49 Voices: Simon Vongsamath in Bethel

Simon Vongsamath of Bethel (Photo courtesy of KYUK)

This week, we’re hearing from Simon Vongsamath in Bethel. Vongsamath works for Alaska Airlines and is originally from Thailand.

Listen now

VONGSAMATH: Back in the Vietnam War, my dad was a U.S. Army contractor. He’s from Thailand and he worked for the U.S. government as an Army special assignment agent. Well we lost the war, and he chose Alaska because he used to come to Ft. Wainwright back in the 60s to train, so he fell in love with Alaska. So he brought the whole family here in Alaska — my brothers, sisters, everybody lived here.

I lived in Anchorage for 35 years. This is my fourth year here in Bethel. I’m 100 percent Alaskan. I eat what they eat. I learned how to survive with local people. I met a lot of friends from different places like St. Mary’s village. People that have very small for their lives, so I learned how to appreciate what I have now, and how I live now. So I learned a lot of things with local people. That’s why I ended up here for the longest time.

My wife is a chef, and she loves to cook for people. She’s very compassionate how she does it. She loves people, she likes to feed people. And unfortunately, we had to close [the restaurant] down because we’re getting old.

I raised my children here. I just wish everybody stayed here from moving away. Of course, when the birds get strong wings, they like to fly, so it’s up to them where they want to go. But as long as they’re born and raised here, they know what Alaska’s like, they will return just like salmon, just like ptarmigan, just like seagulls. They can fly all over the place — ducks,geese — they come back to Alaska. I hope my children, my grandchildren will do the same.

This interview was gathered by the interns at KYUK in Bethel. 

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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