Robert Tran


As Interviewed by Nicholas B, March 13, 2015

Robert Tran: In His Own Words

My name is Robert, Tran. I was born in 1964 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I had one (first) brother and one (first) sister, and we lived with our mom and dad. We had a little home, by some coconut trees, and it was made out of the treeís leaves and a sort of straw. I didn't really care about the war, so when it began I donít recall much.

My school was similar to over here but it didn't have AC or a heater, so we had to deal with tropical weather. So when you are in the class, you sweat. My dad was a pharmacist in Vietnam, so when the Communists came, they would check your property and look at your money -- and they want your property. They donít want you to make a lot of money. At one point a Communist official came to the house and ransacked the property, and we had to give them some big money. Thatís when my dad started thinking about taking the whole family out of Vietnam. My parents talked a lot about free democracy and freedom of speech. You work for nothing under Communism. Thatís why they loved the freedom. Especially my dad.

If we decided to stay in Vietnam, he thought that we would struggle. Our house would be taken over by Communists. Our pharmaceutical company would be gone. We would probably be put out in the countryside somewhere to do farming. It would be a hard life. Thatís why he made the decision to escape Vietnam.

When he wanted to escape, he saved some money and bought a fishing boat. It was a good-sized one that could carry around 50 people. It was parked way out in the countryside, and he set a time and date, then he would get the whole family out, along with the captain and his family.

If the Communist official knows you wanted to escape Vietnam, he would send you to jail or labor camp.

We leave the city by bus and we go to the small town and get in a small canoe and take the river all the way to the southern tip near the ocean side. Then we got into the big boat. Then we wait for the family members. There were at least five small boats for 47 people. We had to go at night time so no one could see us. Once we got in the fishing boat, it took three days to get to Malaysia. Malaysia is a democratic country. When we got there, we stayed in the refugee camp for eight months while the paperwork is getting processed through.

There were about 30,000 people in the camp, including adults and children. In fact a lot of them were kids my age. It was tough to live in the camp. You donít have enough clean water, the cooking was horrible, you didnít have gas (for cooking), we didnít have any money and there was no education and no school. In the camp, there are no jobs. You just sit around, hoping you go to USA, or England, or some other wealthy country. You donít make any money, and there arenít any supermarkets. So we relied on the UN.

Both Australian and American officials came and interviewed our family. And somehow the American official liked our family and offered us to live over here.
When the American official interviewed our family and liked our family, he went through the paperwork and gave us a ticket. The US government provided everything such as the airline ticket. Then we flew from Malaysia to Los Angeles, then San Antonio, and then Austin.

This is a country... a free democracy country. Itís the best country in the world. I lived in Malaysia, but the life there is not as good as here. Same thing with Thailand. I married my wife from Thailand, and I went to Thailand. The life there is not as good as here. Then we would talk about Vietnam. [Laughs.] Vietnam is Communist and a very poor country. Like my momís family, she still lives in the same house as when I was there. They don't have money to build a newer home. Sometimes I have to support her. So I send money home to help her out. Just to let you know, USA is the best country in the world.