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    Posted April 28, 2010 by
    Castle Rock, Colorado
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your Vietnamese journey

    The Child left behind


    I was born to a Vietnamese mother and American father in Vietnam.  After the Vietnam War, I was in grave danger because I am half American.  The Vietnamese government was not kind to ‘Amerasians’ (this is the term used for innocent kids who are half Asian and half American).  We moved constantly deep into the jungle so no Vietnamese official could find us. My hair is a light brown, my skin is white, my eyes are brown, my facial features look nothing like a Vietnamese child. My mother dyed my hair black to have me blend in and to stay under the radar of the Vietnamese government. Because of this threat to my very existence and possibly my family, my mother burned my birth certificate and everything that related to my father. After many years had gone by, suffering the heartache of losing so many family members to the wars in addition to the constant moving, my mother’s memory has faded about the name of my father. I did not do so well in school because of the war, the constant harassment by my peers, treating me as if I were the enemy, and all the relocating. Because of who I am (half American and half Asian), I bring embarrassment to my family; especially to my mother. Having a child out of wedlock in Vietnam is a dishonor to your family but having child out of wedlock with a foreigner is the worst shame anyone could ever imagine. Everywhere I went, people would give me one of those ‘looks’ and then ask the uncomfortable question that my mother dreaded answering, “Who is her father?” Because of her shame, my mother made up a story that I was adopted and that my biological mother abandoned me when I was a baby. People believed her story because a lot of mothers had to abandon their Amerasian children because they couldn’t take the criticism and the embarrassment. So many of us were abandoned by our mothers or had a mother who was afraid to admit the child is hers because the Vietnamese society did not look kindly upon those Amerasian children. We are (still to this day) the lowest class of Vietnamese citizen if there was ever one. I did not find out that my mother is my biological mother until I was almost 18 years old. I overheard my cousin tell the story of how I was born. I was shocked, as you can imagine. I couldn’t believe my own mother would let me believe I was adopted all that time! Over the years I have come to accept that my mother did that to protect both of us due to the life-threatening circumstances.

    In 1980 President Ford signed some sort of treaty that allowed all Amerasians to come to the United States. At that time, turmoil started. Our status went from the lowest class of citizen to the highest because we now had a ticket to America! During this period of time, many people with money had come to our house in hope to buy me from my mother so they can come to America. Shocking, but yes, we are talking about buying and selling human beings. Fortunately my mother turned them all away. For many other Amerasian children, this was not the case. For some, their mothers did sell them to the highest bidder.

    Back to my story, I remember my mother came home one day and told me that her brother-in-law had helped her file some sort of paper work for us to go to the United States (this was in 1988). But the next thing she said was strange. She said not to tell this to anyone else or we will end up in jail. I guess the Vietnamese government does not want this information to be published even though it was supposed to be. To say the least, our neighbor was in shock when we went to say goodbye to them on the day we were to step on the plane to come to America (November of 1990). I was so thrilled and excited! In my mind I was going to America to find my father. We hit another bump on the road when we were dropped off in the Baatan camp in the Philippines for 6 months to adjust to the new culture. The United States at this point thought that they provided everything to their abandoned children to be cared for at this camp. Unfortunately, corruption exists everywhere. Each time the food was handed down through a channel, one portion was cut off. This meant that by the time the food got to the recipient, there was only a small portion left. We were starving at the camp and with the language barrier we had no one to turn to. We sold everything that we brought with us (which is not much) at the flea market to buy extra rice to sustain us during the 6 month stay.

    At last, the 6 months had passed and we were on a bus from Bataan Camp to Manila airport. My goal to find my father and the other ½ of the family was getting much closer at this point. That night, I could not sleep. I kept envisioning what my father looked like and wondering if he will be excited to finally meet me. Will my other family accept me with full embrace or will they turn away? I started to get nervous at the negative thoughts invading my mind. I pushed them away because I could not imagine anyone not wanting to see their long lost child.

    To conclude my story, reality hit me like a ton of bricks when I arrived in the United States. My feeling was America is like a big ocean and I am the tiniest fish in this ocean. How will I ever find my father with no name, or Social Security Number (my mother had burned or buried all of this important information, remember?) or the last known address and don’t forget the language barrier on top of that. At that time, I also came to the realization that I didn’t belong anywhere. I didn’t belong in Vietnam, my own people shunned me, and I didn’t belong in the U.S., I knew no one in this strange land. I hit rock bottom but resolved at that time to make the most of my new life. I am in America, the land of freedom and opportunity! I said to myself, if you don’t make a life here you will never be able to anywhere else. From that day on I never looked back. I am now happily married with two children, have a successful career and am proud to be an American!

    P.S. My Vietnamese name was Hang Mai. 

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