A Sea Escape
Nguyen Tran
         I usually avoid reading stories of escape for they could bring back painful recollections of an unsettling past. At one time, I just wanted to forget the past. But I cannot do that. These images have followed me the rest of my life. I just have to ruffle them in a corner of my mind and go on with my life.

         Everything was planned in secrecy. I tried to disguise myself by wearing a hat, covering my face, acting like a Chinese, learning some basic Chinese and hoping that no one would recognize me on the way to Rạch Giá, the designated rendezvous. What an irony! This was exactly where my commandant and I surrendered to the Việt Cộng in 1975 in our PCF patrol boat. We could have easily gone to Thailand but Fate had decided differently.

         Fate then made me climb in a dingy boat. We were stuffed like sardines in a small boat. There were approximately 130 people who all pretended to be Chinese but paid bribes to get out of the country. The Việt Cộng followed us for a while before saying good bye and good luck. They asked one last favor: to give them all our Vietnamese currency because it would be worthless abroad.

         In the boat, we were really nice to each other, one human being toward another one. I was really lucky as this was my first attempted escape. It took me only an hour to make the ultimate decision: to get out of Vietnam... My mom and my aunt accompanied my cousin and me to Rạch Giá. In the bus, we remained silent most of the time, lost in our own thoughts. I had the feeling I would never see this land again. The ride was uneventful.

         During the time we waited to board the boat in Rach Gia, the vivid memories of my life kept my mind busy. I felt in the mood to tell my mom about my love story, which I never told her before. I talked about my girlfriend who had no clue that I made the escape that day. I might die, drown, be a shark's dinner, or I might hit freedom. Anything was possible, I did not have any illusion that once I stepped on the boat, that was it. But I would rather die free than getting captured. The crossing though scared me the most. My mom listened intensely to my story; she did not ask any question. My mom and auntie said the last good-bye to my cousin and me.

        Please read the rest in Forum 7: FACES OF THE WAR.