Lê Thanh is 40 this year. At least, he thinks he is.
His birthday was given to him by a Rhondda dentist after the Welsh family who adopted him at the end of the Vietnam War tried to establish his age through dental testing.
He doesn't know anything about his background - he was just told that when he was taken to an orphanage, he was well nourished, suggesting his family had cared for him before they were possibly killed.
Even his full Vietnamese name Lê Thanh Hung was lost in the confusion of his adoption. He now just goes by the complete name Lê Thanh, without a surname.
Apart from these few details and a photo of him clutching a doll at his orphanage, very little of his life as a toddler is known.
* * *
"Growing up in the Rhondda in the 1970s was obviously very difficult as there were no other Oriental people growing up in that area at that time," said Lê Thanh, who was adopted by a vicar and a health visitor from Penygraig and was brought up with their two other children.
"I was bullied by the school bully but I stood my ground. My philosophy is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
"But I didn't really have a happy childhood. It wasn't impoverished but I have always been different and I never really fitted in. Even in today's society I still don't really fit in."
* * *
"I now co-ordinate reunions of fellow adoptees and although I mark it as a social reunion, the true reason behind it for a lot of people like myself, with my background, is that they're very much displaced," he said.
"They are still very much uncomfortable in their own skins and have their issues.
"Lots of people who went through this [being adopted] thought they were the only ones. The reunions let us connect and share experiences and feelings."
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Orphan still fighting effects of Vietnam War
From the BBC, a story about one of the Vietnam babylift orphans (still called an orphan in the headline after adoption decades before?!):