I have been through an experience that I will never forget. When I was about six years old, my family and I escaped looking for freedom in America, because the Viet Cong took over my country. The country is Viet Nam.
The first time we escaped we didn't make it. I didn't feel scared or anything; but I felt very uncomfortable sitting in a small boat breathing other people's breath, hearing babies' cries, and smelling the dirty fumes from the boat. The second time we tried to escape the Viet Cong caught us and put us into jail. I was really scared when they all pointed their guns at us. After they put us in jail, I began to know what prison was like.
Life in prison was very terrible. We didn't have enough to eat, nor enough clothing, and the little children didn't get a single decent meal. They didn't care if the people lying there starved to death. All they fed us was two meals a day, and that's it. The food that they gave to us was like leftover foods, but we were so hungry we didn't notice. After spending a month in jail, they let us out.
About two months later, my father made another plan. He bought a small passenger boat, then gathered people who wanted to escape. In a few days we took off. This time we made it. We landed on a seashore off Malaysia. We stayed there for two months and many other people like us were there also. Later the Malaysian soldiers put us in a wrecked boat and pulled it out to the international water. We stayed out there for ten days. Whenever an airplane or a boat passed by, the people in the boat tried to signal for help; but it was no use. Finally, a ship saw us and towed the boat to the nearest island, called Air Raya. It was located in Indonesia. We stayed there for nine months.
At the beginning of those months, it was horrible. Every day people got sick and died because of the air and foods that they breathed and ate. Later there was a hospital built on the island.
After we stayed there, we were all on board a big ship. We sailed to Singapore. From there we flew by plane to America!
Originally published in Stone Soup Magazine May/June 1985