Category Archives: Lamvi’ Stories

Rats

Rats were like house pets for us on Pulau Bidong. Except we did not pet them.

Rats were in the sewage. Rats were in the house. Rats were in the rice bags. Rats were inside a noodle pack. Rats were on the roof tops. Rats were on the mountain. Rats were in the public restrooms. Rats were everywhere. At night, rats would run over your body.

rat11

Rats did not like to come out during the day and they thought that it was safe for them to sneak out at night. Usually, we ignored rats during the day time. When we saw rat or rats, we just walked past them or left them alone. However, we hunted rats at night.

Usually after 11:30 PM, which was the curfew on the island, rats followed their leader to come out from underground tunnels. Have you seen a group of ants? We saw rats just like that. There were big ones, small ones, and some were just giant.

Rats were a beneficial source of food for us, too. We could exchange 2 rats for a pack of noodles or 10 rats for a small bottle of milk. The sanitary office did a very good job to keep the rat population down by giving out prizes. The best way to capture more rats was by smoking them out of underground tunnels or by shooting them at night.

(I remember Cu Chi tunnels. The Americans did try to smoke Vietcong out during the day but I don’t think they tried to search them at night.)

Rat Military 101:

Just like the Cu Chi tunnels, rat tunnels had so many doors. Some doors were hidden under bushes or rocks. Just before we smoked out the rats, we would cover all the entrances, leaving just two or three openings, which led to a trap in the form of a large and long bag. There were times that an inexperienced rat hunter tried to smoke the rats and failed to cover all the openings. All hell broke loose. Rats came out from everywhere.

How did we know rats would be inside a tunnel? Well, either we studied their food prints, their poops, or we covered the openings a day before with a small rock or leaves. The rats always left a track for us and they loved to leave poop around their territory.

We had this special hand-made gun that had a 2 foot long arrow made of a steel fence. At night, without flash light, we searched and shot rats corner after corner. The arrow had a string that tightened to the gun and in most cases the rats could not escape. Unfortunately, the string would break sometimes and the rats would run away with the whole contraption. The only way to catch these rats was to wait for them to die somewhere and someone would smell the dead rat.

One time, there was a rat underneath a wood board, which I was washing dishes. It was about 7 PM and I felt a rat’s presence underneath me (Don’t ask me how I could feel the rats). I knelt down and saw the rat, ran into the house, cocked the gun and pointed the gun underneath the board without bothering to knee down again to locate the rat. I shot the rat right on the forehead.

That was my last killed rat. I held up the arrow, looked at the poor guy and I felt sorry for him. Since, I had retired.

If I always had a flash light, I would bring more milk home. These rats loved flash light and I could have all the time in the world to aim and shoot. Without the flash light, I had only 2 seconds to shoot into the belly.

One tip about shooting the rats: never look into their eyes. You look at their big fat belly and aim at the smallest point on the belly. You aim small, you miss small.

(You have passed Pulau Bidong trained Rat Military 101 course.)

Noodles for every meal

UNHCRThe United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided us with proper diet and did outstanding job in keeping us healthy.

I don’t recall exactly how often we were given food but every other day or 2 times per week, we were given either chicken, fish and along with some kinds of vegetable. Your portion was so little that if you tried to feed yourself, you would run out of food by the second day. So, what we did was that if you arrived the island by yourself or had one or 2 relatives, you joined other families to cook together. We became one big family. Of course, there was refrigerator to keep the food fresh. We cooked by burning wood from the mountain and used water from the well. The fresh drinking was was saved for drinking.

In comparison with other kids, I was a lucky kid that I had family on the island. Mom cooked for everyone and at least 3 more single guys in our long house (apartment). Our family was extended.

We also had a lot of instant noodles, Mi Goi. Generously, everyone had 7 packs of instant noodles for each week. Most of the women did not like noodles or they ate so little that we could see noodles piled up everywhere.  I loved Mi Goi. Sometimes, I had 3 packs of instant noodles and one or two before bedtime. I loved ‘em.

We had noodles for breakfast, noodles for lunch, noodles for dinner, and we had noodles as snack.  Eventually, noodles would become our candy. Noodles were everywhere and the rats loved noodles.

Have you tried to fry noodles with sugar, Mi Ngao Duong? I was the expert with this type of snack. With a cup of hot tea and Mi Ngao Duong before bed time, we had a good night sleep.

One more thing, certain types of noodle packages were like foil from the inside and the outside had colorful images. We used them to make Christmas trees and they were so beautiful.

It has been more than 15 years since I left Bidong in 1992, but I still love the instant noodles because I ate them for nearly 3 straight years and almost every day. Sometimes, I make Mi Ngao Duong and I enjoy it myself. I’ll treat you one day.

Những Kỷ Niệm Bidong

“Đã có nhiều lần thức dậy trong đêm khuya, những ngày mưa lớn nhỏ, hoặc là những ngày nắng chói chang, tôi muốn gào thét lên: Pulau Bidong. Tôi muốn kêu tên Pulau Bidong thật to và mãi mãi. Tôi muốn kêu tên những người bạn cũ: Hân ơi, Trang ơi, Nhật ơi, Huy ơi, các bạn đâu rồi? Tôi muốn cầm lại cái xô nước Supply, cái chén, cái muỗng, uống một gụm suối mát. Và tôi muốn quay lại với những hình bóng xưa, những âm thanh năm nào, cảnh vật xưa: hàng dừa, mái tôn, hạt cát. Tôi mong đợi ngày đó sẽ đặt chân lên cầu Jetty, ôm Bidong vào lòng, và sẽ nói “Bidong, anh đã về đây.”

Tuy tôi không phải là người cuối cùng rời khỏi Bidong nhưng trong lòng lúc nào cũng hướng về hòn đảo dấu yêu này qua những năm tháng lớn lên ở Mỹ. Vâng, không khác gì các bạn, trong lòng tôi có rất nhiều kỷ niệm khó mà quên được suốt thời gian “vacation” ở Bidong. Những kỷ niệm đó cứ lẩn quẩn đâu đây mặc dầu tôi đã xa Bidong vào một buổi sáng ngày nào. Có nhiều khi nhắm mắt, tôi cứ tưởng là mình vẫn còn ở Bidong. Gió thổi những lá dừa xào xạc.

Bidong, tuy xa nhưng anh vẫn nhớ
Tội nghiệp em đêm khóc một mình
Không bến không tàu như ngày xưa đó
Chỉ có gió mưa, nắng cháy da người.
(Lâmvi 2003, USA)
BeachC1990s

Vì để tiếp tục hành trình về “miền đất Freedom”, chúng ta đã tạm giã từ Bidong qua những ngày đầu sống xa quê hương, những ngày lênh đênh trên biển cả. Có người chỉ sống 1 hoặc 2 tháng với Bidong, nhưng cũng có người đã từng sống hơn 5 năm trên hòn đảo này. Nhưng chỉ cần một ngày ở với Bidong, chúng ta đã có biết bao ký ức với hòn đảo và với những đồng bào cùng chung số phận.

…Bidong giờ này ra sao rồi? Em có phải đang sống với những cây dừa cao vời vợi, với những ngôi mộ thiếu người chăm sóc, và những cái giếng đầu ngỏ longhouse hôm nào. Chắc em đã thiếu hẳng đi những âm thanh quen thuộc vào những buổi sáng và những cảnh chiếc tàu cập bến sau 4, 5 ngày lênh đênh trên biển Thái Bình Dương…từ Việt Nam.. Bidong, tôi nhớ em nhiều lắm! Lâmvi,

Khi hồi tượng lại những cảnh Bidong, tôi cảm thấy mình như là cậu bé 14-15 tuổi của ngày nào trên một hòn đảo hoang dại. Cậu bé đó đã có những chuỗi ngày vui vẻ nhất trong đời suốt gần 3 năm “nằm chung với rệp, muỗi và chuột”. Tuy sống trong một hoàn cảnh rất là eo hẹp so với hiện tại, cậu ta ngày nào cũng vui vẻ với đời sống Bidong: nxếp hàng lấy nước Supply, xếp hàng ở Khối Tiếp Liệu, học Anh ngữ, tham gia Thiếu Nhi Thánh Thể, đá banh, tắm biển, tắm suối, lên núi đốn củi, ăn mì gói …

Đối với cậu ta, những chuỗi ngày này là thời gian thoải mái và cũng là thời gian quí báu nhất của một đời người vì cậu đã nghe, nhìn và học hỏi những gì mà “15 năm sống trên nước Mỹ cũng không bằng 3 năm sống trên đảo”. Một cuộc sống có một không hai trên thế gian này đã dạy cậu ta những bài học đời xứng đáng. Sáng ăn mì gói, trưa có mẹ nấu cơm, chiều thì ra biển đá banh, câu cá, săn mựt, tới tối thì cùng các bạn tụ hợp ngoài biển cát mà tâm sự táng dóc. Hồi đó thật là vui đấy! Đời sống vô tư không lo âu chuyện gì cả. Nếu có đói bụng trước khi đi ngủ, một hay hai gói mì sẽ làm cậu ta thấy sảng khoái vô cùng. Còn nếu mà có đường thì hết chổ chê luôn, chúng ta sẽ có một nồi chè đậu xanh vừa thổi vừa ăn.

Cuộc sống hằng ngày của cậu bé ở đảo Bidong cứ như thế, cho đến khi có những chuyến tàu rời đảo mà lòng cậu thấy bâng khuâng, bịnh rịnh. Cậu bé chia tay từng thằng bạn, cô bạn được định cư nước thứ ba tại cầu Jetty và nhiều lần cậu bé ấy đã nhủ thầm “Không biết khi nào chúng mình sẽ gặp lại nhau, khi nào đây?”.

“Ngày mai em đi, biển nhớ tên em gọi về gọi hồn liễu rũ lê thê gọi bờ cát trắng hoang vu…”

Tomorrow as you leave, the sea misses and recalls your name to return… Calling of your soul like a trailing willow Calling the white-sand bank in the wilderness (Bển Nhớ – Trịnh Công Sơn)

Con Huy đi Na Uy, con Nhật đi Hoà Lan, con Hà đi Thụy Sĩ, thằng Hân, con Trang thì đi Mỹ. Còn thằng Sáu mập? bị trả về Việt Nam cùng với bố nó. Cứ như thế mà bạn bè cậu ta ở đâu cũng có trên trái đất này. Sáu mập, giờ này mày ra sao?

Và một ngày kia, cậu bé đó cũng phải giã từ Bidong: lòng buồn biết bao. Định mệnh của những người ở lại vẫn còn đỏ đen sau ngày đóng cửa đảo. Ngôi nhà thờ kia đã dạy cậu ta biết bao điều chân lý. Tiếng chuông chùa vẫn còn vang bên tai. À, nhớ ra rồi, khi đêm về, chuột bò đầy đường, con nào con nấy bự như con mèo vậy. Nếu có mèo trên đảo, chắc là các chú mèo không sống được bao lâu với bầy chuột “đảo”, chỉ có cách là chạy lên núi làm mưa làm gió với các chú chuột rừng mà thôi. Nhưng mà ai bảo có nhiều chuột là xấu đâu. Nhờ vì vậy mà gia đình cậu ta có thêm sữa, mì gói, đậu xanh và đường.

Các bạn có biết không, khi đêm về mọi người đang trong giấc ngũ, cậu bé đó cùng với chú Nam, trở thành những tay thiện xạ cao thủ mà chuột thấy là hoảng sợ chạy toán loạn. Cháu một cây súng, chú một cây súng, hai chú cháu đã bắn hạ từng con chuột trong khi chúng còn đang phân vân tự hỏi “hai thằng không ngũ, mà đang làm chi vậy?”. Chỉ cần hai giây thôi: 1 giây, 2 giây, mũi tên xuyên qua mình những chú chuột. Có chạy cũng bằng thừa thôi, vì mũi tên đã được buột giây, thế là chú cháu kéo mũi tên lại và lại có một chiến lợi phẩm nữa để đem đi đổi lấy đồ ăn.

Cũng vì vậy mà có một lần chú Nam bắn hụt một con chuột, mũi tên đâm lủng cái nồi cơm của một người nào đó ở chung longhouse. Qua ngày sau, chú Nam hì hụt lấp lại cái nồi đó cho người ta. Cậu bé đó cũng đâu chịu thua, Có lần, cậu ta bắng lủng cái thùng nước của người nào đó trong khu thanh nữ (Women Zone). Hên là các bà đang ngũ say, nên cậu ta âm thầm rút mũi tên ra, lẻn về nhà, mặc kệ cái thùng nước lủng ấy. Thật là xấu hổ!

Mountain

For security reason, no one had the permission to wander to the northern side of the island.

Pulau Bidong Island was open to the sea on the South side. C beach was in the South, which faced Kuala Terengganu City on main land Malaysia. Jetty, (the UNHCR area), was in the West.  Zone F beach was in the Southeast. Most of forbidden area (the areas facing Vietnam), were in the North, Northwest and Northeast. Anyone who was found in the forbidden areas could be jailed in the Monkey House for several days and have their head shaved against their will. I either didn’t care or I was stupid. Probably both.

PBForbiddenArea

Accessibility:

The island was easily traversed by foot.  It did not have steep walls or hills. On the East side, which was from Zone F beach to the most northern point, I could not follow the edge because it was very rocky with large gaps between in the rocks. There were not a lot of people who went to the East and Northeast area because of dense forest. Those areas were also far away from the residential area, which was in the Southwest.

I could cut through the island from Zone C to the northern point, however, somewhere in the middle of the island the trees became so thick and I could easily get lost. Usually, I broke tree branches to mark my way out. Also, I felt very much danger around me in the dense forest. There were snakes, boa, and who knows what else.  I was only 15.

I enjoyed hiking by following the left (eastern) edge of the island from the Jetty area to the most northern point. The path was easy to walk on. However, at some points, I had to jump or walk up the mountain to circle a dangerous area. To get to the most northern point would take me almost 4 hours.

North South

There were some tunnels in the Northwest area. Have you seen Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks? We were in that situation except we had more people around us. Coconut trees were abundant throughout Zones A, B, C, D, and F, which were the residential areas in the South and Southwest. Wildlife, plant-life and life in general abounded on Pulau Bidong.

I roamed about 2/3 of the island except for the northern most point and northeastern area. In these 2 areas, the forest was very thick. Along the edge was very rocky.

The forbidden area and the untainted beach

There was a beach on the West side, that was completely untainted. It was located in the forbidden area, so there were just a few people who ever dared go there. That beach was so clean and the water was so clear that I could see for hundred yards.

Once there was a very big turtle came on the beach to lay eggs. It was so huge that I could sit on it. It is possible that it could have carried me out to sea.

I spent a significant amount of time at this beach even though it took me more than 2 hours to get there by foot. There was a very large stream running down from the mountain and it took me about 30 minutes to get up to the point that I could take a bath without being afraid of getting caught by the police task force, who usually patrolled along the ocean shore by canoe to catch trespassers like me.

Some days I also met UNHCR employees at this untainted beach.  I was not afraid of any task force personnel during those times. I was covered.

There were some full moon nights that were perfect for fishing for squids. I wandered towards the untainted beach by myself, without a flash light. The moon guided me through the thick darkness. Those nights were so calm and peaceful. I could hear all kinds of noise coming down from the mountain, the waves hitting the rocks and the wind blowing gently. The stars were so bright in the sky.

One time I was trying to get a squid off the hook of my fishing spear by feeling it. Somehow it got one of my fingers into its mouth and took a bite. I lost some meat. Goddamn that squid!

The stream in the middle of the island

In the center of the island there was a very large stream, where it says Kuala Terengganu. The trees there are noticeably greener there because of the water source. I enjoyed taking a bath there. However, there were some big Boas and I had to be careful not to step on any of them. Other than snakes, the stream was an amazingly relaxing place.  The water was very cool and clean, which made for perfect drinking water. However, it was too far away from the residential area for frequent visits.

I could fish anywhere I wanted to if I ignored the laws.  Zone C beach, Jetty area, and the area between Zone C and Zone F beach did not produce much fish. In order to get a lot fish I usually went in the Northwest direction.

Island Love

Love was everywhere on Pulau Bidong. A good number of us escaped Vietnam alone. This surely contributed love always being in the air on this little island.

“Ngày mai em đi, biển nhớ tên em gọi về gọi hồn liễu rũ lê thê gọi bờ cát trắng hoang vu…”

During the first mornings, I cried a lot whenever I woke up. Beside my cousin, everyone else was stranger but they gave me a lot of comfort. I remember my first month living on the second floor of the B1 building. My bed was a hammock because there were people stretched across the floor. They were sleeping so close to each other that they could not stretch their arms or legs sideways. Of course there was no air conditioning or other luxurious comforts.

I was 14 when I first arrived. There was a girl about my age who stayed in the opposite building, about 30 feet away from B1. I think her building was B2. She also slept on a hammock. Her skin was dark, her eyes were round and big, and her hair was short.

She was very beautiful. I saw her cooking, washing dishes and clothes, and getting water from the well every day. The well had little water but she was able to get a lot more from it than I could. Her hands were strong. We were pulling more than 20 feet of cable for each 1/2 gallon of water and sometimes we were pulling up 5 gallons of water if it was a rainy day.

PDWell
Source: Unknown

Her last name was Quách.

We had a crush on each other but never talked to each other while I was in B1. Eventually I moved to F 9 building.

What was this crush anyway? Well, almost every night, while everyone was sleeping and the island died down, we would exchange longing stares for as long as we could or until we fell into deep sleep. Yeah, I remember those beautiful nights and the feeling of love on Pulau Bidong. Some day, the sky was clear, the stars looked so close that I felt I could touch them. On the rainy night, we stared through the dropping rain drops.

Fishing

Fish were everywhere around the island, if you want to know the best locations, you come along with me.

PD2004
Source: Unknown

Warning: For your safety, fishing was an illegal act. By law, you could go to jail and had your head shaved if you ever got caught by the island Police Task Force.

One time I almost got caught.

Fishing from Shore

The only places that we could fish from shore were the rocky areas, where water was deeper. Other than these rocky areas, we swam out about 1/2 to 1 mile into to the deeper area so we could get more fish and bigger fish. Sharks were in the area and some stingrays were 5 feet wide.

Fishing Away from Land

A better way to get more fish was to swim out to the sea. We had no boats or life vest: we were not allowed to have a boat, if so, some people would get back to the mainland for business transaction, trading or whatever.

PBFishingSpots
The marked spots are ideal for fishing. There are many sea cucumbers in the southeast corner.

Our life vest was 4 1-liter bottles of Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite: 2 bottles were on each side and we laid on a string. Our fishing equipment was composed of a 4 inch long tube with 4 inch diameter, which was our fishing rod. With a couple yards of fishing line, some hooks, some shiners, and 4 1-liter bottles, which was the life vest, then, we would have a very nice fishing trip. Sometimes, I brought a pack of noodles for my stomach, because, I did not want to waste 30 minutes to swim back to land for food or water.

Sometimes, I did swim back to land, started a fire, fried the fish and ate it with raw instant noodles. It was a perfect meal. Then, I swam back out again.

Anchor? My legs were constantly pushing against the water, otherwise, the tide could push me out of the fishing spot for miles. Some fish schools stayed where they were at. When the tide was low, they moved out a little bit. Otherwise, they only moved if there was a bigger fish in the area. Therefore, I spent a lot of time to scout for the fish by swimming up and down and dropped the bait down to the ocean floor to see which type of fish was present. No, we did not have the fish finder.

I spent an average of 3 or 4 hours per fishing session in the water or until the finger tips were all white. There were times I could not locate a school of fish so I had to go for individual fishes, which took longer time to get a larger quantity.

The most favorite spot for me was the northwest area, which was between the untainted beach and the northern most point. There were big fish, giant clams, sand sharks, and all kinds of fish. Plus, it was a very beautiful area. Corals were everywhere and some of them were like a housetop. There were layers and layers of hard corals. Pulau Bidong had very nice beaches, corals, and its water was crystal clear. Usually, I tried to hold breath for a long time so I could stay under the water to study the corals, fish, and enjoyed the moment.

Giant Clams

Besides fishing, I enjoyed taking on giant clams: some of them were bigger than my head. The only way to get them was that I held breath for a long time, reserved some strength, and a half-inch thick steel to snap the clam off the rock: sometimes, it would take me up to 30 minutes to get one claim, which was stuck on the rock for so long and firm.

Eating a live giant clam was the best food while I was in the water, but, I had to squeeze all the salt water out and tried to not consume salt water: I could be hallucinated, yeah, it happened to me, because I was so thirsty, lazy, and stupid enough to drink salt water during a fishing trip. While I was fishing on a hot day for a few hours and I was so thirsty. To swim back to the land for fresh water, it would take 45 minutes and to swim back out again, it would take me longer because the tide was coming up and waves were smashing the shores. Therefore, I drank some salty water and felt a bit funny. Never drink salt water!

All Hell Broke Loose

One time, I was fishing in the water off northwest area, our beloved Police Task Force canoes came. There were 2 canoes came from the north. They sneaked on us by circling the right side of the island (from the Jetty, west side, they went south, Zone C beach, then, they headed east, Zone F beach, came up to the north, then turned south). I was about half a mile away from the land and there were people fishing further north: it was a very hot spot for big size fishes.

All hell broke loose, everyone tried to swim back to the shore to run up the mountain to hide. At first, I was able to swim back very aggressive with all the gears and fish. After a few minutes, I threw away all the fish, because they were pulling me back, then, a few minutes later, I threw away all the gears, and then, I threw away my life vest (4 1-liter bottles) and swam back to shore by hands and feet.

During the rest of the way, I was gasping for air, but, I made it to shore. I looked at my throw-away- life vest (4 1-liter bottles) like I had just lost 4 best friends. I had very hard time to buy them by selling fish and they were my investment.

I could make it to shore because I was in the south. There were some poor older fellows fishing in the north, who got caught and who knew what had happened to them in jail. The police might beat the hell out of them and shaved these guys’ head, also, they might get special treatments from the Big Brothers.

Going after the squids

The zone C beach was the most crowded beach, where everyone swam here. It had very nice corals throughout the area and its water was very clear. There was one time, I was a few hundred yards out. I saw a huge jelly fish that was a triple size me. Its tails were about 25 yards long. I got scared for the first time while in the water. There were times, I saw sharks, but they ignored me. This huge jelly could have killed me instantly.

There was no one swimming in the area between the Church and Temple, because its bottom was dark and had a lot of small black rocks: it was like a dead area. A few yards out, the sea bottom dropped very steep and it was very dark. It was very fortunate that I found a lot of squids with shelf in this area and I must say that I found them and I was the only one, who went after these squids. It was my top secret spot, which was right in front of everyone. If my secret had leaked out, there would not be any more squids left for me. I told people that I got the squids from the west side, which was the forbidden area.

PDSquidArea

One time, I was swimming behind a school of smaller size sword fish and tried to shoot them through the belly when they made a turn. Suddenly, I saw very weird animals flapping wings on the bottom of the ocean (the area between Church and Temple). Their skins matched exactly the ocean floor. Slowly, I dived down with my heart pumping very fast to examine what the heck was it. They were squids. I saw squids for the first time on the ocean floor. I approached them and tried to catch them by hand. Guess what? In seconds, they whooped away like a jet airplane. So, I tried to be patient and being stupid at the same time to try catching one of them again and whoop, it jetted to another location in a flash.

With curiosity, I went home, took my spear, which was about 5 feet long and went back to this area. As I was passing the beach, people looked at me as if I was going to kill somebody because this was a swimming area, no one fished here. Anyway, I went back the spot and tried to spear the squid on the back. Guess what? Their shelf was so thick that caused the spear to slide off.

Finally, I thought about their neck: the soft spot. So, slowly I dived down from behind, aim the spear at the neck and pinched its neck. Ting ting ting. I got my first squid and it pissed out a lot of dark ink that caused me to be very scare, because, I could not see anything and being afraid to swim further out.

So, I learned my lessons well. The next days and the following days, I was able to bring more squids home. When there was a mating season, there were always some squid couples, who were coupling. This was the best opportunity for me to nail them or a squid couple at the same time. It was so fun and they spitted out a lot of inks.

Did I say the ocean floor dropped suddenly out here? One time, I missed a squid, and it swam further out and stopped right on the edge where the ocean floor dropped and it was total darkness. I did not want to let go this squid, so I took a deep breath and dived down. I got the squid and ran out of breath. At the same time, I look out a few yards, I saw a very large figure moving in the darkness. It was bigger than me.

Damn! I though that was it. My friends from the church would say a prayer for me, tonight. Through instinct, as I was coming up, I squeezed the squid to spit out inks to cover me. I got to the top, took a deep breath again and swam backward under the water so I could see what else could come after me. Luckily, I made it to shore and since then I did not go after the squids any more and I became afraid of this dark area.

That was my last squid.

Cigarettes

My sister, Mai, did all the work.

My dad was a smoker. We had no money when we first arrived Pulau Bidong island.

What we did for our dad, (and we had to compete against other kids as well), was walking around certain common places and picked up left over cigarettes butts. Dad would take what was left from the butts that we collected and made a cigarette or two for himself.

He quit smoking years ago and has been healthy.

But one of the stupid jokes that we played on cigarette smokers was that we put empty cigarettes packs on the ground with used cigarette butts. We played this joke for a while, but we eventually stopped because we felt sorry for everyone.