I learned the cha-cha in the strangest place.

It was the end of the 1980’s and I was working in Hong Kong.

Each muggy morning, I walked out of my high rise apartment building with two American co-workers.

We traveled by double-decker bus to Argyle Street Refugee Camp. The cement expanse was surrounded by barbed wire and looked like a concentration camp, inside and out.

I’d give my number at the guarded door and say “thank you” in Chinese.

Argyle Street Refugee Camp was managed by the Hong Kong Government, and Mr. Singh was in charge.

The Vietnamese refugees lived in barracks.  Their spaces were like what groceries are stacked on at the supermarket: wooden boards on a metal frame two or three stories high.

Most of them were hopeful; waiting to be resettled by a European or North American country.

We taught them English there, and occasionally field-tripped together around Hong Kong.  We ice skated, visited landmarks, scaled Victoria Peak and shopped.

I had brought along my new cassette tape “Stand By Me” and I taught them to sing the song as part of the English lessons. We sang it line by line and I explained what each part meant.  They never forgot it; years later Anh sent me letters ending with “Stand By Me.”

I learned part of their Vietnamese National anthem and a few of their folk songs –I can still sing parts of them.

They loved to dance.  Somebody organized dances in the one-room schoolhouse that doubled as a chapel. They were thrilled to teach a stumbling American beginner — like me– how to dance.

Sitting here in the Midwest thirty some years later, I can’t believe that the adventurous relief worker who danced the cha-cha with Vietnamese friends was really me.

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We held a drawing contest for the children in the refugee camp.  Most of them drew boats. This picture is one of the entries.
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During my year-long adventure in Hong Kong, my dad (pictured) and my mom came over to visit me. Here I am with my dad in my 80’s garb.  I think we were in the Hong Kong subway.

© Lisa M. Luciano 😊

Word prompt of the day:  dancing

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/dancing/

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3 thoughts on “{ Dancing with Refugees }

  1. I liked this post; I was just thinking of your experience in Hong Kong recently when Jory and I watched PBS’s 10-part documentary on the Vietnam war. It was hard to watch, and yet really informative and interesting. They mentioned people leaving in droves on boats, and I wondered if those were the same people in the camps in Hong Kong in the 80s. Didn’t you say at the time that they’d been there for years and years?

    Sara Matson Freelance children’s writer http://saramatson.com/

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our camp was a transit camp. Most of our refugees were there for just a few weeks or months. There was another camp (on a remote island) where some refugees were housed for longer periods of time. Our camp was a relatively happy, hopeful place, because people were getting ready to go to their new homes.

      Like

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