Thursday, August 30, 2012
Arrival in SeaTac Airport 1986
This was the first picture of us taken in the US. We just stepped out from INS/customs at SeaTac Airport. We came from Manila, Philippines to Seattle in August/1986. We immigrated from Vietnam to the US as refugees in 85/86. My uncles were smuggled out of Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and made their way to the US. They later sponsored us to come, the process took about 6 years. We flew from from Vietnam to Thailand and spent about a week there in a refugee processing facility. Medical check ups and background checks were made. It was very scary getting "processed", as a personal experience of a 6 year old, it felt dehumanizing. People should never have medical checkups without having a native interpreter around. Imagine a naked 6 year old standing in front of a nurse and doctor as they do their thing, without her mother by her side. You wore an ID tag around your neck, there was little to no eye contact. They spoke at you, not to you... half the time not in a language you understood. I don't think things are like this anymore... hopefully they've changed. For those of you who think English should be the only language (in the US) needs to realize that immigrants have made some of the BEST AMERICANS and there's always a transition time when both languages are necessary.
The Thailand refugee camp was an interesting experience. The camp was built like a prison with barbed wire, tall fences and gates. There was no privacy, but this was for temporary holding so they can verify who you were and made sure you didn't have any communicable diseases. People were denied entry to the US for being a communist or if they had Aids, TB etc. There was a shop in the camp and peddlers could still sell you gum and candy through the camp's perimeter, if you had the money to buy. I remember this was the first time I had Chicklets. I was hooked, mmmm Chicklets! I believe there were 2 meals a day and you slept on cots or on blankets in a big gymnasium type room next to your luggage. We jokingly said the food was cabbage soup and rice or rice and cabbage soup. To this day the smell of boiled cabbage brings me back to this place! Despite everything it was a fond and exciting memory.
We lived with my grandmother in Vietnam, extended family often live together. We were split up for the first time in Thailand, my grandmother went directly to the US and we were diverted to the Philippines Refugee Processing Center in Bataan. We lived there for about 8 months. We think it's because my mother was a native Vietnamese and she had tested positive for TB antibodies. They worried my mother might be contagious. She took care of an aunt with TB when she was younger and I guess got antibodies from that experience. After leaving everyone I knew in Vietnam it was very hard leaving my grandmother too. This was someone who've been with me my entire life, there everyday with me and ate every meal with me. After 8 months apart this was the first time I saw her again.
Right to left: Dad (Ton Chau), mom (Hoa Nguyen), me, grandma (Hao Ly)
I just found this awesome blog about the PRPC!