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Escaping Communism in Vietnam 1976

Escaping Communism in Vietnam 1976

The Vietnamese woman who does my nails and the one who cuts my hair were both Boat People who escaped the Communist government of Viet Nam in the 1970’s. These truly amazing women have incredible stories to tell.

Rose was the youngest of 5 daughters and was in high school when the Vietnamese War ended. Trying to survive under the initial Communist regime was mostly unbearable. People were robbed of their homes and possessions, and were starving due to scant food rations.

Rose’s four older sisters scraped together enough money and gold to buy her escape and passage on a boat leaving Viet Nam, because they felt she had the best chance of survival. Without telling Rose or their parents, they woke her in the middle of the night in 1976 and told her she had to go, right then. She couldn’t say good bye to her parents and was secretly escorted to an awaiting boat. There were about 70 people crammed onto the tiny boat as it left the shore of Viet Nam for the high seas. The Communists chased them and shot three of the people on the boat including the captain. The bodies were thrown overboard. Adrift and lost for more than 3 weeks without a captain and knowledge of the instruments, several more people died. They were terrified of pirates who roamed the waters to steal rape and kill the boat people. They barely survived without food or water until they were finally rescued by an Indonesian fishing boat. Rose, who couldn’t swim, fell into the water and nearly drowned as she was boarding the fishing boat, but was saved by one of the fishermen. She spent a year in a refugee camp before being sponsored by a church in Mississippi and coming to the US.

Thuy was one of three daughters of a Vietnamese business man. Her father was a manufacturing plant manager and spoke Vietnamese, Chinese, French and English. When the Communists took over, they confiscated their family’s home and all of their possessions, leaving the entire family to live on the streets. Starving and hopeless, Thuy and her sister arranged passage on a boat leaving in the middle of the night. They sailed for a few days and landed at a refugee camp in Malaysia, where they spent several months until they could get sponsorship by relatives already living in the US. Thuy’s father died while she and her sister were in the refugee camp and they didn’t find out this news for nearly a year. Thuy spent many years working in the electronics factories in Silicon Valley before she started cutting hair. As she was telling me her story, she became emotional and very critical of the Communists.

These are amazing, hard-working women. I admire their courage and tenacity in their quest for a better life in America.

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Beijing Silicon Valley
Beijing Silicon Valley magnify
We met with a consulting and application development firm in Beijing’s Silicon Valley, called the “Upper Ground” or “Middle Gate Village” area of Beijing. I was completely surprised. I have been to other business meetings across Asia, but this section of Beijing looked just like Silicon Valley. The modern buildings were surrounded by groomed parkways and landscaping. The glass and steel exteriors were just like you would find in Palo Alto or Cupertino or Sunnyvale. Inside, the software engineers’ cubicles were personalized with toys, pictures and gadgets, and the conference rooms looked the same. If you didn’t know you were in Beijing, you would swear this is Silicon Valley USA.