I thought I’d share more excerpts from my dad’s journal, now that I’m newly resolved to transcribe the journal in its entirety.
This passage is actually near the end of the journal and is about his escaping Vietnam. He organized an escape of about 60 people. My dad still had the original paper roster of the people on his boat and also a list of coordinates for navigating his modest fishing boat. It’s now framed in my bedroom. The plan was to stick almost all of his people underneath the deck of the boat and he and a few would feign being fishermen. They would then take the boat to Indonesia. They picked Indonesia because rumor had it that they were welcoming of refugees. They heard that Thailand was refusing refugees and driving displaced Vietnamese people to burn the very boats they were, a desperate last resort to elicit help.
People from underneath asked to get out and we let them do that. So people were everywhere on top of our boat. The hull was dark and stunk of vomit and we felt that the danger of being caught by the Vietnamese coast guards must be over. Everyone looked tired after a rough night and a long day before that. They looked worried but happy. The sea was clear and blue and all around us to the horizon. I didn’t see anything but the blue sky and the blue sea. _____ boiled some sweet potatoes for everyone with some water. We felt safer. People were sitting on the deck and talking and laughing.
I sat on the front tip of the boat, which was jumping up and down while we were cutting the waves. I wrapped my hand around the rope (used to anchor the boat) to be sure I would not fall into the ocean. In my jacket pocket I had some coins which I took out one by one and tossed out into the sea, praying for a safe trip and a steady boat. I was a little worried since whenever the boat dropped back onto the sea, after being lifted up by the wave, I heard a big thud under it. I prayed that the boat would stay intact and would be good enough for our trip. The engine was running and we had a lot of fuel but we didn’t know how long we had to be on the ocean. The horizon was on every direction.
Using the compass we kept our direction at 120 degrees southeast, hoping to go further from Vietnam and closer to Malaysia or Indonesia…
…People stayed quiet and looked out the ocean. They seemed to be in some kind of meditation. Besides worrying about the safety of the trip, the sea worthiness of the boat, and the danger of encountering the Thai pirates, did we really leave Vietnam behind? Would we ever see Vietnam again? What about the loved ones that we left behind? What will be waiting for us when we come to our destination? I dreamed of being on Miami Beach, laying on the sand, doing nothing for at least a month, of going back to college, studying more, rebuilding my life!!
That last paragraph killed me. My dad never made it to Miami Beach or started school up again. He still hasn’t been back to Vietnam. My mom took me twice but my dad stayed behind.
Update 9/19/2016: I took my parents to Miami in April 2016 for dad’s birthday. Read about our weekend in Miami here.