Mai’s story continued

I have been a little reluctant to continue on Mai’s personal story because of the large readership I have developed, but I have been getting some requests to finish the tale. So I continue from where I left off last time. and a few photo’s

After many attempts at escaping and ending up in jail, Mai became convinced that it was not possible without losing all of a person’s money or getting killed by pirates. There were just too many unscrupulous people trying to get money. I do not know why, but she came up with the idea of buying a ships compass and using that as the bribe to leave. She was able to find one and clutched it tightly not letting anybody talk her out of possessing it. The strategy was genius!! There were many boats attempting to leave and they had no way of knowing where they were going. This was the ticket out. Two larger boats were leaving for an attempt to make the Philippines and Mai had the device that could make it possible. In exchange for the compass, she was guaranteed a spot on the boat. In the mad dash to paddle out to get on board, she was aided by the Captain and secured a spot on the boat. Another boat was t follow and in the dark of night, Mai finally started to see her dream come true. 2 boats overcrowded with 225 people set out to sea for a better life. There was no food, and no room to lie down. People were jammed shoulder to shoulder and sleeping was on a persons feet, or on another body. I cannot imagine how one went to the bathroom. After a couple of days, a storm hit and the two boats had to endure almost typhoon like conditions. Sea sickness was rampant and the vomit coated the decks and bellies of the boats. It was Mai’s compass that saved the day. After being blown off course, the captain was able to find his position and set the course to continue to the Philippines. If it was not for the compass, many would have starved at sea. Mai had saved many lives and did not know it! Two very battered and almost un-seaworthy vessels were approaching the Philippines when another storm came. One of the two boats was smashed against the rocks and 225 people lost their lives. Mai’s boat was able to avoid any collisions and when the storm had passed, a military ship appeared to take control of the crippled ship with its desperate cargo. The surviving people were taken to a refugee camp in Palawan and processed. Mai and her cousin had made it!! The surviving members were processed and sent to a refugee camp where they were issued living quarters. For a number of years, Mai made a living by selling home grown bean sprouts, and being fortunate enough that she had some family that had escaped earlier that sent her some money to survive. A lot of time was spent volunteering to help children and youth that did not have family to care for them. Over almost 5 years, and numerous interviews, Mai had lost hope of realizing her dream of getting to America. She fell ill and basically given up the will to keep going. She was very close to death when she was told that she had been approved to continue to Canada where a sister resided. The news caused her to rapidly recover and in 1992, 8 years after her first attempts to leave, she set foot on Canadian soil.

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

4 thoughts on “Mai’s story continued

  1. have only been following your blog since yesterday,but am reduced to tears by mai,s earlier life,she must be a truly brave and coragious lady,hope to meet you both in january,hence the email yesterday.

  2. Hope springs eternal as these people fought for their lives and ran from fear of reprisals. Here 30 years later many of these refugees are resettled in the USA and other countries, some chosing to return to Viet Nam as foreigners and some reaquiring their Vietnamese citizenship. Time heals many wounds but I know of some who can never forget nor forgive. As in the timely song of that era….”war is not the answer…for only love can conquer hate”…..”What’s Goin’ On” by Marvin Gaye.

  3. I hadn’t seen the 60 Minutes piece before, although ofc I’m old enough to remember the “boat people” immigrating to Canada.

    A picture is worth a thousand words…

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