Carina Hoang » About

Before the end of Vietnam War, we were among the so-called high-society. We lived a comfortable life. By the end of April 1975, in a matter of weeks, we went from having houses, cars, money, servants, and chauffers to homeless. We didn’t know where our father was, or if he is alive; He was a Lieutenant Colonel, chief of police department in a province near Saigon.

There were seven children in our family, at the time, the oldest was 13 and the youngest was 3; we quickly learnt how to take care of each other while our Mom was out trying to earn a living and searching for news about our father. To care for seven small children, her own mother and her mother-in-law, our mother went from a high-class, successful business woman to a black market vendor selling MSG, sugar canes; to currencies and diamonds dealer; to making cigarettes; then to contracted roads construction for the government in rural areas.

I was 12 years old when the Vietnam War was over, the following four years living under the communist rules, was the pivotal time of my life. I spent my youth watching what to say at school or to anyone outside our family, living in constant fear of what might happen to us if people know who we are, or know of our father’s military background.
In 1978, after my sister and brother escaped to Malaysia, for half a year, I never go to bed without fears, because the local policemen would come to our house any time at night to count heads, and I had to lie about the absence of my sister and brother.

As early as twelve years old, I tried to escape with my sister and brother five times. The first time, we were locked up in a room at a stranger’s house for a day, meanwhile the boat took us without us, my Mom lost all of her gold. The second time we nearly get caught by the police in the wood; the third time, my Mom was cheated by the boat owner, they kept me locked up in a house in the country side without any contact with my family for a month; the fourth time, the boat left before we arrived at meeting place, because they were spotted by local police; the fifth time, we made it… although it wasn’t a ‘smooth sailing’…

373 people, including 75 children, packed in a 25m by 5m wooden boat; we were tossed around by a violent storm the first night on the water, people threw up and urinated all over each other …we lived with that horrible smell for the next seven days underneath the boat with very little air or light.
We survived two Thai pirate groups, then was shot, pushed back at and robbed by Malaysian police. We ran out of food and water and people started to die by the 6th day.
After seven days on the sea, we landed on a small fisherman village somewhere in Indonesia; we sank our boat so that they will not send us out in the water again. Ten days later, the local authority put us on another wooden boat and left us on an uninhabited island. Far away from civilization, we were ordinary people struggling to survive in the jungle … like modern Robison Crusoe.

After spending nearly a year in the jungle, in April 1980, coming to America, I was more confused than most refugees; coping with cultural and language differences was not my only problem. I struggled with the transitions from living in a deserted island with nothing to living in America, one of the most materialistic countries in the world. Ironically, what seemed more difficult to me was to be a normal teenager… I assumed the role of a mother to my sister and brother while we were in the refugee camp, I matured overnight to survive and to protect my siblings, I helped burry children, helped deliver baby, and a year later, I experienced teens problems… body changed, peer pressure, school stress, senior prom… I often felt imbalance; it was like an old soul trapped in a young body.

Following six years, I worked and went to school in America, but my heart and soul were in Vietnam where my father was still in political prison, my mother was also in prison for involved in organizing our escape, and my two little sisters were living with our ill grandmother.

1989, I went back to Vietnam to see my family again after ten years. That was a step closer to realizing my dream of bringing the rest of my family to America. 1992, we were all re-united.

All the sorrow, the war, danger, escape, …, were stories of the past. I felt free, I wanted to gain different life experiences, the kind that I seek, not by encountered; I met rich and famous people when I worked at an exclusive high fashion store on Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills, I travelled to many countries, I made many wonderful friends, and I worked my way up the America corporate ladder.

I got married, have a daughter, living a comfortable life. Then 1998, I went back to Indonesia to find the remains of my cousin, who escaped from Vietnam in 1979, died of malaria and was buried in the jungle during a stormy night.

It was a journey that once again, took me away from civilization to wandering in the jungle, not knowing what to expect, but can only hope for the best.

I recently moved to Australia with my husband and my daughter, once again, I am experiencing new life in a new country.

One might wonder how I went from rich to rag to rich, and then chose to do it over again??