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Xuan Mai


WCCDA Narrative Series | Fourteen

DEC 2022

Story Trigger Warning: mentions suicide

Image by Tran Phu

Image by Unsplash

My name is Nguyen Thi Xuan Mai. I came to the United States from Vietnam about five years ago with my husband and two children. When we first arrived, we lived next to my sister's house in Burien. After about a year, we found an apartment and moved to White Center. Since then, we have been living here. Not long after moving to White Center, I met Tam from the White Center CDA while picking up my children from school.  

Image by Kelly Sikkema

Over the years, Tam has helped my family with so many things, especially during the pandemic. My husband currently works in a factory. Because of my poor health and English skills, and having to take care of my kids, I am currently not able to work. In my spare time, I learn English on YouTube and cut loose threads from clothing to make a little bit of money here and there. The pandemic has been hard on us financially.

Image by Unsplash

However, with Tam's support, we were able to get connected to many resources like food, PPE, and rent assistance. Rent assistance was a huge financial relief for us! All things considered, I think we are doing pretty well. In comparison to my life growing up, life now feels settled and calm. There's really not much I can complain about. My childhood was extremely difficult.  

My parents passed away when I was about one. My mom committed suicide and my dad died in an accident month later. My three siblings and I moved to my maternal grandparent's home. Though we had a place to live, we had to learn to take care of each other. During that time, my oldest sister was 15 and my oldest brother was 13. They had to take turns going to school so that they can take care of me. When I got older, I worked while going to school.  

When I was 21, my sister left for the U.S. She was reunited with her husband who came as a refugee by boat after the Vietnam war. Once she was able to, my sister completed the paperwork to bring us over. The whole process took about 17 years because I got married and had children! But ultimately, we decided to come because we wanted our kids to have a better education and life in the U.S.  

Even though I was very happy to finally be in the U.S., I was very sad and depressed during my first year here. I didn't know many people and on top of that, I was always sick.  

I think it's because the weather is different here, and my body was taking time to adjust to the new environment. Now, I'm more used to the cold weather. Since moving to White Center, I have been able to connect to the community here more. Even though I'm not able to speak English well yet, I still like to meet and get to know people around me. My neighbors are Mexicans, African Americans, and people from all over. I really enjoy getting to know people from other cultures and learning from them. We share our foods and learn each other's languages. Since I'm not able to drive yet, I'm really glad to have a Vietnamese grocery store near me where I can walk to. I go to Hung Long so often that I know everyone there!  

White Center Diag Low.jpg

To me, the White Center community is warm, safe, welcoming, and supportive. We enjoy living here, and we are trying our best to raise our kids in this new culture and environment.  

Once my children are older, I hope to find a job that's not physically demanding so that we can be more financially stable. We are grateful to live in such a beautiful place surrounded by mountains, beaches, and parks. In the future, I hope to have the opportunity to travel and see more beautiful see more places in the US. 

End of Narrative

Image by Atomic Aerials

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