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I tried to cry but I couldn’t do it – Join Project Alpha and write for charity

March 20, 2016
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I tried to cry but I couldn’t do it. It was 5 AM and the bus rolled slowly by the neighborhood – I wouldn’t see this place again for another 12 years. We passed by houses of friends I would leave behind. And I tried really hard to cry but I couldn’t do it. I suppose I was too young to realize what was really going on. We arrived at the airport and the rest was a blur.

That first day in America was especially hard, from what I can remember anyway. Imposing skyscrapers, roads that seem to defy gravity, and other cars zooming by scared me. I rolled up in a ball like a frightened kitty in the space between the seats, too scared to sit properly. That night, relatives poured in from all over the Bay Area to see us. It was too much for my little feeble brain to handle. Children ran around the house, screaming, laughing, having a good old time, and once in a while would glance my way, wondering who that unkempt, alien looking boy was. I tried to cry then but I couldn’t do it.

A month later, I started school – 4th grade a few weeks before summer. I couldn’t understand anything so I was placed in ESL class. One day, as we were lining up after recess to go back in, a rogue football hit me in the head. At that moment, everything around me disappeared and I was all alone. I sat down and started to cry. And I cried and cried. I suppose I finally realized where I was – how lonely I felt. And at that point, I said to myself, I will NEVER cry again. I will not let this language barrier be the wall before me. 

That summer I walked to the library every day and tried to read every Goosebumps on the shelves. Before the night fell, I would borrow 2-3 books and under the blanket’s cover, read them and obsessed over them until they were finished so that I could return them and borrow more the next morning.

It took a week at the start of 5th grade for the teachers to realize I no longer needed ESL class. Holding that certificate was the happiest moment in my young life. I haven’t looked back since.

As I reminisce, I wonder how many little boys and girls out there are realizing their place in life. And I wonder how many of them would have the opportunity to dedicate their summers to read every book at the library or if they have to work in the streets to help their family, as I’ve seen so many times during my travels. I wonder where I would be if it wasn’t for that summer.

I started Project Alpha with the hope of giving that young boy/girl somewhere out there the opportunity to change his/her life. Will you join me?

To learn more about this charitable book project, please visit Project Alpha.

Travel on my friends.

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38 Comments

  • Reply Svet Dimitrov
    Twitter:
    March 20, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    This is a touching yet very powerful story, Hung! You are definitely an inspiration!

    • Reply Hung Thai March 21, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Thanks Svet 🙂 – It’s so amazing to have great friends like you backing up a project like this. I’m truly thankful.

  • Reply marie
    Twitter:
    March 21, 2016 at 9:35 am

    I agree with Svet, you are an inspiration. It is so easy to take books for granted. I’m going to take a look at your charitable project.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 21, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks Marie. Please do take a look and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or if you’d like to join the team, that’s even better 🙂

  • Reply Kirsty Marrins
    Twitter:
    March 21, 2016 at 9:56 am

    What a lovely story and such a great thing you are doing too. Thanks for sharing!
    Kirsty Marrins recently posted this awesome article… Sydney’s Hidden GemsMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 21, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Thanks Kirsty. I hope it does make a difference in some young kids’ lives.

  • Reply Tonya
    Twitter:
    March 21, 2016 at 11:32 am

    What a wonderful way to overcome language barrier, by reading Goosebumps! Kudos to you for not letting a set back hold you back.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 21, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      Luckily I was still very young so it was easier for met to adapt, but I don’t think anyone should let that barrier hold her back.

  • Reply MariaAbroad
    Twitter:
    March 21, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    This is such a great cause and idea and I am proud to be part of it <3
    MariaAbroad recently posted this awesome article… Tonkotsu Ramen RecipeMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 21, 2016 at 5:34 pm

      And I’m fortunate to have you on the team, Maria! Thank you!

  • Reply Tarah Vongbouthdy
    Twitter:
    March 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    This is an incredible post!! Great cause- will check it out!
    Tarah Vongbouthdy recently posted this awesome article… How To Surf Like a LocalMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 21, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Awesome Tarah! Please do and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. It would be great to add you to the team 🙂

  • Reply Cascia Talbert
    Twitter:
    March 22, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Moving to another country and learning a new language as a young child must have been scary for you. But, I bet you were proud when you got your ESL certificate. Have a terrific Tuesday!
    Cascia Talbert recently posted this awesome article… 100 Best Running BlogsMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 22, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Thanks Cascia 🙂 I was fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing support group and people who believed and pushed me.

  • Reply Frank March 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Great and touching story Hung Thai!
    Frank

    • Reply Hung Thai March 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks Frank 🙂

  • Reply Natasha Amar March 23, 2016 at 1:37 am

    Good luck on this lovely project!

    • Reply Hung Thai March 23, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Thank you Natasha.

  • Reply Becky Padmore
    Twitter:
    March 23, 2016 at 2:25 am

    You have a kind heart and a unique outlook on life too, not a bad combo at all 😉
    Becky Padmore recently posted this awesome article… The best under-the-radar beaches in Europe for travel snobsMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 23, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Hehe thanks Becky. I’m looking forward to reading to your adapted story for this project! Thanks for being on the team!

  • Reply Eloise
    Twitter:
    March 23, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Very touching story. And a fantastic project. I can’t wait to see the results, I have subscribed to get notified when it’s ready! 🙂
    Eloise recently posted this awesome article… Our Special Moment with Wild Baby Sea Turtles in BundabergMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 23, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Thank you so much Eloise!

  • Reply Samantha
    Twitter:
    March 23, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Wow – this is so sweet and touching!! I never had to go through anything like this but I could only imagine moving to a new country at such a young age, trying to fit in and adapt; all the while trying to learn the language. I am so happy you posted this. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    • Reply Hung Thai March 23, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Thanks for reading Samantha! It was a scary time in my life but I’m certain it was WAY WORSE for my parents who had to deal with the same issues while trying to support us. They just want us to have the opportunity they never had.

  • Reply Milosz Zak March 24, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Who says civil society is dead in America? Thank you for sharing, I can personally relate. I did ESL for 2 years after coming to Canada with my parents, and it was imperative there was a healthy balance of reading, writing, and speaking – I quickly became top of the class.
    Milosz Zak recently posted this awesome article… Ibn Tulun MosqueMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 24, 2016 at 6:51 am

      That’s awesome Milosz! A balance teaching method and willingness to adapt and assimilate are key!

  • Reply Sally
    Twitter:
    March 24, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    What an inspirational story Hung. My son has had a couple of kids arrive to class without speaking English, I have always felt so sorry for them as it usually takes them a full year for them to talk to the other kids.

    I have been looking at your Project Alpha and just trying to come up with the right story for your book.
    Sally recently posted this awesome article… A Family Holiday to Bali – Not Going to PlanMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 24, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Hi Sally, it really is a tremendous pain in the beginning when you arrive in a new country, but that’s all part of the beautiful journey. 🙂

      And you are welcome to join our project at anytime, just send me a quick note. I also wrote a details page for Project Alpha that has come story guidance materials that might spur some ideas. Hope you will be able to join us 🙂

  • Reply Heather Cole March 25, 2016 at 7:21 am

    What a touching memory, and incredible presence of mind at such a young age to be so determined and take those steps to helping yourself. Inspiring stuff! And it clearly worked 🙂

    • Reply Hung Thai March 25, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Thanks Heather.

  • Reply Richard Collett
    Twitter:
    March 25, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Hey man, this post has just made me want to be more involved with your project!

    • Reply Hung Thai March 25, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      And you are welcome to join us at anytime 🙂 – just send me an email.

  • Reply Jem
    Twitter:
    March 26, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Hung,

    This is a noble cause and I want to get involved. Your story is such an inspiration.
    Jem recently posted this awesome article… He asked for direction and became my tour guideMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 26, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      Thank you Jem! I got your email and we’re thrilled to have you join us. THANK YOU and welcome to the Team!

  • Reply Elizabeth
    Twitter:
    March 27, 2016 at 5:43 am

    Well done for mastery English so quickly. I have been struck by how difficult is is for many women to immigrate when they don’t speak the language and often don’t work outside of the house. Often their kids learn the new language at schools, heir husbands speak enough to work and they are quickly left behind. Kudos for starting your project to make a difference.
    Elizabeth recently posted this awesome article… How to Cook Greek Lamb to Enjoy at EasterMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 27, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Thank you Elizabeth 🙂 You brought up an excellent point! I think the other part of it is whether you’re willing to assimilate. I know so many people who came over at the same time and age as me that stuck with Vietnamese-speaking people only. I totally understand why though – the familiarity and comfort, but it’s also detrimental to assimilation and development.

  • Reply Laura March 27, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Thank you for introducing Project Alpha to us.
    Laura recently posted this awesome article… How to Have the Adventure of A Lifetime in Pony Express Territory, NevadaMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 27, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Thanks Laura – perhaps you’d like to join us?

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