Friday, May 01, 2009

A Little Known Occasion

Yesterday marked the fall of South Vietnam. I know because my Vietnamese barber told me. He fled Saigon in 1975 with no money and no English skills whatsoever.
(Even now, he tends to drop endings such as "hou" for "house," and "paspa" for "passport." You have to pay attention, but the meaning comes through.)

Eventually reaching America, he waited four years for his family to bribe their way onto a boat out of Vietnam. They did, reaching a refugee camp in Malaya. Eventually, my guy got them over here. Thirty-four years have passed since the day he boarded a helicopter under rocket fire. Now he in lives quietly in the San Gabriel Valley, cuts hair in La Canada and pays for two daughters in college.

He knows I've been in Vietnam and Cambodia, but never recalls why. Or my name. His first question is, "You travel somewhere?" I'm certain he thinks I'm always in motion, like a deep ocean shark.

Today I told him I was glad he made it out of Vietnam.

He was too.

7 comments:

takineko said...

lol, how sweet.

Keeper said...

I had a coworker from Cambodia. When he was about to turn 10 years old, his parents had his uncle (I think) take him out at night to escape to Thailand (via Laos, I think, in the river), because they didn't want their son to be conscripted into the army, knowing the horrible things that the Khmer Rouge was doing.

His parents, or maybe his entire family, were probably executed for doing that, he realizes. He has known no relatives since. (I think the uncle was deported back to Cambodia or he drowned or something horrible. It's been a while since I heard his story.)

John P. McCann said...

Cambodia was the most depressing place I've been. Everyone had lost somebody. And they desperately want justice.

Grant them peace, they need it.

takineko said...

You've been there? How'd you come to visit them?

John P. McCann said...

Warner Bros. and the State Dept. (and USAID) were working in partnership to use animation as a way of getting a message out to Cambodians re. dealing with landmine victims and picking up unexploded shells to strip and sell.

I went in 2000 and 2002, making a side trip to Vietnam on my own dime.

Very memorable.

takineko said...

Wow.. that's pretty amazing.

John P. McCann said...

Warners was about to lay me off when I heard about the project and volunteered. At first, it was Africa, but then it got switched to Cambodia.

I thought I'd go, write up something, then that would be that.

Instead, I worked on the project - off and on - for almost three years.

That's our speedy government for you.