Hubert Tien

As Interviewed by Cora Tien, April 16, 2015

Hubert Tien: In His Own Words

I don’t remember anything from that trip, I vaguely remember, I remember, sort of remember, we flew on a plane full of people, it was a seven seventy seven, a triple seven I believe, and we all piled in, all the refugees piled in and we flew in and we were able to get on because of Uncle Tak, he was… a head, he was a colonel overseeing the line at the security airport and he allowed us to go through. I remember on the plane that mom had food and she shared it with the people on the plane ‘cause they didn't have food. We were in the same situation as everybody else that left, we just left everything, and only what we could carry with us, and I remember mom brought mango with us and I do remember she shared it with us and she shared it with the people on the plane. I was too young to really understand anything. It wasn't... it didn't really register with me what was happening.

A lot had to change, because the Vietnamese, well… just the cultures are different for eastern and western. The language, first and foremost was the biggest barrier. So dad was okay because he taught himself English and he had been speaking English for a while and that's why he was a translator for the CIA during the war… but mom didn't really speak English that well… she didn't speak English. so for us language was the first issue because grandmother, our grandmother she couldn't speak English, she only speaks Chinese and Vietnamese. So she never learned English. Mom learned English, but for us it was mainly learning English.

I remember the story about Uncle Laurence, remember we moved to Montreal first and in Montreal he learned the Canadian national anthem and when they, when uncle Laurence was at school the first day, they told him to sing the national anthem and he sang “Oh Canada” so that's but yeah language was the first thing and then just the cultural difference. We moved to a city called League City in south of Houston, southeast of Houston and at the time we were one of the very few Vietnamese people in the farming community, so there was again I was too young to really notice anything but I know Uncle William and Uncle Thomas did, they were older they could see the racism and stuff. But I was too young, I was just a kid and I… I acclimated... I adjusted a lot better a lot quicker than they did.

That’s a tough question. One, making good grades. That's part of the culture and that's what mom and dad expected. The other is just the friends we made, the friends that I made, I have really good friends that some of my close, well, the closest friends I have are the ones I had when I was in elementary school in second grade. Two of my closest friends, Kevin and Carry, I've known since second grade. And just all the other friends I had they've all just… that’s probably the most important thing is just the friendships that I made with all those guys.

I welcome it, because it gives Asians an edge, whether it’s true or not, most of the time it’s true. But you know I think that the stereotype, one the intelligence thing is part of it but two is just the work ethic. The parents and still in their kids, and they are the ultimate American story, they are the American dream. They come over, you work hard, you make your kids work hard to provide a better future, I mean that’s the American story. So when the kids when you say the kids are smart, well the kids are smart because one the kids are smart and two because their parents make them do the work and put in the work to be smart and to be, to do good in school ‘cause that’s important and that’s how you get, that’s how you provide a better life for yourself and you provide a better life for your family.

Oh yeah! Racism, well… yes. I mean you’d have, I mean all growing up I never had any Asian friends. All my friends were white. Some of my closest friends today, and some of the closest friends I had, called me you know Chink and Gook and stuff but I was a kid. And they didn't know any better, they were just kids. And you know we would be walking through like different things and different functions and you’d always hear a little side comment when you walk by and you just kind of ignore it. You realize people are idiots and it's kind of like my friends. I mean they didn't know any better. They just thought it was something to do, something fun, but now they’re some of my closest friends. Now I didn't have it as bad as Uncle Will did because you know I was a little kid I was young and you don’t really know race. Kids don’t. It’s only when you get older when you know race and then so Uncle Will and Uncle Tommy and that generation, well not that generation but those people, the ones who were like teenagers when they came over, they experienced it more than I did. But I never had any discrimination, not that I know of. And I’m sure maybe there was but it, in the grand scheme of things it didn't hurt me in any ways.