Glik shops for spices with the help of Jim Fie.
Southern hospitality
Mourning a lost home, refugees from Vietnam start over in North Carolina

published September 29, 2003
written by Krista Mahr / Durham, North Carolina
photographed by Lissa Gotwals

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----- Original Message -----

From: Pastor Laurie
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2003 12:10AM
Subject: Re: Glik Ksor wants to return to Vietnam

I had a lengthy talk with Glik Saturday night, then again with him and Lap and Dar tonight. I made three sheets of paper with each holding an option:

1. Glik stays here (job, ESL, family)

2. Glik goes home (maybe GOOD: farm, family, church, rice - but maybe BAD: jail, hurt him or family, forced labor, be killed - any of these could cause greater harm to his family, even if he "died in his homeland")

3. Glik brings family here (ESL, sponsors, rice, jobs, schools, doctors, family together, freedom, church).

Glik Ksor wants to return to Vietnam. A refugee, he left his wife, their three kids, and a coffee and rice farm outside the central highland town of Pleiku more than a year and a half ago for sanctuary in Durham, North Carolina.

In Durham, he doesn’t have to hide from police knocking at his farmhouse door. Or sneak out of the house at 4 a.m. to secretly practice Christianity. But at thirty-one, Glik is a young father 8,000 miles away from his family. He dreams about Vietnam every night. As the deadline to renew the lease on his apartment for another year approaches, he can't seem to imagine being here another year.

Glik’s small-frame disappears in an oversized white T-shirt from the Black Hawk Employment Agency. He has small, bony wrists and a peculiar homemade tattoo on his brown forearm that reads "KVT." He makes claims you can't argue with, like only women eat salt-and-vinegar chips. And he always makes sure his guests have water and a bowl of rice, served up with his contagious smile. When he tells our translator that all he thinks about is going home, his eyes glaze over.

For Pastor Laurie Coffman, one of the American sponsors that Raleigh’s Lutheran Family Services recruited last year to help resettle thirty-one political refugees from Vietnam, Glik’s options are clear but not easy. Re-entering Vietnam is dangerous and nobody--Glik or his sponsors--knows how that would work. Option 3 is a long-term effort; employment in the States is difficult for Glik because he still struggles with English, and family reunification paperwork has become even more arduous post-September 11. Which, for now, leaves Option 1: Glik stays here.

Durham has never been a hotbed of immigration. The most recent significant demographic shift in the region was the immigration of African Americans to the North after the Civil War. If it were not for the supportive population of Vietnam War veterans in North Carolina who fought alongside Glik’s ethnic minority, the Montagnards, against the North Vietnamese in the seventies, Glik would never have ended up here.

Durham is a small, slowly gentrifying town, part of the North Carolina triangle that thrives off a massive technology park and Duke University. As yellow pollen rains silently through the soft April air, the downtown tobacco mills of last century are being converted into modern-day lofts. Meanwhile, the city mellowly observes the rules of its sharp economic divides. Folks clip their azaleas by day and bolt their doors at night.

Durham is also home to the largest population of central highlanders living outside of Vietnam today. An original group of 200 ex-military revolutionaries arrived in 1986 followed by a group of approximately 400 in 1992, a small group of 40 in 2001, and the largest group of 900 in 2002.


Southern hospitality

A threatened culture

Settling in Durham

Fostering a revolution?

Dreaming Vietnam

No longer praying in secret

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