A Woman of Strength

Today I decided to treat myself to a much needed manicure/pedicure.

The woman who did my nails was named Linh.

As she worked, we enjoyed a nice conversation about our children and our lives. I told her that this weekend I am getting together with a group of my closest friends from my childhood. She looked a little sad, and told me that she doesn't see her friends from school anymore, because they are all in Vietnam. I asked how she ended up here, in New Jersey, so far away from her home.

The story she told me blew me away.

In 1975 when Linh was 18 she lived in South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. She told me how horribly her people were treated under the Communist rule, and how she, her brother and sister decided to flee the country. (Leaving their parents and sisters behind.) They hid in the jungle until they found a way to get on a small fishing boat with 72 other people.

She told me how they floated, aimlessly for 2 weeks straight. The boat was so crowded that no one could lie down, they all sat, propped up, in rough seas with very little food or water for 14 days. Linh was so seasick she couldn't open her eyes. She said she was hallucinating, and her sister kept forcing food and water into her. She kept vomiting it up and then passing out.

The sky started to get very dark and the wind was getting stronger and stronger. They all thought they would die, but they felt that death was better than living in Vietnam under the new regime. Suddenly, as if out of a dream, a Japanese shipping boat appeared on the horizon. Linh has vague memories of the boat, because she was mostly unconscious, but her sister told her that the Japanese boat could not let them board for 3 days. The Japanese authorities needed to negotiate so as not to start an international incident by housing the refugees.

Finally, after 3 long days, the 72 brave Vietnamese crammed onto that little fishing boat, were permitted to board the Japanese ship.

They were brought to the Philippines and finally, Linh and her siblings found there way to California, where she met her husband. (Also, a Vietnamese refugee.) They found their way to New Jersey and had three children. Her oldest daughter is about to graduate from college, with all A's and is on her way to becoming a pharmacist.

I am crying while I write this. Linh and her husband are an inspiration What an incredible success story.

The sad part. Her parents and sisters never made it out of Vietnam. Linh cautioned them not to try. She still has nightmares about her journey. The story had a happy ending, but she told me how close they all came to drowning in the ocean and the nightmares she still has about it.

I am so glad I met this woman. Talking to her has truly touched me, and in a small way, changed my life.

I have a new found appreciation for our country, and our freedoms, and my childhood friends and family, all of which I can see pretty much whenever I choose.

It floors me that people will risk their lives in order to live in a place where they are free to pursue their dreams, just like Linh and her husband did.

God Bless America.

We are very blessed to live here.


Jillian, Inc said...

I have two Vietnamese brothers who work for me and their story is very similar. I love them to pieces.

VJ said...

Thank you for sharing the story. It is a reminder how very blessed we are to live here.

Jaina said...

That story brought tears to my eyes. What a blessing to hear. Thank you for posting this.

Grace's Mom said...

Isn't it something that it takes a story like this for us to realize how truly blessed we are? Amazing.

HouseMama said...

I take my freedom for granted so often. What a great reminder to appreciate my country.

Leelee said...

Nicely done...we all needed to hear this and think about it and be grateful...keep sharing this around....

Brie said...

amazing story... we truly are the luckiest ever! I hope you shared that story with your kids. I think we are guilty of taking things for granted from time to time and stories like this really slap you back into reality!

Karen MEG said...

My old hairdresser came over from Vietnam much the same way...and told me about being shot at while he swam away from soldiers on the beach, all when he was 18 years old. Incredible stories, and amazing what these survivors have been through.

Nishant said...

I love them to pieces.
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