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Behind the Story

Time 0:03:34


Growing up, my parents would always bring me along to the restaurant. I remember sitting at the back table and drawing pictures or peeling carrots in my own little world. I would always go there after school where I ate and did my homework. It was a lot of fun. The employees and the customers were my friends and the restaurant was like my second home.

All throughout my childhood, my parents would tell me these incredible stories about Vietnam. After dinner, while sitting on the couch they told me about growing up with papaya trees in the backyard and catching frogs late at night. And driving in the car, they told me about being in bed in the middle of the night and hearing bombs go off, and how they had to flee their homes, and how they barely escaped the country by boat. I thought of them like superheroes—strong and adventurous.

When I finished grade 10, my family and I flew all the way to Vietnam that summer. That first night we arrived, driving through the streets and passing the markets and little homes, all of my parents’ stories came to life. And walking through the streets, I thought about how it was so cool that I was really there.

In my last week of high school, I was helping out my parents at work. That day my whole family was at the store, and I was working the cash register. I heard my mom on the phone and I slowly realized that the call was about me. All of a sudden, she hands me the phone. I started going through my mind wondering what it could be about. I wasn’t sure if the call was good or bad. When I answered the phone I found out that I would be the class valedictorian. And so I explained what just happened to my parents. They told me: “Kathy, we are so proud of you, and you are Vietnamese. You are making history and you are bringing honour to all of the Vietnamese people.”

And I thought what they said was cute.

But the more I reflected on it, I thought about how my parents had left their home country and everything they had all for better life for themselves and for me. And that next year I’d be going to university. Standing there in our little store, with my whole family around me, I felt like we had made it.

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