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Lisa Fetter

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Her parents settled in MN after fleeing Vietnam and previously living in refugee camps. By the time she was born, her family was able to travel back to Vietnam. Most of her family lives and grew up in the U.S. She says that even though she is American by nationality, she longs to be in Vietnam again.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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Lisa Fetter Digital Story. June 2014
“Our Adventure”

My parents met and married in Saigon. The warfare was nearing their town, so they were forced to flee towards safety. They were voyaging to the United States, finally settling in Minnesota in 1975. I constantly put myself in my mother’s position. What would have it been like to get married at twenty, move away from home, everything you knew, to a completely new country, learn a new language, and having your first child? Even though I don’t know the whole story, I continue to navigate two cultures myself. I am the youngest of three, all born and raised in Minnesota. Growing up, I struggled with fitting in when it came to my parents being immigrants. I knew I was an odd duck but I couldn’t grasp why I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at a friend’s house, why my parents didn’t volunteer at school, nor why my parents refused to help me with my homework. Eventually, I used my “exotic culture” to my advantage in school. I seized every opportunity to talk about Vietnam.
In 2004, we took a family trip to Vietnam. I got to meet my mother’s family that she left behind. I created a memory book and I wrote to my best friend. When we were leaving the airport, my parents told me to go first. They wanted to see if my family would recognize us. They actually said “You look American. Maybe they won’t know it’s you.” “But don’t we send pictures?” Then I heard someone yell: “There’s Hạnh! She looks just like the pictures!” I turned to my mom. “See? I told you.”
We made a trip to Suối Tiên. It’s like a theme park. Are there rides? One rollercoaster. Joe and I wanted to go on it, but we didn’t have time. We were there for the fruit festival. There were really creative sculptures entirely made of fruit and rocks. We went to the beach, Vung Tau. Swimming in the ocean is fun until cousins throw and rub wet sand all over your body and shower you with gifts of seashells. During our break my cousins asked me “Phai chi la nguoi viet nam hay la nguoi my?” (“Are you Vietnamese or American?”) “Chi chua biet!” (“I don’t know yet!”) We established that I am mixed. I told my cousins I’ll come back to visit after I marry.
Ten years later, I am married. My husband also hopes to learn Vietnamese, and we’ll visit Vietnam together. Now, whenever I am asked, I am first generation Vietnamese American.