Pulau Bi dong, The Island of Refugees
The Malaysian government moved us to an island called Pulau Besar. My mom bought a hut for us. Anh Huy recalled that Hạnh and I took English classes in Pulau Besar while we were living there for a few weeks. We were excited to learn. We translated Vietnamese songs directly into broken English. It sounded good but in reality those words didn’t make any sense to anyone except for us.
After our arrival in Malaysia, my dad wrote to my grandparents in America in hope that they will receive it. He informed my grandparents that we have made it safely to Malaysia and waiting for paper work to be sponsored by them. The island was so remote with so many refugees that there was very little chance of receiving letters. We later learned that my grandparents wrote back but we never received their letters.
After our second week, we were on the move again to another island called Pulau Bi dong. The local government didn’t want the new refugees to be in direct communication with the locals. Pulau Bi dong was an isolated island 45 minute boat ride away from civilization. It was the perfect spot for the overflowed population of refugees to reside.
The newest five boats of refugees, an approximately 1000 people, were transferred to the new island. Our boat – VT74 had 254 refugees.
When we arrived at Pulau Bi dong, the island was deserted. It was totally covered with jungle. There was no one living there. Large tents were setup by the beach. Five to six families shared a tent. On our first week, we used large banana and coconut leaves as our bed sheet to cover the ground. My mom also brought along a few bamboo mats and blankets that she bought at Pulau Besar.
In a week, Anh Huy helped built our home and 2 beds out of bamboos and other trees from the jungle. My family of 8 slept on the large bed. Anh Huy and Chú Thưởng slept on the small bed. Four families lived under one roof with 4 wall partitions. Each family owns a section and each section is about 20×20 feet.