Monday, October 6, 2008

My Origins: Part 1



(Above is actually a picture of my parents at refugee camp in Singapore...My dad is in the blue shirt laughing beside the guy holding the book, and my mom is to the left laughing in the background. )

Ive had a very stressful day today, and I cant seem to get my mind running positively right now. Im on a very emo tip right now...

I decided to take my serious mood right now and just try to fill you guys in on who I really am. Beyond the camera, beyond my affiliations, beyond what you think you know about me.

My Origins is basically something I want to try and do every here and there to tell you the story of my life. I do not by any means think my life story is the shit, but its worth telling at the least, and maybe worth knowing if you know me.

My parents are from Saigon City (South Vietnam). They grew up during the Vietnam war. Both my Grandfather's died in war.

My mother came from a rich family and a huge house headed by her Chinese stepfather. Her mother left her when she was 3 and fled the city during the war. My mom may have lived in a wealthy home with 3 generations of aunts, uncles and cousins, but lived a lot like a Cinderella. She had two half siblings who were spoiled and it was my mom who did the work and chores day in and out, even though there was a house maid.

My dad's mother and siblings left for France and left him behind with one older brother at around 15 to become a 'bui doi' (Dust of Life - homeless/gypsy in Vietnamese). He lived most of his life in the streets with his friends up to no good and what not (or so the story goes. lol)

So basically, my mom was the Cinderella living inside a huge house in the center of town and my dad was a rebel who wore nothing but Levi's and Adidas (sounds like a fairy tale right...it gets better).

My dad met my mom when he was around 17. My dad's friend was dating my mother's maid at the time and my dad met my mother at her house. My dad was married to his 4th wife at the time and got with my mom while he was still married.

Blah blah, fast forward through time and skip all the stories of their crazy love and the multiple times hes saved her drowning or near death...we get to the part where he's 19 and he's about to get drafted into the war.

Just to fill you in really quickly, Vietnam was split into 2 parts, the North and the South. The North were the communists, the anti-American, and the anti-colonialists (the French). The south was free, Pro-American and Pro-Capitalism. The Cold War between The US and the USSR had the world set up like a chest board and Vietnam was simply a Pawn.

By this time the Viet Cong aka the communists have basically taken over the Southern end, controlling, harrassing, abusing and raping the people. All neighbourhoods were guarded by a soldier who had books with a list of all the residents, birthdays and ages. When a male hit 19, at least 2 soldiers would show up at your house, one who stands by the front door and another who stands by the back in case they try to escape and runaway.

Well my dad left a few months before he was supposed to be drafted. He took my mother away from her house and ran into the country to look for my mom's mother. They found her deep in the country with her new husband. My dad was convinced that the Viet Cong was going to find him and send him off to death if they didnt try to escape the country. My dad was 22 by the time they finally tried to escape. My dad tells me this story all the time, and it sounds so epic to me.

So it was late at night. It was pitch dark in the country and the only light came from the moon. My dad, my mom, grandma and her husband, and aunt and uncle pushed my grandma's boat out from the jungle to the beach. There was a soldier who kept guard in the light tower at the other end of the beach. The 6 of them slowly pushed the boat into the water and started paddling away until they felt it was safe to run the motor.

But before very long the coast guard spotted them and then set off the sirens. My dad being the youngest and strongest man on the boat started the engine and tried to lose them. The Viet Cong started shooting while chasing the boat. After a certain point, they gave up, but only after leaving several bullet holes in the boat where the water was pouring in.

So imagine this now, theyre in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, no paddles, no more fuel to run with, water pouring in, waves rocking your tiny boat, pitch dark outside and it was raining. My dad said he was never so scared in his life. The 6 of them were scooping water out of the boat constantly with their bare hands. They ended up throwing a lot of things overboard due to the weight and the fear of sinking. My dad said his hands and skin were peeling from the salt water...and small sharks were circling the boat at all times.

Eventually everyone on the boat became very sick and ill. Throwing up during the high tide evenings and passing out in the hot sun during the day. They were at sea for about a week he said...out of food, growing weak and horribly sick.

Well obviously they didnt die because I wasnt born yet...

But one day a big cargo ship that had "Liverpool" written on it passes the boat that my parents were on saves them. They drop off my parents in relatives in Singapore where they stay for a year as administrators set up for my parents to move to Canada. The other option was to move to France. But the Vietnamese would never move to France voluntarily. Since the French were our colonialists, it probably would not be a good idea to move there. Instead of saying 'go to hell', in Vietnamese, we say "go to France". lol
Lets just say my mom was pregnant with me in Singapore...and we wont get into details with who went wrong, but my parents arrived in Canada in December of 1984, in the middle of winter and I was born 6 months later.

My parents lived in an upstairs apartment at Dufferin and Dundas on top of a convinience store with the Coca-Cola sign (its actually still there today, its on the south west corner of the intersection near the Hakim Optical thats across the street). They stayed together for another year before they went their separate ways...

But ill continue this story in Part 2.


This is the only flag my parents and I recognize as being Vietnam. The yellow represents the color of our skin. The 3 red stripes as the blood in the veins that run through the 3 sections of Vietnam, Saigon, Dai Lac and Hanoi.
This is not actually Saigon, but I thought it would be cool to include pictures of Ha Long Bay. Just so you have a better idea of what Vietnam's more scenic countryside looks like.



This is Saigon...now called Ho Chi Minh City...but only by foreigners or the North Vietnamese. All Southern Viets call it Saigon.Here are some pics of Saigon aka the bicycle capital of the world.







Below is probably the most famous picture from the Vietnam War...


Like in a lot of wars, many children were left parent-less. Below is a child who is left to take care of his baby brother or sister.

The hippies of the 60's and 70's who were protesting against the war.

US Forces trying to fight off the Viet Cong, and trying to save Saigon


To your left is the Viet Cong and to the right, a man from Saigon...

This is another famous picture that is often captioned, "Fall of Saigon." This is actually a picture of a US chopper trying to save the Southern Vietnamese (Saigon) and flying them off to refugee camps.In the end of US were unable to fight off the Viet Cong and withdrew. Southern Vietnam was raided and terrorized for years. The Viet Cong killed off all opposition and took over the entire country. Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the revolution/revolt/civil war renamed Saigon to Ho Chin Minh city and moved the capital of the country (Saigon in the south) to Hanoi (in the North).

I know I did a lot of blabbing today...but being aware of the amount of readers I get a day, I thought it would be a really cool thing to just kind of educate you on Vietnam, what it looks like, the war, and the time period my parents survived through. I am simply making use of an effective means/medium to educate. The more we are exposed to, hopefully the less ignorant we can be. Being knowledgeable and well cultured in your roots is an important thing. Although we live in a multicultural society...it is key to never forget where you came from or the struggles your parents endured for you to be here today. Dont get lost and caught with fitting in. Your yesterday created your today, your today defines OUR tomorrow.

Funny thing is, Ive only told 3 ppl this story. Well this will hopefully be a more efficient way of story telling.

Anyways, Im off to bed...Class in the morning.

10 comments:

tilt said...

that's a crazy story of how ur parents made it to Canada. The things people do to survive. Makes you appreciate more of what you have and where you came from.

nikita83 said...

You had me thinking I was reading a novel...like as if I couldn't put the book down but I had no choice.

Can't wait for part 2...

Jonny.Treeson said...

Interesting story.

My girlfriend is Vietnamese, her and her family went through a similar experience. But instead of fleeing to Singapore they went to Hong Kong.

I am personally part Chinese, my grandmother also has a history that has been affected by war (WWII/Japanese invading China). She watched the Japanese soldiers hang her uncle from balcony of their own home.....

Despite being born in North York, I always feel strongly when I learn about lives and people that have been through these hardships. It shows how fragile life really is, we can not take anything for granted. Although Toronto is not a perfect place, I am proud to call this city my home. Thank you Canada.

Respect for sharing Chilly Willy, cause the kids ought to know, the young people ought to know.

Chilly Willy said...

First of all, Im absolutely shocked anyone even read this post never mind posting such in depth comments.

Im glad that some of you guys were able to relate or can understand the importance of knowing about your roots and what not.

A lotta ppl get lost in their surroundings and the crowd that they often abandon all sense of identity.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments. Im always hitting the refresh button waiting for new comments. lol

The L.A. said...

This story is very interesting and insightful. I ask my mother all the time about my family's history. I can relate to this story in some way because I am the great-great granddaughter of a slave who was owned by Robert E. Lee.

Without knowing your past, it's like not knowing part of yourself. Thank you for sharing your story and opening your personal life to us.

I'm looking forward to part 2. =]

Jonny.Treeson said...

Haha. I've been checking back every few hours still to read the comments.

Good stuff. This post hits the soft spot.

Raw buddy.

Anonymous said...

What... part 2 needs to be put up soon...
Lol @ 'go to hell', in Vietnamese, we say "go to France". You're Hilarious!! (in Chapelle's voice)
And thanks for putting up those eye opening pictures. I'm reading a book on the Rwandan Genocide and there's a lot of similar pictures to the ones you put up of the kids, there's nothing that makes me sadder!!!
Anyhow, neverthesless, good usage of time you put out there Will!
- ClassicCass (i forgot my damn p.w)

Anonymous said...

Instead of saying 'go to hell', in Vietnamese, we say "go to France". lol
--
LOOOOOOOOL.

love seeing the softer side (lol Bounty) of Will.. my parents weer refugees as well

MJ said...

WOW!
that is some freaken story man!
& I learned a lot from the story & from the photos you posted. You're parents went through a lot & it all sounded like something that would be in a movie. You tell stories so well.

YourGirlSam said...

whatta story ...i saw Kim Phuc (the girl in "the most famous photo of Vietnam War") speak at an International conference and her story behind that photo left all us speechless.