The making of a statement, for the United Nations :P

So for the past couple years, I have attended A LOT of meetings, conferences, workshops, experts’ consultations, dialogues, seminars….ummmm whatever you wanna call it, I was there! GOOD THING this was all related to migrants and refugees b/c if I were covering oil and gas or ‘free’ trade lolz, I’m not sure I could’ve managed!

NOW BELOW ONLY REPRESENTS MY EXPERIENCE. Obvs there are a lot of different jobs out there and many of my colleagues did not share this work style.

UN schedule: official meeting times are 10-1, BREAK 1-3, afternoon session 3-6….
REALITY: 830-10 is email and office time or early meetings; break time is lunch or other meetings (lucky if you have meetings with food) and more office and real work time; after sessions or sometimes even during them, there are more meetings AND there are also receptions and later meetings as well… AND more of your own work and emailing to do….cuz yup, you do have international colleagues who work in dif time zones sooooooo…….

Sound like fun? It is once you get in the rhythm BUT man, for those with families, I can totallly see how the schedule is a bit draining…don’t get many family dinners in there :( So I can see why the receptions get old….

BUT HEY, there are perks. ONE OF THE BEST is that you are on the cutting-edge of international policy discussion and always hear of news from the field, from everywhere, ofen before it’s on BBC and CNN.

Basically, I had hear many, MANY diplomats and awesome civil society speakers deliver their timed statements over the years.
AND then it was my turn. WOAH! FINALLY! RAD! Yeah, I’m a bit cheesy, my sister says.

OK so I had prepared statements and speeches before BUT I hadn’t hit the mike and orated one yet.
SIDE NOTE: I like this definition:
past tense: orated; past participle: orated
make a speech, especially pompously or at length.
“Hamlet thinks, speaks, orates, and acts”
synonyms: declaim, make a speech, hold forth, speak, discourse, pontificate, preach, sermonize, sound off, spout off; More

Am I pompous? I think NOT!!!!!


But as my boss is amazing, he said, why don’t you give it a go? Usually, the most senior person ‘goes on record’ as the speechmaker and representative for the organization/government. And these things are ‘officially recorded’ as part of the United Nations record system I suppose but I’m not sure of all the rules…. :P

Anyway, I was NERVOUS…I mean cool, I mean BUG-EYED! But I have observed a million of these mini-presentations by now and I just knew I would ROCK this thing. PLUS it was on migrant labour exploitations and protections and well, I WANNA HELP THOSE PEOPLE!

OK happy dance and big breaths all done, I sat down to write.

It was on our website but yeah, the giant photo of me has disappears!

Thankfully, we had a marvelous intern L.O. at this time and she had made this amazing document with all these very sad examples of exploitations in the world with a LOT in the Gulf region. So I had great background notes.

Usually, my boss and I strategize for like 6 minutes verbally (as in, I pick his brain) and then I go to my office to ‘reguritate’ what I have just heard from him in formal UN appropriate language.

Our results are pretty good I think. It’s a highly functioning MIGRATION TAG TEAM :)

To be continued…with part 2, GIVING the SPEECH….

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International Migrant Day 2014 edition–aquafit & good vibrations

It’s a designated day by the United Nations: DECEMBER 18th. But honestly, before I started working in this sector of migrant advocacy, I wasn’t aware of it. :P

Q: how does a UN day affect the celebrated ppl, ie. the migrants, in this case?
A: through increased awareness and a few poignant statements from world leaders perhaps?

Well, how about a few HOPEFUL stories as well? The tragedies are definitely out there and we will get to those in good times (or rather bad), but I want this space to HIGHLIGHT the GOODNESS of migrants and INTEGRATION efforts.

So let’s look to local, great, cheerful, inspiring INTEGRATION shall we?

LIVE in Vancouver BC Canada:
@ the Langara Family YMCA
IN the AQUAFIT class!

Lately, I’ve been attending with my sister. I realize that aquafit has a bit of a reputation as a low-impact aka easier class BUT my dear friends, this is INCORRECT! I was pleasantly surprised to see that my biceps and upper thighs have more definition these days and hello, it is the first and only ab workout that I like!

BUT on this BLOG, we focus on the MIGRATION aspects of things so anyway….

A: Well, I think of it as the act of living amongst others who have different stories and orgins than us. It’s basically community building and when it works, WE ALL GET ALONG! :P

Sooo that brings us to the YMCA cuz it’s a place that strives to bring about strong communities: it is in their mission afterall.

So here’s the LOWDOWN:

–9am class, shallow water aquafit
–pretty packed, like 20 ppl
–one very enthusiastic (volunteer) instructor (umm WOW!) male or female
–all ages, shapes, sizes, and ‘colours’ if you want to break it down that way… :P
–a few men, but yes predominantly women
–interesting music, depending on the instructor’s tastes :)

First impression:
*WOW these regulars are FIT!!!! My and my sis are on the younger side of most participants and we are also among the less aquafit and I’m pretty sure some of these ppl are double my age!

*Hey, these people are FRIENDS! They hug it out. They laugh a lot and what’s this, do I hear multiple languages in the pool?!

*What a great example of community spirit BUT actually, INTEGRATION TOO!!!! ME LIKEY!

Culturally speaking, there are at least 5 ethnicities of people that I can observe in the class. I’ve heard Punjabi, Cantonese, British English, Spanish, and Vietnamese (not me n my sis though, we speak English to each other!). Some of the friends and family wear MATCHING SWIM CAPS! <3

So thank you to the YMCA, a place that brings together ppl of all ages n ranges n abilities to shimmy shimmy n break a sweat in your pool!

It's INclusive, happy, healthy, and affordable! <3

Annnnnd for newcomers, it doesn’t require much English so it is really easy to follow as well. (I had to translate French to my colleague O in GVA and we were always getting into trouble for this b/c well, les suisses like their rules & duh, talking in class is frowned upon!)

Just for the record, CANADA > SUISSE over and over again!
Yes, still a bittermelon :P

So I leave you with this lil ditty:

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You and me are migrants, you know?

18. December 2014 | Category Geneva, International, Lists, MIGRATION, MY ODES to.... | 0 Comments »

Let’s get down to business. We tend to think of others as migrants buuuuuttt actually, let’s reflect for a moment and try to understand that this word MIGRANTS applies to more of us than we/you/me realize.

1. –expatriates: ummm I’ve abandoned the term in favour of MIGRANT WORKERS b/c yeah, that is what you are! & family reunification :P
2. –exchange students: junior year abroad? GAP year? yeahhh, you are definitely migrants!
3. –on that note, international students: for a month or an entire degree, you obvs agree that you are migrants rite? OR else, you and me shall have a mighty fun :P discussion!
4. –refugees: a most vulnerable group :( let’s help!
5. –travellers: yes though short-term, you are M-I-G-R-A-T-I-N-G when you T-R-A-V-E-L and/or F-L-Y!
6. –movers even in-country: the fancy term is INTERNAL migration but just think about this: even when you change neighbourhoods, it is an adjustment b/c you have just migrated! :P
ex: Florence to Roma, check! Geneva to Montpellier, yes! Ottawa to Montreal, why oui oui oui!
7. –diplomats: why yes, see 1. and 5. and 6. :)

heheh me n my friends aka migrants, in this case, Canadian :P

This list is just off the top of my head and is inspired by a lot of ponderings in the hallways of the International Catholic Migration Committee and with T.P., my fave IOM mastermind!

But what do you think? Shall we dance? Or skirt around this issue of terminology or shall we accept that the actual number of migrants in this world is pretty much ASTRONOMICAL? I mean Martians would be migrants too if they make it to Earth :P

IOM Director General Swing often says that the issue with MIGRANTS is that the term is so vast. C’est vrai. And so here I am trying to break it down for you.

So again, what do you think?
Can you accept that migrants are everywhere and actually they are we, as in you and me?


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University of Ottawa: I didn’t expect this :)

17. December 2014 | Category Ottawa | 0 Comments »
University tanning salon....really?

University tanning salon....really?

Maybe its purpose is to beat those winter blues? Hmmm…

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Horrible rules from GVA (from a bittermelon!)

17. December 2014 | Category French, Geneva, International, MIGRATION | 0 Comments »

Too many ppl have told me that it is a great place to be. IT IS NOT always NICE in GVA. La Suisse make some rough/tough rules (no real order):

1. NO flushing toilets after 10pm in some apartment complexes.

2. QUIET TIME after 11pm AT ALL COSTS—I always say, the police are coming to your house party whether you like it or not AND THEY DO ARRIVE RITE AT 11!!: SWISS time OMG!

3.SUNDAY is hell no fun DAY! Sure, many cities close down on Sundays in Europe. I lived in Paris and it was weird BUT as GVA is just a weeny weeny village (200k residents swells to 500k during work week). I have come to say, GOOD thing I go to CHURCH b/c if I didn’t, what the hell would I do???? I’d just go anyway as it is one of the few places that is guaranteed to be open! LOLZ PS many ppl fall into depression in gva especially in the grey winter, esp if you don’t ski!

4. PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG! NOOOOOO say some of the rich Genevois, we won’t do that! “I’m rich and entitled so I don’t follow those rules but if you make noise, I’ll tell you to shut the eff up!” (b/c I’m sooooo entitled!) Soooo every morning about one block from my door, I seriously SEE SH*T EVERY FREAKING DAY! EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWw :)

5. Oh so you are poor, I don’t give a crap about you then! Unemployment insurance in this lovely place is like 4k a month. Welfare was like half of that I think. Minimum wage: roughly 25chf = more in dollars!

Q: But Cathy, doesn’t that mean you at least made minimum wage?
A: NO. B/c I’m a foreigner and they don’t give a sh*t about us! (IMHO :P )

6. You are a foreigner. SO we will RIP YOU OFF FOR THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF YOUR STAY! With love, les suisses :P
–HOUSE BRIBES or what they like to call cadeaux :P
–We won’t be your friend. We don’t like you. (obvs not 100% true but very true for GVA)
–We don’t even really want to work at the UN or CERN…we make more in the banks and doing Swiss stuff :P
–No we are NOT part of the EU. You didn’t know that? Well, now you do! We are really great at NEUTRAL peaceful propaganda btw.

7. Oh we are expensive but we are worth it! The cheapest things here are definitely Swiss. Cheese, watches, chocolate. It’s like they put a FOREIGNER TAX on other products so you are forced into buying theirs. Someone at the WTO (World Trade Organization said the tariff on Asian products was like 800% and THAT is how you make seaweed unaffordable!)
MINI PRICE LIST (things r dbl to TEN TIMES more than in Canada!)

–contact solution: $50 for 2 bottles

–meat: a turkey for $135 anyone? Buuuut at least tax is included! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well! Chickens range from $12 to $50. YES that is WHY PPL cross international borders to EAT MEAT! LOL GHETTO GVA FOR REALZ!

–FINES: I heard speeding tix were a flat fee plus % of your income…that would explain again why Ferrari drivers don’t mind if they kill you :P Almost been speed hit TWICE! But yo, I sure as heck can’t afford a car there! Repairs of a friend were 2000chf and he didn’t have anything fancy to fix! I told him with that, you could buy a used car in Canada/USA :P

–hard alcohol: cheapest Ive seen was $17 and highest was like ummm $50 a GLASS so there’s obvs gotta be worse. Again, this is the SWISS PENALTY: they don’t have a good hard liquor so this way, they force you to drink beer & wine. This is also why I got drunk of one sip of a gin and tonic last week in Canada and why I can remember to the day, the last time I had a G&T before that! LOL

OK so I’m just laughing and getting stressed just thinking about it so at least I’m on vacay now! WOO HOO!



AND YES DEFINITELY CN has become a BITTERMELON en suisse. Merci beaucoup :P

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On anger and authenticity

10. December 2014 | Category Thoughts | 1 Comment »

I am a bit angry today. And I was wondering what I could do for a healthy release. I thought journalling wouldn’t do as I think I would just get more upset by thinking about things. I think an apology is in order sometime soon, but I’ll have to gather my thoughts before that moment….

So then I wrote a few overdue emails and then thought, hmmm maybe now I can blog. So I’ll blog. The gym is another good option and one that I’ll get back into soon…been a few weeks :P

OK so then I thought, well, if I am and I’m still angry, it will seep into the posts but then I thought well, I want my writing to be honest and if I’m mad then I’m mad.

This is NOT a rant btw :)

So here in public, I admit my anger to you…very low risk anyway as I doubt m/any people read this blog anymore….I abandoned it so can’t blame anyone else for doing the same…. :P

And that leads me to thoughts on AUTHENTICITY. Nowadays I like to let my feelings flow. I have been exposed to A LOT of BOTTLED UP emotions in my life and I DON’T LIKE IT. I don’t want it and I will try NOT to do it….

Now it is oh so very interesting as well b/c as an adult, we are taught to be tactful and read our audiences and say what we think is right/proper/pleasing….But man oh man, does that lead to a headache sometimes.

I used to be upset when people were FRANK and HONEST. I didn’t like to hear bad news. I didn’t want to see the hard truths. I was kinda hiding and living in a polite bubble.

BUT THAT BUBBLE BURST. It erupted as I was confronted with the sadness and confusion that often accompanies SECRETS and undisclosed truths. This went on for YEARS!!!!!! Lies by omission, as one of my smart Brit pals called it. (Petey :P ) Again and again, it made me MAD and I was disappointed and shocked with some of the stories I heard. Now I’d just rather hear the truth, even if it’s bad. I don’t care; just share please!

So I decided I wasn’t going to participate in it anymore. I’M OUT. So I became an overly sharing blurting out ‘loudmouth’ I think….

And then I learned to control it. Somewhat. Sort of. Well……..


–Don’t just blurt it to be right or to win the argument.
–Don’t just scream it out.
–Do say what you’re thinking b/c if you don’t say it, your feelings will manifest themselves in other ways.
–Do take some time to think about what you want to say BEFORE you say it.
–Do make the peace.

So what do you think? Oui ou non? D’accord ou pas?

AUTHENTICITY. That’s what I want. What about you?

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How to be a “good” younger person at the UN

4. December 2014 | Category Geneva, Lists, Thoughts | Comments Off

Obviously this is just my opinion and by good here, I mean, in a working context.

Now once you get inside the UN, paid or unpaid (mini rant: UN interns should be PAID IN CASH or at least loads of in-kind gifts if not), it does seem a bit glorious and special. It’s like: wow, there are actually interpreters here like in the Nicole Kidman movie. :P And dude, there are a lot of meetings with ppl in fancy dress….

And is that Kofi Annan’s face I see on the poster and seriously, Bill Gates was just here? WHAT?!!!

Yup it has a bit of “star” wow factor if you are into certain subjects and the leaders in these fields. But I also totally get it if you are not. (Was not a fan til I got here myself!)

OK but after a couple years on the policy pace, I can say, there are a few things one could do to stick around or do a good job while here.

THE LIST: HOW TO DO A JOB WELL DONE IN A FRONT-LINE UN JOB aka where you go to meetings and meet the ppl

1. Sadly, you must wear nice clothes ALL THE TIME. This might be easy for a European hottie but as a sweatpants lover, making sure that my clothes were extremely matchy and expensive-looking (not always pricy but you must look like it) was sometimes a pain. As GVA is small, the chance that you may see the ppl in the meetings in your off time is HIGH so dress accordingly. DRESS FOR SUCCESS rite?

2. Listen and learn and be the best, eager, smiley note-taker, report writer there ever was. Always find the resource materials. Take the extra binder of info and study those facts. Read all those articles written by specialists until they permeate your brain. You never know when that info will come in handy & trust me, it does.

3. Meet the people. Can you speak a smattering of Japanese? Konichiwa. Cathy desu. Travelled to Hungary? No reason not to share that info in small talk before the meetings get started. People living far from home love to talk about their countries. It is solidarity and learning all in one. And they will remember you.

4. Don’t be shy, obviously very related to #3. If you wanna meet someone, obvs don’t run them over but casually find a way to make it happen…through mutual aquaintances, through email, through whatever you feel comfortable with, but please be cool. Don’t be a stalker. I used to tell my boss who I would really like to meet and he tried to help. FIND A CONNECTION.

5. Be confident. You obvs have something great which is why you are working where you are. So know that and be ready to share your knowledge, concerns, opinions & overall awesomeness.

6. Share, share, share. Someone will be new to the working group or the meeting halls. If you see a puzzled face somewhere, offer to help if you can. If you know the shortcut to the cafeteria, take someone with you. Trust me, everyone wants a food n drink break and if that can be done quickly, well then, that’s much appreciated. And they will thank you.

7. Reconnect with people. If you’ve seen them once or talked to them a bit, why not start saying HI and a bit more each time? A coffee here, a shared photocopier moment there, things can bloom from these litte instances. I met one of my good friends in GVA at a labour migration meeting back in 2012. We had both recently arrived and were both under the age of 50 lol so we connected. And boom, we’re still friends today :)

8. Just ask. Diplomatic people are generally pretty nice in my opinion. Sure some are crazy busy and some are just, well a different type, but heyyyy low risks, low reward. BUT asking for smthg is a low risk yet can be VERY HIGH REWARD. I’ve had a lot of coffees in GVA and on the rarest occasion that might become a job, but in all instances, I have learned a lot and appreciated all the people’s generosity with their time.

I now feel like I keep repeating myself: get out there, be friendly, be smart, look good, ummmmmmm, what else?

9. Be strategic. Now this one is a bit of a goodie and a badie. It’s your introduction to politics kinda. I think you will learn to read bwtween the lines as part of the job, but if you pay attention to this aspect of the UN, you will be more knowledgeable, STRESSED, wise, and ANGRY as a result. But you might also like it.

OK so I am sure there are a million more tips out in the world of diplomacy. Any comments and disagreements?

UN tray: bringing the GOOD home from work with me :P

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On climbing trees and rocks n stuff <3

I was born on the cusp of the Chinese/Vietnamese zodiac calendar’s monkey & rooster chicken changeover during Tet (aka lunar new year) a while back.

In my family, we tend to think that we exhibit some of our animal’s traits. For me, I think the monkey bits have translated into a love of climbing trees and rocks.

I’m not sure when I first tried rockclimbing in Vancouver but I definitely took a HUGE liking to it and for years, have “tortured” / entertained my friends on my bday with a rockclimbing party…now I’m going to admit it, those events were more for me to watch them squeal in the air rather than to climb…lol cruel ol’ Cathy :P But usually some of them got the hang of it too.

YEAH said Sing and Adam in 2012. OH MY LORDY said Benita :P

Sooo the climbing gym then led to trees. I thought I was so cool and able that I once challenged my dad to a tree climbing contest in Hanoi, around West Lake.

ME: Hey dad, let’s see who can climb this tree the fastest. (I’m so cool and cocky b/c I had on sports clothes and Columbia sandals.)
DAD: OK sure, you go first. (He was in his 50s at this time.)
ME: Ouch this is hard! And I can’t get up that high. (IN mind: I’m totally sweating and this isn’t as easy without a harness….)
DAD: Do you need a lift?
ME: Nooooo but I don’t think I can get any higher…(AND this took me like 20 minutes…) Your turn!
I jump down and am soaked in humid sweat..gross!
Meanwhile, Papa has jumped up and is smiling higher than I was in about the time it took me to turn my head around and look at him!!!!!!
DAD: Done!!!!
ME: What the heck? How did you do that?????
DAD: Oh, didn’t I tell you? I had to climb coconut trees when I was younger (30 years ago) for your mother so this is like so easy peasy!

MOM: shakes and laughs in the background.

BIG BURN CATHY! But it makes for a good story!


I have a favourite low-hanging tree to climb in Geneva. It is perfect as it had several branches and stubs for your feet and it really isn’t so high so falling wouldn’t hurt too much anyway. UNFORTUNATELY, it is also perfect for tying a tightrope so the trapeze leisure club is often hogging my space and spending all of Saturday doing their thang which means that I can’t always climb it. It is in the park with a decent view of Lake Leman and when I’m up there, I feel on top of the world…well, my weeny GVA world :P And I feel strong and my stresses and fears just melt away…..

1. sturdy
2. has several bumps and good texture on the trunk
3. look for several branches spreading out in rising V formations so that you can climb higher and higher
4. preferably in secluded not-busy area or otherwise the locals will think you are a WEIRDO (at least this is the case in GVA)


Oh we were pissed! The rules, rules, rules lifestyle was getting to us and the rules were NOT making any sense. Sometimes people just like to impose rules to well, have rules and they are DUMB. (OK so I’m a wee bit of a rebel rulebreaker here.)

So we drank and he smoked. But this was NOT enough. He concocted mini evil plans of revenge and hypothosized about how we could wreak havoc on the system of rules. It was fun but as it was not reality, it still wasn’t enough.

ME: We must let out some stream. I’ve got it! Let’s go climb a tree!!!!
O: WTF, Cathy are you outta ur mind.
ME: Trust me O, this is what we need. Annnnd it’s dark out so no one will be giving us the evil glare by the lake….
O: I’m listening….

So off we jaunted to the lake where I had to scope out the perfect tree. My fave does not suit two climbers and it was a bit far away anyway. BUT I SOON FOUND ONE.

ME: O, this is the one! Let’s do it!
O: (Looking up) uhhhhhhh…
Me: I’ll go first. Perhaps you do not climb trees where you come from?
O: Not exactly. We are well dressed, civilized people!
ME: (Looking down at my footwear) Good thing I am not wearing my standard work dresses today. These shoes can hack it. ODE TO good GEOX SNEAKERS!!! :) :) :)

O was a natural. And soon there we were, two buddies, partners in virtual crime plotting, chilling in the dark sky, partially hidden by the trees AND bien sur, it felt GREAT!

O: It’s kinda nice up here. I like climbing trees with you. It’s relaxing.

We tried our hand at selfies but it was dark. AND then it started to rain BUT we were slightly covered anyway. Ahhhh, good times to be had when one just climbs a tree.

SO THAT LEADS ME TO YESTERDAY. I had that feeling to climb a tree again. BUT IT’S FREAKING WINTER NOW. Booooooooooo!

But tree-climbing gives me that special feeling. Like a bird perched up high. Like a little person trying to hide. Like a girl who just wants to be sky high.

Anyone else wanna try?

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MIGRANT VOICES #1: My dad aka a modest former refugee

29. November 2014 | Category Diaspora, Family, Migrant VOICES, MIGRATION | Comments Off

If you see him in our garden or when he’s at work, he’s SMILING! We always joke that he’s Mr. Popular at his school b/c he’s got this WIDE-TOOTHED grin that lights up easily and for everyone (almost :P )

And to me, well, he’s always been an opinionated, animated driver in my life. I try to make it clear that my career & life choices have been heavily influenced by him. I love spending time with refugees and migrants (both for work and informally in daily interactions) whenever I can.

When I share snippets about my parents’ journey from Cam Duc, Vietnam (south central region) to Palawan in the Philippines (where they stayed in a refugee camp for a year or so) and then finally to Port Alberni, Canada where my sister and I were born and then finallly to the mainland in the city of Vancouver where they have lived for a looong time now, some people might say WOW or that is awesome….but to my dad, this is just how life goes sometimes.

DAD: Oh trust me, Cathy, our story is not really that special. You know who has a really good story? How about the Faanh* family (malnourished and suffering to thriving in Canada) or do you remember Uncle Thann, now his story was AMAZING. (A captured former army trainer who then escaped and fled on a small canoe only to be picked up by a larger fishing vessel.) We’re ok but seriously, lots of drama happened on those boats!
* Note: names are changed for confidentiality.

Me: But dad, our story is really cool cuz it has a happy ending :) and we have our awesome gramma BA NOI in the village and all of us grandkids (FIVE!) finally got to meet her before she passed. And we still have the future in front of us…

DAD: Oh dear child, that is OK but trust me, we are just like a drop in the bucket, not too different and in fact, many VNese people have similar beginnings. BUUUUT it is true that we are still alive and many people died on those boats so I guess that makes a story…

ME: Not that I’m going to do it b/c I’m totally lazy but would you let me write your story one day?

DAD: Yeah sure, if you wanna write it, go ahead but I’m telling ya, there are more and MUCH better ones out there.

Sooooo I don’t think the book is forthcoming (I am seriously lazy & too easily distracted and NOT the isolated writer type) but how about several blog posts?

I do think my dad’s perspectives are worth sharing.

In about 25 minutes, we covered topics like corruption in VN, prostituion of poor village girls, multi-racial relationships, Vietnamese war heros and how propaganda has changed their place in history and several more…this man is incredible :)

So quickly now before my wrists and fingers give out on me. I’ll just do another snippet here.

SHORT STORY: My parents successfully fled on their THIRD—3rd—attempt, or should I say, my dad’s 3rd as the two others had FAILED when he had attempted to go solo, and so on the 3rd time, they said they would try to go together (momma, papa and baby bear aka my older bro)…and IT WORKED! Then camp then Canada.


My dad was a traveling jeweller during the war. As the only son of a widowed mother, he was kinda excused from conscription aka being forced to join the Viet Cong but to be safe, he fled with a best friend into the highlands of central VN, traveling southwards to avoid the fighting. Along the way, they became gold traders and worked in gold shops which are still found everywhere in VN. (This skill became handy throughout his life and especially later on in Canada for his wife, for whom he made a ring with 5 diamonds to represent each one of their kids—now collectively people, say AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!)

OK so Mr. Jewellery Man had access to gold. And my parents met in Nha Trang, a beach town. So once he met some fishermen who were willing to take a couple families on board for a golden fee, my dad was in. (Timeline is late 70s early 80s, as in post-bro, pre-me.)

I knew he was an organizer of war escapees soon to be refugees…if they made it out alive. SAD TRUTH: EVERYONE who was on a boat in those days knows people who died. It was just the way it was.

But until today, I didn’t know how much he paid for those precious seats on the boat.

DAD: Well I got a deal you could say…
ME: Like an organizer’s discount…what was the going price?!!!
DAD: Not exactly, let’s just say, well, everyone was supposed to pay 2 ouces of gold per person but I just paid 6 ouces for me, your mom, bro, cousin, Uncle J and my sis (as in my auntie).
ME: So that’s like half off?
DAD: Well, to tell you the truth, I could have not paid b/c in those days, I was recruiting people. as an organizer, to come on the boat and escape with us so I could have made profit off those people… But anyway, it was cheap.
ME: OH MY GOO! (thinks in head, he just says these things like they are no big deal!) Buuuut, if you got caught, would they have shot you first, as an organizer? Chopped your head off?
DAD: Oh no, they didn’t chop heads off, or even shoot you back then. They just put you in prison AND took all your land…and BASICALLY ensured that your family would be screwed/poor for…well, F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
ME: Oh dad, that reminds of a similar story of a prostitute that I met in VN in 2009. Did I ever tell you that story? She was one of those girls whose family was punished and she was forced out of school and ended up being a prostitute in Saigon’s backpacker’s district….

And on it went. I should def blog about my encounter with a prostitute who my friend befriended. And that led to me thinking that I gotta keep blogging all these stories, starting with my dad’s MIGRANT VOICE.

SMALL NOTE: I lived in VN for 4 years and it was a path of personal and cultural discover and through that time, I also got to learn more about my parents and continue our story as Canadians with a Vietnamese heritage.

Good ol’ Vietnam! <3

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On migrant stories: new series MIGRANT VOICES

29. November 2014 | Category Migrant VOICES, MIGRATION | Comments Off

Here’s the thing: people’s lives and stories are their own. I may have the time and the ability to report on the ones I hear but they are not mine. And sometimes, you only meet people once and so you can’t ask permission to share their tale.

I WANNA BE SENSITIVE IN MY WRITINGS AND MUSINGS, especially when it comes to other people.

So unless I have asked for permission, I’m going to change people’s names.
And with migrant stories, some are vulnerable and some are not easy to read or write about. I just hope I’ll be able to represent in an honest and honourable way.

So today I’m gonna start this new series I’ve been thinking about. The International Organization for Migration sometimes showcases migrant stories in their meetings or in their publications so I am going to do the same here and showcase some migrant voices.

Like I said before, this blog is going to be sprinkled with migration stories all over but this is my attempt at a dedicated section that will illustrate why I love being a migrating aka traveling person who gets to meet people from all over the world and who loves to hear about people’s journeys and document their stories when I can.

First post on migrants goes to my DAD!!!! <3

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