Living in a country where freedom had no meaning, one man and a woman with their two children risked their lives to escape their own native country, hoping to find a better life for their children than they had experienced themselves.
On January 1, 1983, my mother and father quickly and quietly packed up all our belongings. That night my parents came into my room and woke my sister and me and prepared to leave. At first, I couldn't understand why they wanted to leave their country and parents behind, but now I know the reason they had to leave. At that time I was small and didn't know what was going on, but the trip we were about to experience will always be remembered.
We lived in a country where there was no freedom, no love between people, nothing. My parents and their parents lived in Vietnam all their lives and were looked down on because they weren't rich. They couldn't take it anymore, so they decided that we should go where there is freedom and everyone is treated equally. They told my sister and me that we shouldn't experience what they had experienced, and they wanted us to have a better future.
One dark and gloomy night, we took a big step and headed toward freedom.
I remember walking on the marshy field to the countryside. I noticed we weren't the only people there. There were a lot of people sitting anxiously around, hidden behind the tall weeds and huddled against each other into a crowd. Fear of the unknown journey that lay ahead was engraved on their faces.
As dawn approached, people waited in line to board a small boat. They pushed against each other trying to find a place. We found a small spot on the lower deck and sat down. As the boat departed, I noticed the tears in my mother's eyes.
Days and nights went by; all I saw was the endless ocean. We were all alone on the vast open sea.
Suddenly a pirate ship anchored beside us, boarded our boat and took all our food supply and left. Luckily, the navigator spotted land, and my father told us to get all our belongings together because we were going ashore. My sister and I thought this was the place called "Freedom." It wasn't.
For days we built our shelters. Living on this island for a couple of months was hard, but we made the best of it. I longed for good food and a nice warm house but I realized that I was just being selfish because I was not the only one suffering.
A few weeks later we were sent to live in a camp on another island. Living in this new camp was no different, but life seemed to go by faster. Both my parents assured us that this stay wouldn't be for long, but they had said that before. Each night they prayed that we would leave this camp.
The moment we had been waiting for finally came: the trip to the mainland. There we boarded a huge plane. I had never seen a plane before, but that night I saw a few of them because we had to switch planes often.
When we finally landed, my parents took our hands in theirs as they led us off the plane. One look at this huge place and I knew this was the place called "Freedom."
After two long years, our journey had ended. Then I couldn't understand why the journey lasted so long and why we left the only place we knew to find some place called "Freedom."
Now I realize that freedom is not a place. It is an inner feeling I have of being on my own and able to do as I wish. I think that freedom is worth the risk. Everybody should have a chance to experience it. For those who have always known freedom, I hope you never take it for granted. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.