I took a 14-day cruise from Hong
Kong to Singapore onboard Norwegian Jewel Ship last March. It is a
typical 10+ decks cruise ship with lots of food, entertainments and
comfortable state rooms. I had a very safe and relax vacation. It wasn't
like that when I took the reverse route from Quy Nhon to Hong Kong back
in 1979. I was on a small wooden boat with limited food, water and
safety equipments. To make it worse, there were 165 people onboard that
tiny wooden boat!
On several nights during the cruise, I stood at the open deck and looked
at the vast ocean in darkness and tried to imagine a small boat in it.
Even in a peaceful and quiet ocean, I still had a chill feeling thinking
about my situation in 1979. There was nothing in the ocean except our
boat sailing in darkness. I could still hear the sound of the boat
engine in my head. I was a brave young man back then. I was brave
because I had to in order to find a brighter future for me and for my
future generations. When my friends and I were talking about the trip we
took in 1979, most of us said we would have a second thought before
stepping on the boat if we have to do it all over again; however, given
the circumstance at the time, I still think I would make the same
decision had I gone back to the year of 1979. There was no room for
fear. The only thing in my mind was getting out and that was it! I
literally bet my life for my freedom. Despite an incredible odd, I won
the bet! The 7-day journey from Quy Nhon to Hong Kong was a unique
experience for me. I was hungry, tired, scared and confused during the
trip. I was excited and happy when our boat arrived at Hong Kong Harbor.
I wouldn't trade anything for that experience. The trip makes me value
my life more than ever. I am lucky enough to come to the United States
and I tell myself to make the most of what this country has to offer.
Whenever I had a bad time for whatever reason, I always looked back at
that journey and smiled. I survived the worst circumstance in my life,
so far. Everything else is nothing compared to what I had gone through!
I occasionally bring up the point to my children whenever I have a
chance. I want them not to take things for granted in this country and
grab every opportunity available. My daughter joined Speech and Debate
Team during her high school years. One of the events she participated
was Original Oratory in which the participants chose and wrote their own
subjects for their speeches. One of her topics was " The First World
Problems" in which she talked about American kids complaining about
their "problems" such as slow internet, dated smart phone, cold pizza,
crowded classrooms, bad television shows, not so clean public restrooms
etc without knowing people from other parts of the world would love to
have those "problems". I was so happy to see my daughter presented that
speech in her tournament. I guess my regular input about the issues
finally sinks in her thoughts.
I consider myself to be extremely lucky to settle in this arguably the
best country on the planet. I owe the American government and its people
a big favor for letting me be a part of the USA. Thank you America for
giving me a chance to be the best I can be.
Khai Minh, UCLA and Investools
Los Angeles, 16 Aug 2019