Photography by Dennis Phan  潘家墉





For the exception of a few lucky ones, I believe most of us got out of Vietnam via the South China Sea route. For those who departed from South Vietnam, they likely arrived at Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia. For those who departed from Central Vietnam, they likely arrived at Hong Kong. Regardless, the journey we took was definitely a dangerous one. We were on tiny, overloaded wooden boats with minimum safety equipments, limited food, water and fuel. I have a casual discussion with some of my friends about our journey recently. Interestingly enough, most of us think the trip was way too dangerous and if we have to make the decision again, we probably wouldn’t take it. Of course, we say that because we look at it from the mind of a 50+ years old people. Back then, we were young and energetic teenagers. The only focus in our mind was getting out with no room for anything else. Fortunately, we survived against an incredible odd.


Believe it or not,  we were all “brave” people. The desperate situation in our home country at the time left us no choice but leaving. We were “brave” because we had to in order to survive. I got on my boat at midnight and didn’t have a good assessment of its size due to darkness but I believed it was a decent boat for 160+ people on board. One week later, our boat arrived at Hong Kong Harbor. We stayed at the open sea for another week while Hong Kong government made arrangement for our landing. During that time, I took turn going to a bigger vessel served as fresh water station to get water. Looking at our boat from the vessel, I was shock to realize how small it was. It looked like a toy boat and I was on it for a full week on open sea battling rough water and weather! I looked up, put my hands together and thanked God for leading me to Hong Kong safely.


During my early days in the USA, that small boat image was still in my mind. I literally bet my life for my freedom so I better make the most of it. I particularly love the last lyric of the America National Anthem: “...for the land of the free and the home of the brave”. To me, this is definitely the land of the free and also the land of opportunity. I received public assistance when I first go there; I was given an opportunity to establish myself and find my direction in a new environment. I received financial aid during my 4 years studying at UCLA; I was given an opportunity to earn my college degree despite my financial and language disadvantages. And then my biggest opportunity: trading in the US, one of the world’s largest and most liquid market.


When I talk with my friends who are also immigrants from their own countries, they all told me the same story. The relatives back home somehow think we don’t have to work in America because money  is everywhere on the street. We simply go there to scoop it up! Well, in a sense, they are right. Money may not be on Main Street, but it is definitely there on Wall Street. One of the world’s largest and most liquid market is there for everybody to trade. Making money or not is another story. Most people know only one way to trade the market which is buy low and sell high. However, when emotion kicks in, they do just the opposite and never trade again citing the stock market is too dangerous for amateurs. They expect a smooth ride and when obstacle appears, they don’t know how to handle it. They get frustrated, scare  and give up. Common sense tells me if making money from trading is so easy, then why we still see a lot of 9 to 5 workers out there? There must be a catch! Understand the catch will help us to be a good trader. People with vision see the future with both their eyes and their mind. What it is today may not be the same tomorrow and vice versa. Wayne Gretzky, a former NHL player in the 80’s and 90’s nick named “The Great” once said: “I skate not to where the puck is but to where the puck is going to be!”. I believe that was the main reason makes him one of the greatest NHL players to ever play the game.


To collect money on the street, we need the right knowledge, the right tool and most importantly, the right attitude. Lacking any of those skills, money on the street will be a trick, not a treat.





Dennis Phan   潘家墉

1971/1974 Khai Minh Doan Ket Class

09 May 2014 in Claremont, California, USA












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