I attended Andrew Hill High School 9th grade Freshman, the whole year.
I attended this school for 7th and 8th grade. Located in San Jose, CA. I participated in the science club assisting the school team staffs. 8th grade was the first time I really start ed to learn about computer programming, it was an Apple II computer with black and green screen, did some basic programming such as 10 print “hello” 20 goto 10, and run command. There are quite a few Vietnamese or Asian, white are the minority for this school, violent happened daily, if you wear certain colors tied to gang they will beat you. I like Art class, Social study, Science and Computer programming.
After school I usually hang out with a friend or sometime couple friends at the nearby public library, I checked out books about electricity invention science and experiment, while my other friends read Vietnamese books “Kiem Hiep”.
I Started school couple weeks later after arriving to the USA in late 1987. It was “Franklin-McKinley Elementary school” in San Jose, CA next to the Santa Clara County fairground. I remember being poor, wearing the used clothing donated by others, but it kept me warm. I speak little English. I struggled quite a bit since this school at the time don’t have ESL class. I started 5th graded back in late 1987. Then moved on to 6th grade at the same school. During 6th grade I remember being introduced to a computer for the first time, I believe it was an Apple II computer, playing Oregon Trail.
My 5th grade teacher I remember was Mrs. Westime, not so sure about the spelling. I remember in the morning taking the bus about 3mins walk from the house, there were a few Vietnamese in the neighborhood, but they don’t speak Vietnamese so I can’t socialize with them anyways. The bus ride was about good 20mins, upon arriving at the school gate I remember kids in the back of the bus bounce up on purpose as the bus goes up the big speed bumb, I thought it was funny, they increased the bounce nearly hit the roof of the bus. I had breakfast, school food the first time, it wasn’t bad. Lunch wasn’t bad either. It was later me and another Vietnamese student got sent to a 3rd grade class to learn English, I noticed all the chair and table are smaller, and off course the kids are 3rd graders, off course I was embarass but I know it’s good for me.
My 5th teacher I believe was Mr. Adame, not so sure about the spelling either. By this time, there were Vietnamese students, some of the Vietnamese are good students to hand around with, a few others Vietnamese don’t even speak Vietnamese and some don’t even want to hang out with new comer Vietnamese like me, and there are other Vietnamese students although young but trouble maker, like chasing after girls, pick a fight with other races, and cussing in Vietnamese languages. The assignment that I did well was doing a project on the Egyptian way of life. I also succeeded in class as the best drawer, I can draw very well, mostly detail sketch of technology related drawings like space station, spaceship, the solar system, future cars control dashboard, new colonies in space, I was inspired seeing just a few videos and read books on space exploration …
I might be wrong on the year, but it’s probably late 1985 where I began my voyage left Vietnam to seek better life. I left with my dad leaving sister and younger brother at home with mom, grandma and grandpa. It was a family plan from 13 people, 1/2 kids, 1/2 adult, 3 woman. It seems like each family a father would go with a son and leave behind their wife and other kids. The boat wasn’t big at all, it was a fishing boat. Took us 9 days 8 nights floating in the sea waiting for rescue from anyone at sea.
Before I started kindergarten, I was trained on how to do fishing first, involved many types. The first one is fish net casting throwing, the idea is to cast the net in a way that will spread the net evenly in a circle, the net will then sink down and blocked all the fishes and whatever living things down there from escaping, then slowly pull the net up and fishes and shrimps and whatever will get caught into a pocket of the net. Back then I practiced by throwing the net on land first, then do it in the water. I remembered my first one I caught a few small fishes and shrimps and the casting wasn’t perfect at all, I guess back then fish and shrimps are still plenty but now a day they all died due to the chemical use to grow rice in a big field. One scary moment that I encountered was pulling up a water snake and I thought it was an eel or “Ca Loc” before knowing it was a snake I actually jump down the water and started to grab it prevent it from escaping, it was scary, my heart was pounding, people told me some snake are poisionous and deadly that why I was scare. Sometime we gather in a large group and take an hour trip walking to a big farm field to catch fish and shrimps, it was fun and put food on the table for our family, we’re peasants.
There was even a myth, I don’t think it’s true but been spreading at the time, some good fish like “Ca Loc” a really big one someone caught it but it disappeared from their bucket and they know for sure it was there and with them at all time, no way it can escape, they call it “ghost fish” “Ca Loc ma”. There are also time where we went to other people’s farm land and try to catch fishes there they came out and chase after us with a big knife as big as a sword. I remember my cousin “anh Phi” he ran to my uncle nearby house and asked to borrow an ax and ran chase after the man with knife, off course the man with the knife ran home, I thought it was funny and daring actually at the time, we tried to catch fishes at other people’s land and threaten with an ax.
Crabbing was one of my todo for the family, it’s seasonal though, only when salt water mixed up with fresh water in greater amount where the crab will start migrating into our backyard creek. The technique of catching crab during this time was basically go hunt for a water snake or any snake safe to hunt, then chop it into segments of about 4 – 6 inches and make a ring from a coat hanger loop ring about 12-16 inches, then attach a strong string to a rod of about 3-5 feet, it doesn’t have to be long, and simply leave under water 12 inches or more from the water surface then wait for a bite and pull it up put in a bucket.
There are many other ways of fishing and shrimping. Summer time we catch “Ca Ro” from dried rice field, it’s usually underneath the dry mud. When it’s rainy, it’s the best time to do fishing.
When I was about 7 years old or so, my grandpa gave me a small pond trying to get some fishes. I believe it was about 300 feet by 50 feet, basically I created about 4 poles of fish home with bag of cooked rice let water get in, build a dam after water got in from high tide. The dam consist of a couple plugged bamboo tube tunnel which later use to drain the water out to catch the fish.
One interesting fish of all is “Ca Tra” this kind of fish look like a shark, but they eat human waste and water grass, back in the old days each houses in my country side have a pond where also serve as a toilet, basically you pee and poop down the pond from a private little hut builf 20 feet out to the pond and about 10-20 feet from the pond water surface, it has a hole about the size of standard American toilet except you don’t sit on it but you sit down with your two feet on it. Now a day I believe these fish “Ca Tra” are being raise properly eating just rice and rice and wheat. This are good to eat as “Canh Chua” and “Ca Kho To”
Memory imprinted I guess, at age 3 or 4 I can remember things. I remember the darkness, at night, it is so dark, no light whatsoever and I was crying maybe because I was scare, maybe because I was sick, having a fever my grandma tried to sing me to sleep but kept on crying seeing the darkness, confused, but after that I was fine the next day.
I was born in 1976, after the Vietnam war ended. From a peasant family. We do farming, grows our own foods, and basically on our own, no local police.