Vietnamese Interpreter, Food Demonstrator, Rock Climber

Journey to America – My Younger sisters’ Experiences

This chapter is about my two younger sisters’ perspectives. Similar to my brothers, both sisters were young. They remembered very little. They both shared with me as much as they could recall from their experiences.

Minh Hiếu and Bạch Huệ

Minh Hieu
Minh Hiếu

Minh Hiếu was 6½ and Bạch Huệ was 8½ when we left Vietnam. Both of their birthdays were late in the year. Minh Hiếu meant smart and loyal. Hiếu is the youngest girl in the family and second to the last child. She was my dad’s little girl while my youngest brother, Mạnh was my mom’s little boy.

Bạch Huệ meant white lily. Huệ was the middle child. Quite contrary to white, Huệ had dark skin when she was younger. Our cousins often teased Huệ. They called her black Huệ instead of Bạch Huệ.

Bach Hue
Bạch Huệ

Huệ and Hiếu often hung out together when they were little. They were the best buddies.

The Boat Trip Experience

On the day of the trip to America, Huệ thought we were going to a wedding but not sure where. She saw our parents packing. Huệ was wondering why it was such a long way to the wedding but she didn’t ask. No one asked. The next thing she recalled was being on a boat. Hạnh, Huệ, and Hà were sitting together while the younger siblings sat with our mom. The bigger people sitting next to us were mean. They squished us.

On the boat, Huệ was not seasick. However, she was hungry and thirsty. Our mom squeezed some lemon or lime into her mouth for water. It was sour but it was refreshing. She got a few bites of bread or something similar. She remembered sitting in a layer of water with floating chunks swaying back and forth in rhythm with the boat.

The boat trip seemed like forever. Huệ lost the concept of time. She did not feel scared. She knew that as long as she was with our parents she was in good hands. On the last day aboard the boat, our dad pulled Hạnh, Hà, and Huệ to the upper deck to get some fresh air. Our dad pointed out the flying fish. While her sisters were sleeping, Huệ was the only one who had a glimpse of the flying fish. “Wow, neat fishy.” Huệ thought. She never knew that fish could fly.

Pulau Bi Dong Island Experience

Stone Rocks Ocean Seacoast Landscape
Living on the island was fun. Huệ helped gather tree branches and leaves to make our bed. She felt very helpful.

She got to swim and splash in the water. The water was warm and clear. She could see the colorful fishy. The sisters imagined themselves as mermaids and often swam along the shallow part of the beach.

Huệ sometimes followed Hạnh and Hà on their island exploring adventures while Hiếu hung around the hut with our mom. Hạnh and Hà shared with Huệ their hideaway location where the big Malaysian man fished. Crossing the rocky trench was a challenge. Her heart wanted to leap right out of her chest but Huệ had to keep calm. She had to prove to her sisters that she could do it too and that she was as adventurous as they were.

Heading to America

The big day finally arrived and we were going to America. Her excitement was deflated when she heard that our dad was not coming along. He had to stay behind because of some health issues.

“It’s ok. We will see daddy again. When we come to America, you will get to eat whatever you like. I will make it for you.” Our mom reassured us. Food was the magical formula.
Panty hose feet
During the flight to America, Huệ noticed several ladies with webbed feet. Her older sisters and Huệ were mesmerized by the webbing between their feet. Were they born with it? Are they fish? How come it looked fake? We later found out that the webbed feet ladies were wearing a type of socks called stockings and/or pantyhose.

On the flight from Seattle to Chicago, Huệ caught eyes with an older American gentleman. The gentleman looked back at her. They gazed in each other’s direction for a brief moment. She was watching his every movement and was fascinated by his looks. He was big and tall. He had hairy arms. That is not something common that we see every day for Vietnamese.

When the flight ended, the gentleman handed Huệ a green piece of paper that looked like money. “Wow!! That’s a lot of money.” Huệ thought. She had no idea what it was worth. She later found out that the stranger gave her $1.
Lufthansa 747-400 snowstorm 2016
As the family stepped down from the airplane, Huệ saw snow and all the strange people surrounding her. She experienced culture shock. She experienced the cold, the snow, the new place, and the new people all in one day. For an almost nine-year-old girl, the experience was overwhelming. The overpowering unfamiliarity masked her new experiences.

Her curiosity about the snow or even the weather temperature was non-existence. The mid-range temperature in Fahrenheit was 7 degrees or -14 degrees Celsius. Huệ just stood and observed in her short sleeve blouse oblivious to the cold winter air.

After several weeks passed when the unfamiliar surrounding became familiar, Huệ experienced snow for the first time. She loved it. The first two things she learned were how to make snow angels and never eat yellow snow. They played snowball fights. They slid on the frozen patches of ice. Snow was fun.

The new people became familiar faces of her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The familiarizes, fond memories, and flashbacks of her relatives resumed.

Final Thoughts of the Younger Sisters

Huệ flourished into a beautiful and smart young lady. Her dark skin lightened up as she grew older. Her cousins no longer teased her being black as she blossomed into her name the beautiful “white lily”.

I am so proud of Huệ. She set out to be a Registered Nurse (RN) and stumbled across many obstacles along her path. Huệ persevered and became an excellent RN.

Huệ is now happily married to Liȇm Chȃu and has three adorable girls of her own. She is a successful RN working for a large privately owned company. She is creative with her Vietnamese cooking as well as being a wonderful mom to her children.

Even though Hiếu was the quietest and more reserved among the five girls, she grew up to be the protector of the family. No one can pick on Hiếu or her family. She is a little tiger and a powerful woman underneath. I am glad to be on Hiếu’s side.

Hiếu is married to her high school sweetheart, Minh Lu. They have three beautiful children, one boy, and two girls. Hiếu is a stay-at-home mom. She has been doing a great job raising her children and continues to be a courageous woman whom I know and love.

I am so proud of my little sisters. Well, they are not so little anymore. They have grown, matured, and blossomed into amazing women. It is an honor for me to be part of their lives.

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