Not all that glitters is gold

By: Kim Nguyen
“Not all that glitters is gold,”
I know.
But whenever I dream of Viet Nam,
I see the sea that surrounds it and the glistening on its surface.

Vietnamese Boat People. Photo provided by the Carleton University Vietnamese Student Association (CUVSA.)

By: KIM NGUYEN

Vietnamese Boat People. Photo provided by the Carleton University Vietnamese Student Association (CUVSA.)

Vietnamese Boat People. Photo provided by the Carleton University Vietnamese Student Association

“Not all that glitters is gold”

I know.

But whenever I dream of Viet Nam,

I see the sea that surrounds it and the glistening on its surface.

From what appears to be

Rays of lights’ reflection

And here, my logic plays deceptive because the glittering golden beams I see

Is really gold that’s being reflected.

Whatever treasures lay at the bottom, I may never get to discover…

But the gold I see glisten

Is that of the blood and bones of my sisters and brothers;

Those who were not so much blessed with the good fortunes met by my mother and father

Whom had gotten up and left in the same haphazard manner

Fleeing for freedom by leaving their motherland

In attempts to escape the aftermath

Of the war.

Which, contrary to ignorant beliefs,

Was not us against the Americans.

Viet Nam was a civil war,

Or more like a military conflict

Between the South and the North.

Fearing the expansion of the northern communists,

America sent soldiers down south

To help us win

…but then the U.S. left and so Sai Gon fell to Ho Chi Minh

On the 30th of April

1975

Unity wasn’t quite the right word to describe the cusp of the divide between the

North and the South because our people were devoured by the hunger for this power

Leaving the country at that time was considered illegal.

But despite those consequences,

To stay there

Was lethal

So for countless nights upon nights, it was

Run to the boats before they see you.

Forget everything you were; you are now Vietnamese Boat People

Take along nothing with you except the amount of gold that you can hold in your anatomy

So you can sell it when you land

But don’t fret or fear if you end up empty handed

Just appreciate getting past the oceans because that alone was

Not a fate that a lot of us had the privilege of holding.

The feeble little fishing boats we were armed with often faced hardships

Whether we were fighting off

Disease

Pirates

Or being blown to bits by harsh winds

Our headspaces hoodwinked by our hunger and exhaustion;

Though we know blood’s thicker than water, there’s not much difference when you’re starving…

And making it to land was still not yet victory;

Some places we landed would pack us back into our boats like sardines and

Push us back out to sea

So

Many times, we had to break our boats upon arrival

We no longer wanted to sink and had no energy left to swim

With an escape plan so shady, we knew our chances of survival would be slim

Still, we had that

Get free or die trying mentality

So we had to get free

But only half of us succeeded

(Although no specific amount of countless casualties can be accounted for since no one knows for sure how many had left)

But you can count on this:

Though we may have lost our land

And half our people,

Our flags will keep on

Being raised

All over the world

Much like our children.

And it will be through them that our stories

And our spirits

Keep on living.

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