Our dinner tonight was hosted by Shu Shu and Tuyen, a wonderful couple who have been living here in Montana for more than 40 years.
The dinner was almost ready when we arrived at their home. Shu Shu was in a kitchen when Tuyen offered us a home tour . He is very good at entertaining and telling us stories. The home is decorated with A LOT of elephants and many souvenirs from Laos, very lovely and full of memorial stuff.
We were encouraged to eat a lot, drink a lot, and laugh a lot during dinner. Shu Shu is an excellent cook and Tuyen is a great supporter! Both of them smiled all the time we were there. Such a warmy home!
Then it came a storytelling time. Shu Shu left the kitchen to join us in a living room and shared us her family’s story. Shu Shu and her family left Loas with a fear of persecution and the trip was arranged by the US government. The family took a boat to cross Mea Khong river to Thailand before being transferred to Philippines and finally got resettled in the US in 1970s. Their journey wasn’t smooth that Tuyen once said he "better to be caught that killed". Life in America wasn’t easy as well. Shu Shu told us about how hard it was when her family first arrived in Montana. There were many challenges for the family with very young children. Both of them had to work very hard to support the family and they finally bought their own house 3 years later. They are now became an important part of the community.
Behind every face, there is a story. This would be what I want to say after I spent this evening with Shu Shu and Tuyen. With the smiling faces, they have been through so many things and it is not easy for them to become what they are right now.
Shu Shu’s story reminds me of people I am working with back in Thailand. There are many people who face persecutions in their home countries and enter Thailand illegally to seek asylum. As Thailand is not a signatory to 1951 Refugee Convention, these people stay in the country as urban refugees without any legal documents and could be arrested by the Thai authority anytime. Most of them know what it would be like in Thailand without any legal status but their lives are at risk and their human rights are severely violated. They can no longer live there and decide to leave.
Nobody wants to leave home, if home is safe. I was once told by a family that they escaped to Thailand during New Year Eve. It was supposed to be a day we spend time with our friends and families to celebrate New Year, but not to this family. There are many people out there who are facing violation like them and seek protection from international community. With love and care, I believe that we can make a better world for everyone.
Thank you Shu Shu and Tuyen for being my inspiration tonight and thank you Viet Nguyen for photos. :
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller -”