This picture was taken in 1979 in a refugee camp in the Thai province of Ubon Ratchanthani
I am in the black dress( second from the right) standing in front of my grandma and step-grandfather
People are familiar with the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. There are a dozen story I can tell about the people in this picture. Some sad, some funny, and some uplifting ones. Some stories I am a central figure to, some I am a bystander, and others I do not play any role in. These people’s lives are an integral part of who I am, where I come from, and what I believe in. Some of them are family members, some are friends and others are people who became a part of my life. In that refugee camp in Ubon, we were one because of our shared hardship and struggle to make our lives better. When we all had to seperate and make our own way to different parts of the world on that day, it was a sad chapter in our lives. Having to leave some of them behind until it was their turn to emigrate was necessary. Fortunately, for my family and I we were able to see some of them again in America. Some of them like two of my step-father’s cousin ( Ai You ck: fourth from the left, and Ai Yu ung: eighth from the left) would even live with us in Clovis, New Mexico.
In 1974, my mom and stepfather decided to cross over to Thailand illegally. They left my older sister, Paramy ( 5), little sister (3) Khonsavahn, me (4) and my oldest brother Vorada (6) in Laos because they didn’t have any money yet to take us. My sisters and I would remain with my grandmother close to the Thai border until my mom sent for us. As for my older brother, he was sent to stay with my great grandfather at the Wat close to Pakse where my mother’s family is from.
My mother and step-father would not be able to send for us until almost a year later because of some problems they ran into. The first obstacle of course was money: they didn’t have any. They left Laos with a small pack of their clothing and that was it. When they got to Kamalaid (I am spelling it phonetically so I’m sure it is the wrong spelling) a village in South Thailand, they sold their nice clothes for 80 baht. They found a house to rent for 40 baht and the 20 baht they had left, they use to buy a rice steamer and a little bit of food. At the time they did not know anybody yet. Luckily for them, a nice Thai lady befriended them. She taught my mom and dad to make fresh noodles and sweets to sell at th bus station. At first my mom was not a good cook at all. She said making the fresh noodles and sweets took a while to make, but eventually she got the hang of it.
Image of Sam Lor from movetochiangrai.com
While my mom sold noodles and sweets, my dad decided to rent a sam lor (three wheeled bicycle) to haul people around to make some money. Once again at first he was not good at it. My mom said the first time he tried to drive the sam lor he ran into a thorn bush. I guess my dad had to adjust from being a soldier in the Laos army to a “taxi” driver. Eventually, he was able to control the som lor and made some money doing that. Besides selling sweets and noodles, my mom also did laundry for a rich Thai family. They would only pay her 50 baht a month. Another job they took on was shifting rocks that would be used for building houses. They got paid only 20 baht for a big trash can size. My mom said it was hard work, especially because by that time she was pregnant with my little brother.
Just when my mom and stepdad was almost ready to send for us, someone told on the lady who was helping my parents. They told the authorities that she was harboring illegal immigrants. The Thai authorities showed up and arrested my mom and stepdad and took them to jail.
*** Part two I will continue the story of my parents’ incarceration in the Thai jail for illegally entering the country.