I arrived in Canada as a refugee 30 years ago and I still feel like I’m catching up on time lost

This very first human being piece was created by Mai Ly, an artist in Regina.

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The concept of time lost is common to numerous of us, in particular with the pandemic: it is the time when our lives get off training course. We imagine an suitable everyday living for ourselves and make plans. Having said that, destiny deals us new realities — irrespective of whether we like them or not — and we can only do our most effective to dwell by them with dignity, and hardly ever give up.

I have seasoned quite a few hardships. I grew up throughout the Vietnam War, witnessed the communist takeover, and lived for several yrs as a refugee and immigrant. Generally not recognizing what the long term would bring, I tried my very best and normally had hope for a much better tomorrow.

I am lastly the place I want to be, accomplishing the things I required to do. But I often search back again at my troubled previous, and I feel that I am racing, trying to make up for lost time.  

As a farewell to the town where I used my childhood, I painted ‘Que Sera’ to recall Saigon the way it was and still is, and to dream of what it might develop into. (Mai Ly)

Escalating up, I preferred art, drawing and enjoying the guitar. But my childhood was enveloped by war. I was only 16 when the last assault on the cash of South Vietnam commenced. The tumble of Saigon in 1975 marked the close of the Vietnam War, resulting in a total communist victory. 

I took essential night classes in accounting, which authorized me to make some money, but total lived a miserable everyday living below the communist governing administration guidelines, squandering my youthful vitality. I felt I achieved almost nothing. 

1000’s of Vietnamese who refused to stay below the communist method fled the nation in search of independence. I attempted to escape my homeland many occasions. Finally, I succeeded.  

I was one particular of several who bravely boarded small fishing boats hoping to achieve the refugee camps safely. We put in seven awful days at sea with not nearly plenty of foodstuff and drinking water. Quite a few were being robbed or abused. Some perished at sea. Eventually we arrived at an island in Indonesia. There, for a few yrs, I lived at the Galang refugee camp exactly where each and every working day was a obstacle. 

Those who survived the sea voyage and the refugee camps however faced the challenge of getting a country eager to acknowledge them. I was 1 of these blessed more than enough to settle down in Canada.

The photograph reveals a common compact fishing boat overloaded with escapees, this sort of as the a single on which I expended 7 times at sea. It was a perilous journey and a nightmare. (Mai Ly)

All immigrants deal with some kind of time dropped — that interval spent in limbo in between leaving their native land and resettling in yet another region. Their goals and desires are often set on maintain for many years as they target on accomplishing freedom and protection. 

The early many years in Canada had been difficult. By means of difficult work and perseverance, my existence slowly improved. 

Then I understood how minimal time I had left to reach my aims. It took about 15 a long time from finishing higher college in Saigon to complete my studies at Ryerson College in Toronto. I took on section-time positions although finding out. 

Just after acquiring my degree, I labored as an accountant and in my spare time practised my skills as a painter. I ultimately rediscovered my creative self. I identified painting as a medium to communicate my deepest thoughts and desires. I paint not only to express myself but also hope that my artwork is related and fulfilling. 

The painting ‘Introspection’ is my way to reflect on my whole existence. It exhibits the time of war in Vietnam, my later on time as a occupation lady, and my long run, developing previous and walking with a cane. (Mai Ly)

It’s not sensible to mourn more than missing time and how minor time is still left to satisfy one’s desires. Nonetheless, I normally surprise how a great deal a lot more I could have achieved if my daily life experienced been without adversities and interruptions. 

I believe it is greater to settle for that all experiences we have lived via have worth. Though I test hard to embrace the time I lived in limbo just seeking to survive, it is not straightforward, and sometimes I would like that fate experienced presented me a ordinary or even boring daily life. 

Time passed and below I am, hoping to keep in mind the girl who stepped into a flimsy little fishing boat. I am happy she was so brave, risking her life for me.  

Mai Ly’s exhibit “I have dreamt setting up for the unidentified” is on display screen at Neutral Ground in Regina until finally July 3, 2021. It really is visible in a window gallery from Scarth Road.


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