The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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The postcard follows my dad’s fleeing from Vietnam after the Vietnam War. After sneaking away in a truck, my dad’s family went to a fishing village called Camau, in the southwest region of Vietnam. They arranged to leave in a boat. However the water pump in the boat broke. This combined with a storm delayed their departure.

The news reached us quickly. The smallest ship capsized and everyone drowned. A huge wave swept half the people off the deck of the medium sized ship. There was no telling what would have happened to our boat. Even though it was fairly large, the water pump broke.

Luckily, that meant we had to turn around and dock again. Without the pump, any water flooding the hull would be stuck. Now we had to wait an extra night, and pay more gold to the captain so he could fix the ship. The October Sea was chaotic enough for my mom to second guess this journey.

“The other ships didn’t make it,” she pleaded. “We’re all going to die on this boat, it’s already breaking down.”

My dad looked at the ground, away from my mom’s tears. Finally, he said “There’s nothing to go back to. Everything we have is here and if we die we die together.” My mom didn’t agree with that logic, but he was the head of the household. The clouds were over the ocean, and I could still see the green waters rapidly turning. The beach we were on was strangely calm.

All the passengers had to rent bamboo huts from the captain, another scam for him to get more money from us. My family shared a hut with one man, who was alone. He had one bag with him. He slept in the hammock of the hut, with it under him. He was tan, with a patchy head of hair. Late in life, he never married and lost both his parents when he was young. Like us, he wanted a new beginning, wherever that would take him.

My brothers, sisters and I fell asleep listening to him describe his favorite restaurant back in Saigon where he got “the most delicious black coffee.”

The next morning, we found out someone had snuck in our hut and stole his luggage. My family slept in a circle around ours, so it was safe. I remember his face, stretching off his head in disappointment. When we all left the hut, the sky was blue with a few wispy white clouds. The sea was a mixture of blue and green, the rain water mixed in with the sea water. We set sail.

Shipwrecked

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Camau, Vietnam

The postcard follows my dad’s fleeing from Vietnam after the Vietnam War. After sneaking away in a truck, my dad’s family went to a fishing village called Camau, in the southwest region of Vietnam. They arranged to leave in a boat. However the water pump in the boat broke. This combined with a storm delayed their departure.

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Recorded by Jon Diep on December 2, 2014
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