SETTLING IN A NEW COUNTRY
Bai An Tran

 

The Vietnam War ended after the withdrawal of five hundred thousand American soldiers. After that, South Vietnam was overtaken by the North Communist regime on April 30, 1975 . As a result, more than two million Vietnamese had to escape from Vietnam . Half of them arrived in the US as refugees and they had to overcome many significant difficulties. Among them were the new language, deep depression, and economic problems.

The first difficulty that the Viet refugees had to face was the new language. Language is the key used to open the door to one's country. During the first days in the USA , the newcomers were blind, deaf, and dumb. They saw many things happening around them, but they didn't understand why. They talked to their neighbors in broken English, but that was not real communication. They listened to the radio, but they couldn't comprehend. They were like persons physically inside the American house, but in reality, still standing on its porch, because they didn't have the key to open the door. In order to overcome this language barrier, the government encouraged them to attend ESL (English as second language) classes, which were organized in adult schools, colleges, and universities. Those who enrolled in these classes found it easier to assimilate into American society.

In addition, the Viet refugees had to deal with deep depression. They had escaped from their country in panic,leaving all relatives and friends behind. During the escape, many of them risked death for freedom. Many died; others suffered from pirates who robbed, raped, or killed them violently. Loneliness combined with sorrow created a deep depression among the Viet refugees so extreme that they sometimes thought about committing suicide. In order to find strength and overcome their personal losses, they tried to live together. As a result, many mutual and social organizations were formed. Vietnamese pagodas and churches were built in many places. Gradually, several Vietnamese Towns were established around the country where people could find special aspects of Vietnamese culture.

The third problem that the Viet refugees had to overcome was the struggle to survive economically. Almost all of them arrived in this country with empty hands. In a brief moment, they had lost houses, belongings, and careers. In the United States , they had to depend on the financial support of the US government and their sponsors. In order to overcome this difficulty, they attended vocational schools to learn job skills. Also, they stuck with traditional Vietnamese customs to deal with harsh economic situations such as limiting all entertainment or hobbies, economizing in their purchases, and keeping all members of the family in the same house. As a result, they could save money to buy a home, fulfilling a Vietnamese motto: "first, permanent residence, then a good career."

In conclusion, after years of living in the US , Vietnamese Americans have successfully overcome many difficulties of the past to participate in mainstream American society. Now people can meet Vietnamese-Americans anywhere: they are soldiers fighting in Iraq ; the woman who invented smart bombs being used in Iraq today is a Vietnamese called "Bomb Lady." They are officials in the White House, the Pentagon, the congress, and on city councils. They are movie stars in Hollywood and engineers at NASA. Also, among the victims of 9/11 were some Vietnamese. In US immigrant history, the Vietnamese are now preeminent examples of newcomers who have overcame difficulties and enriched this Promised Land .