On her wedding day, my mother received two things: money from her brother for a train ticket home (in case anything bad happened), and an Omega watch from her husband. The watch went through the Vietnam War and lived to see my parents have seven children. In the summer of 1979, my parents decided to leave Viet Nam legally. Months before our departure, my mother began making preparations. She sewed rubies and diamonds into the hems of my shirt for safe keeping. The evening of our departure, we were many of hundreds of refugees leaving Vietnam. We were herded into a gazebo in small groups for a final inspection. As we gathered around the gazebo, there was a heap of paper money and coins, watches, and other belongings in the center of the gazebo. A commander announced to us to leave our possessions in the middle of the floor. Men and women brought out what little possessions they had left and added to the heap. I stood quietly as I wore the shirt with the jewels, a pearl necklace hidden under my shirt and my mother’s watch. The voyage from Vietnam to Hong Kong took seven days. Somewhere along the voyage, one of my family members, my grandmother, passed away and, thus, didn’t complete the journey. When we arrived in a refugee camp in Hong Kong, my parents cashed all the jewels in my hem to pay for my grandmother’s funeral. The only item my mother didn’t cash in was the watch. My mother handed it to me. I have kept it all these years as a reminder of my family’s triumphant past.
– Huong Hua