Stories

“That’s one thing we immigrants have that you people don’t: stories.”  So said Marc, and I’m a little jealous that it’s true.  My life has been fairly boring thus far.  While that’s good because it means I didn’t have a hard, tragic childhood, I kind of wish I had something more to tell (though I’m sure if I had stories, I’d wish that I didn’t). Anyway, here’s Marc’s story, which I didn’t fully know until a few days ago:

He and his family fled South Vietnam during the war.  They took a train to the Vietnamese side of the Vietnam-China border, and then hiked for two days across the mountains into China with no food or water. Even though he was only 2 or so, he says he remembers parts of the trip, like losing his favorite shoe.  I suppose something that traumatizing could be burned into your memory, no matter how young you are.  After they got to China they took a train and then a ferry to Hong Kong where they lived in a refugee camp.  His “home” was a tin shed in a dusty field surrounded by a chain link fence right next to a busy airport.  In the summer the heat in the tin shed would be unbearable (which kind of explains his extreme aversion to heat now), and in the winter it would be freezing (which completely does not explain why he loves the cold).  Once a week they were all let out of the camp, but only for a few hours, so they couldn’t go far.  They didn’t starve or anything, but food wasn’t exactly bountiful. Luckily for Marc’s family, his mother made friends with someone in the administrative building and so was given extra work and therefore extra money.  They lived on about $8 USD a week, but in HK that actually went pretty far.  They stayed at the camp for a few years while his aunt, who lived in Brooklyn, petitioned for them to come to the US.  When he was 5, they finally did and, as he put it, he “moved from a dusty tin field to a dangerous, dirty ghetto.”

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