10 January 2017


Just like that, 37 years went by. It was a cold night in New York City, just like tonight. Maybe colder since my family just came from tropical Singapore. Sure, we had a stop-over in Belgium but we stayed inside the airport the whole time so we didn’t know what the outside temperature was. An uncle on my mother side, a first cousin of hers on her father’s side, was the sponsor. He met us at JFK Airport with winter jackets for all of us. Uncle lived near the intersection of Neptune Avenue and Brighton First Street in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. We were to stay with him for a short period of time so technically our first home in the U.S. was in Brooklyn. Uncle probably drove us home along the Belt Parkway West but I don’t remember anything from the car ride. Except that I threw up at the end of the trip. Unlike other family members, I don’t easily experience motion sickness, whether on airplane or on boat, but for some reason the car trip from JFK did it.
We stayed with Uncle perhaps for a week before the refugee agency found us an apartment in the Fordham Road section of the Bronx. Again I have few fragments of memory of the stay. I do recall being introduced to cheese pizza and most likely Sprite or 7-Up. It was sweet, bubbly, and white, that much I’m sure. I also remember being a bad guest by taking too long a bath. It was the first time I bathed in a tub, the tub filled with water and bubbles, and there was my younger cousin’s toy aircraft carrier, perhaps other toys too. So I got carried away. Auntie had to gently knock on the door to tell me to finish up.
We arrived on a Thursday so perhaps on Monday someone, perhaps Uncle and his son, accompanied me to some school perhaps to register. Maybe the plan at the time was for us to stay there a few months so Uncle thought I should be enrolled in school. I took one year of English before leaving Viet Nam but had no actual experience of using the language. Maybe my Uncle walked his son to school and thought it would be nice for me to come along to see the school. I am sure I went to some school shortly after arriving in the U.S. but for what reason I am not sure now.
I vaguely recall my late father saying that he made sure Uncle understood that he would like us to have our own place. That he didn’t want to burden Uncle any more than necessary. Of course it all depended on how quick the refugee agency can find us a place. Perhaps the refugee agency already prepared things ahead, or it was 1980 and apartments were plentiful in the Bronx, we had our own place shortly. Maybe by then the effect of jet lag wore off or I already gotten used to the new environment, I do have more clearer memories of the place. We did stay there for almost half a year. Next time, I’ll try to dig up some memories from that time.

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