At this time I was living in the great house of uncle Hai. His large but simple house was a shelter for several families of refugees including those of my older uncles, Ha and Hung, and of my many paternal uncles and aunties who had fled from the distant North to come to this small Hoa Hao Village in the western part of South Viet Nam.
I was just a little kid then. I had no ideas about the differences between the accents of the Northerners and Southerners, as they looked alike. At first I had some trouble understanding what the Northerners were saying, but I caught up very quickly. The only thing that mesmerized me about this new contact was that it meant I could have so many new friends of my own age. They played all kinds of things with me and taught me new games.
We spent most of the time in the orchards, which offered us so many delights. We caught butterflies, gathered flowers, and picked all kinds of good fruits: Chinese apricots, guavas, and wild longans. We ran foot races and played other children’s games, or just threw stones into the pond or the river to make the fish jump high over the surface of the water, then clapped our hands and laughed cheerfully.