Interviewed by: Emily White & Margaret DeMayo. Click Read More for full transcript.
00:00 Interviewer 1: So thank you for working with us. What we’re interested in hearing is we want you to be able to tell your story the way that you want to tell it.
00:13 Translator: She wants you to ask questions.
00:27 Interviewer 1: To ask questions? Okay, so we want to know where you were from in Vietnam and how did you get here to the United States?
00:39 Translator: In Vietnam, she lived in Saigon,jut lug. In the 8th district. But before, when she was young, she lived in at the 5th district.
01:11 Interviewer 1: Okay, so always in the city?
01:14 Translator: (translating)
01:16 Hoang: yes.
01:17 Interviewer 1: When did you, when did you come to the United States?
01:23 Translator: I went to the United States in 1992.
01:34 Interviewer 1: In ’92? Okay. So you were there for a long time. What was your childhood like?
02:08 Translator: When she was young, because her mom has like 10—she has 10 siblings.
02:17 interviewer 1: So 11 children?
02 19 Translator: Ten.
02:20 Interviewer 1: So 10 of you total.
02:23 Translator: Her mom has 10 children. So the kids that she babysits for are her sisters—daughters, and her brothers. When she was 20, she got married.
02:37 Interviewer 1: Were you the oldest child?
02:41 Hoang: Yeah.
02:42 Translator: Yeah she is the oldest.
02:44 Interviewer 1: Nine. Nine younger siblings.
02:47 Interviewer 1: To care all the kids. Even when, did you go to school?
02:53 Hoang: Little bit.
02:55 Interviewer 1: A little bit. Yeah, was it hard?
02:59 Hoang: Yes.
3:00 Interviewer 1: Going to school and taking care of all the siblings. Wow. Did you cook? Did you clean?
03:05 Hoang: Yes, cook, clean, everything I do now.
03:11 Interviewer 1: When you got married 20.
03:14 Hoang: Yes.
03:17 Interviewer 1: And did you have to move anywhere during the, during the war? When the war was going on?
03:35 Translator: Yes she moved a bit then she came back.
03:30 Interviewer 1: What was that like? Can you tell us a little bit more about moving? So what happened at the time you had to move during the war?
4:34 Translator: During the war, when they has the Buddhist par from the weeping. Her house was fired by a bomb.
04:44 Interviewer 1: Oh by bomb?
04:46 Translator: Yeah and then she has to move to her grandma’s in the mook.
5:00 Interviewer 1: How far was that from Saigon?
5:05 Translator: 60 kilometer.
05:07 Interviewer 1: How did you get there?
05:30 Translator: She moved by walking, by bike, but like in separate days.
05:36 Interviewer 1: How old were you?
05:40 Translator: 13 or 14 years old.
05:42 Interviewer 1: And you had to take care of all the siblings.
05:49 Translator: She has to keep her siblings.
05:50 Interviewer 1: Wow and was it hard to get food on the way there?
06:01 Translator: Yes.
06:02 Interviewer 1: How long did it take?
06:09 Translator: She has to go to the hospital one place to ask for food.
06:15 Interviewer 1: On the way there?
06:20 Translator: Yeah.
06:21 Interviewer 1: And how long did it take for you to get there? How many days?
06:44 Translator: She moved in several days. On the way, she went to the hospital to ask for food and then she continue to go.
06:55 Interviewer 1: Do you remember how many? Days? 3 days? 5 days?
07:13 Translator: She doesn’t know exactly how many days. She just remember that she went for several days and she went to her grandma to stay there for several months and then she came back to be at the new house.
07:27 Interviewer 1: Oh, same place where you had the old house?
07:55 Translator: She said that um after Buddha’s law, when she came back, the student help her family like to give food and to be with the shelter.
08:09 Interviewer 1: Students?
08:10 Translator: Yes students.
08:11 Interviewer 1: University students or high school students? What kind of students?
08:37 Translator: She doesn’t know exactly what kind of student. She said there are a lot of students coming to help. She thinks they’re university students/
08:47 Interviewer 1: Was that common at the time that students helped people rebuild their own?
09:17 Translator: She said that many students come in to help at that time. She said that she had a lot of people like her. She volunteered to distribute food.
09:37 Interviewer 1: Here?
09:38 Hoang: yeah! Over there, Saturday.
09:42 Interviewer 1: Oh good,
09:43 Hoang: every week.
09:44 Interviewer 1: Every week you go?
09:45 Hoang: Yeah, I still go now.
09:49 Interviewer 1: Wow, good! Good for you. How long did it take for you to rebuild the house with the help of the students?
10:09 Translator: She doesn’t remember how long, she doesn’t remember how long it took to rebuild the new house, but its my parents that do that.
10:19 Interviewer 1: Okay so it was rebuilt. So what happened after that? Did things start to get normal? Was it still trouble?
10:59 Translator: She said that she thinks everything becomes normal. Her father is the secretary of the president of the Democratic Party.
11:11 Interviewer 1: So your family was relatively comfortable then?
12:02 Translator: She said that for her she is, its really hard for her at the time because her father is really handsome and sometimes follow the other woman and her mother is really angry about that. She watch over him and when she angry, she beat her.
12:25 Interviewer 1: Oh!
12:29 Translator: Yeah that’s common in Vietnam. She has to like to because her mom deliver and give birth every year. And she has to take care of her siblings.
12:47 Interviewer 1: And also in way to take care of your mother too.
12:51 Hoang: Mhm.
12:52 Interviewer 1: Right? Wow. Do you remember what year this was? Around what year?
13:11 Translator: When she was a teenager to twenty years old.
13:14 Interviewer 1: What year were you born in? Do you mind telling us?
13:21 Translator: 1942.
13:22 Interviewer 1: 1942? You look young!
13:29 Translator: She was pretty before. She had long hair.
13:36 Interviewer 1: You’re still pretty now. Wow okay, so you got married, how did you meet your husband?
14:47 Translator: Her husband is her neighbor at that time and he’s Chinese. He followed her and he saw her like, she work hard and that she was pretty. She like to—he like to marry her because she like she doesn’t want to like have any emotion to him but she just want to escape the presentation. She said okay to him.
15:34 Interviewer 1: Okay so you got married?
15:40 translator: Yes.
15:41 Interviewer 1: You have children?
15:55 Translator: She has 3 children. She gave birth to three, but the one is miscarriage. And then her husband and another one disappeared when they rowed a boat.
16:14 interviewer 1: Okay so there are three kids, you lost one, and then so your husband and a child disappeared?
16:58 Translator: When she give birth to her child, he was one years old. Her husband with her daughter went to row a boat.
17:11 Interviewer 1: Where? To where?
17:16 Translator: Le Ya (country)
17:17 Interviewer 1: Wheres that?
17:19 Translator: In South Vietnam. When they row the boat not officially.
17:33 Interviewer 1: Oh, so he just took the child? Why did he take the child and so with you with the other child left behind?
17:49 Translator: Yes.
17:51 Interviewer 1: What year was this?
17:56 Translator: 1987.
17:57 Interviewer 1: 1987. So then they just disappeared with the boat?
18:07 Translator: Yeah they disappeared until now.
18:08 Interviewer 1: What happened to the boat?
18:15 Translator: She couldn’t know.
18:17 Interviewer 1: They just never came back?
18:23 Translator: They just never came.
18:28 Interviewer 1: Was there an accident with the boat they were on? Was there a report?
18:34 Translator: Can you say again?
18:35 Interviewer 1: So was there report of that boat? Was there an accident with that boat? What happened?
18:57 Translator: Because they go, they went unofficially. So when he disappeared, no report.
19:05 Interviewer 1: Why did they decide to go unofficially?
19;49 Translator: She said that when the communists coming into the south, her family couldn’t leave in that thing because her father is an executive to the president. So her family is really hard at that time and they would like to escape.
20:09 Interviewer 1: So husband—how old was your husband at the time? How old was your daughter?
20:21 Translator: At the time, her husband was around forty. Forty. Her daughter is sixteen. If she lived until now, she is forty-four. If she live, she older than you.
20:59 Interviewer 1: So the child that stayed with you, was that a son or a daughter?
21:06 Translator: It was a son.
21:08 Interviewer 1: Son. Where is he now?
21:09 Hoang: Vallejo.
21:10 Interviewer 1: Vallejo, so he came with you when you came here?
21:14 Hoang: Sometime.
21:21 Translator: Sometimes he come to visit her.
21:25 Interviewer 1: But I mean, when you came to the United States, did he come earlier? Did you come together?
21:36 Translator: Yes, they came together.
21:39 Interviewer 1: What does he do?
21:49 Translator: When he just came to the United States, he a student. Now, he is a mechanic to fix the cars.
21:56 Interviewer 1: I see. So when you first came to the United States, where did you—where were you? Were you here? Did you go somewhere else when you first arrived?
22:12 Translator: Yeah, she stay here until now when she first came here.
22:15 Interviewer 1: Oh and your son moved to Vallejo?
22:26 Translator: When he just came to the U.S., she has no place to live. So she live in homeless shelter. She live in homeless shelter.
22:39 Interviewer 1: Here in Marin?
22:40 Hoang: Yes.
22:41 Translator: In Marin? Where?
22:41 Hoang: San Rafael.
22:47 Interviewer 1: which one is it?
22:53 Translator: 430 Mission Street.
22:59 Interviewer 1: is that still on the shelter now?
23:00 Hoang: Yeah!
23:03 Interviewer 1: How long were you there? Was your son with you there or just you?
23:14 Translator: Her son lived with her at that time for like eight months.
23:20 Interviewer 1: And then what happened?
24:42 Translator: When she lived in the section—lived homeless shelter, usually have priority for the younger children. I mean if you are a younger children. They have a more like priority, but because she um her studies in eighties at the time—
25:05 Interviewer 1: How old?
25:05 Translator: Eight years.
25:06 Interviewer 1: Eight years old at the time.
25:07 Translator: So there is no house available at that time. So she lived there, but she is very good. She clean up houses, and she either there for eight months and the manager of the homeless shelter managed to give her to the housing in Sausalito. She lived there for over a year, but one day she fell off from the upstairs an she needed to go up to the doctor. They say that because the housing over there has no elevator, and she doesn’t speak English, and they give her health insurance, section 8.
26:00 Interviewer 1: Did she work? How did she support herself?
26:26 Translator: She received assistance of $500 a month and she cleaned up for another family. She received $30-50 every time she clean up.
26:45 Interviewer 1: How many houses did you have to clean a week?
27:00 Translator: One family a week.
27:05 Interviewer 1: So if we could backtrack a little bit so between the time your husband disappeared and you left Vietnam, which was a few years. What happened in that time and how did you support yourself?
27:38 Translator: She said she was a manicurist.
27:44 Interviewer 1: Did your family help support you?
27:46 Hoang: No
28:00 Translator: No family would help her.
28:03 Interviewer 1: Were you close with your siblings?
28:15 Translator: She lived close by her siblings but she didn’t speak with them.
28:20 Interviewer 1: Why not?
28:45 Translator: When her husband was alive she was alive, her family is rich. When her husband disapper she became poor and her siblings didn’t help her so she didn’t want to speak to them.
29:18 Interviewer 1: So when your husband was around, did you speak to your siblings?
29:47 Translator: When her husband was alive she took care of her family because she was rich.
29:55 Interviewer 1: What did your husband do?
30:00 Translator: He owned a garage.
30:06 Interviewer 1: A car garage?
30:20 Translator: Her husband owned a garage, when someone need to fix the car he had the mechanic to fix it.
30:35 Interviewer 1: So you were well to do so you took care of your siblings. Were your parents still around when you got married?
30:50 Translator: Yeah her parents were still around at that time, they only died like three or four years ago.
31:00 Interviewer 1: Oh! Here? Did they come with you or separately?
32:33 Translator: When she came to the US she gave her mother her house and after that her brother and sister went to the US and convinced the mother to come. Her mother sold the house with the two fifty gold, but she didn’t give her money.
33:10 Interviewer 1: Did your father come with your mother?
33:13 Hoang: Yes
33:15 Interviewer 1: Are they also here in Marin or are they else where?
33:20 Translator: They lived here.
33:30 Translator: They lived here and together but not with her siblings.
33:38 Interviewer 1: So the parents lived by themselves. How many siblings do you have here?
33:50 Translator: Four to Five.
34:09 Interviewer 1: What do you mean four or five? Is it four or five?
34:30 Translator: She doesn’t want to be reminded about the past because it’s sad.
34:50 Interviewer 1: Do you ever talk to anyone about this?
35:09: She talks with Voung , she is previous supervisor. She worked with Lieu before.
35:25 Interviewer 1: Does she go to any of the stress management groups?
35:40 Translator: No
35:44 Interviewer 1: So she’ll just occasionally talk to the community workers?
35:50 Translator: Yeah she’ll talk to them.
35:57 Interviewer 1: Do you have friends you’ll talk to regularly?
36:24 Translator: She has her neighbors around her and they saw that she is very good at cooking and cleaning and they like her.
36:36 Interviewer 1: So you’ll talk to your neighbors?
36:56 Translator: She says she doesn’t need to talk to them. But they know if she’s rich or poor and that she’s single so she doesn’t need to talk to them.
37:07 Interviewer 1: So you don’t talk to them.
37:18 Translator: If she talks she feels sad.
37:27 Interviewer 1: So how do you deal with that sadness? Do you do things? Do you cook?
38:46 Translator: She receives like $800 and month and she needs to pay tv and bill. She has $200 left and she would like to use that money to cook. Before the community center provided lunch, she usually cooks and gives food when we have a meeting like every week. It costs her like $60 every time.
39:25 Interviewer 1: What do you cook? What’s your favorite thing to cook?
39:52 Translator: What she cooks depends on what they like to eat. Her favorite food to make is a crepe, with meat, shrimp, and vegetables.
40:09 Interviewer 1: Does she use the moong flour?
40:18 Translator: Yes. And I don’t know how to say in English but it is a dessert with bean, it’s a type of dessert.
40:40 Interviewer 1: Is it icy? Is it a cold dessert? What do you have in there? Do you have jelly?
40:50 Translator: No, not jelly. They have bean and fruit.
41:30 Interviewer 1: So what do you think people like to eat when you cook?
41:40 Translator: Crepe, bahn xeo, pho.
41:50 Interviewer 1: Would you be willing to teach us how to cook?
42:03 Translator: If you want to learn you go to her house.
42:11 Interviewer 1: If I buy all they things and come to your house, would you?
42:30 Translator: It doesn’t matter which one you would like to learn. She can come here or you can come to her house.
42:44 Interviewer 1: I want to know how you do it and what is in the dessert.
43:10 Translator: If she wants to she will bring this food and she will show you how.
43:20 Interviewer 1: Where do you buy your ingredients?
43:25 Translator: Oakland.
42:28 Interviewer 1: How do you get to Oakland? Do you drive?
43:35 Translator: She asks somebody else and gives them gas money.
43:44 Interviewer 1: Where in Oakland?
43:50 Translator: 12th street
44:00 Interviewer 1: So I have a question for you. So we have teenagers in the community that don’t know how to cook, do you have anything that someone who 44:35 Translator: she can teach them for one or two days but anything longer than that she doesn’t have enough time.
44:45 Interviewer 1: But by question is do you have a recipe that is really easy?
45:40 Translator: She doesn’t have any recipes. She cooks by experience.
She only estimates for how many people she is cooking for. She only estimates how many ingredients she needs. But yesterday she cooked for the celebration of her husband and daughter. She selected the date when they went and she celebrate by making a lot of food.
47:40 Interviewer 1: What dishes did she make yesterday?
47:47 Translator: Eggrolls, curry, and for dessert sweet rice and moong bean dessert.
48:08 Interviewer 1: Were those their favorite dishes?
48:17 Translator: Those are not her favorite but they are to celebrate the death.
48:22 Interviewer 1: Are those typical dishes for ancestors?
48:27 Translator: Yeah those are the ancestors. For the people who are alive we can eat anything, But how the people who are dead she uses dishes like eggroll and sticky rice with moong bean.
49:20: So you cooked those at home? What else do you do? Do you have incense, do you pray, do you talk to them?
49:38 Translator: Yeah she talked to them.
49:40 Interviewer 1: Do you have pictures when you talk to them?
49:53 Translator: There are no pictures, she just pray.
50:05 Interviewer 1: Are you Buddhist or Catholic?
50:11 Translator: She is Buddhist.
50:19 Interviewer 1: So you pray in the Buddhist way. Do you chant sutra? Do you understand?
50:30 Translator: No..
50:35 Interviewer 1: So when she offers that food, does she chant? They have the book, Buddhist book?
50:51 Translator: No she doesn’t need the book.
50:55 Interviewer 1: So in your heart you just talk to them?
50:58 Hoang: Yeah
51:07 Translator: She wants to go.