An Escape From Hell On The Last Boat Out Of Saigon On April 30th 1975
Episode 9 - Zoonie Nguyen
Read The Transcript Below While You Listen
Perfect for people with hearing issues or non-native speakers. This transcript is made by AI so is not 100% accurate.
[00:00:00] Niall Mackay: Thank you for joining us for another episode of a Vietnam podcast. I’m your host, Niall Mackay. And we have another fantastic guest today with an incredible story to share with you. She grew up on wind Tom street in Saigon and left on the last day possible April 30th, 1975 to escape and went through an Exodus from hell on the last book.
[00:00:24] With 4,000 people, her boat was sinking, but a miracle happened. And after many months in a refugee camp, she started a new chapter of a life in Canada. Then in 1995, she decided to come back to visit Saigon and on that trip, it completely transformed and tons her life around. She is now known as a speaker, coach and mentor for women entrepreneurs launching and growing their business.
[00:00:51] My guest today is Zuni Newin. Thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:00:57] Zoonie Nguyen: you so much, Neil, for inviting me today on your podcast. It’s an honor. I am so happy.
[00:01:03] Niall Mackay: You’re very, very welcome. It’s a crazy word. Whether we make these connections, I made a post on a podcast group and then suddenly I was connected with you and they said, you need to speak to Zuni and share her story.
[00:01:15] And then we connected by email. So I’ve been excited to get you on.
[00:01:20] Zoonie Nguyen: Thank you. Thank you know, this she’s an incredible connector, Neil. So I’m very grateful that she connected us.
[00:01:26] Niall Mackay: Let’s go all the way back to the beginning then Sue, tell me about how you ended up in Canada, because this is, uh, I didn’t tell you, but this is a common topic.
[00:01:38] That’s come up more and more lately on the podcast, not in the beginning, but now some of my guests have shared incredible stories about their parents and we had Tracy. And when Mangan, I don’t know, have you had the, um, the podcast called Vietnamese boat?
[00:01:52] Zoonie Nguyen: Yes. Well, after you told me about it, I went to take a look and oh my God.
[00:01:57] Some of the, I didn’t listen to all of them, but it was so emotional for me to listen to some of the stories. I mean, kudos to Tracy Lynn Mang. I mean, it’s amazing. I mean, the work that she’s doing to gather all these stories, so I’m not done yet. I have to listen to her episodes and you’re at
[00:02:16] Niall Mackay: this. I mean, it’s not as under much of an emotional connection for me, obviously not being Vietnamese, but yeah.
[00:02:23] I mean, huddle episodes are so, so emotional and it, it touched me because it is something that kind of unexpectedly came up. Like I, before I’d moved to Vietnam, like many people, I didn’t know the real history of Vietnam or the boat people history. I had read much about it. And so no being exposed to it.
[00:02:39] And then guest after guest came on, like lots of . And as you probably know, we’ve had a. Influx of young, uh, returning Vietnamese people coming back to explore their roots and their family’s roots and things like this. And so through all these conversations, I’ve learned so much. And then it got to the point where, uh, I listened to the Vietnamese boat, people podcasts, and I was like, oh my goodness.
[00:03:00] I’d love to have Tracy on. So that was, for me, it was a big honor to have her on. And, um, we’ll still, we still connect and talk. So that was great. So, um, when, when Lou there’s then introduced us to each other, and then you can have, give me a brief, a brief one news story. I was like, wow. So this really ties into, we have a lot of regular listeners who will be quite aware of the Vietnamese for people play and what happened, but your story sounds incredible.
[00:03:25] So you left on the last day possible, April 30th, 1975. So if you’re comfortable with that, do you want to tell, tell us more about.
[00:03:36] Zoonie Nguyen: So April 30th that morning. Um, just so give you a bit of context. So I was born in Saigon and grew up there for eight years because at the age of eight, uh, on April 30th, 1975, that morning, all I knew is that we can hear the bombs and it sounded so real Niall It was like almost in the back of my home. And, um, so my parents were yelling, was screaming everybody out, everybody out, we were going, we’re leaving. So I was in my pajamas, right. I was eight years old and my pajamas and my, I have five brothers, two sisters is eight of us. And, um, all we knew is that we had to get out and I, we, we didn’t know what was going on.
[00:04:23] So. My mom took the little ones in the car. There were my aunts, my tweet ends and two babies. I was in a scooter with my sister and my brother with my dad. So we all split up and this is this crazy, like I’m talking to you and I’m reliving it because it was so chaotic on the street and the bombs. And you can hear the gunshots.
[00:04:45] And all we knew is that my mom said we’re gonna meet at the port an inside gone. And she gave us like a specific point. I can’t remember the point, but she says, we’re all going to split. And we’re meeting there now where we live on Whitton town street. Uh, this is about maybe half an hour, 40 minutes from the port of Saigon.
[00:05:06] And do you know when my mom says that we gonna meet there? Okay. We got well going to meet there, but when we got there, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people trying to push the fence so that we can actually get on the other side, because there was one boat. And that was the last boat because the airport was bombed.
[00:05:27] I mean, there was no way at that point, April 30th knew the only way you can escape or leave is by that boat. Now, when we got there, of course we couldn’t find each other, but when not to push the fence and zillions of people, and we went to that point when my mom says to wait, and I think that’s miracle, number one, we found each other, we were 15, we were 15 scattered motorbike, bicycles, scooters, and cars.
[00:05:56] And we met, we found each other. So that was the first miracle for me. And when we got to that edge, the, the, you know, when my mom says to wait with the boat already left, we could see the. So between us in that boat, we couldn’t swim. And so my judo, I think at one point, my parents said, wait, here, she, my mom told all of us to wait there and they had to go find a way to get us to catch that boat.
[00:06:24] I know I was eight years old and I was just standing there and I was so afraid. And you don’t have sometimes feel free, but you can, you can speak the F nothing comes out of your mouth. And I was just standing there and I remember. Imagining. What if a bullet and what if somebody shoots me like, this is the kind of mind frame book mine.
[00:06:44] I was it, but I couldn’t say anything. All I knew was I had to be good and not cry and not complain. And just stand there and wait for mom and dad and, you know, with my brothers, sisters, but it was imagining what would it feel like if a bullet would go through me? Like it was horrible, but anyways, so my parents found, um, a man with a, um, a small boat and paid them everything they had, you know, with the Vietnamese down, which probably didn’t worth wasn’t worth much the next day, you know?
[00:07:13] But, um, so that meant took 15 of us to go catch up with that big boat and that big boat, the name is . And so when we caught up to that, And there were so many people already and the captain kept saying no more, no more, but people didn’t listen. They were trying to climb. You know, those, um, it’s like a rope.
[00:07:34] It’s like a ladder, but it’s the rope. And so we were trying to get onto that boat. And I still remember my mom, my mom, my mom is my hero. My mom is always the last one. She always makes sure that we’re there with safe. And then she would go. And I remember at one point her body was between the big boat and the last book, like on the ladder.
[00:07:55] And we were, we would screaming because we didn’t want her to fall into the water. So it’s just the kind of things that I remember knew on that day. I think sardines have more space in their cans than us on that boat. Because once we got onto the boat, we have to find a little corner and there was so many people.
[00:08:15] So you were just sitting there like. Do you know, and you can’t move, you just sit there. And then from there on, it was praying and hoping that the boat would start moving because it had mechanical problems. And we knew that we knew what we were getting into, but we took a chance. My parents took a chance.
[00:08:37] I was just eight scared.
[00:08:41] Niall Mackay: So I want to go back just a little bit. So in this scene, right, because for the, for the listeners here who maybe don’t know where was the poor, for my knowledge, it was in district four. Right. So can you explain a little bit for the people who live in modern Saigon, like me, what did Saigon look like then?
[00:09:01] Where was the poor? You know, because then people can start to visualize, compare it to, to modern slavery.
[00:09:09] Zoonie Nguyen: Um, you know, if I had a map right now, he would help. I can’t tell you exactly. Just, I believe it’s in district four, but we, we live in the city. So when went and tell them would be district one. Yeah. If that makes sense.
[00:09:24] So, yeah, so it, it, you know, it’s like 30, 45 minutes. Um, I would say my scooter, I was on a scooter, so I would take longer than the car and my brothers were on their bicycle. So we all took different routes. And, and do you know it, it was so chaotic kneeled on the street. People were screaming. People were trying to, you know, because the parallel is funny now while we were trying to get out of the country, well, the tanks, you know, So it, it was, you know, I think back and we were trying to escape and the tanks are coming in to celebrate the reunification.
[00:10:02] Um, but to answer your question. Yeah, we live in the city, in the district one and to get to the port, it it’s a good 30 minutes car ride and I was eat. So I slipped
[00:10:12] Niall Mackay: this. I know you, I’m asking you questions. I don’t remember what I did last week. Nevermind. What happened when I was eight years old? Well, so what was it like then for you growing up during the war?
[00:10:25] Like what cause do you know, what is this pandemic I’ve often compared this pandemic is my equivalent to living through a war rate because I’ve had a pretty easy life. My whole life. I’ve never had to live through any type of conflict or war in my situ in the countries that I’ve lived. So I’ve had it pretty easy and this pandemic is obviously challenging for everyone.
[00:10:46] So I kind of compare it to like, well, you know, there’s people that are older than me that have lived through a war and I just can’t. But so what I try and kind of find some comfort during this pandemic is to think about even during a war, which would be obviously absolutely horrible was life kind of normal most of the time.
[00:11:07] And then the war was just something that was going on in the background, or is it something that literally affects you day to day, minute by minute and.
[00:11:17] Zoonie Nguyen: Why do you know, we left on April 30th, nil in 1975, but many months before that it had started, like, we started to hear, um, I guess on TV and heard my parents talking.
[00:11:31] And even I remember at school, like maybe around February, March, 1975, I remembered this one day we were at school and I went to private school and, um, all of a sudden our teacher said, go hide under the table because we can hear the planes. We can hear the bomb being in the gunshots. It sounded fallen, but it’s at the same time, it sounded near enough.
[00:11:54] So I remember moments like that. Well, we had to go hide under the desk in our class. When we heard those planes, um, and a few weeks before April 30th, 1975, we will not allow to go out on the street because we can hear the loud speakers, uh, you know, with someone, I guess someone, the army or the government saying that under no circumstance, should you go out in the streets, state in your house?
[00:12:21] So it’s. I was only eight years old, but it was scary too, to know that we’re not allowed to go out. And you know how it is. You live in the family. I mean, I have seven brothers, sisters. My parents are always whispered talking. Even if they’re not explaining to us the situation, I can see it, the non-verbal right.
[00:12:39] I can see it in their face. I can feel that they are worried. And so later on, I found out that my mom actually tried to leave a month before in March, 1975. But when she asked around, people say, forget it, you have too big of a family. It’s going to be hard to get a plane or get a boat. So, but you know, people discourage her for lead from leaving.
[00:13:02] But on, on that morning, you put 30th. We heard an angel while we, as we called him, uh, sorry. I speak French. So announce guaranteed yet. Uh, a guardian angel. So this man called my dad. And he said, he’s a friend of a friend and he’s calling to let my dad know that if you guys do want to leave the country, this one boat only one.
[00:13:27] So go check it out. Like he, he’s not sure because he’s in the countryside, but he says, go check it out. And so my parents listened to that advice. And so they got all of us to leave, but they are not even sure of themselves, Neil, that we were going to be able to get on that boat or find a boat. And so that’s when my parents did not, they would not, we didn’t have any suitcase.
[00:13:46] I was in my pajamas and I, we laughed and we didn’t know, we just thought, okay, we’re going to go. And probably it’s not going to work out and we’re going to come back. So that was the frame of mind that we had. And, um, and when we got there, we just jumped on the opportunity. You know, my mom today has chills when she thinks about it, because the danger that she put her family in, you know, we could have, we could have lost each other.
[00:14:11] Because it happened to some families, you know, you scattered, you, you split and you don’t find each other in one, get on the boat. The other one stays behind. So there’s horrible stories like that. Yeah.
[00:14:23] Niall Mackay: I mean, I’m getting goosebumps right now from users telling me they saw, I mean, I can’t imagine, or your mum fuse and Tracy’s I’ve I’ve maybe have you listened to hubs?
[00:14:34] Husband was a similar story that her family escaped after 1975 button, three different trips. And somehow by a miracle deal, ended up making it safely to the U S so I know that was a common thing, but it’s, it makes me, I, as I was seeing too, that that is the pandemic similar to a war. I thought to myself, I knew you sound like an idiot.
[00:14:54] Of course it’s not. And as you described what you went through, and even this there’s one moment, it’s not even close really to what we are going through in terms of like that absolute, these crucial moments of a life or death. But then again, maybe I might be. An idiot again as well, because there are people during this pandemic that are going through life or death moments, maybe just cause I haven’t done it myself.
[00:15:18] I’ve seen it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. But my next question, I was going to ask you about that situation from what you described to me there, about you being on the ball and lake sardines. And this was something that came up in the news a lot when you saw what happened in the fall of the enough Afghanistan and the Taliban coming back.
[00:15:38] And we saw all the refugees on the planes and stuff. Did that bring back a lot of memories?
[00:15:45] Zoonie Nguyen: Definitely. Definitely like even a few years ago, uh, you know, with the Syrian, do you remember? Yeah. Um, I was, um, I was on the news a lot being interviewed about how I felt, um, you know, seeing all these people stuck on a boat and no one’s helping them.
[00:16:04] Um, so to, to give you a bit of, um, more information, because you need to understand that, that boat part, and you will understand how, when every time I see refugees, boat people, the war, it brings everything back. I am sitting here today. I I’ve been in Quebec, Montreal since 1975, June I’m 55 years old. And every time people ask me to tell the story, I feel like I just lived it yesterday.
[00:16:32] It that’s how much it stayed in my, in my memory. So let me bring you back, Neil, just for a second on that boat. Okay. So we got on that. And so for three days, yes. Three days, two nights under the sun, no water, no food. Like I said, we all got on that boat and we didn’t know if we were, we, all we knew is we just wanted to go away, go toward um, what they call it, international water to be safe.
[00:17:02] But of course the boat had mechanical problems and we were way too many people. The capacity of that cargo of that boat was about 500 and we were 4,000. So I’ll let you imagine what, what it’s like now, um, on that boat, there was a man next to me who, I don’t know if he’s a spy or what he was, but he shot himself in the head.
[00:17:26] I had his brains on me now. Okay. So I, you know, we kept fainting. We kept because we had no food, we had no water. Uh, and so he shot himself and I had blood on me and I passed out, I fainted And I remember when I woke up, I had no, I had nothing on me. And I told my mom, I said, there’s, there’s a man. He, he heard him, uh, a general and my mom kept saying, no, it was a nightmare.
[00:17:53] It’s okay, go back to speed. Your fight. What she did is she wiped everything clean when I passed out so that it would not affect me. This is what my mother did. So the boat was sinking under second night. And I remember, you know, hearing the prayers. It was, you know, I think back and it was quite beautiful.
[00:18:18] It was scary, but it was beautiful being with these thousands of people on the boat, praying because we all thought we were dying. Some peoples jumped, they suicided, but you know, water started coming in and then that morning on the third morning, a boat came to rescue us a Danish boat called Clara mask.
[00:18:38] Um, and you see this boat and you think you’re dreaming because you haven’t eaten anything you haven’t drank for three days, or you think, okay, maybe this is I’m hallucinating, but this big boat came and rescued us. And I remember everybody panicked on our boat and I remember seeing kids being stepped on and because everybody wanted to get on that big.
[00:18:58] And once again, my mother, I don’t know how she maintained her, how she states so calm. And today I know how this woman is packed with resilience and courage. That’s why she’s my hero. So she told us she paired us up two by two, and she says, okay, go, go in that big boat. And we’re going to meet up there. I don’t know.
[00:19:20] I don’t know about the thing about splitting up and meeting up, but it seems to work. So she paired us up because she knew that if we stayed as a cluster, we’re all gonna, you know, probably being stepped over or so she told us to go two by two and we meet up on that boat. So that Danish boat actually picked up the SLS signal.
[00:19:38] I don’t know how, but I found an interview with the captain on YouTube. I can send it to you if she want. He was quite emotional because when they found our boat and they see these thousands of people probably looking really. Because we didn’t eat. And we were so thirsty and we were so tired, so they rescued us and they took us to the closest island and that was Hong Kong.
[00:20:00] Now we made it to Hong Kong and, uh, the Chinese said, you’re not coming in. They said, go, go away, go back where you came from. And this is the part where I can relate to other, you know, the Syrian people, boat people. And so the queen Elizabeth was visiting. Don’t ask me, but she was there on May 2nd, 1975.
[00:20:26] She was visiting Hong Kong and she told the Chinese, authority You cannot do this. It’s not humane. You have to let them in. So I remember being on that big boat for it’s it’s feels like it was a whole day to wait for the Chinese authority to open up a refugee camp of some sort so that we can step off the boat, but we were happy and I’ve never seen so many blonde people with blue eyes and green eyes, the Danish boat with a left.
[00:20:54] It was, and we had cookies. We had milk to meat. It felt like Christmas. And we knew that we were safe now, but we just wanted to be on land. You know, we didn’t want to be on the boat anymore. And so my next couple of months was in the refugee camp. One prison camp. If you asked me why we were not allowed to go out, we had to line up.
[00:21:14] And every day we have brown rice, brown rice for morning lunch and supper And, uh, you know, until today I cannot eat brown rice. It’s I know it’s healthier, but I can not touch. brown rice Because I eat a a lot of that. So we were in that camp for a couple of months, and I remember UNHCR coming in and helping us to see if we can apply to go to another country.
[00:21:40] And Australia and us actually said yes, but my parents, they wanted to wait for Canada. I guess they were networking at the camp and they heard that Canada was a good country and we can speak French there. They understood French a little bit. And so they were waiting for Canada to accept us. And so, yeah, June 17th, I arrived in Canada in Montreal, and that was my new chapter of my new home, my new life.
[00:22:09] Niall Mackay: Amazing, incredible. Yeah. That’s uh, as well as really touched me, obviously I’m just down at and all here hearing this. Um, it’s amazingly, your parents had the foresight to be choosing at that point. Be picky. No, no, no. We don’t want to go. You’re still here now. Mary can Joanna now. Well, we’ll wait for Canada.
[00:22:29] We’re gonna wait. We’re gonna wait.
[00:22:33] Zoonie Nguyen: I know, right? My mom has chills today. She says she doesn’t know what she went clinky. What if Canada didn’t take us, then we’d be stuck in that refugee camp. And I’ll tell you, Neil, I went back to live in Hong Kong to help the refugees later on in my life. And I met people who actually gave birth to their kids and met their spouse in the camp.
[00:22:53] So that could have been my parents that could have been us. I could have been stuck in that camp in 1997 with a husband that I found in the camp and kids born in the camp. So yeah, it’s, it’s not a laughing matter. My mom took incredible chances and uh, thank God. I mean, thank God.
[00:23:12] Niall Mackay: Uh, maybe I’ll reach out to Sarah.
[00:23:13] And when from an when coffee supply, who who’s been on the podcast before, and she shared host her parents’ story. And if my memory serves me correctly, which my memory is not very good, but if my memory serves me correctly, her parents met in a refugee camp. They were in a refugee camp for several years.
[00:23:31] Um, oh, no. Sorry. What it was, they were actually in the same refugee camp in Hong Kong for several years, but didn’t meet until they got to America and then found out that they’d actually been in the same refugee camp.
[00:23:47] Zoonie Nguyen: Wow. That’s cool.
[00:23:50] Niall Mackay: But yeah, so I think that’s a common thing. Cause if you’re there for a long time, obviously you’re going to, you’re going to build relationships with people.
[00:23:56] And so what was it like then when you got to Canada? So you were in the refugee camp for two months, did you see.
[00:24:03] Zoonie Nguyen: Almost two months. Yeah. Seven weeks. I think I’ve smoked it. I know that I arrived on May 2nd and we left on June 17. So yeah, I guess they do the,
[00:24:15] Niall Mackay: have many memories from being in the refugee camp or was it just boring?
[00:24:18] Was it just the same thing they asked the day? Like what, what happened?
[00:24:23] Zoonie Nguyen: You’re not the thing nail about being eight years old. And I feel so lucky that I was eight because I have two older brothers and two older sisters, and I think it affected them a lot more than me and I have two younger brothers. So when you’re eight years old, even on that boat, when we laugh during the chaos, for me, it was like, I’m going to school today.
[00:24:46] I’m going on a boat, which is an adventure in itself. And so I think there’s something magical by that age. And so for me, um, you know, I. In the refugee camp. I didn’t like the brown rice, but I was running around and met kids and we managed to judo, put our hands because the fans were, you know, my hands were small enough that I was able to put the hands out and then people would give candies, you know, like strangers passing by, because we’re not allowed to go over the camp.
[00:25:18] And I think people donated clothes and toys because I remember once a week we got to go to that hut. And then there was lots of clothes and toys that we can pick. So, you know, I looked at it from the lens of an eight year old child. I was safe. I had mommy and daddy and I had my brothers, sisters, my aunts.
[00:25:37] So it, you know, I felt safe. But today, today that I’m a mother and I have kids. I can’t imagine what my parents must be. So worried because granted. We’re not on a boat and our life is not in danger, but what about the future? Both of my parents were very, they were professionals in Vietnam. They were, my dad had a business and my mom was a director of a health center.
[00:26:01] So they had a good life, really good life. And so for them to all of a sudden being in this camp and not knowing what is the next step what’s going to happen to puppet. I can’t even imagine what was going to their, their, you know, their minds. They must be freaking out if it can see that. And so, yeah, I, uh, but life for me was, you know, I’m a kid running around and do you know, um, um, I meet other kids, but I remember the day that we were, uh, going to the airport because my parents explained that, okay, we’re going to Canada.
[00:26:35] And I’m like, what is Canada? Who cares? I’m getting on a plane again. I’m eight years old license and adventure. I’m going to discover. And I’m a curious child. I’m very curious by nature. So for me, it was like, okay, more fun coming up. Um, so I remember coming to Montreal and it was June 17. Again, seeing all these Caucasian people in the camp were all Vietnamese and, you know, we have to share like a tiny space.
[00:27:03] I think we have one bed for 10 people. It was just that’s that was life in the camp. But now we coming to Montreal and I think we were, uh, our status was refugees and the government gave us a hotel room for two weeks. Oh my God. We were running around. People gave us cookies and candies and it was just, to me, it was fun.
[00:27:25] It was fun. But like I said, I was eight. Then now I’m putting myself in my mom’s shoes and I’m thinking this poor woman, oh my God, eight kids and a husband. And she doesn’t know what are we going to do next with our life? And, um, yeah, I was
[00:27:44] Niall Mackay: what age then? And so I assume then you’ve spoken to your mother about this trip or have you, have you ever actually spoke to her about it?
[00:27:51] And what year did that happen?
[00:27:57] Zoonie Nguyen: You know. Okay. So growing up here, we don’t talk about this nail and this is very normal. You know, many Vietnamese people with queue. If you will, once they make it out, you don’t talk about it, but I’m just going to talk about my family. It’s a subject we don’t talk about. So I don’t know if you, you must know Vietnam by now, the culture, you know, Vietnamese parents are very tiger parents.
[00:28:19] I think tiger mom. I think that’s, uh, uh, something we call a Vietnamese mom just wants her kids to, you know, succeed good future, good school, high grades, and the whole shebang. So, you know, over here we don’t talk about it. So my parents, uh, we grew up very poor. Okay. So they had to look for a job because they left all the papers and degrees.
[00:28:40] And so they have nothing to prove that they were professionals. And on top of that, you have the culture, you have the language and you have the weather. So, because I don’t know, you remember Montreal be cooled in the winter. So my parents, while we were staying in that hotel for two weeks, they had to quickly talk to go get help because all we had was the clothes on our back.
[00:29:02] They didn’t have a job that they had nothing, no money, no house, nothing. And my dad, my parents are very Catholic. They’re not Buddhist. They’re very Catholic. So my dad started to go to church and talk to the priest and people in the community. And so that’s how they were able to find a small apartment. I just want to put you in a context, we went a tiny apartment, um, in a neighborhood that’s not very, very, you know, favorite for, we were 10 people in a five and a half, and that means three kids in one room, four kids in another room, five and a half means you have five different rooms and half is the bathroom.
[00:29:40] So there’s a kitchen living room and, you know, two bedrooms in our house. So we were very tight, not as tight as the boat, but we were tight. And so we grew up very poor. I remember eating peanut butter for breakfast, for lunch and for supper. On a piece of newspaper, not a table, not chairs. So brown rice and peanut butter, two things I don’t eat.
[00:30:02] Okay. I grew up eating peanut butter three meals a day, but do you know what we had? We had my parents loving us. They come home. They, they each had two jobs working in manufacturers, working any odd jobs. They couldn’t work like the professionals that they were in Vietnam. They, you know, did the kind of jobs just to put food on the table for the.
[00:30:25] And Neil, we all went to university to McGill. We’re all professionals. And so our university diplomas are my parents pride into what they are so proud of us. But, um, but you know, to answer your questions, when we come here, we didn’t speak French when speak English. We understood French a little bit because we all went to private school in Saigon.
[00:30:47] So we understood French a little bit. So yes, I was beat up at school because I couldn’t speak the French that the kids in Quebec speaks. I don’t know if you remember when you came to Montreal the French year, it’s, it’s a bit of a slang. It’s different from the French in France. And so we had to learn really fast.
[00:31:04] I had to learn to adapt really fast. And so I used to come home. I didn’t want to be beat up in a school yard anymore. So I used to hold a mirror and, and speak the French that they was speaking. Like God Linda been bag. No, the toy. This is how they speak French. And I needed to make friends in the school yard and I love languages.
[00:31:27] So it wasn’t hard for me. So yes, I became quite popular in my stool because I was able to speak like them play like them and mingle in. And that’s my, my victory, by the way, today I can English, French, Quebec. Vietnamese. I, yeah, I masterpiece.
[00:31:46] Niall Mackay: Well, that’s a good thing. And you can still speak Vietnamese, then you didn’t lose that.
[00:31:49] Is that the language that was spoken at home then?
[00:31:53] Zoonie Nguyen: That’s a miracle. That’s a miracle actually, because my mom doesn’t understand today that I can speak. I can read, I can write, uh, granted my level is probably not my parents’ level of probably high school level, but I was featured on television in Vietnam three times.
[00:32:08] VTC 10. Yes. Uh, three years ago at, at my mom couldn’t believe that I was speaking Vietnamese on TV. I mean, Vietnam people in Hanoi, my cousins and niece, they saw me on TV and they’re like, oh my God. She speaks to me to me. So, I don’t know why Neil, I think my attachment to my roots is very strong. And in my siblings, in my family, I’m the one who went back to Vietnam in 1995.
[00:32:34] I’m the first one to make peace with my past. Um, this is what I shared with you in 1995. When I decided to go back, it scared my family, my parents begged me not to go and visit. Please don’t go because they were scared. They don’t know what happened to Vietnam and what’s going to happen if I go. But I went, I’m very stubborn.
[00:32:56] And I went through quite an emotional rollercoaster.
[00:33:00] Niall Mackay: Well, it’s, uh, it’s something that has come up. And again, this is what’s fascinating. Meanwhile, I love this podcast. I’ve, I’ve personally learned so much and I hope my listeners have as well, um, that the people who left in 1975, our own that. W many of them will have never returned to Vietnam and won’t because for them, why would they want to return to something that was so traumatic?
[00:33:26] Um, and from what I know from that, the next generation of Vietnamese people who have, who I have interviewed. So off the top of my head, I remember like NEMA whose, uh, Swiss was well, Vietnamese parents and born in Switzerland. Um, when she told her family like, why I want to go back to Vietnam, you know, at first they completely horrified at the prospect because for them, and I know other people I’ve spoken to it’s the same, their parents would just never, ever written here because for them, it obviously it’s such a traumatic time.
[00:33:55] So then when their children are, they’re like, well, Hey, I want to go back and explore my roots. But then when she explained once her parents and she could prove to her parents that, you know, it’s a safe place, it’s not like it was back then is completely different. Um, the real thriving culture, obviously inside.
[00:34:11] That then they could see why she did that. And I think, and again, my memory is so bad and we’ve had such so many amazing guests on, but if I think if I remember correctly, her parents eventually came to visit her and she was able to show that. But, so that was going to be my next question. So then tell me about that transformative trip in 1995.
[00:34:30] Zoonie Nguyen: So in 1995, Neil, I was, um, I was a project manager, an engineer because that’s my background. I’m an electrical engineer that I studied at McGill university. And I graduated with a bachelor in engineering. So in 1995, I was working at the Canadian broadcasting corporation. Now by then I had traveled the world.
[00:34:52] I, you know, that it came with the job I traveled, I designed TV and radio studios, but I also traveled in the world for fun. That’s one of the things that I, one of my bathrooms to travel and know people and eat the food and experience the planet. But in 1995, I was thinking, why don’t I go to Vietnam? I’ve been to Europe that you last I traveled.
[00:35:13] I want to go to Vietnam. And just that idea, completely upset and freaked out my parents because they said you are not going. And I kept saying, I’m going. So I bought my ticket and I went with my. My husband at the time we were dating, he was my boyfriend. But you know, and he’s from Montreal. He’s thought his Irish, Chinese never traveled in Asia.
[00:35:36] So I sold him the idea that let’s go to Vietnam. Now my parents said, don’t go. And I said, I want to go, it’s fine. I will be careful. And so this part will make you laugh new. I said, okay, mom and dad, I’m going to go. And I’ll make sure that I’ll go visit your family in the north. And that made them happy because they, right.
[00:35:57] So I sold them on that. And the second thing I sold them on, I said, I will dress like the locals. I will go very under the radar. And I asked my tenant to make me these brown pants. And it’s so ugly. Right. But obviously good. I’m going to blend. It’s stupid because you look at my face when I’m then Neal, they can tell that I’m a VQ or at least actually they thought I was half, half Noonan.
[00:36:23] Think I was Vietnamese. And this is a funny part. I’ll tell you in a minute. So I convinced my parents that I’m not going to dress like Kia. I’m going to be really low key a blended. Uh, I won’t give my passport. I’ll hide it. I’m going to make up some excuse. If people ask my, you know, like I list everything to make them feel like it’s okay.
[00:36:43] And I promise I would not call them because that’s expensive, but I will try to communicate with them in whatever shape and form I could as much as possible. So we got there. I believe it was, um, December legit, January, 2000, no, 1995. We arrived January, 1990. I arrived at the airport in Dubai nearby is the airport of Hanoi.
[00:37:07] And it wasn’t the airport as it is today. Right. It was like a hut. And I remember getting there and my friends who traveled before me Canadian friends said, don’t hide money because you might have to give some money. I’m like, what? Anyways, I put $20 us in my sleeve. And I went to the counter, gave me my, gave the passport to the person.
[00:37:28] He wouldn’t give it back to me. And I kept looking at him and he said, do you speak Vietnamese? And I lied. I said, no. And then I’ll give, is this the point where I give my $20, my $20? But then I kept thinking, no, I’m in my country, man. I’m in . And so I stood there and eventually I got my passport back. And then how was it though?
[00:37:52] We come out of the airport and we got kidnapped. Um, this is my I’m gonna listen to this. My dad had written letters. Look, I want to bring you to 1995. There’s no social media, no email, no nothing. Okay. So my dad had written a letter to his nephews in a village in the north of Hanoi and he didn’t tell me, so we come out of the airport with our suitcase and we had these guys grabbing us, taking our suitcase, pushing us in this car and the car had no bottom.
[00:38:24] So we had to lift our legs. Otherwise you would touch the, the street. Okay. So my husband was freaking, but my husband, my boyfriend today, my husband, Brian, Ryan, was freaking out because he’s like, oh, where are these people? So then I quit this . I said, who are you? And that’s when the driver says, oh, I’m your cousin.
[00:38:43] Your dad said. I swear to use it. I looked in the movie, I landed what is happening. So then they took this to the village and the whole time we had to hold our legs, because that’s not quite what I ended up calling it. There was like one of these Russian cars, old cars, and there was no highway. So among the road hunk so much because I don’t know.
[00:39:12] You see pigs, you see cows. Crazy. It was, we were holding each other hands. So hope your conation. And my husband kept Brian kept telling me, are we going to make it they’re alive enough at this point? Just pray. Just hope. So we make it there. And easy buddy came to Greta’s all the little villages next to my dad’s village.
[00:39:37] They came and they were touching my, my, my Brian. They were touching my boyfriend because they’ve never seen a tall guy. He looks Caucasian to them, even if he has Chinese in his blood, he looks white. And so they were asking me 5 million questions I had to go to everybody’s house in the villages and have tea, and they had no bathrooms.
[00:39:56] So that was a huge challenge. Yes. I know you can laugh because you were not in my shoes, so, but it was emotional Niall So this is, this is 1995. Okay. My first, my first time back living that kind of experience, but I was crying at the same time because they were telling us about what happened after 1975 and how poor they are.
[00:40:21] And I can clearly see how poor they are and I can see kids following me. The kids were wonderful. I took pictures of them and the, the, the, were just following us and touching us and hello, hello. How are you? How are you? Like, you know, that’s all they knew how to say. And it was so emotional for us. So, yeah, so it’s a lot of tea drinking, eating, and then giving them some money and then saying goodbye.
[00:40:45] So they sent one boy with us to be, to protect us for the rest of the trip. And he had a signal. I think you had a sick or something. So we travel from Hanoi all the way to Saigon. And that was. We were supposed to be there for five weeks Niall and we only stayed for three weeks and I’ll tell you why it was so emotional for me to see families after 20 years and them telling me all these horror stories.
[00:41:09] I couldn’t take it after three weeks. So I cut. I cut my trip short after three weeks. And I told Brian, I said, take me somewhere where I don’t speak the language, what I cannot understand. So we went to Bangkok, we went to Thailand. So we, we was supposed to be in Vietnam for five and we stayed for three.
[00:41:25] And on my pictures, you see either I cry or I eat. So either Zuni is eating as soon as crying. So I had these swollen eyes. Oh, I was eating because the food is so nutty good. Everything comes back to me, right? The smell, walking on the street and smelling, you know, the sandwiches and the hands and the snacks.
[00:41:44] And I just, all I did was crying and eating honestly.
[00:41:51] Niall Mackay: Wow. Yeah. What I mean, I feel like if you were to do your story about going out to the village and now your husband’s skin being touched and being fed tea, like this is not changed. Like for many people who still, you still hear the same kind of stories that happened.
[00:42:09] So it’s funny that all the way back then, it’s interesting. You talk about how poor it is being back in 1995, because recently I called somebody on Facebook who was claiming that there were no obese children in Vietnam in 1995, because there was no McDonald’s. And so I just quickly. And then, and then to confirm and I’m, I responded to him and I was like, I think it’s because in 1995, 50% of the population were living below the poverty line is why there was no obese children.
[00:42:40] Not because there was no McDonald’s like, let’s not like conflate these two issues like Vietnam at extreme poverty. So that must have been really difficult to see him. Was that unexpected then.
[00:42:55] Zoonie Nguyen: Well for me, but you know, I have friends, Canadian friends who traveled because they were teaching in Japan. So they showed me pictures of Vietnam, but obviously they showed me pictures of the beach.
[00:43:05] And so 1995, when I went, I did not know I was going to be kidnapped by the point in my dad’s village. And so it was a shock to me. It was a shock to go there and see how poor they are. You know, the, the, I mean, they had holes big and my dad sends money. My parents send money, whatever they can, half of it probably reach them half, not, I don’t know where the other half goes, but let’s not go there.
[00:43:29] But the kids were, you know, it’s cold, it’s cold in January in the north as, as you know, and. You know, scarf and they had many layers, they ran around barefoot. And so I see things like that and it really shocked me, especially because I come from Montreal and I grew up here and, you know, it’s, it’s tuna, man.
[00:43:48] I mean, you know, you’re, you’re no matter where you go, you can still get help. And so I, I never seen that. So 1995, when I go there, I came back and that’s why I was crying so much. And I, and I think that was the beginning of me wanting to do something to help feed numb. So send that, that seed was planted in my head because before 1995 nil, I was this project manager.
[00:44:14] I had the best career, you know, five weeks vacation working for big corporate and corner of office traveling. You know, I, I had a really good life and in my mind I was going to be vice president of engineering. Like I was, you know, I had a good career, but seeing what I saw in 1995, It kind of, you know, really puts the perspective back in your life and your ambition.
[00:44:40] So when I came back from that trip, I was thinking, oh my God, you know, when you stand in a supermarket here, you have like millions of cereal boxes and cookies, not millions, but so many. And in Vietnam, I mean, they, they, they, you know, I see people like looking to garbage or it’s it’s day and night. And that trip really brought me back down to like, you know, grounded me.
[00:45:05] So when I came back, I think my ambition was not the same. I didn’t care about, you know, that going up the corporate ladder and becoming a VP engineering. I was thinking, what is it that I can do? What is it that I can do in my life? So this is 1995 and in 1997, I resigned, I resigned. They didn’t understand.
[00:45:27] I was promoted all the time. I was one of the vest and I quit my job because I wanted to move back to Vietnam. So I convinced my husband because by then Brian and I were married and I said, Brian, can you see if your work can give you a contract in Vietnam? Because he works for Erickson, the company in telecommunications.
[00:45:48] So we asked and they said, no, we don’t need you in Vietnam. However, are you interested in Hong Kong? And my husband being half Chinese quarter Scottish Irish, he says, okay, yeah, let’s try Hong Kong. So he asked me, do you want to move to Hong Kong? And I said, okay, close enough to Vietnam. Let’s go. So, you know what.
[00:46:07] We sold everything. I quit my job. My families and friends was so sad, but I said, I need to do this. I need to listen to that voice inside of me and go back to Vietnam and see what is it that I can do. So we moved to Hong Kong and I, we were expats for three, three years, almost two years. My son was born Connor.
[00:46:27] Connor is my, my son. And he is made in Hong Kong. He was conceived and born in Hong Kong. And, uh, while we were in Hong Kong, I had. I accepted to go there and I accepted to, you know, be there and my husband was working so two weeks into living in Hong Kong, I’m going to make you laugh, Neil. Again, we were living in a hotel because you know, the company was shipping out stuff by boats, right.
[00:46:52] So we were living in a hotel, waiting for our stuff to arrive and, uh, finding a place. And so I was, you know, just walking around Hong Kong with a t-shirt jeans, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t look like I looked like a tourist. I think. So I looked into this really nice furniture store in, uh, I think it w in repulse, no one child, one near one child, and I wanted to buy this beautiful coffee table and the owner tapped on my shoulder and asked me to.
[00:47:20] And I can stick any Chinese, but I’m like, what, what, no, I Knight this table and she said something, but I understood like, no, no, you are AMA. But she thought I was Filipino nanny. She says, you cannot afford this goal. Go like she posted meat out of the store, but I didn’t understand what I want this. And that was my first experience.
[00:47:42] So all of a sudden, you know how you move to a new country, I’m sure you went to that with your wife. You know, that honeymoon period when you’re like, oh wow, I’m here. There’s so much to discover with that killed. Then after that day, I’m like, Did I make the right decision, but it’s okay. I went to another store.
[00:48:01] I got another table.
[00:48:03] Niall Mackay: Oh, you should have done like a pretty woman moment. You know what back in with your husband and put your credit card down and be like, no, I want that table. And like we did,
[00:48:14] Zoonie Nguyen: I did, I didn’t buy from abroad, but later on, I went back with a friend and we were going out that day to link Weifang and we will, well-dressed do reason all dolled up.
[00:48:24] And I walked in there and I said, do you remember me? I did that thing with one, the stand that I wanted to buy from you, but you didn’t sell it to me. I live in repulse bay with all the rich people and I’d back next door. I bet Telstra. And she were faced just with.
[00:48:41] Niall Mackay: Amazing. That’s awesome. So then, so from Hong Kong, then you’ve moved back to Vietnam eventually, or you commuted between
[00:48:49] Zoonie Nguyen: the jail?
[00:48:49] No, but I did something even better. So, so I, one day I was waiting for the subway in Hong Kong and I saw this magazine next to me. Um, we was still living in a hotel. Uh, you know, this is the third week. So I was looking at the magazine it’s for expats, it’s an English. And then I went to the end where they have these job ads and then this, they, I saw something that looking for project coordinator in refugee camps.
[00:49:17] I nailed. I was so like, I thought it was so Twilight zone. I closed it and I left it there. And then, then the subway arrived. So I was about to step into subway, but I ran back and I grabbed the magazine and I, I went back to the hotel and I called that number and I kept hanging up. I call, I hang up, I call it, I hang up.
[00:49:38] The lady on the other side must think I’m crazy because I think after 24 times, she says, did you call and hang up? Sorry, I’m nervous. And so I explained to her she’s, uh, she’s British. And she’s the director for this organization called treats. And I said, I saw your ad. And I was a kid in that refugee camp.
[00:50:00] And that’s why I’m so nervous to talk to you. So anyways, we had a conversation slash interview and she says, we want to hire you. And I says, I will do. But only with the condition that you’re not paying me. I want to do it as a volunteer, just pay for my transportation and whatever I need. And so I did that for a year now.
[00:50:19] I worked in refugee camps and I recruited volunteers from Australia, France, Canada, America. I recruited volunteers to help me go into these refugee camps where I used to be like, I went into the same refugee camp and I just stood there and I was 30 years old. Right. 1997, I was 30 and I just stood there and I’m like, oh my God, it’s still poor.
[00:50:42] And these people are still there and I could have been one of them. So this is where I think I had a bit of closure and I decided to pour all my efforts as a project manager, into helping them, taking the kids out. So I did all kinds of activities. And, and that was the year that I, yeah, 1997 to 98. And we witnessed the handover, you know, it’s the second.
[00:51:09] Niall Mackay: Chris pat and Ray, that was a
[00:51:10] Zoonie Nguyen: governor. Is that right? Yes. Yes, but that’s amazing for me, you know, doing that kind of work, brought peace back into my life and I got to meet, make so many friends. So while my husband was working, you know, really hard because he was like, uh, in marketing or, you know, with Erickson, Hong Kong, I was doing, you know, the other thing, taking the kids out, giving them food, helping them, creating educational programs with the volunteers, for them taking mothers to hospital to visit their, their kids.
[00:51:40] It’s things like that, that I did, which is completely opposite from the kind of career I had in Montreal. But that. That really fulfilled, like something that was missing in here. And it allows me to, you know, have closure with my past. And so I didn’t move to Vietnam. I did visit Vietnam during my stay in Hong Kong, but just doing that kind of work for the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong, it was enough.
[00:52:03] It was enough for me, you know, and you know, once I had my son, we decided to move back because our families are here and I wanted him to have Canadian roots. So yeah,
[00:52:17] Niall Mackay: or an incredible story. Thank you so, so much for sharing that is a much, you know what I mean? I’m excited to see when they make the movie of your life.
[00:52:26] Put it that way. It’s so intense.
[00:52:29] Zoonie Nguyen: Thank you so much. No, but you know, Poland, that everything I’m telling you, it’s that little seed that I planted in my own head until I decided one day that, okay, I’ve been working with women entrepreneurs in Montreal, Canada. Why don’t I go and share a bit of that in Vietnam?
[00:52:47] Because I kept thinking all this time, you know, I’m 55. So three years ago, I thought to myself, I wonder, what would it be like if I stayed in Vietnam, would I have become an entrepreneur speaker, coach, a mentor? And so that curiosity pulls me. And so I have the ideal one day. Why don’t I go and make a documentary movie in Vietnam?
[00:53:09] Again, this. Completely shocked everybody in my community because they said, why did numb? You’re doing well here. So many women you’re helping, but I told them, I said, I want to connect Vietnam and Canada, the two countries that really made me who I am today. So I want to go and shine the light on Vietnamese women and, and Neil, when I went, I had nobody to interview.
[00:53:35] This is why I call it the movie, how she there’s, you know, I call it how she dares, because I was thinking about the women who are daring with the courage and did not. But then at the end of the day, I’m the one who kind of Derrick to go to jump and trust that the net will appears once I jump. And that’s the kind of personality that I have, and that’s why I’m fit to be an entrepreneur, because back then trusting that only if you jump, you know, something will happen, you have to take the risk.
[00:54:04] So I took the risk to go to Vietnam. I did a quick, so, um, how do you call crowdfunding campaign? Uh, you know, I’d got a few thousand dollars so that I can go. So we, once we women. Kameelah a famous YouTuber from France and my daughter, Maggie, who never set foot anywhere, but this new land who doesn’t speak Vietnamese.
[00:54:25] And so the three of us decided to go and interview seven women. So when we made it to Saigon that night, I went on social media and I looked Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, everywhere. And I started to look for women that I considered were brave enough to switch career, to start this social enterprise, to do something for Vietnam.
[00:54:46] And along the way I found the Southern women. You know, when I went, I had nobody. So I have to say social media is just amazing to help you connect, you know, with people. And you know, I hope one day maybe you’ll invite some of those women onto your podcast. Definitely connect. One is from Batman, Helen YouTuber, who she’s a famous YouTuber for food in Vietnam.
[00:55:11] Niall Mackay: Yeah, no, it’s all about connections. I think, um, I don’t know if this is well-known maybe I just say that because I live here and I see it, but from everything you’ve described from the first moment you’ve started speaking to describing your mom and yourself and your life. Vietnamese women are so strong.
[00:55:30] It is incredible. And I worked at a company here and it kind of blew me away nearly I think nine of the 10 senior managers, including the CEO were all female, which I don’t think would happen in many other countries. And I don’t know what other companies are like, cause I’ve only really worked for one big company here, but at this company it was run by women.
[00:55:56] And I thought about this just recently, actually. Right? So it’s, this may make you laugh. I thought about all the Vietnamese people that I’ve interviewed on this podcast. Whether they’re via QV and the Misa was C’s or the Vietnamese born and bred. And I was like new, you’ve interviewed so many women. And so now it’s on my radar.
[00:56:17] I’m trying to find Vietnamese men to interview and network. I’m not seeing that there’s not Vietnamese men doing like amazing things. I’m sure they are. But when I open my eyes and when I cast the net or when I’m looking for guests, it’s it always seems to be a Vietnamese woman. Who’s just doing incredible things.
[00:56:37] Whether it’s Tracy, when may have Vietnamese for people or Sarah, and when, where the wind coffee supply or yourself with your documentary and your movie, and then go back through it, through all these guests, I’ve had levy or who’s now a kind of international DJ ni ma who’s come here and now has a YouTube channel.
[00:56:53] And you think. Again, I always think everything’s from your own perspective, right? So maybe I’m just narrowed. I only have a narrow perspective on that and I’m sure Vietnamese men are incredible as well. So I never want to be seen to be putting anyone down, but I think even from this conversation just reaffirms everything.
[00:57:10] Your mom did, Vietnamese women are bad ass and they do incredible things.
[00:57:17] Zoonie Nguyen: I even mean, I’m surprised when I go back, you know, I, when we were there, I remember we were in, um, and, uh, so we took this, one of these, I don’t know this long boat and you know how the Navy is just like, you know, rolling. We were like five or six sitting in there with no gears and she is like slim and she’s rolling.
[00:57:44] And I kept turning back. I, and not try to do it. Forget it. I would break my shoulder. I don’t know when you talk about strength. I know what you mean, but yeah. Same here. And I’m a Vietnamese woman and every time I go back to Vietnam and I’ve been many, many times, I’m always amazed at how strong they are mentally, emotionally.
[00:58:07] I think it’s the small country. Vietnam had been so pursued by so many other countries, you know, the Japanese, the Chinese, the French, I don’t know, but when I was wet and I think what it did to the people, if you ask me, make them strong and resilient, always ready to build again, build up again. And the women, I think it’s always about, you know, selling something.
[00:58:32] Starting something. And when I interviewed them, I asked how come all women learned English to do business. And they said, oh, the men they’re so lazy. They just, I don’t want to say that all men are like that. I’m telling you what the women thought.
[00:58:48] Niall Mackay: Probably a, a lot of truth to that. And absolutely. And I was going to say, um, even, so I, obviously, I can’t mention I’m a comedian and I put on comedy shows.
[00:58:59] I work a lot with people in the food and beverage industry here, people that are on restaurants. And even as we’re talking, I’m thinking about it. Nearly every restaurant manager that I deal with I work with is a feat to me is woman. There’s very few Vietnamese men that I come across with. Anyway. So again, this is only from my perspective, so I don’t know if it’s true or not, but they’re all these young, strong Vietnamese women and what makes me laugh as well.
[00:59:21] And you probably have noticed this as well. Um, many of the establishments heal that are run by always a male ex. Who often then have their Vietnamese partner. Who’s the one that really runs the business though. And, you know, kids, when I talk to them and a lot, I knew a lot of them and they’ll be like, oh no, I mean, yeah, it’s my wife is the one that’s incredible.
[00:59:45] My wife is the one that, that gets things done, you know? So, um, yeah, it’s uh, definitely.
[00:59:54] Zoonie Nguyen: I hear you. One, my niece, one of my nieces is in Hanoi and Tara and her husband, three kids. They are running well, the pandemic hit them a little bit, but before the pandemic, they were quite successful. They were selling things online, uh, equipment.
[01:00:09] And she was the marketing sales person. So the phone rings it’s Hirsch, but bow is the one who fixes things. And so I, I think that’s a typical couple. So she would mean the front communicating, she’s learning English online. She does all the social media, the ads. Then he would do all the technical stuff in the back.
[01:00:30] Niall Mackay: I like that. You’re giving the knee with some credit now. That’s good. Now, have you. Thank you so so much. I was so excited for this interview when, um, I learned a bit about your background and you’re more compelling and captivating than I could have imagined. So thank you so, so much for sharing this story with me and with our listeners, you’ve given, as I said, the Vietnamese boat people and the refugee crisis from 1975 and after is something that has come up really often.
[01:00:58] And to hear your in-depth story of what actually, what you actually went through is, is incredible. And it gave me shivers for most of the time you were talking. Cause I just can’t imagine that you went through that, but it’s really beautiful that you have this mate. You are at that lucky age of being eight years old.
[01:01:15] So it was just a big playground, obviously. I’m sure it would have been much more difficult for your periods and your, and your family. And so I hope that they are safe and well and happy with the life that they’ve managed to, um, to get to. So that’s really, really encouraging. So before we go to ask the final, I’m going to ask you the final questions that I ask everyone at the end of every episode.
[01:01:35] Tell, uh, anyone listening, how can they follow you? Find you support you. What’s next to the documentary. Tell people all about.
[01:01:45] Zoonie Nguyen: Okay, well again, thank you, Neil. Everybody forget. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity. It’s always nice for me to, you know, to be able to share my voice and my story like this, but the purpose behind my documentary project, which is really a personal passion project.
[01:02:04] And so it’s taking, you know, I thought it was the one I’d get it out there because I’m holding onto it because I keep adding and adding more things to it. And what I realized is that there’s also space for me in this movie to add my story. And that’s why it’s taking so long. I want to bring in the identity that you lose along the way when you move to another country, you know, doesn’t matter if you’re both people or your third country kid, but if you move to something outside of your comfort zone, then you know, the movie is just.
[01:02:41] Find back your voice and use that voice. So the purpose of how she tears my documentary project is really to inspire women around the world and men that we need
[01:02:52] Niall Mackay: to inspire saying, we need to inspire more men.
[01:02:58] Zoonie Nguyen: Yes, no, because you know, you never, sister you’ll have a wife when you have a mother like anybody, you know?
[01:03:05] So for me, I want to encourage women to find their voice and use their voice because you know, when your baby, the first thing that gave you well, power is let out that voice. And I found my voice and I used it to be a speaker to train, to teach, to mentor, to coach, but I am using that voice to help others find their voice.
[01:03:27] And so this movie, how she there’s, it’s really about that inspired you to dare, to be brave, to be courageous, to find your path. And embrace it. And that’s what it’s about. And I started with Vietnam because it’s so part of me, that’s why, but I’m making more, more documentaries, but I wanted to start with my country with my beloved Vietnam.
[01:03:51] When is it
[01:03:52] Niall Mackay: coming out?
[01:03:54] Zoonie Nguyen: Next year, because I’m still in the, post-production adding more stuff to it, but next year I intend to travel I’m vaccinated. And, uh, I have faith that I will be able to travel again next year, because I’m invited in Vietnam, uh, Hanoi university. The Dean asked me to come and lecture and share my journeys.
[01:04:15] And so I would love to show this movie in the women museum in Hanoi. I want to travel in Vietnam and to share this movie with women entrepreneurs and anybody did not, well, that’s the goal, how she dares. I create these look page. Um, yes. So do you know, just Google zoning when and how she bears and, um, um, Online on
[01:04:38] Niall Mackay: why?
[01:04:39] Well, for anyone who’s watching, you’re listening. Just remember, I’ll put the link in the show notes and the description. So we’ll make sure you go check that out, follow her on Facebook. And we will look out for when you can come back to Vietnam, because we are hearing that international travel mirrors, zoom next year, which is very, very exciting.
[01:04:56] So if you can make it here, um, I’ll be here waiting and we can definitely catch up. So I’ll ask you and the questions I ask everyone, the end of each episode, first one, if you were in Vietnam right now, and you could jump on the back of a bake, where would you go?
[01:05:11] Zoonie Nguyen: I would go to namaha, which is the village near.
[01:05:14] Non-being where my dad is from. I would go there. I find peace there. I find families and the kids are running after me when I’m on the bike. And it’s it’s, it feels like home. So I would get on a bicycle, not a motorbike. I don’t know how to use this, but, um, I love bicycles and I would be cycling around the village.
[01:05:37] Niall Mackay: Awesome. I love that. That’s a great answer. Now we have, we keep obviously COVID and quarantine and all of this locked down chat to a minimum, but we’ve all gone through the most difficult times of our lives and we’ve all experienced lock downs at some point. What was the most challenging thing about walk down for you?
[01:05:57] Zoonie Nguyen: I’m in a site not being able to hug my parents and my husband’s parents. I think that’s what I find the hardest than COVID to not be able to be with family. Hug them in your arms. And, but now we’re all vaccinated, so it’s better. But aside from that family and personal side, I really, really miss traveling and meeting people and we could have a coffee right now, face to face Neil, but I’m happy to see you on my screen.
[01:06:26] It wasn’t even better to see you in three dimensions and to travel. And, you know, I used to travel and give keynotes and speeches and, and I love zoom, but it’s not the same. So I find that tough
[01:06:40] Niall Mackay: or what has been the best thing about lockdown?
[01:06:44] Zoonie Nguyen: Well, funny enough, thanks to zoo. Thanks to all the platforms that are now is to connect.
[01:06:51] The best thing I would say is that it gave me more time. It gave me more time because I don’t have to travel. I can travel online and just hop on zoom or, you know, meet or Google or Skype. And then, you know, it takes a few seconds and that’s where I am. So I think it’s, uh, you know, my mindset is different now and made because it’s been almost two years, we don’t have the choice.
[01:07:15] So, you know, the best thing is that it gave me more time and more time also to be with my families because before that, where if you were, were not at home, um, and yeah, and meet people like you and all this, and I’m so, so grateful, very quick.
[01:07:31] Niall Mackay: Well, you’ve got to find the positives in there. The how there have been positives throughout this and the connection with people from around the world has been a really big one SIM SIM for me as well.
[01:07:40] And I spoke to somebody recently who said to me that they’ve actually spoken to their parents more during lockdown than any other point in their life. So there’s, you know, things like that, which is nice. Um, no next question. What in Vietnam shocks you the most?
[01:07:57] Zoonie Nguyen: Is this going to sound corny, but do you know the amount of bikes?
[01:08:03] It still shocks me. It still shocks me. And, and you know, I was there in 2019 before the pandemic and sitting in the backup of gravel. My cousin’s motorbike every time I’m amazed at the amount of bikes of like next to me. Like, I, I still feel like I’m in a tree. It’s just feels so real to me. So that still shocks me for some reason.
[01:08:26] Niall Mackay: I mean, I’ve been here five years in a state of shock to me as well. So I mean, I’d be shocked me, most of them, cause we were in lockdown for so long and now I’ve gotten back on the bacon. We can travel and I just, you forget how crazy it is. When I see like a bait coming towards me, driving down the wrong side, or the bait just takes a U-turn in the middle of the highway and decides that they want to go the other direction.
[01:08:45] It’s like, oh my goodness. I’m so shocked by that every day. Now, what, what pleasantly surprises you about Vietnam?
[01:08:57] Zoonie Nguyen: This, I, there could be so many answers to that. I swear, but what surprises me because, you know, 1995, when I went back, I didn’t feel like I belong. I really didn’t feel like I belong. In fact, people thought I was either Chinese half, half with Juno. Now I’m back there and I feel like I belong VQ or not. I feel like I’m part of the communities.
[01:09:20] And I see that I speak to or work with or collaborate with. And that surprises me because if I think back about 1995, I kept thinking, oh my God Rulli ever accept me back because I did not choose to leave. I was a kid, but now I’m here and I want to do things I want to help you rebuild. I want to do amazing things with all the communities there, but now I’m pleasantly surprised when I’m there.
[01:09:46] I’m just one of the Minnesota.
[01:09:49] Niall Mackay: Beautiful. What a beautiful way to finish a beautiful episode. Zuni, thank you so much again for joining us on 7 million bait Vietnam podcast. It’s been unbelievable to share your story,
[01:10:01] Zoonie Nguyen: but it gets so much near you. I’m making my week. Imagine I’m starting Monday with Neil on 7 million life.
[01:10:09] How would it be smiling for the rest of the week? And I want to share, I want to talk about this on, on my, you know, in my communities whenever you’re ready and whenever I’m allowed
[01:10:19] Niall Mackay: to please do, please do it. Very proud of that. This little podcast is that it’s been an amazing platform to share these stories.
[01:10:27] Zoonie Nguyen: nailed. It’s amazing what you’re doing. I really applaud, and I have so much respect for what you are doing at especial. Nate. Just want to ask this before we wrap up, because you know, some of the Vietnamese, we made it out, um, you know, like myself, but I find that like, even in Montreal, um, some of the Vietnamese people, they are questioning why I’m doing this.
[01:10:50] Why am I making a movie? Why am I going back to Vietnam? Because for them, it’s like, you know, they laughed and they don’t want to have anything to do with, and, and, and having somebody like you to shine the light on, on us, sharing our journeys, our stories, and talking about, you know, what we’re doing now to maybe help out and give back.
[01:11:09] I think it’s, it’s just, there’s no word. It’s just amazing. So thank you for this.
[01:11:16] Niall Mackay: You’re very welcome. You put a big smile on my face as well, so thank you so, so much. So it’s the start of your day in Canada. You have Monday morning. I have Monday night. Thank you so much again, and I will be definitely speaking to you in the future and hopefully seeing you next year.
[01:11:34] Zoonie Nguyen: Thank you, Neil. Have an amazing
[01:11:35] Niall Mackay: week you to thank you, sir.