April 1975. Elsewhere, spring had come. But in Saigon I and millions of others helplessly awaited the imminent fall of our city to the advancing Communists.
Leaving all behind, I escaped with the help of American friends a few days before the collapse. For the second time in my life, I found myself in America.
And so I plunged into the tasks of rebuilding my life here. There was the search for a place to live. The hunting up of old friends. Jointerviews Then came the excitement of exploring my new hometown - Washington, D.C.
Sometimes there were evenings out when, by candlelight and over a glass of sparking wine, my companion would say: "How your eyes shine." ANd I would reply: I'm living again." Then there were evenings when I sat down to write letters to friends to assure them that everything was fine ad that my life was getting back to normal.
Oh, how wrong I was!
Suddenly, one day I found myself struggling against depression, guilt, frustration and, above all, against loss of my self-confidence.
Without realizing it, I had become a recluse. More and more time was spent sitting alone in my tiny apartment, thinking of the thousands of other Vietnamese refugees who by now have scattered to all the 50 states. I could not help but think of them with affection, sorrow and pity - for it was one way of feeling sorry for myself.
Now, almost two years later, the irony is that the more effort I put into making life normal, the more confused and empty it becomes.
I keep reading reports that most refugees have "adjusted well." I find myself smiling doubtfully. WOuld it not seem that I - young American education, urbanized - should have been among those who would adjust most easily? Yet when I look at myself. I can only conclude that it has been total disaster .
And that is our problem. We are worth only as much as we value ourselves. I will not deny that for most of us, life in this country has offered much more than we could have hoped for in Vietnam - even if it had not been "liberated." But that abundance, unfortunately, is primarily in material possessions.
While we arrived carrying the same hopes anddreams that the Statue of Liberty symbolized for the millions who came before us, we also carried with us the indelible stigma of a war that most Americans would like to forget.
We are the silent reminders of that ugly episode.
We look around, and we see there are powerful forces working for nearly every minority group except ours. THose who shout the loudest win the most. We the silent refugees, are the losers. Often, our silence is taken as evidence that we have adjusted well to American life. But, somewhere along the process of adjusting, we have seen the hollowness of lost hopes.
Even worse is hearing the quiet inner voice telling you: "Be grateful. At least you survived. Think of all those who are and will probably remain in 'reducation' camps for the rest of their leives." We have lost even the luxury of thinking back on our homeland with fond memories.
And what if the United States recognizes Vietnam? When news of the possibility was announced, a firend excitedly called me to say: "Just think you might be able to go back to Vietnam for a visit soon."
Where would I go? Saigon is now named Ho Chi Minh City. Who wansts to return to a once much-loved home where one would find only the ghosts of a happy past? It tkaes a lot to go back to Vietnam for a visit soon."
Where what if the United States organizes Vietnam? When news of the possibility was announced, a fierned excitedly galled me to say: Where would I go? Saigon is now name Ho hi Minh city. WHo knows to return to a once muchloved home where one would find only the ghost to lige restugees life but would take even more to back to what was once my home!
So. Haging buried my past , I salt here on a peaceful, my, I fisst here pon a p. Where do I get from infire