Vietnamese Interpreter, Food Demonstrator, Rock Climber

My Journey to America – Land Ho

Bitter Sweet Departure to America

Our family was taken onto a small motorboat to the mainland, Kuala Lumpau. I enjoyed our ride on the motorboat. The wind was blowing through my hair. The humidity of the air soaked through my skin. I was not seasick this time. It was a nice feeling to be in the open and feel important. Our family was important because we were sponsored and we were going to America. I had nowhere idea what will come next but I was not scared. I was excited because it was time to go on our next adventure.

We stayed in Kuala Lumpau for about several weeks. We all had to take a physical and finalized all of our paperwork before we departed for America. My dad was rejected from coming with us because of his health. The Malaysian suspected that he has tuberculosis (TB). They kept him behind for treatment. The rest of the family went to America first. We had nowhere choice. We either go now or we might not be able to go at all. My dad agreed to stay behind. At the airport, he waved goodbye and watched his family go on ahead.

In early December 1978, we boarded a big plane and flew straight to Tokyo. From Tokyo, we changed planes and flew to Seattle. Then from Seattle, we flew to Chicago, Illinois. From Chicago, we landed at our final destination Peoria, Illinois. Flight attendants and airport attendants guided us to the proper gates when we had to change planes.

On the transition from plane to plane, I remembered everything in the airport was huge and colorful as if I was in a dream. What got my attention most were the women. We saw women including the flight attendants with webbed feet. The women wore dresses. Their legs look darker than their faces or their hands as if there was a layer of something on top of their legs. The toes were bunched together. What could that be? My sisters and I observed those women going up and down the escalators. We were mesmerized by their webbed feet. We later found out that was the pantyhose. We also discovered automatic sliding doors, elevators, and flushed toilets.

Arrived at the airport.

We flew into Peoria, Illinois right before Christmas of 1978. I remembered arriving at the airport for the first time with just a yellow sweater on. My brothers had shorts on. It was snowing knee-deep. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles were at the airport looking through the glass window from the inside. They were waiting to greet us. They brought each of us a winter coat. Wow, those were big coats. I remembered thinking. “Are those coats for us?”

compilation of pictures -- families reunited in Pekin
compilation of pictures — families reunited in Pekin, Illinois

We drove to my grandparents’ home in silence. I looked out the car window and wondered if all this white stuff around us was snow. Wow!!! I always heard about snow in stories and now we saw it firsthand. It was a winter wonderland.

My dad was held back for one month in Malaysia. We were united with him in January 1979.

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