Saturday, 17 November 2012

MR CHINGH’S STORY



Thursday, posted Friday 
Almost imperceptibly we move through the water; our boat seemed at anchor and it was the rocky outcrops and islands that were drifting by, iceberg-like. A warm breeze skimmed across the water. We were now passing sites that were familiar, like the oil exploration rig, rising up like a small city, with its four towers and cranes and helipads.



We chugged on to our RVP with the bigger boat that would take us home.
Sun warming us, Sian dozes peacefully and Mr Chingh comes and sits next to me. He watches me start to draw again.



Conversation; How old am I? Family? Where from? You first time in Vietnam? The familiar interrogatory is played out.
Mr Chingh is originally from Haiphong, “like Liverpool” he tells me, He lives now in Cat Ba, we both have daughters, smiles are shared. Mr Chingh is forty-two and in 1978, aged eight I guess, he left on a small boat for Hong Kong. A journey of some four hundred and sixty nautical miles, equivalent of crossing the English Channel five times.
He is a small wiry man, with strength and agility. He was one of the refugees or boat people. This was a journey on which he nearly died and he rested up for a week on an island (he indicated the place on the map I carried in my book, ripped out of an inflight magazine four days prior).
Mr Chingh was interned in Hong Kong however he learnt English there. Returning to Vietnam in 1992 when the country was beginning to normalise (the US lifted its trade embargo in 1995). He must have married so after and started his family. His Uncle is in Boston and visits often.
“You call me if you come to Vietnam again” says Mr Chingh
As we board the bigger boat he shouts across from his “You bring family next time you come”