Journey to the Americas | Teen Ink

Journey to the Americas

April 5, 2022
By StarDolphin BRONZE, Sacramento, California
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StarDolphin BRONZE, Sacramento, California
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A place where someone still thinks about you is a place you can call home." - Jiraiya

Author's note:

This story is inspired by the tales and stories of the Secret War, which took place during the Vietnam War.

In a village on a mountain in the Far East side of Laos, it consists of a group of Hmong people. I’m Tue, and my village is full of lovely people. My family consists of my grandpa, father, 7 siblings, and my beautiful wife, Mai Lee. There are other families in this village as well, about a total of 37 people. It’s a LOT of people and there’s so little resources for all of us, but my grandma told me that family will always be together no matter what.

“Oi, Tue, help me grind the rice!” Kue shouted from a distance.

I sighed. “Coming…” I reluctantly said.

Kue has been my best friend since we were babies. We were literally born next to each other, since my mom and his mom were both in labor around the same time. It’s a weird coincidence, but I couldn’t have a better friend than Kue. Unfortunately, both of our mothers aren’t here with us anymore.

As I walked across the dirt pathway, a man walked past me. He notices and turns around immediately.

“H-Hey! Tue! You wanna help me with the farm? I have an extra scythe, we could cut down the crops together. So whaddya say?!” Cha Leng said from behind me.

I waved at him and said, “Sorry, gotta help Kue for a sec. If you’re still by the farm, maybe I’ll drop by and give ya’ a hand.” I laughed as I continued to walk down the pathway to Kue.

“That damn Tue!” Cha Leng cursed.

I helped Kue grind the rice with his sister, and I went back to help Cha Leng with the rice crops. In the rice field, Cha Leng began asking me questions.

“I-uh… Tue… this is a r-random question but… I-” Cha Leng stuttered.

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I-I’m sorry. Uh… I… I’m a little nervous.”

“What’s up? Did something happen?”

“Do you know the village from the West?”

I start rubbing my thumb against the scythe in my left hand, nervously sweating. “...What a-about it?” I asked.

“I was walking up West to hunt for some deer and I ran into a villager from the West side. They were fleeing for their lives… I think something happened…”

I begin thinking to myself. “Do you think it’s just a tiger? You remember the legends Grandpa used to tell?”

“I think it’s something more than that…” Cha Leng’s words scare me, but I put that thought aside. “Well whatever, maybe I’m being too paranoid. Let’s go home, the sun is setting and it’ll be night soon.” Cha Leng unworriedly said.

“R-Right…” I responded in uncertainty. Cha Leng and I parted ways to go to our homes. I arrived at my house and my wife was immediately right at the door.

“Tue! Why are you late! The sun’s down and you come back when it’s pitch black outside?!” Mai Lee shouted. My grandpa with my father and my 5 siblings inside the straw house eating dinner hear my wife shouting.

“Mai, who’s there?” my younger brother, Yue Peng, asked.

“H-Hey…” I awkwardly murmured.

“Elder brother! Do you wanna play with me?” my younger sister, Pa Yeng asked. Mai looked dead in my eyes, “Sorry Pa Yeng, I have to deal with something.” I responded.

“Aww… but you said you would play with me last time?” Pa Yeng cried.

“Maybe another time.”

My wife lectured me while my father watched and the rest of my family ignored it and continued their night. My wife cooled off, but she’s overprotective like that. She worries about me too much, but it’s cute how she does that.

10 years ago, when we were kids, there was a river nearby the village. There were large rocks in the river that acted as a crossway across the river.

“Mai, I betcha I can cross the river with only 3 steps!” I confidently said.

“D-Don’t do it, Tue! You’ll fall!” Mai worryingly replied.

I leaped, landing on 1 rock. I leaped again, landing on another rock. 1 more jump and I’ll cross the river in 3 steps! I leaped once more, landing on the third rock. The raging waters from the river splashed onto the rock, and I slipped on it. Mai shouted my name and I flushed down the river. I thought I was going to drown, but my father, who was fishing, caught my hand and smacked my face.

“Tue, why are you swimming in the river…” my father intimidatingly asked.

“Uhhhhhh…” I muttered.

Ever since that day, Mai made sure I was safe at all costs. In the morning, I woke up and Mai was already out of bed. The sun had barely risen and it was still fairly dark outside. I walk out of my room to see the rest of my family still sleeping. Is this a dream? I walked outside of the house to see Mai sitting outside by herself. She was sitting on a long oak log, staring in between the mountains where the sun would rise.

“Mai, why are you up so early?” I worriedly asked.

“I wonder…” Mai questioned quietly. “I wonder if there’s somewhere better for us to go.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I-Sorry, what are you trying to say?” I sat to her left, looking deep into her eyes with curiosity. “Are you saying… that this village isn’t good enough?”

“N-No! I love this village with all of my heart! But… what if something bad happens?” She breaks eye contact with me and looks the other direction, staring at the dead flowers in the distance. I turn to look at her direction and see 5 dead flowers, with only 2 left alive.

We sat on the log until the sun rose, the gleaming bright sunlight glared at us. I took one more glance at Mai, and it seemed like her body was glowing. She patted my back and got up to prepare breakfast. I followed along with her and the rest of the villagers awoke from their slumber.

Everything in the village was normal like usual. Cha Leng asking me to help him with the farm, Kue asking me to do something with him, my little siblings asking for me to play with them, and Mai’s precious smile everytime I see her. In the afternoon, something terrible happened. I was walking back to the village with Kue after we went fishing in the morning. As we entered the village we saw one of us, but he wasn’t from the village. Maybe he was from the West village like Cha Leng mentioned the other day.

“R-RUN! THE VIETNAMESE ARE HERE!” the guy shouted. Everyone gave a confused look, but some were alarmed and began entering their homes.

“O-Oi, Kue… what’s going on…” I panickingly asked.

“We should probably get the hell out of here!” Kue shouted.

Kue and I ran the opposite way, away from the village. I heard gunshots, and it sounded like rifles. Kue held my hand as we ran, he took a swift left turn and we were suddenly in a forest.

“My dad and I used to go hunting in these forests, so I know a place we could hide,” Kue said while panting.

“B-But, what about the others--” I asked.

“There’s no time to be worrying about them!” Kue snapped back.

We stopped to hide in a bush, the forest’s shadow was thick and dark. It felt like we were in a cave instead of a forest. I lightly shove Kue in anger and he gave me a confused look.

“I’m grateful that you dragged me here to hide us from whoever is coming. But the others… they’re gonna get killed!” I shouted at Kue.

“Tue… t-there is nothing we can do!” His voice started breaking. “Do you think I wanted to leave them behind?!” I was silent. “Of course not! They’re my family as well.”

“But we could’ve saved--”

“WE CAN’T! Tue, look at the reality of this situation! They have guns, we don’t.” I was speechless. I didn’t know what else to say. “All we can do is run and escape ourselves.” Kue was on alert, constantly looking out. While I sat there, fearful. Knowing that my family could be dead, we had to run away.

We heard rattling noises from the other bushes. Maybe it’s just a rat or a cat. But Vietnamese soldiers came out and pointed their guns at us. Kue and I… were about to get executed right here, at this moment.


The soldiers were killed, but by who?

“Are you guys alright?” another soldier said in English.

The soldier who saved us was an American, who took us to a military camp deployed a few miles away from my village. Kue and I flew on the helicopter with him and he brought us to the camp. There were many Hmong people from different villages in the camp. Thankfully, I saw my family there.

“M-MAI!” I shouted. I embraced Mai while my grandpa, father, and my 4 siblings were at peace. “How did you guys survive? Didn’t the Vietnamese kill you guys?!”

Mai shook her head, “No. They did attack the village… and many of our people suffered… but we hid in the house. The American soldiers saved us.” I couldn’t believe it… it was a miracle. However, one of my siblings was missing. I have 7 siblings, and 2 of them went away, so I only have 5 living with me. But there were only 4…

“I’m glad… but… where’s Pa Yeng, my sister?” I asked. Grandpa walked up to me and grabbed my shoulders tightly. He held onto me like he’d never let go. “Grandpa, why--”

“I couldn’t… protect her.” Grandpa cried.

“...What…?” I said shockingly. Grandpa was looking down the entire time, but he gained the courage to look at me face to face. Tears were rolling down his face, like a heavy river stream.

“They killed her. And I couldn’t do anything about it.” The rest of my family looked down in sorrow and distraught. I clenched my fist and punched the ground. Dirt and dust got in my eyes and I shouted in agony. The pain of losing my sibling… She was only 9 years old. My other younger sister handed me her doll, her favorite doll. I broke down and my family was there to comfort me.

Meanwhile, Kue lost his sister as well. I saw Cha Leng in the camp as well, I was glad he was still alive. Cha Leng felt guilty, he couldn’t protect Kue’s sister. She took the hit for Cha Leng and he felt responsible for her death. Kue on the other hand, was furious. He couldn’t believe her sister risked her life, just to protect another person. Kue valued his own family the most. After his mother and father died, his sister was the only thing left. In the night, the Americans made campfires for us to warm up. Kue sat on a log and watched the embers roar into the burning materials. I sat next to him and put my hand on top of his.

“Kue… I’m sorry… for your loss.” Kue was silent.

“Don’t even talk about it.” Kue responded in anger.

“Was it because of Cha Leng--”

“No. I like the guy, but my sister shouldn’t have risked her life for him.” We sat in silence. “Bao… she shouldn’t…” Kue said with frustration. I continued to stay silent. I was thinking about comforting him, but I think more words would’ve made it worse. Kue cried, for the first time in forever. I put my arm around his shoulder, staring into the starry sky.

The next day, the American troops came back from an encounter with Vietnamese soldiers. Many were wounded, but they came back with many dead bodies. They didn’t know the landscape like we do, so they wanted our people to fight for them. In our tent, an American soldier approached us.

“Alright, which one of ya are going to help aid us in battle?” the American soldier asked. We were confused, as none of us spoke any English. However, my grandpa was the first to get up.

“I’ll go,” my grandpa said in Hmong. “I’ll do it to avenge Pa Yeng.” 

My father went, but I was too scared to go. Kue wanted to go, but Cha Leng stepped in instead. They left the camp, but we couldn’t stay here forever. Later that night, my younger brother Yue Peng, Mai, Kue, my other 3 siblings, and I escaped the camp to try to get across Thailand. I’m hoping the best for Grandpa, Father, and Cha Leng.

We slowly made our way through the forest, but the Vietnamese got one of my siblings. We lost another one on the way, I couldn’t do it anymore. The Vietnamese got my other sibling, and Yue Peng was the only one left. Kue and Mai were still okay, but I’m worried. Until… we were fully surrounded by the Vietnamese. All guns pointed at us, I thought it was over for us. A Vietnamese soldier shot their gun, but Kue ran in and took the hit for me.

“K-Kue!” I shouted.

“Tue… I was never going to make it anyways. Go on. I wanted this anyways…” Kue desperately said whilst in pain. I couldn’t move, I was in shock. “MOVE ON WITH IT! GO!”

I grabbed Mai’s hand and Yue Peng’s hand and bolted out of there. The Vietnamese soldier attempted to shoot us down, but Kue got in the way and took the hits for us. I never looked back… All I heard was gunshots and Kue’s horrific screams. We were almost there, to the Mekong River. The river that divided Laos and Thailand. Once we cross it, we’re free from all of this. We saw many other Hmong people at the bank of the river, while we saw much more trying to cross it. We saw many people using bamboo to float on the river, so we did the same.

While we tried to swim the river, the violent and thrashing waves pushed Yue Peng away in the river, never to be seen again. I’ve wanted a moment of grief, but there was no time to at the moment. Mai and I successfully made it, but we saw many Hmong people succumb to the Mekong River. Mai and I, along with many of the Hmong that crossed, were put into refugee camps. It was horrible, but we stayed for 2 years. Mai was pregnant, and she gave birth to our child. Yheng… that was his name. We got an opportunity to go to the Americas, a life we’ve dreamt of during the war.

“Mai… what should we do…” I said. “How are we going to do this? There’s only one spot left… Only one of us can go.” Mai held my hand and looked back at our child. She turned to face me, one last time.

“Tue… go.” Mai stared into my eyes, deeply passionate about her decision.

“B-But… Yheng--”

“Return here once you get money. We’ll reunite with each other again.”

I nodded, and I got on the bus. The bus was on the way to an airport that would take us to the United States of America. The bus drove off, and I took one last look. I saw Mai carrying Yheng, but they were growing smaller and smaller as the bus drove off. Cha Leng… Grandpa… Father… I hope you guys made it.

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