When I was twelve years old, my parents took me to their hometown; Vietnam. I was excited to meet my extended family. I lived a very sheltered and comfortable life, my parents worked very hard, night and day to make sure I had the supplies I needed for school, a home, and food. It wasn’t until I spent two months there, that I finally saw how much I have taken for granted.
Vietnam is a very, very hot and humid place. In the morning, it is scorching hot, and at night it is freezing. They live such a rural life, the houses my family lived in were basically huts. They had no windows, it was just open space. Mosquitoes would constantly fly in and sting everyone. They don’t have beds. They sleep on the floor, with just a thin fabric. Only the rich could go to school. Kids would quit school and work to help support their parents. They take care of chickens and pigs, as it is usually their only source of food. They don’t have ovens, instead the put food into a used metal can and put it over a handmade fire. They can’t drink clean water. They have to drink well water. They even have to bathe in at the beach. They don’t have toilets, so they have to urinate and excrete waste into the outside foliage.
Their jobs are very dangerous, from melding metal to burning glass. The children don’t have toys. Instead they burn things. Little kids, even toddlers, have to work. The child labor is horrible. I remember seeing an eight-year old having to make sugar cane juice. He was very unsanitary and sad. Everywhere you set your eyes, you can see little kids, running around, dirty with cuts and bruises. You can see in their eyes that they don’t want to live this way anymore. Everyone is constantly hungry, kids are always picking things off the floor to eat, and adults struggle to put food on the table. Even when they do, they can only eat so much because they have to feed their elders and sons and daughters first.
They all want to go to America. They want to escape their rural and hard life. My parents send money there to help support their families. They’re very humble people because they have experienced the hardships of life. They were one of the lucky ones that managed to escape the horrid place and come to America. They’re very hard workers and tell me I need to be just like them. Seeing how these people lived, how my own family lived, even at a young age, made me understand that I am lucky. I didn’t ask for much anymore. I helped my parents out at work, and tried very hard to be selfish. I’ve become the person I am today because of this experience.
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