Even though I never wished to come back to Vietnam, my husband wanted to show our teenage sons where we were born. I needed a holiday afterwards to recuperate from the emotional stress.
Mixed emotions churned inside me as I saw Saigon after thirty years.
Shy to be recognised as ‘overseas Vietnamese’ and be overly respected and expected.
Fear for the same reason and be the target of robbers, thieves and scammers.
Scared to eat food that I learnt could have been injected with formaldehyde, cooked with batteries, sprayed with waste lubricant, coloured with industrial dyes,…
Cried in silence at the sights of Saigon’s old streets, buildings,…. that prompted me of many memories before 1975 and before I left.
Trembled at the glimpse of police, customs officers and the woman in rural guerrilla uniform paddling our canoe on a tour of Dong Thap swamp. As if I could hear they shouted: “Defector, we’re arresting you, cutting you from household rations, banning you from getting job and entering university”.
Writhed in anguish when I saw the statue of Ho Chi Minh put above the statues of Bhudas at Dai Nam theme park.
Incensed with a sense of injustice to recognise the employees of the five-star Saigon Rex Hotel that I met all had the appeased, monotone Northern accent that proved they moved to Saigon after 1975. The Northerners who fled the communists after the 1954 Geneva Accords all had assertive, clear accent. I recalled Northern communist officials and people with communist martyr background were given priorities to good jobs, university/hospital admissions, rations… I was once denied university entrance as Dad was a South Vietnam Army officer.
Shocked to hear stories of wealth and success of old communist high school friends nowadays are high-ranking police and customs officers.
Wondered how they could afford to live in $500,000 AUD houses which are 150 times their salaries, drive imported cars that cost three times the original prices after taxes, send their children to study in France, US and Australia.
Felt threatened and haunted with the thought those communist officials were going to migrate to live with my family in Australia.
Felt a lump in my throat as I stood in front of my husband and my own old houses that is now occupied by Northern communist officials. My husband’s house was forfeited because his father was a jeweller. My house had to be given to the government when my family migrated to Australia.
Bitter to hear a woman in Northern communist accent commented to her husband in the four-star Saigon Oscar Hotel’s lift: “The room here is smaller than the one in our house!”
Wished I’d had more money to give to all the street beggars I met.
My thirteen-year-old son saw a thin ten-year-old girl in mended clothes trying to sell us lottery tickets. Since then he became withdrawn and pensive.
The defector returns to her country,
She hears the cry, the moan of history.
She learns the wealthy communist devils
Want to migrate and mixed with other peoples.
The communist elites deem Vietnam fearsome:
“Polluted air, unsafe food and poor health system”.
by William Cho.