This flurry of words has been in the making for two decades. They poured as I read story after story of our government's ruthlessness.
I am a refugee.
I don't speak of it freely.The word has not sat well with me, except when I was a young girl in Vietnam.
In Vietnam, our family were 'nguoi vuot bien', literally, person exceeding boundary.
As a seven-year-old, this brought images of adventures to places afar.
Hearing whispers of ships, pirates, oceans, islands, America the land of plenty, and Australia full of cuddly and bouncy animals, I dreamt of going on a 'trip'. I sensed the fear and danger in those hushed adult conversations.
But as a tomboy, I imagined danger as made up of thrilling, scary (of the monster kind), eventful quests heroes take to discover foreign lands. I did hear the losing life and limb stories, but as child, I could not have truly comprehended death when I have not seen it.
Yes, some neighbours did not return. I only understood that they left to go somewhere, and that somewhere - 'nuoc ngoai' (foreign country) - was better, freer.
My chats with my grandma were all about the things I would eat and do over there. 'Snickers' were a rare chocolate treat from my uncles in Australia. I wanted to eat Snickers often.
Then I learnt what being a refugee meant.
In the Malaysian Detention Centre, we were all in the same boat, we were waiting to be 'processed'. 'Refugee' was a bureaucratic label that would determine our destiny, and that would give meaning to my parents' sacrifice.
Our destiny determined, in Australia the Lucky Country, I learnt that a refugee was grateful, 'disadvantaged NESB' (Non English Speaking Background), and 'Fresh Of the Boat'. Being a FOB was ego crushing for a young girl – I was daggy, with bad accented English, and sartorially backwards. (In the 1990s, St Vinnies carried second-hands, not trendy vintage).
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