I wake up and gasp for a huge yawn, then wait for a huge stretch of my very sore arms and legs. I stand up feeling tension in my whole body. I had worked ten hours in the factory yesterday and I got paid thirty dollars. Working in a factory has my arms doing repetitive work every single day and being one of the only people in my family who goes to work daily. I live with both of my parents, my three older brothers and my younger sister. I have thick, long, dark brown hair with a flatter round face. I stand about five foot three and have almond shaped brown eyes. My three brothers are, one, two and three, I’m number four and my sister is number five. My little sister’s name is Hong which means “rose”. My three older brothers are away and were sent to prison right now due to a motorcycle accident and a tourist theft. I am the only person in my family that works since my mom stays at home mom, my father is ill and my sister is too young to work.
My mom stays home to take care of my dad who was a soldier in the Vietnam War. He came back from the war torn apart by shrapnel and burnt by the hot fire of the explosion. He suffered through losing his right leg as well as being affected by a lot of psychological and physical problems. My father is thirty percent of all Vietnam veterans with PTSD and he was fortunate enough to not have lost his life. My dad was a very bulky man before his incident. Now he lays small with extremely fragile bones along with sickly burn scars and short grey hair. He sits in a wooden wheelchair where communicating is very challenging for him and he is paralyzed from the fore-arm down. Since his circumstances are very severe, my parent’s relationship is starting to take a turn for it’s worse. I can see my father’s condition becoming extremely critical. He can’t control his movements or his actions and it’s so hard to see him in a state where he has emotional numbness. He has nightmares and flashbacks every couple of nights from the hand grenade that landed ten meters away from him.
“Hoa, you’re going to be late for work”, yells my mom from downstairs. I live in a small home that is roughly two stories. The downstairs consists of a kitchen, a dining room and a couch. The upstairs includes four mattresses set on the floor with light linen for the blankets.
“I’m coming!” I replied. I rush to put my pink cotton shorts and a light white shirt on, grab my flip flops then hurry down the ladder from the upstairs. I grab an apple and kiss my parents on the cheek.
“Bye sweetheart, see you at five.” I smile and I take a step into the warm, humid air.
My walk is about a half an hour from my house and it’s right outside the city of Saigon. While I’m walking, I spot many people asking if I want to buy various items, I just keep walking and smile. Soon, I get to the factory. I walk to find my station, and I see a bunch of girls like me, young, and unhappy but, extremely diligent. I grab a mask and get to work spreading out cotton.
“You have a phone call”, the supervisor calls. I stop spreading the cotton and rush to see who it is.
“It’s me. You got accepted. You’re going to America”. I’m in complete shock, not knowing whether to be upset, or happy or excited.
“What? Are you serious?”, I exclaimed. My hands started to shake a little and I felt a drip of sweat running down my face while my face felt warm and overheated. “We will talk about this when I get home, mom. I love you”, and I quickly hang up then give the phone back to the manager.
After ten working hours at the factory, I finally return home to warm beef soup and white rice where my little sister and my family is waiting for me at the dining room table.
“How was work?”, my mom asks anxiously.
“It was okay.”, I reply, not giving any eye contact. The room sat quiet for a few minutes while everyone sipped down their soup. After I finished my soup, I took care of the bowls and started washing the dishes.
“Go help your sister clean the bowls, would you?”
“Okay”, my sister says.
Later that night while I’m brushing my shiny, long, dark hair, my mom comes up. “I’m not going. I can’t. I am the only one who works, I bring home the money for my family to live off of. Dad is in horrible condition and I need to be here for my family. It is the right thing to do. I’m sorry mom, I have to stay with you guys, here, in Vietnam, not Michigan.” I blurt out
“I know this is a tough situation for you. I am so proud of the young woman that you have become. You are so diligent and hardworking. To be honest, I want you to go. You deserve everything in the world. I know this will be hard on all of us. But, I speak for both your father and I. We will make this work. You and your sister both deserve better lives and I apologize that we couldn’t give you that. I am encouraging you to make the right decision, but I want you to chose America. There is so much potential for you there.”
“Mom, I understand all of that. But don’t you see? You can’t do all of this by yourself. You can’t raise Hong and you can’t raise Dad without me. I bring home the money and it’s just better if I stay with my family.”
“I want you to pursue your dreams, and get a great education. This is a chance of a lifetime, you may never get a chance like this ever again. You’re going to America, whether you like it or not.”
“Okay, I’ll go. But, for your sake. This is a good opportunity for me. For us.” I reply. As I think to myself, I wonder, am I making the right decision. My mom smiles.
“Pack your bag tomorrow, then.” She tucks me in and kisses my head.
The next morning, I wake up with a huge yawn and I trigger a huge stretch of my body. Today’s the day. The day that I’m leaving Vietnam for America. I get out from under the covers and get ready for the day.
“You don’t have to go to work today, I’ve called you in.”
“Wait, but mom, we need the money.”
“Don’t worry about us. I got a job selling vegetables in a local shack. It should be enough until I can find a better job. Oh, I talked to the foster care unit. They will be here tonight, to pick you up and take you to the airport.” I’m in shock.
“Um, okay.” I stutter. I quickly rush to find a spare bag from the small closet downstairs. I spot a backpack then, grab it and run up the ladder. I pack all that I have from my two drawers, five pairs of shorts, six shirts and three pair of socks and underwear.
Later that day, I hear a knock on the door. I slowly open the door and I see a woman dressed in a pencil skirt suit with shoulder length blonde hair and lovely blue eyes.
“Hello, my name is Lindsey”. Next to her stood an asian man in a suit who seemed to speak vietnamese. He translated everything so that I understood what she was saying. “Is your mom around?”, she asks.
“Yes”, I reply softly. “Mom, someone’s here”. Mom rushes downstairs to greet the blonde woman.
“I’m here to pick up Hao”, Lindsey says. I leave to get my back pack. I kiss father and sister goodbye.
“I’ll see you both soon. I love you Papa.” Father motions for a hug and I hug him. I run down the ladder and before I know it, I’ve kissed my mom goodbye and I’m in Michigan. After we’ve landed, I felt sort of out of place. I didn’t see many people that looked like me. I saw this family holding up a sign saying
“Welcome to America, Hao!” I smile and walked down the stairs, then my host family gave me a hug. My host mom was wearing long baggy clothes. Her shirt was a long sleeve, blue shirt and wore loose-fitting jeans with slip on shoes. My host dad wore a button up green shirt with loose jeans and teal asics sneakers. My host sister wore a highlighter pink t-shirt along with a headband with leggings and shorts on top.
When we got back to the house, in Ann Arbor, I got a tour of the house. It was a large home that was three whole stories high. The first floor had a kitchen, a dining room and a sitting area with couches and a tv. It also had a bathroom on the main floor. The upstairs had four bedrooms and one bathroom. The basement was a huge carpeted room filled with toys and a huge tv. In the back was a storage room and a bedroom. I was feeling quite awkward standing in the entrance of the doorway.
“Hao, do you want me to show you to your room?” my host sister asks.
“Sure.”, I reply. I take off my flip flops and follow my host sister, Jennifer up the stairs
“This is my room,” she points. “And, this one is yours,” she points. Her room is right next door to mine.
“Thanks.” I say. I walk into the room. I see a olive green quilt laying on a wooden bed which was against the wall. There was a giant window with shades and a framed photo of my host family. I sit my backpack on the bed and start to unpacking my clothes.
“You have a call Hao!” my host mom calls. I hurry downstairs to answer the cordless phone.
“Hao, theres been an accident.” my mom said in a panic.
I paused. “What? What do you mean?”
“We’ve been struck with floods all over the city. Our house has flooded over.”
“What? Are dad and Hong okay? Are you okay?”
“Yes, we are fine. We’ve moved out of the city for a little until the storms roll over but Hong still needs to go to school so I have to take her in tomorrow.”
“Do you need me to come home?”
“No, please stay there. We will be alright. The storms will blow over.”
“Okay mom, be careful.” I hang up the phone and turn on the t.v.
“Storms in Vietnam have affected many houses the past few days with at least one hundred and fifteen deaths so far. Many soldiers have made their way to Saigon to help the worst affected area. Will the storms continue to destroy central Vietnam? Or will the storms eventually blow over?” the television states.
A few days later, I’m sitting at the dining room table eating Sprinkle Spangles and orange juice waiting for the host family to take me to my first day of school. We get there and I see a huge building full of both boys and girls, and there were small classes left and right. I follow Jennifer up the stairs and into the large doors of the school.
“Want me to walk you to your first class?” Jennifer asks.
I nod and once we get to the classroom, I turn and smile to Jennifer. I take a seat in one of the desks next to this girl named Lindsey.
“Hi, are you new? she replies.
I nod and smile.
“What school did you transfer from?”
I didn’t quite understand the question. “Vietnam.” I say.
“Oh, that’s awesome. Did you hear about the floods?”
Unfortunately yes. I thought to myself. I nod.
“We should hang out sometime. I think you’re really cool.”
“Okay,” I smile.
Once I got home, I check to see if there were any missed messages on the answering machine. “One new message,” the machine read.
“Hi honey, your father passed away a few hours ago. He had an unknown that we didn’t know about. I’m so sorry Honey. He didn’t suffer and he’s in a better place now. I hope you’re having a great time in America. Tell me all about it! I love you so much.”
I paused and just sat there. I didn’t know what to feel. I felt numb to my toes. My father was gone. I start to cry, I felt like drowning in my tears. I had to go back to Vietnam.
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