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Two Hearts: My Journey as a Scrappy Kid into Something Else.

My story started before I was born.

Both my parents lived during the Vietnam War. Their whole country got torn apart by a hail of bullets. In 1975, the Vietnam War ended. Unfortunately, the wrong side won and as the years went on, life in Vietnam got worse with the new regime. My parents became two of famous 'Boat People' that left in droves after the war ended. Leaving in tiny rickety boats, they braved through starvation, storms, and pirates. They eventually ended up in Canada, as refugees.

This is where I start my own journey.

My parents were always civilly engaged in the Diaspora community, and encouraged me to be the same. In their eyes, the model of Canadian Government, with freedom of speech, was always what they wanted for their old home.

At the time, I was too young to understand my parents POV- and anyway I was fighting my own battles. I was in school and struggling to understand why there was always two sets of rules in my life. As a kid, I was struggling through what many 1st generation kids of immigrants struggled through-- the confusion of two identities. Who the hell was I really?

My years in University served to be years of reflection. It was almost like I hit a crisis on my activism. Were my opinions about the world my own, or was I just repeating what I was taught? When I graduated I was a confused as ever.

Then, one of my childhood friends called me up and asked if I wanted to be a part of a youth group (PBC Toronto) she started. I balked for a year, showing minimal 'support', until one day I showed up to a meeting.

Here was my friend, a naturally soft-spoken girl, organizing teach-ins, and protests, and campaigns to benefit the community. She was giving the Diaspora youth a voice where once we had minimal. People were listening to her. A female young person! In a predominantly male-oriented, Confucius environment! I've been a Core member ever since.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the 6th International Vietnamese Youth Conference in Manila, Philippines. Doing so opened my eyes and allowed me to meet inspiring people from around the world. I met female leaders, I met intellectuals of the non-violent protest movement, I met charity workers. Going has allowed me to understand better how everything in the fight for social change is connected- and of course to make lifelong friends.

Once I came back, I was raring to go- and a friend I knew suggested I apply to Voices of the Future. Once I started to surf WorldPulse, I knew I had to apply. I wanted to write and share my point of view to the world, inspired, as always by my parents and my childhood friend.


Paulina Lawsin's picture

Nice story you got here Chi.

Nice story you got here Chi. Did you meet Vietnamese in the Philippines, too? I wonder how they have integrated in the Philippines. I didnt have a chance to interact with them. I admire you for getting involved at this young age.

Keep on writing.


marieb76's picture

Nice job!

I really enjoyed reading your story. You did a fantastic job weaving examples of your life experience that allowed the story flow very well. Good luck on your continuing journey of self discovery!!

Bryne Atkinson

Chi's picture

Hi Paulina and Bryne, thank

Hi Paulina and Bryne, thank you for the kind words.

Paulina, about the Vietnamese in the Phillippines specifically, yes, I did get the opportunity to fly out to Palawan and meet the very few Vietnamese that still live in the Viet Village. Most of the refugees there have left, as they got processed through Bataan and then went for other countries afterward. In my group of people, I had a friend who burst into tears when we went there, as she had been a refugee there as a kid before she left for the States. It was very humbling to stand and look out into the bay where the boats had trickled in after 1975 from Vietnam.

Hopefully one day I get a chance to visit the other Vietnamese refugee camps from around the world. Quite a few of my Vietnamese-Canadian friends were born in the camps before landing in Canada. I myself was almost nearly born in Japan for the same reason.

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