more tolerant and understanding? Imagine if we could all travel freely without restrictions and be welcome wherever we want to go?
Sadly the world seems more divided now than united.
As we slowly open up again, I am reflecting on the changes in the last year and a half. Some good, some bad but mostly feeling humbled and grateful. I am reminded of my parents' sacrifice and my own journey to get right here, exactly where I am supposed to be. Above all, I need to stay positive and believe that no matter how much darkness is out there, an equal or greater amount of light exists.
Life is funny... you go through these ups and downs and when you do... you start realizing what truly matters. You learn that a few key traits will help you in surviving any obstacles.
PATIENCE for things that matter in your life.
KINDNESS for others since you'll never understand their suffering.
GRATITUDE for what you have now because it can disappear in an instance.
HOPE to carry you through the darkest days.
LOVE to remind you everything will be OK. 76 AWARENOW / THE UNITED EDITION