I was born in Saigon, grew up in a village in the late 70's during a time in Vietnam that one could probably equate to The Great Depression of the 30's. We were wheat farmers, and we were poor. We grew vegetations and sugar canes in the fields, and sold them for a living. We raised goats; I tended to the goats when I was a boy--I was a goatherd. We barely managed to survive. Rice was our main staple, but on some days, there would be no rice left to eat. We constantly had to substitute rice with "khoai mi" (kwai mee), which was a kind of potatoes that we grew in the fields. Life in the village was hard, to say the least, but a hard life could be worth living if we knew we had a good future ahead of us.
1985, we embarked on another journey of a lifetime: seventeen of us took to the South China Sea on a boat that resembled the one you see on the right (courtesy: thinkquest.org). We headed for the Phillipines.
After seven days on the open seas, our food supply was quickly depleting, but, what amazing luck, a Norwegian oil tanker passed by, saw and rescued us. The ship carried a Norwegian flag, but the crew was all Italian. They were so generous and hospitable. This was the first time I witnessed human compassion for one another, of which we were the grateful recipients of such charity. Regrettably, I have since forgotten their names (I was twelve at the time), but I still remember some of their faces, and will never forget what they had done for us. Looking back, I do think that we had been extremely fortuntate on our perilous journey; there were others not so lucky on theirs, who met their fate either at the hands of ruthless pirates, or at the bottom of a very cold, very unforgiving sea. We, the survivors, dedicate our good luck, and our prayers, to their memories.
Our Italian rescuers were on their way to Japan, so they dropped us off there, where we joined the ranks of "boat people" in refugee centers scattered throughout Japan.
I stayed in Japan for a year, went to elememtary school, learned some Japanese, made some Japanese friends, then came to Canada in 1986.
I attended high school at Bloor Collegiate in Toronto, graduated, and went on to university at the U. of Waterloo, worked in 6 CO-OP terms--4 of which was in the mainframe world, getting heavily exposed to JCL, PL/1, and CICS. Only on the last two work terms did I venture into the PC world. On an off-chance, I also got to tinker with a kiosk application, figuring out how to interact with the touch-screen on the one side, and how to interface with the mainframe from the PC on the other side. That was a short and fun little project while it lasted.
While at school, I turned my off-campus residence into a computer lab, installed the then-popular Linux Slackware distro onto my PC with all the cool tools (GCC, Emacs, Prolog, Scheme) so I could do my assignments straight in the comfort of my dorm room and avoid the struggle for a free workstation at the school labs, not to mention the drag on the department server with too many users being online concurrently. The code was surprisingly portable--a credit to all the Linux ports of all of the compilers and interpreters--as I uploaded my work to the school network, compiled with no errors, ran the test scripts, printed the output logs, collected the printout, and handed in. It was nice to tinker with Linux when it first came out.
I got my first job out of university as a Software Tester (a title which later changed to Quality Assurance Analyst), transitioned to a developer role a year later, and the rest, as they say, is programmatic history. Although over the years I have picked up a few more responsibilities here and there, code weaving has been my primary role ever since. There is nothing quite like it in the whole world--being a software developer, to be able to create anything, anything at all, out of thin air. It's nothing short of magic. In that world, your creativity is only limited by your imagination, and an unceasing appetite for more knowledge, a willingness to better yourself, challenge yourself always. And that is why I love this career.