Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon
“Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon,” is a Smithsonian exhibit depicting the exodus of the Vietnamese at the end of the Vietnam war. It consists of a collection of pictures of the long, hard journey that Vietnamese experienced when they escaped from Communist Vietnam. The exhibit also chronicles their later success in the United States. In 1975, following the withdrawal of the U.S. army, the government of South Vietnam collapsed, resulting in great chaos, confusion and panic. Without knowing what was going to happen, thousands of Vietnamese left everything behind and escaped from their homeland. In spite of all the risks that they had to face, many of them made their way to the U.S. The people who got stuck and were imprisoned by the new government were later allowed to come to the U.S. as refugees. More than 30 years have passed and the number of Vietnamese who migrated to the U.S. has reached 1 million. Due to the uncertainty that they experienced, Vietnamese people work very hard and economize in their new country. Many of them have succeeded in their careers and businesses and have helped to enrich this country.
I was born when the Vietnam War was ending, and had spent 30 years of my life in a peaceful Vietnam before coming to the United States three years ago. I was too young to know what was happening back then when Vietnamese people tried everything they could to escape from Vietnam. However, I grew up in Vietnam when life there was not as bad as it was described in the exhibit. Even though the living standard was not good, we still had basic necessities and we all could go to school. Over the years, I saw the standard of living in Vietnam improve greatly. My father-in-law came to the U.S. as a refugee, and later on his children were also allowed to come here in order to avoid the mistreatment of the Communist government. However, we were never treated badly, and we know we are not refugees. Just like many young people in Vietnam that are looking for a way to migrate to the U.S., we came here only for economic reasons. Unlike the circumstances under which many people left decades ago and never had a chance to go back, Vietnam was always a good country for me, where I spent the best years of my life, and it will always be in my heart.