Feedback
News

First Days: My-Duyen Huynh’s Journey from Saigon to Seattle

My-Duyen (bottom, second from the right) with others who escaped the war by boat, arriving safely in Indonesia from Vietnam in 1981. My-Duyen Huynh

First Days is a weekly series in partnership with the South Asian American Digital Archive, documenting the first-person stories of immigrant America. This week, the story of My-Duyen Huynh - who left Saigon, Vietnam for Seattle, Washington in 1983- as told to Brieana Ripley.

"My name is My-Duyen Huynh. I came to the U.S. in 1983 when I was 24 years old from Saigon, Vietnam.

After 1975, when the Communists came over to Saigon and took over south of Vietnam, life became very chaotic. Lots of people didn't have freedom, so they tried to escape. I was just a college student, I had no idea what escape looked like.

My-Duyen Huynh left Saigon, Vietnam for Seattle, Washington in 1973 as a 24-year-old. This is her story.
My-Duyen Huynh left Saigon, Vietnam for Seattle, Washington in 1973 as a 24-year-old. This is her story. My-Duyen Huynh

I am so scared, the reason why I am scared is because I heard on the news that a lot of people died in the ocean. I had no idea what the U.S. looked like but in my head I thought, 'Here is heaven.' So I decided to take a change, I may be alive, maybe not.

We saw a little house and tree and we knew that we survived.

But I didn't realize the weather in the wintertime in Seattle, the sky is dark. I looked outside and I thought, 'What happened? Why did the sun disappear, why is it so dark?'

My-Duyen sitting at her home after the interview sharing some of her handmade felted crafts. Brie Ripley

The first time I tried hamburger and milkshake, it was so good.

Life and death are so close -- they both go by quickly.

When I was young I was really shy and scared, but your mind keeps changing as you get older -- it gets stronger. I just move my body, relieve the tensions of my body, listen to the music, and enjoy it. It's fun."

My-Duyen and her family at her son’s graduation from the North West School in 2012 at Seattle Town Hall. (L-R: daughter Sophia, mother in law, eldest daughter Christina, My-Duyen, son Christopher, and husband Joseph). My-Duyen Huynh

Read the original story, and more like it, here. Check out the audio interview, featuring music by Beast, Please Be Still. You can also submit your own story or interview your parents or friends about theirs. Your story may be featured here during Asian American Heritage Month in May.