Vietnamese Interpreter, Food Demonstrator, Rock Climber

My Journey to America – Land Ho

Family Robinson Crusoe

By nightfall, the captain and his crew burned our ship to ensure our permanent stay. He did not want to risk the chance of being sent back out to sea with nowhere where to go.

The next day, we were transferred to another island which I think was called Pulau Bidan. As a kid, I heard it as “Bo Lo Bi Da”. It was an established refuge campsite. There were many Vietnamese boat people who came to the island before us. Again, the island was overcrowded. We stayed on Bo Lo Bi Da for about a week before the officials found another island for us to move to.

One week later, all the passengers on our ship were notified to pack and get ready to move to another place. We were transferred to an island called Pulau Bidong. I heard it as “Bo Lo Bi Dong”. There was nowhere one living on this island. We got the island all to ourselves.

Refugee camp identification photos
My sisters and I – refugee IDs

My dad said “We are family Robinson Crusoe. We will make our own house.”
On the first day when we arrived, there was a large storm passing through. We huddled and sheltered underneath a large tent. The wind was blowing violently. Coconuts were dropping from the palm trees like little bombs onto the ground. It rained until morning.

Refugee camp identification photos 2
My parents and brothers – refugee IDs

The next day, we all endured the storm unharmed. The sky cleared up. The ocean sparkled from the rays of the sunlight. It was a beautiful day in paradise. The adults scouted for a reasonable spot on the island to live. They started building houses. We shared our house with 3 other families. Each family has a large room. Each room was about 4 meter x 6 meter (approx 13.1ft x 19.7ft).

Refugee camp identification photos 3
My cousins and sister – refugee IDs

Every morning, my dad, Anh Huy, and Chú Thưởng took their axes and whatever tools they found and marched into the thick forest to bring home woods to build our home and wood for cooking. After picking up the woods, Anh Huy & Chú Thưởng would go swimming and fishing. That was their everyday routine. They finished building the house and our bed in two to three weeks.
My dad and my cousins loved to tease the kids. They told us outrageous stories and swore that it was true. One day, I overheard my dad and cousins planning to go into the woods to explore. They were looking for more lumber to make our bed. I wanted to come along.

My dad said “Do you know what we are living on right now? We are not really living on an island. We are living on a huge whale. If you are not a good girl, the whale will flip over and we will all fall into the ocean.”

My cousin, Anh Huy, chimed in, “There is a huge eagle that lives in the forest. It loves to eat little children. Do you want to be eaten?”

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