BACK TO Ho Chi Minh City

– Sometimes I can’t help but believe that the world around you is all arranged and ready for you to step in, play your role and let things flow out as planned. Let me tell you my story.

In the early 1980’s Vietnam was still a very poor country after the war with USA. Everything had to be shared, every kilo of rice, each piece of meat, everything. Many people looked for better opportunities in other countries and a lot of them managed to go away illegally by boat.

One night in 1982 my uncle showed up at my family’s house. He had secretly arranged a boat trip out of Vietnam and wanted my family to come along. But my parents couldn’t do it. They both worked for government related enterprises and realized that they would be thrown in prison if they were caught by the border police, and if they weren’t caught they would still risk dying at sea. Not to mention that they had three young children – I was only two years old.

Very early next morning my uncle was secretly carrying food and water to the boat. Suddenly he caught a glimpse of my older brother (who was nine years old at the time). It turned out my brother had overheard some of the discussion from the night before, and had decided to wake up really early so he could get a glimpse of the boat.

As soon as my brother saw the boat, he got really excited and jumped onboard. My uncle commanded him to go back to the house and my older sister, who had snuck out with my brother, was crying and begging him to get off the boat. The other refugees started to worry about drawing too much attention to the boat and urged my uncle to resolve it before anyone got caught. Maybe in a state of panic my uncle quickly got on the boat and decided to take my brother with him. That was the last we saw or heard from my uncle and my brother for seven years.

One autumn morning in 1989 I woke up to the voice of a man calling my parents’ names outside the house, followed by the sound of my mother crying. The man outside the house was my uncle! He had returned to Vietnam to tell us that he had prepared all documents required for us to come to Finland to reunite the family.

It was a hard decision since my parents had worked their way up and were doing fairly well by then. If they decided to move to Finland they would have to give up everything they had worked so hard for, and start anew in a foreign country they knew very little about. On the other hand it would mean that the family could be together again, with my brother who they for seven years feared was dead. In the end my parents decided to bring the family to Finland. They left their jobs and gave away our home and our land to relatives on both sides.

I remember the flight out of Vietnam, it was my first time in an airplane. I was so excited and kept telling my mother how all I wanted was to fly a lot in the future.

Meeting my brother after so long was a bit weird, to be honest. It took us a few years to really be brothers again, but eventually we grew really close. And that’s how I ended up in Finland.

As the years passed I felt a growing desire to go back to Vietnam. Maybe it was because of my father’s sadness. He had given up everything – his career, their house, their land – and now he was a foreigner in Finland with nothing but memories, wondering what his life could have been like.

I saw the sadness in his eyes and I always wanted a job that was somehow related to Vietnam. I wished that I could go back there one day, bring my parents with me and show them that their decision to go to Finland was right.

After university I went to work for a Finnish company selling second hand equipment in the pulp and paper sector. After being involved in several projects in Vietnam and wanting to start building woodchip business over there, a friend put me in touch with a man called Fredrik Andersson who in turn put me in touch with a man called Craig Jackson.

We started doing business together, and right after I sold a pulp mill to Vietnam a couple of years later I was finally hired by CellMark to build more business for the pulp division in Vietnam! Craig Jackson is now my boss and Fredrik Andersson is now the President of CellMark.

So now I’m back in Vietnam. I have shown my parents that they made the right choice. And I actually do fly a lot!

Fate or destiny, call it what you want. All I know is that it has taken me this far and taught me to appreciate the opportunities that come my way. Now every morning when I wake up I can’t wait to see what the day will bring about – so many things can be done!